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Title: The Angel of the Revolution - A Tale of the Coming Terror
Author: Griffith, George Chetwynd, 1857-1906
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Angel of the Revolution - A Tale of the Coming Terror" ***

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[Illustration: _Drawn by Edwin S. Hope._



A Tale of the Coming Terror





_Copyrighted Abroad_]    [_All Foreign Rights Reserved_



  CHAP.                                        PAGE

  I. AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR,                       1

  II. AT WAR WITH SOCIETY,                       8

  III. A FRIENDLY CHAT,                         16

  IV. THE HOUSE ON CLAPHAM COMMON,              23

  V. THE INNER CIRCLE,                          30

  VI. NEW FRIENDS,                              37

  VII. THE DAUGHTER OF NATAS,                   46

  VIII. LEARNING THE PART,                      54

  IX. THE BEGINNING OF SORROWS,                 63

  X. THE "ARIEL,"                               70

  XI. FIRST BLOOD,                              78

  XII. IN THE MASTER'S NAME,                    85

  XIII. FOR LIFE OR DEATH,                      91

  XIV. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL MOMENT,                98

  XV. A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY,                   103

  XVI. A WOOING IN MID-AIR,                    110

  XVII. AERIA FELIX,                           119

  XVIII. A NAVY OF THE FUTURE,                 127

  XIX. THE EVE OF BATTLE,                      135

  XX. BETWEEN TWO LIVES,                       141

  XXI. JUST IN TIME,                           153

  XXII. ARMED NEUTRALITY,                      162

  XXIII. A BATTLE IN THE NIGHT,                169

  XXIV. THE NEW WARFARE,                       179

  XXV. THE HERALDS OF DISASTER,                188

  XXVI. AN INTERLUDE,                          193

  XXVII. ON THE TRACK OF TREASON,              201


  XXIX. AN EMBASSY FROM THE SKY,               216

  XXX. AT CLOSE QUARTERS,                      225

  XXXI. A RUSSIAN RAID,                        233

  XXXII. THE END OF THE CHASE,                 241


  XXXIV. THE PATH OF CONQUEST,                 251

  XXXV. FROM CHAOS TO ARCADIE,                 258

  XXXVI. LOVE AND DUTY,                        267



  XXXIX. THE BATTLE OF DOVER,                  295

  XL. BELEAGUERED LONDON,                      301

  XLI. AN ENVOY OF DELIVERANCE,                308

  XLII. THE EVE OF ARMAGEDDON,                 315

  XLIII. THE OLD LION AT BAY,                  323


  XLV. ARMAGEDDON,                             339

  XLVI. VICTORY,                               347

  XLVII. THE JUDGMENT OF NATAS,                355

  XLVIII. THE ORDERING OF EUROPE,              366

  XLIX. THE STORY OF THE MASTER,               375

  EPILOGUE.--"AND ON EARTH PEACE!"             386




"Victory! It flies! I am master of the Powers of the Air at last!"

They were strange words to be uttered, as they were, by a pale,
haggard, half-starved looking young fellow in a dingy, comfortless
room on the top floor of a South London tenement-house; and yet there
was a triumphant ring in his voice, and a clear, bright flush on his
thin cheeks that spoke at least for his own absolute belief in their

Let us see how far he was justified in that belief.

     *     *     *     *     *

To begin at the beginning, Richard Arnold was one of those men whom
the world is wont to call dreamers and enthusiasts before they
succeed, and heaven-born geniuses and benefactors of humanity

He was twenty-six, and for nearly six years past he had devoted
himself, soul and body, to a single idea--to the so far unsolved
problem of aërial navigation.

This idea had haunted him ever since he had been able to think
logically at all--first dimly at school, and then more clearly at
college, where he had carried everything before him in mathematics
and natural science, until it had at last become a ruling passion
that crowded everything else out of his life, and made him,
commercially speaking, that most useless of social units--a
one-idea'd man, whose idea could not be put into working form.

He was an orphan, with hardly a blood relation in the world. He had
started with plenty of friends, mostly made at college, who thought
he had a brilliant future before him, and therefore looked upon him
as a man whom it might be useful to know.

But as time went on, and no results came, these dropped off, and he
got to be looked upon as an amiable lunatic, who was wasting his
great talents and what money he had on impracticable fancies, when he
might have been earning a handsome income if he had stuck to the
beaten track, and gone in for practical work.

The distinctions that he had won at college, and the reputation he
had gained as a wonderfully clever chemist and mechanician, had led
to several offers of excellent positions in great engineering firms;
but to the surprise and disgust of his friends he had declined them
all. No one knew why, for he had kept his secret with the almost
passionate jealousy of the true enthusiast, and so his refusals were
put down to sheer foolishness, and he became numbered with the
geniuses who are failures because they are not practical.

When he came of age he had inherited a couple of thousand pounds,
which had been left in trust to him by his father. Had it not been
for that two thousand pounds he would have been forced to employ his
knowledge and his talents conventionally, and would probably have
made a fortune. But it was just enough to relieve him from the
necessity of earning his living for the time being, and to make it
possible for him to devote himself entirely to the realisation of his
life-dream--at any rate until the money was gone.

Of course he yielded to the temptation--nay, he never gave the other
course a moment's thought. Two thousand pounds would last him for
years; and no one could have persuaded him that with complete
leisure, freedom from all other concerns, and money for the necessary
experiments, he would not have succeeded long before his capital was

So he put the money into a bank whence he could draw it out as he
chose, and withdrew himself from the world to work out the ideal of
his life.

Year after year passed, and still success did not come. He found
practice very different from theory, and in a hundred details he met
with difficulties he had never seen on paper. Meanwhile his money
melted away in costly experiments which only raised hopes that ended
in bitter disappointment. His wonderful machine was a miracle of
ingenuity, and was mechanically perfect in every detail save one--it
would do no practical work.

Like every other inventor who had grappled with the problem, he had
found himself constantly faced with that fatal ratio of weight to
power. No engine that he could devise would do more than lift itself
and the machine. Again and again he had made a toy that would fly, as
others had done before him, but a machine that would navigate the air
as a steamer or an electric vessel navigated the waters, carrying
cargo and passengers, was still an impossibility while that terrible
problem of weight and power remained unsolved.

In order to eke out his money to the uttermost, he had clothed and
lodged himself meanly, and had denied himself everything but the
barest necessaries of life.

Thus he had prolonged the struggle for over five years of toil and
privation and hope deferred, and now, when his last sovereign had
been changed and nearly spent, success--real, tangible, practical
success--had come to him, and the discovery that was to be to the
twentieth century what the steam-engine had been to the nineteenth
was accomplished.

He had discovered the true motive power at last.

Two liquefied gases--which, when united, exploded spontaneously--were
admitted by a clockwork escapement in minute quantities into the
cylinders of his engine, and worked the pistons by the expansive
force of the gases generated by the explosion. There was no weight
but the engine itself and the cylinders containing the liquefied
gases. Furnaces, boilers, condensers, accumulators, dynamos--all the
ponderous apparatus of steam and electricity--were done away with,
and he had a power at command greater than either of them.

There was no doubt about it. The moment that his trembling fingers
set the escapement mechanism in motion, the model that embodied the
thought and labour of years rose into the air as gracefully as a bird
on the wing, and sailed round and round in obedience to its rudder,
straining hard at the string which prevented it from striking the
ceiling. It was weighted in strict proportion to the load that the
full-sized air-ship would have to carry. To increase this was merely
a matter of increasing the power of the engine and the size of the
floats and fans.

The room was a large one, for the house had been built for a better
fate than letting in tenements, and it ran from back to front with a
window at each end. Out of doors there was a strong breeze blowing,
and as soon as Arnold was sure that his ship was able to hold its own
in still air, he threw both the windows open and let the wind blow
straight through the room. Then he drew the air-ship down,
straightened the rudder, and set it against the breeze.

In almost agonised suspense he watched it rise from the floor, float
motionless for a moment, and then slowly forge ahead in the teeth of
the wind, gathering speed as it went. It was then that he had uttered
that triumphant cry of "Victory!" All the long years of privation and
hope deferred vanished in that one supreme moment of innocent and
bloodless conquest, and he saw himself master of a kingdom as wide as
the world itself.

He let the model fly the length of the room before he stopped the
clockwork and cut off the motive power, allowing it to sink gently to
the floor. Then came the reaction. He looked steadfastly at his
handiwork for several moments in silence, and then he turned and
threw himself on to a shabby little bed that stood in one corner of
the room and burst into a flood of tears.

Triumph had come, but had it not come too late? He knew the boundless
possibilities of his invention--but they had still to be realised. To
do this would cost thousands of pounds, and he had just one
half-crown and a few coppers. Even these were not really his own, for
he was already a week behind with his rent, and another payment fell
due the next day. That would be twelve shillings in all, and if it
was not paid he would be turned into the street.

As he raised himself from the bed he looked despairingly round the
bare, shabby room. No; there was nothing there that he could pawn or
sell. Everything saleable had gone already to keep up the struggle of
hope against despair. The bed and wash-stand, the plain deal table,
and the one chair that comprised the furniture of the room were not
his. A little carpenter's bench, a few worn tools and odds and ends
of scientific apparatus, and a dozen well-used books--these were all
that he possessed in the world now, save the clothes on his back, and
a plain painted sea-chest in which he was wont to lock up his
precious model when he had to go out.

His model! No, he could not sell that. At best it would fetch but the
price of an ingenious toy, and without the secret of the two gases it
was useless. But was not that worth something? Yes, if he did not
starve to death before he could persuade any one that there was money
in it. Besides, the chest and its priceless contents would be seized
for the rent next day, and then--

"God help me! What _am_ I to do?"

The words broke from him like a cry of physical pain, and ended in a
sob, and for all answer there was the silence of the room and the
inarticulate murmur of the streets below coming up through the open

He was weak with hunger and sick with excitement, for he had lived
for days on bread and cheese, and that day he had eaten nothing since
the crust that had served him for breakfast. His nerves, too, were
shattered by the intense strain of his final trial and triumph, and
his head was getting light.

With a desperate effort he recovered himself, and the heroic
resolution that had sustained him through his long struggle came to
his aid again. He got up and poured some water from the ewer into a
cracked cup and drank it. It refreshed him for the moment, and he
poured the rest of the water over his head. That steadied his nerves
and cleared his brain. He took up the model from the floor, laid it
tenderly and lovingly in its usual resting-place in the chest. Then
he locked the chest and sat down upon it to think the situation over.

Ten minutes later he rose to his feet and said aloud--

"It's no use. I can't think on an empty stomach. I'll go out and have
one more good meal if it's the last I ever have in the world, and
then perhaps some ideas will come."

So saying, he took down his hat, buttoned his shabby velveteen coat
to conceal his lack of a waistcoat, and went out, locking the door
behind him as he went.

Five minutes' walk brought him to the Blackfriars Road, and then he
turned towards the river and crossed the bridge just as the motley
stream of city workers was crossing it in the opposite direction on
their homeward journey.

At Ludgate Circus he went into an eating-house and fared sumptuously
on a plate of beef, some bread and butter, and a pint mug of coffee.
As he was eating a paper-boy came in and laid an _Echo_ on the table
at which he was sitting. He took it up mechanically, and ran his eye
carelessly over the columns. He was in no humour to be interested by
the tattle of an evening paper, but in a paragraph under the heading
of Foreign News a once familiar name caught his eye, and he read the
paragraph through. It ran as follows:--


    When the Berlin-Petersburg express stopped last night at Kovno,
    the first stop after passing the Russian frontier, a shocking
    discovery was made in the smoking compartment of the palace car
    which has been on the train for the last few months. Colonel
    Dornovitch, of the Imperial Police, who is understood to have
    been on his return journey from a secret mission to Paris, was
    found stabbed to the heart and quite dead. In the centre of the
    forehead were two short straight cuts in the form of a *T*
    reaching to the bone. Not long ago Colonel Dornovitch was
    instrumental in unearthing a formidable Nihilist conspiracy, in
    connection with which over fifty men and women of various social
    ranks were exiled for life to Siberia. The whole affair is
    wrapped in the deepest mystery, the only clue in the hands of the
    police being the fact that the cross cut on the forehead of the
    victim indicates that the crime is the work, not of the Nihilists
    proper, but of that unknown and mysterious society usually
    alluded to as the Terrorists, not one of whom has ever been seen
    save in his crimes. How the assassin managed to enter and leave
    the car unperceived while the train was going at full speed is an
    apparently insoluble riddle. Saving the victim and the
    attendants, the only passengers in the car who had not retired to
    rest were another officer in the Russian service and Lord
    Alanmere, who was travelling to St. Petersburg to resume, after
    leave of absence, the duties of the Secretaryship to the British
    Embassy, to which he was appointed some two years ago.

"Why, that must be the Lord Alanmere who was at Trinity in my time,
or rather Viscount Tremayne, as he was then," mused Arnold, as he
laid the paper down. "We were very good friends in those days. I
wonder if he'd know me now, and lend me a ten-pound note to get me
out of the infernal fix I'm in? I believe he would, for he was one of
the few really good-hearted men I have so far met with.

"If he were in London I really think I should take courage from my
desperation, and put my case before him and ask his help. However,
he's not in London, and so it's no use wishing. Well, I feel more of
a man for that shillingsworth of food and drink, and I'll go and wind
up my dissipation with a pipe and a quiet think on the Embankment."



When Richard Arnold reached the Embankment dusk had deepened into
night, so far, at least, as nature was concerned. But in London in
the beginning of the twentieth century there was but little night to
speak of, save in the sense of a division of time. The date of the
paper which contained the account of the tragedy on the Russian
railway was September 3rd, 1903, and within the last ten years
enormous progress had been made in electric lighting.

The ebb and flow in the Thames had at last been turned to account,
and worked huge turbines which perpetually stored up electric power
that was used not only for lighting, but for cooking in hotels and
private houses, and for driving machinery. At all the great centres
of traffic huge electric suns cast their rays far and wide along the
streets, supplementing the light of the lesser lamps with which they
were lined on each side.

The Embankment from Westminster to Blackfriars was bathed in a flood
of soft white light from hundreds of great lamps running along both
sides, and from the centre of each bridge a million candle-power sun
cast rays upon the water that were continued in one unbroken stream
of light from Chelsea to the Tower.

On the north side of the river the scene was one of brilliant and
splendid opulence, that contrasted strongly with the half-lighted
gloom of the murky wilderness of South London, dark and forbidding in
its irredeemable ugliness.

From Blackfriars Arnold walked briskly towards Westminster, bitterly
contrasting as he went the lavish display of wealth around him with
the sordid and seemingly hopeless poverty of his own desperate

He was the maker and possessor of a far greater marvel than anything
that helped to make up this splendid scene, and yet the ragged tramps
who were remorselessly moved on from one seat to another by the
policemen as soon as they had settled themselves down for a rest and
a doze, were hardly poorer than he was.

For nearly four hours he paced backwards and forwards, every now and
then stopping to lean on the parapet, and once or twice to sit down,
until the chill autumn wind pierced his scanty clothing, and
compelled him to resume his walk in order to get warm again.

All the time he turned his miserable situation over and over again in
his mind without avail. There seemed no way out of it; no way of
obtaining the few pounds that would save him from homeless beggary
and his splendid invention from being lost to him and the world,
certainly for years, and perhaps for ever.

And then, as hour after hour went by, and still no cheering thought
came, the misery of the present pressed closer and closer upon him.
He dare not go home, for that would be to bring the inevitable
disaster of the morrow nearer, and, besides, it was home no longer
till the rent was paid. He had two shillings, and he owed at least
twelve. He was also the maker of a machine for which the Tsar of
Russia had made a standing offer of a million sterling. That million
might have been his if he had possessed the money necessary to bring
his invention under the notice of the great Autocrat.

That was the position he had turned over and over in his mind until
its horrible contradictions maddened him. With a little money, riches
and fame were his; without it he was a beggar in sight of starvation.

And yet he doubted whether, even in his present dire extremity, he
could, had he had the chance, sell what might be made the most
terrific engine of destruction ever thought of to the head and front
of a despotism that he looked upon as the worst earthly enemy of

For the twentieth time he had paused in his weary walk to and fro to
lean on the parapet close by Cleopatra's Needle. The Embankment was
almost deserted now, save by the tramps and a few isolated wanderers
like himself. For several minutes he looked out over the brightly
glittering waters below him, wondering listlessly how long it would
take him to drown if he dropped over, and whether he would be rescued
before he was dead, and brought back to life, and prosecuted the next
day for daring to try and leave the world save in the conventional
and orthodox fashion.

Then his mind wandered back to the Tsar and his million, and he
pictured to himself the awful part that a fleet of air-ships such as
his would play in the general European war that people said could not
now be put off for many months longer. As he thought of this the
vision grew in distinctness, and he saw them hovering over armies and
cities and fortresses, and raining irresistible death and destruction
down upon them. The prospect appalled him, and he shuddered as he
thought that it was now really within the possibility of realisation;
and then his ideas began to translate themselves involuntarily into
words which he spoke aloud, completely oblivious for the time being
of his surroundings.

"No, I think I would rather destroy it, and then take my secret with
me out of the world, than put such an awful power of destruction and
slaughter into the hands of the Tsar, or, for the matter of that, any
other of the rulers of the earth. Their subjects can butcher each
other quite efficiently enough as it is. The next war will be the
most frightful carnival of destruction that the world has ever seen;
but what would it be like if I were to give one of the nations of
Europe the power of raining death and desolation on its enemies from
the skies! No, no! Such a power, if used at all, should only be used
against and not for the despotisms that afflict the earth with the
curse of war!"

"Then why not use it so, my friend, if you possess it, and would see
mankind freed from its tyrants?" said a quiet voice at his elbow.

The sound instantly scattered his vision to the winds, and he turned
round with a startled exclamation to see who had spoken. As he did
so, a whiff of smoke from a very good cigar drifted past his
nostrils, and the voice said again in the same quiet, even tones--

"You must forgive me for my bad manners in listening to what you were
saying, and also for breaking in upon your reverie. My excuse must be
the great interest that your words had for me. Your opinions would
appear to be exactly my own, too, and perhaps you will accept that as
another excuse for my rudeness."

It was the first really kindly, friendly voice that Richard Arnold
had heard for many a long day, and the words were so well chosen and
so politely uttered that it was impossible to feel any resentment, so
he simply said in answer--

"There was no rudeness, sir; and, besides, why should a gentleman
like you apologise for speaking to a"--

"Another gentleman," quickly interrupted his new acquaintance.
"Because I transgressed the laws of politeness in doing so, and an
apology was due. Your speech tells me that we are socially equals.
Intellectually you look my superior. The rest is a difference only of
money, and that any smart swindler can bury himself in nowadays if he
chooses. But come, if you have no objection to make my better
acquaintance, I have a great desire to make yours. If you will pardon
my saying so, you are evidently not an ordinary man, or else,
something tells me, you would be rich. Have a smoke and let us talk,
since we apparently have a subject in common. Which way are you

"Nowhere--and therefore anywhere," replied Arnold, with a laugh that
had but little merriment in it. "I have reached a point from which
all roads are one to me."

"That being the case I propose that you shall take the one that leads
to my chambers in Savoy Mansions yonder. We shall find a bit of
supper ready, I expect, and then I shall ask you to talk. Come

There was no more mistaking the genuine kindness and sincerity of the
invitation than the delicacy with which it was given. To have refused
would not only have been churlish, but it would have been for a
drowning man to knock aside a kindly hand held out to help him; so
Arnold accepted, and the two new strangely met and strangely assorted
friends walked away together in the direction of the Savoy.

The suite of rooms occupied by Arnold's new acquaintance was the beau
ideal of a wealthy bachelor's abode. Small, compact, cosy, and richly
furnished, yet in the best of taste withal, the rooms looked like an
indoor paradise to him after the bare squalor of the one room that
had been his own home for over two years.

His host took him first into a dainty little bath-room to wash his
hands, and by the time he had performed his scanty toilet supper was
already on the table in the sitting-room. Nothing melts reserve like
a good well-cooked meal washed down by appropriate liquids, and
before supper was half over Arnold and his host were chatting
together as easily as though they stood on perfectly equal terms and
had known each other for years. His new friend seemed purposely to
keep the conversation to general subjects until the meal was over and
his pattern man-servant had removed the cloth and left them together
with the wine and cigars on the table.

As soon as he had closed the door behind him his host motioned Arnold
to an easy-chair on one side of the fireplace, threw himself into
another on the other side, and said--

"Now, my friend, plant yourself, as they say across the water, help
yourself to what there is as the spirit moves you, and talk--the more
about yourself the better. But stop. I forgot that we do not even
know each other's name yet. Let me introduce myself first.

"My name is Maurice Colston; I am a bachelor, as you see. For the
rest, in practice I am an idler, a dilettante, and a good deal else
that is pleasant and utterly useless. In theory, let me tell you, I
am a Socialist, or something of the sort, with a lively conviction as
to the injustice and absurdity of the social and economic conditions
which enable me to have such a good time on earth without having done
anything to deserve it beyond having managed to be born the son of my

He stopped and looked at his guest through the wreaths of his cigar
smoke as much as to say: "And now who are you?"

Arnold took the silent hint, and opened his mouth and his heart at
the same time. Quite apart from the good turn he had done him, there
was a genial frankness about his unconventional host that chimed in
so well with his own nature that he cast all reserve aside, and told
plainly and simply the story of his life and its master passion, his
dreams and hopes and failures, and his final triumph in the hour when
triumph itself was defeat.

His host heard him through without a word, but towards the end of his
story his face betrayed an interest, or rather an expectant anxiety,
to hear what was coming next that no mere friendly concern of the
moment for one less fortunate than himself could adequately account
for. At length, when Arnold had completed his story with a brief but
graphic description of the last successful trial of his model, he
leant forward in his chair, and, fixing his dark, steady eyes on his
guest's face, said in a voice from which every trace of his former
good-humoured levity had vanished--

"A strange story, and truer, I think, than the one I told you. Now
tell me on your honour as a gentleman: Were you really in earnest
when I heard you say on the embankment that you would rather smash up
your model and take the secret with you into the next world, than
sell your discovery to the Tsar for the million that he has offered
for such an air-ship as yours?"

"Absolutely in earnest," was the reply. "I have seen enough of the
seamy side of this much-boasted civilisation of ours to know that it
is the most awful mockery that man ever insulted his Maker with. It
is based on fraud, and sustained by force--force that ruthlessly
crushes all who do not bow the knee to Mammon. I am the enemy of a
society that does not permit a man to be honest and live, unless he
has money and can defy it. I have just two shillings in the world,
and I would rather throw them into the Thames and myself after them
than take that million from the Tsar in exchange for an engine of
destruction that would make him master of the world."

"Those are brave words," said Colston, with a smile. "Forgive me for
saying so, but I wonder whether you would repeat them if I told you
that I am a servant of his Majesty the Tsar, and that you shall have
that million for your model and your secret the moment that you
convince me that what you have told me is true."

Before he had finished speaking Arnold had risen to his feet. He
heard him out, and then he said, slowly and steadily--

"I should not take the trouble to repeat them; I should only tell you
that I am sorry that I have eaten salt with a man who could take
advantage of my poverty to insult me. Good night."

He was moving towards the door when Colston jumped up from his chair,
strode round the table, and got in front of him. Then he put his two
hands on his shoulders, and, looking straight into his eyes, said in
a tone that vibrated with emotion--

"Thank God, I have found an honest man at last! Go and sit down
again, my friend, my comrade, as I hope you soon will be. Forgive me
for the foolishness that I spoke! I am no servant of the Tsar. He and
all like him have no more devoted enemy on earth than I am. Look! I
will soon prove it to you."

As he said the last words, Colston let go Arnold's shoulders, flung
off his coat and waistcoat, slipped his braces off his shoulders, and
pulled his shirt up to his neck. Then he turned his bare back to his
guest, and said--

"That is the sign-manual of Russian tyranny--the mark of the knout!"

Arnold shrank back with a cry of horror at the sight. From waist to
neck Colston's back was a mass of hideous scars and wheals, crossing
each other and rising up into purple lumps, with livid blue and grey
spaces between them. As he stood, there was not an inch of
naturally-coloured skin to be seen. It was like the back of a man who
had been flayed alive, and then flogged with a cat-o'-nine-tails.

Before Arnold had overcome his horror his host had re-adjusted his
clothing. Then he turned to him and said--

"That was my reward for telling the governor of a petty Russian town
that he was a brute-beast for flogging a poor decrepit old Jewess to
death. Do you believe me now when I say that I am no servant or
friend of the Tsar?"

"Yes, I do," replied Arnold, holding out his hand, "you were right to
try me, and I was wrong to be so hasty. It is a failing of mine that
has done me plenty of harm before now. I think I know now what you
are without your telling me. Give me a piece of paper and you shall
have my address, so that you can come to-morrow and see the
model--only I warn you that you will have to pay my rent to keep my
landlord's hands off it. And then I must be off, for I see it's past

"You are not going out again to-night, my friend, while I have a sofa
and plenty of rugs at your disposal," said his host. "You will sleep
here, and in the morning we will go together and see this marvel of
yours. Meanwhile sit down and make yourself at home with another
cigar. We have only just begun to know each other--we two enemies of



Soon after eight the next morning Colston came into the sitting-room
where Arnold had slept on the sofa, and dreamt dreams of war and
world-revolts and battles fought in mid-air between aërial navies
built on the plan of his own model. When Colston came in he was just
awake enough to be wondering whether the events of the previous night
were a reality or part of his dreams--a doubt that was speedily set
at rest by his host drawing back the curtains and pulling up the

The moment his eyes were properly open he saw that he was anywhere
but in his own shabby room in Southwark, and the rest was made clear
by Colston saying--

"Well, comrade Arnold, Lord High Admiral of the Air, how have you
slept? I hope you found the sofa big and soft enough, and that the
last cigar has left no evil effects behind it."

"Eh? Oh, good morning! I don't know whether it was the whisky or the
cigars, or what it was; but do you know I have been dreaming all
sorts of absurd things about battles in the air and dropping
explosives on fortresses and turning them into small volcanoes. When
you came in just now I hadn't the remotest idea where I was. It's
time to get up, I suppose?"

"Yes, it's after eight a good bit. I've had my tub, so the bath-room
is at your service. Meanwhile, Burrows will be laying the table for
breakfast. When you have finished your tub, come into my
dressing-room, and let me rig you out. We are about of a size, and I
think I shall be able to meet your most fastidious taste. In fact, I
could rig you out as anything--from a tramp to an officer of the

"It wouldn't take much change to accomplish the former, I'm afraid.
But, really, I couldn't think of trespassing so far on your
hospitality as to take your very clothes from you. I'm deep enough in
your debt already."

"Don't talk nonsense, Richard Arnold. The tone in which those last
words were said shows me that you have not duly laid to heart what I
said last night. There is no such thing as private property in the
Brotherhood, of which I hope, by this time to-morrow, you will be an

"What I have here is mine only for the purposes of the Cause,
wherefore it is as much yours as mine, for to-day we are going on the
Brotherhood's business. Why, then, should you have any scruples about
wearing the Brotherhood's clothes? Now clear out and get tubbed, and
wash some of those absurd ideas out of your head."

"Well, as you put it that way, I don't mind, only remember that I
don't necessarily put on the principles of the Brotherhood with its

So saying, Arnold got up from the sofa, stretched himself, and went
off to make his toilet.

When he sat down to breakfast with his host half an hour later, very
few who had seen him on the Embankment the night before would have
recognised him as the same man. The tailor, after all, does a good
deal to make the man, externally at least, and the change of clothes
in Arnold's case had transformed him from a superior looking tramp
into an aristocratic and decidedly good-looking man, in the prime of
his youth, saving only for the thinness and pallor of his face, and a
perceptible stoop in the shoulders.

During breakfast they chatted about their plans for the day, and then
drifted into generalities, chiefly of a political nature.

The better Arnold came to know Maurice Colston the more remarkable
his character appeared to him; and it was his growing wonder at the
contradictions that it exhibited that made him say towards the end of
the meal--

"I must say you're a queer sort of conspirator, Colston. My idea of
Nihilists and members of revolutionary societies has always taken the
form of silent, stealthy, cautious beings, with a lively distrust and
hatred of the whole human race outside their own circles. And yet
here are you, an active member of the most terrible secret society in
existence, pledged to the destruction of nearly every institution on
earth, and carrying your life in your hand, opening your heart like a
schoolboy to a man you have literally not known for twenty-four

"Suppose you had made a mistake in me. What would there be to prevent
me telling the police who you are, and having you locked up with a
view to extradition to Russia?"

"In the first place," replied Colston quietly, "you would not do so,
because I am not mistaken in you, and because, in your heart, whether
you fully know it or not, you believe as I do about the destruction
that is about to fall upon Society.

"In the second place, if you did betray my confidence, I should be
able to bring such an overwhelming array of the most respectable
evidence to show that I was nothing like what I really am, that you
would be laughed at for a madman; and, in the third place, there
would be an inquest on you within twenty-four hours after you had
told your story. Do you remember the death of Inspector Ainsworth, of
the Criminal Investigation Department, about six months ago?"

"Yes, of course I do. Hermit and all as I was, I could hardly help
hearing about that, considering what a noise it made. But I thought
that was cleared up. Didn't one of that gang of garotters that was
broken up in South London a couple of months later confess to
strangling him in the statement that he made before he was executed?"

"Yes, and his widow is now getting ten shillings a week for life on
account of that confession. Birkett no more killed Ainsworth than you
did; but he had killed two or three others, and so the confession
didn't do him very much harm.

"No; Ainsworth met his death in quite another way. He accepted from
the Russian secret police bureau in London a bribe of £250 down and
the promise of another £250 if he succeeded in manufacturing enough
evidence against a member of our Outer Circle to get him extradited
to Russia on a trumped-up charge of murder.

"The Inner Circle learnt of this from one of our spies in the Russian
London police, and----, well, Ainsworth was found dead with the mark
of the Terror upon his forehead before he had time to put his
treachery into action. He was executed by two of the Brotherhood, who
are members of the Metropolitan police force, and who were afterwards
complimented by the magistrate for the intelligent efforts they had
made in bringing the murderers to justice."

Colston told the dark story in the most careless of tones between the
puffs of his after-breakfast cigarette. Arnold stifled his horror as
well as he was able, but he could not help saying, when his host had

"This Brotherhood of yours is well named the Terror; but was not that
rather a murder than an execution?"

"By no means," replied Colston, a trifle coldly. "Society hangs or
beheads a man who kills another. Ainsworth knew as well as we did
that if the man he tried to betray by false evidence had once set
foot in Russia, the torments of a hundred deaths would have been his
before he had been allowed to die.

"He betrayed his office and his faith to his English masters in order
to commit this vile crime, and so he was killed as a murderous and
treacherous reptile that was not fit to live. We of the Terror are
not lawyers, and so we make no distinctions between deliberate
plotting for money to kill and the act of killing itself. Our law is
closer akin to justice than the hair-splitting fraud that is
tolerated by Society."

Either from emotional or logical reasons Arnold made no reply to this
reasoning, and, seeing he remained silent, Colston resumed his
ordinary nonchalant, good-humoured tone, and went on--

"But come, that will be horrors enough for to-day. We have other
business in hand, and we may as well get to it at once. About this
wonderful invention of yours. Of course I believe all you have told
me about it, but you must remember that I am only an agent, and that
I am inexorably bound by certain rules, in accordance with which I
must act.

"Now, to be perfectly plain with you, and in order that we may
thoroughly understand each other before either of us commits himself
to anything, I must tell you that I want to see this model flying
ship of yours in order to be able to report on it to-night to the
Executive of the Inner Circle, to whom I shall also want to introduce
you. If you will not allow me to do that say so at once, and, for the
present at least, our negotiations must come to a sudden stop."

"Go on," said Arnold quietly; "so far I consent. For the rest I would
rather hear you to the end."

"Very well. Then if the Executive approve of the invention, you will
be asked to join the Inner Circle at once, and to devote yourself
body and soul to the Society and the accomplishment of the objects
that will be explained to you. If you refuse there will be an end of
the matter, and you will simply be asked to give your word of honour
to reveal nothing that you have seen or heard, and then allowed to
depart in peace.

"If, on the other hand, you consent, in consideration of the immense
importance of your secret--which there is no need to disguise from
you--to the Brotherhood, the usual condition of passing through the
Outer Circle will be dispensed with, and you will be trusted as
absolutely as we shall expect you to trust us.

"Whatever funds you then require to manufacture an air-ship on the
plan of your model will be placed at your disposal, and a suitable
place will be selected for the works that you will have to build.
When the ship is ready to take the air you will, of course, be
appointed to the command of her, and you will pick your crew from
among the workmen who will act under your orders in the building of
the vessel.

"They will all be members of the Outer Circle, who will not
understand your orders, but simply obey them blindly, even to the
death. One member of the Inner Circle will act as your second in
command, and he will be as perfectly trusted as you will be, so that
in unforeseen emergencies you will be able to consult with him with
perfect confidence. Now I think I have told you all. What do you

Arnold was silent for a few minutes, too busy for speech with the
rush of thoughts that had crowded through his brain as Colston was
speaking. Then he looked up at his host and said--

"May I make conditions?"

"You may state them," replied he, with a smile, "but, of course, I
don't undertake to accept them without consultation with my--I mean
with the Executive."

"Of course not," said Arnold. "Well, the conditions that I should
feel myself obliged to make with your Executive would be, briefly
speaking, these: I would not reveal to any one the composition of the
gases from which I derive my motive force. I should manufacture them
myself in given quantities, and keep them always under my own charge.

"At the first attempt to break faith with me in this respect I would
blow the air-ship and all her crew, including myself, into such
fragments as it would be difficult to find one of them. I have and
wish for no life apart from my invention, and I would not survive

"Good!" interrupted Colston. "There spoke the true enthusiast. Go

"Secondly, I would use the machine only in open warfare--when the
Brotherhood is fighting openly for the attainment of a definite end.
Once the appeal to force has been made I will employ a force such as
no nation on earth can use without me, and I will use it as
unsparingly as the armies and fleets engaged will employ their own
engines of destruction on one another. But I will be no party to the
destruction of defenceless towns and people who are not in arms
against us. If I am ordered to do that I tell you candidly that I
will not do it. I will blow the air-ship itself up first."

"The conditions are somewhat stringent, although the sentiments are
excellent," replied Colston; "still, of myself I can neither accept
nor reject them. That will be for the Executive to do. For my own
part I think that you will be able to arrive at a basis of agreement
on them. And now I think we have said all we can say for the present,
and so if you are ready we'll be off and satisfy my longing to see
the invention that is to make us the arbiters of war--when war comes,
which I fancy will not be long now."

Something in the tone in which these last words were spoken struck
Arnold with a kind of cold chill, and he shivered slightly as he said
in answer to Colston--

"I am ready when you are, and no less anxious than you to set eyes on
my model. I hope to goodness it is all safe! Do you know, when I am
away from it I feel just like a woman away from her first baby."

A few minutes later two of the most dangerous enemies of Society
alive were walking quietly along the Embankment towards Blackfriars,
smoking their cigars and chatting as conventionally as though there
were no such things on earth as tyranny and oppression, and their
necessarily ever-present enemies conspiracy and brooding revolution.



Twenty minutes' walk took Arnold and Colston to the door of the
tenement-house in which the former had lived since his fast-dwindling
store of money had convinced him of the necessity of bringing his
expenses down to the lowest possible limit if he wished to keep up
the struggle with fate very much longer.

As they mounted the dirty, evil-smelling staircase, Colston said--

"Phew! Verily you are a hero of science if you have brought yourself
to live in a hole like this for a couple of years rather than give up
your dream, and grow fat on the loaves and fishes of

"This is a palace compared with some of the rookeries about here,"
replied Arnold, with a laugh. "The march of progress seems to have
left this half of London behind as hopeless. Ten years ago there were
a good many thousands of highly respectable mediocrities living on
this side of the river, but now I am told that the glory has departed
from the very best of its localities, and given them up to various
degrees of squalor. Vice, poverty, and misery seem to gravitate
naturally southward in London. I don't know why, but they do. Well,
here is the door of my humble den."

As he spoke he put the key in the lock, and opened the door, bidding
his companion enter as he did so.

Arnold's anxiety was soon relieved by finding the precious model
untouched in its resting-place, and it was at once brought out.
Colston was delighted beyond his powers of expression with the
marvellous ingenuity with which the miracle of mechanical skill was
contrived and put together; and when Arnold, after showing and
explaining to him all the various parts of the mechanism and the
external structure, at length set the engine working, and the
air-ship rose gracefully from the floor and began to sail round the
room in the wide circle to which it was confined by its mooring-line,
he stared at it for several minutes in wondering silence, following
it round and round with his eyes, and then he said in a voice from
which he vainly strove to banish the signs of the emotion that
possessed him--

"It is the last miracle of science! With a few such ships as that one
could conquer the world in a month!"

"Yes, that would not be a very difficult task, seeing that neither an
army nor a fleet could exist for twelve hours with two or three of
them hovering above it," replied Arnold.

The trial over, Arnold set to work and took the model partly to
pieces for packing up; and while he was putting it away in the old
sea-chest, Colston counted out ten sovereigns and laid them on the
table. Hearing the clink of the gold, Arnold looked up and said--

"What is that for? A sovereign will be quite enough to get me out of
my present scrape, and then if we come to any terms to-night it will
be time enough to talk about payment."

"The Brotherhood does not do business in that way," was the reply.
"At present your only connection with it is a commercial one, and ten
pounds is a very moderate fee for the privilege of inspecting such an
invention as this. Anyhow, that is what I am ordered to hand over to
you in payment for your trouble now and to-night, so you must accept
it as it is given--as a matter of business."

"Very well," said Arnold, closing and locking the chest as he spoke,
"if you think it worth ten pounds, the money will not come amiss to
me. Now, if you will remain and guard the household gods for a
minute, I will go and pay my rent and get a cab."

Half an hour later his few but priceless possessions were loaded on a
four-wheeler and Arnold had bidden farewell for ever to the dingy
room in which he had passed so many hours of toil and dreaming,
suffering and disappointment. Before lunch time they were safely
bestowed in a couple of rooms which Colston had engaged for him in
the same building in which his own rooms were.

In the afternoon, among other purchases, a more convenient case was
bought for the model, and in this it was packed with the plans and
papers which explained its construction, ready for the evening

The two friends dined together at six in Colston's rooms, and at
seven sharp his servant announced that the cab was at the door.
Within ten minutes they were bowling along the Embankment towards
Westminster Bridge in a luxuriously appointed hansom of the newest
type, with the precious case lying across their knees.

"This is a comfortable cab," said Arnold, when they had gone a
hundred yards or so. "By the way, how does the man know where to go?
I didn't hear you give him any directions."

"None were necessary," was the reply. "This cab, like a good many
others in London, belongs to the Brotherhood, and the man who is
driving is one of the Outer Circle. Our Jehus are the most useful
spies that we have. Many is the secret of the enemy that we have
learnt from, and many is the secret police agent who has been driven
to his rendezvous by a Terrorist who has heard every word that has
been spoken on the journey."

"How on earth is that managed?"

"Every one of the cabs is fitted with a telephonic arrangement
communicating with the roof. The driver has only to button the wire
of the transmitter up inside his coat so that the transmitter itself
lies near to his ear, and he can hear even a whisper inside the cab.

"The man who is driving us, for instance, has a sort of retainer from
the Russian Embassy to be on hand at certain hours on certain nights
in the week. Our cabs are all better horsed, better appointed, and
better driven than any others in London, and, consequently, they are
favourites, especially among the young attachés, and are nearly
always employed by them on their secret missions or love affairs,
which, by the way, are very often the same thing. Our own Jehu has a
job on to-night, from which we expect some results that will mystify
the enemy not a little. We got our first suspicions of Ainsworth from
a few incautious words that he spoke in one of our cabs."

"It's a splendid system, I should think, for discovering the
movements of your enemies," said Arnold, not without an uncomfortable
reflection on the fact that he was himself now completely in the
power of this terrible organisation, which had keen eyes and ready
hands in every capital of the civilised world. "But how do you guard
against treachery? It is well known that all the Governments of
Europe are spending money like water to unearth this mystery of the
Terror. Surely all your men cannot be incorruptible."

"Practically they are so. The very mystery which enshrouds all our
actions makes them so. We have had a few traitors, of course; but as
none of them has ever survived his treachery by twenty-four hours, a
bribe has lost its attraction for the rest."

In such conversation as this the time was passed, while the cab
crossed the river and made its way rapidly and easily along
Kennington Road and Clapham Road to Clapham Common. At length it
turned into the drive of one of those solid abodes of pretentious
respectability which front the Common, and pulled up before a big
stucco portico.

"Here we are!" exclaimed Colston, as the doors of the cab
automatically opened. He got out first, and Arnold handed the case to
him, and then followed him.

Without a word the driver turned his horse into the road again and
drove off towards town, and as they ascended the steps the front door
opened, and they went in, Colston saying as they did so--

"Is Mr. Smith at home?"

"Yes, sir; you are expected, I believe. Will you step into the
drawing-room?" replied the clean-shaven and immaculately respectable
man-servant, in evening dress, who had opened the door for them.

They were shown into a handsomely furnished room lit with electric
light. As soon as the footman had closed the door behind him, Colston

"Well, now, here you are in the conspirators' den, in the very
headquarters of those Terrorists for whom Europe is being ransacked
constantly without the slightest success. I have often wondered what
the rigid respectability of Clapham Common would think if it knew the
true character of this harmless-looking house. I hardly think an
earthquake in Clapham Road would produce much more sensation than
such a discovery would.

"And now," he continued, his tone becoming suddenly much more
serious, "in a few minutes you will be in the presence of the Inner
Circle of the Terrorists, that is to say, of those who practically
hold the fate of Europe in their hands. You know pretty clearly what
they want with you. If you have thought better of the business that
we have discussed you are still at perfect liberty to retire from it,
on giving your word of honour not to disclose anything that I have
said to you."

"I have not the slightest intention of doing anything of the sort,"
replied Arnold. "You know the conditions on which I came here. I
shall put them before your Council, and if they are accepted your
Brotherhood will, within their limits, have no more faithful adherent
than I. If not, the business will simply come to an end as far as I
am concerned, and your secret will be as safe with me as though I had
taken the oath of membership."

"Well said!" replied Colston, "and just what I expected you to say.
Now listen to me for a minute. Whatever you may see or hear for the
next few minutes say nothing till you are asked to speak. I will say
all that is necessary at first. Ask no questions, but trust to
anything that may seem strange being explained in due course--as it
will be. A single indiscretion on your part might raise suspicions
which would be as dangerous as they would be unfounded. When you are
asked to speak do so without the slightest fear, and speak your mind
as openly as you have done to me."

"You need have no fear for me," replied Arnold. "I think I am
sensible enough to be prudent, and I am quite sure that I am
desperate enough to be fearless. Little worse can happen to me than
the fate that I was contemplating last night."

As he ceased speaking there was a knock at the door. It opened and
the footman reappeared, saying in the most commonplace fashion--

"Mr. Smith will be happy to see you now, gentlemen. "Will you kindly
walk this way?"

They followed him out into the hall, and then, somewhat to Arnold's
surprise, down the stairs at the back, which apparently led to the
basement of the house.

The footman preceded them to the basement floor and halted before a
door in a little passage that looked like the entrance to a coal
cellar. On this he knocked in peculiar fashion with the knuckles of
one hand, while with the other he pressed the button of an electric
bell concealed under the paper on the wall. The bell sounded faintly
as though some distance off, and as it rang the footman said abruptly
to Colston--

"Das Wort ist Freiheit."

Arnold knew German enough to know that this meant "The word is
'Freedom,'" but why it should have been spoken in a foreign language
mystified him not a little.

While he was thinking about this the door opened, as if by a released
spring, and he saw before him a long, narrow passage, lit by four
electric arcs, and closed at the other end by a door, guarded by a
sentry armed with a magazine rifle.

He followed Colston down the passage, and when within a dozen feet of
the sentry, he brought his rifle to the "ready," and the following
strange dialogue ensued between him and Colston--

"Quien va?"

"Zwei Freunde der Bruderschaft."

"Por la libertad?"

"Für Freiheit über alles!"

"Pass, friends."

The rifle grounded as the words were spoken, and the sentry stepped
back to the wall of the passage.

At the same moment another bell rang beyond the door, and then the
door itself opened as the other had done.

They passed through, and it closed instantly behind them, leaving
them in total darkness.

Colston caught Arnold by the arm, and drew him towards him, saying as
he did so--

"What do you think of our system of passwords?"

"Pretty hard to get through unless one knew them, I should think. Why
the different languages?"

"To make assurance doubly sure every member of the Inner Circle must
be conversant with four European languages. On these the changes are
rung, and even I did not know what the two languages were to be
to-night before I entered the house, and if I had asked for 'Mr.
Brown' instead of 'Mr. Smith,' we should never have got beyond the

"When the footman told me in German that the word was 'Freedom,' I
knew that I should have to answer the challenge of the sentry in
German. I did not know that he would challenge in Spanish, and if I
had not understood him, or had replied in any other language but
German, he would have shot us both down without saying another word,
and no one would ever have known what had become of us. You will be
exempt from this condition, because you will always come with me. I
am, in fact, responsible for you."

"H'm, there doesn't seem much chance of any one getting through on
false pretences," replied Arnold, with an irrepressible shudder. "Has
any one ever tried?"

"Yes, once. The two gentlemen whose disappearance made the famous
'Clapham Mystery' of about twelve months ago. They were two of the
smartest detectives in the French service, and the only two men who
ever guessed the true nature of this house. They are buried under the
floor on which you are standing at this moment."

The words were spoken with a cruel inflexible coldness, which struck
Arnold like a blast of frozen air. He shivered, and was about to
reply when Colston caught him by the arm again, and said hurriedly--

"H'st! We are going in. Remember what I said, and don't speak again
till some one asks you to do so."

As he spoke a door opened in the wall of the dark chamber in which
they had been standing for the last few minutes, and a flood of soft
light flowed in upon their dazzled eyes. At the same moment a man's
voice said from the room beyond in Russian--

"Who stands there?"

"Maurice Colston and the Master of the Air," replied Colston in the
same language.

"You are welcome," was the reply, and then Colston, taking Arnold by
the arm, led him into the room.



As soon as Arnold's eyes got accustomed to the light, he saw that he
was in a large, lofty room with panelled walls adorned with a number
of fine paintings. As he looked at these his gaze was fascinated by
them, even more than by the strange company which was assembled round
the long table that occupied the middle of the room.

Though they were all manifestly the products of the highest form of
art, their subjects were dreary and repulsive beyond description.
There was a horrible realism about them which reminded him
irresistibly of the awful collection of pictorial horrors in the
Musée Wiertz, in Brussels--those works of the brilliant but unhappy
genius who was driven into insanity by the sheer exuberance of his
own morbid imagination.

Here was a long line of men and women in chains staggering across a
wilderness of snow that melted away into the horizon without a break.
Beside them rode Cossacks armed with long whips that they used on men
and women alike when their fainting limbs gave way beneath them, and
they were like to fall by the wayside to seek the welcome rest that
only death could give them.

There was a picture of a woman naked to the waist, and tied up to a
triangle in a prison yard, being flogged by a soldier with willow
wands, while a group of officers stood by, apparently greatly
interested in the performance. Another painting showed a poor wretch
being knouted to death in the market-place of a Russian town, and yet
another showed a young and beautiful woman in a prison cell with her
face distorted by the horrible leer of madness, and her little white
hands clawing nervously at her long dishevelled hair.

Arnold stood for several minutes fascinated by the hideous realism of
the pictures, and burning with rage and shame at the thought that
they were all too terribly true to life, when he was startled out of
his reverie by the same voice that had called them from the dark room
saying to him in English--

"Well, Richard Arnold, what do you think of our little picture
gallery? The paintings are good in themselves, but it may make them
more interesting to you if you know that they are all faithful
reproductions of scenes that have really taken place within the
limits of the so-called civilised and Christian world. There are some
here in this room now who have suffered the torments depicted on
those canvases, and who could tell of worse horrors than even they
portray. We should like to know what you think of our paintings?"

Arnold glanced towards the table in search of Colston, but he had
vanished. Around the long table sat fourteen masked and shrouded
forms that were absolutely indistinguishable one from the other. He
could not even tell whether they were men or women, so closely were
their forms and faces concealed. Seeing that he was left to his own
discretion, he laid the case containing the model, which he had so
far kept under his arm, down on the floor, and, facing the strange
assembly, said as steadily as he could--

"My own reading tells me that they are only too true to the dreadful
reality. I think that the civilised and Christian Society which
permits such crimes to be committed against humanity, when it has the
power to stop them by force of arms, is neither truly civilised nor
truly Christian."

"And would _you_ stop them if you could?"

"Yes, if it cost the lives of millions to do it! They would be better
spent than the thirty million lives that were lost last century over
a few bits of territory."

"That is true, and augurs well for our future agreement. Be kind
enough to come to the table and take a seat."

The masked man who spoke was sitting in the chair at the foot of the
table, and as he said this one of those sitting at the side got up
and motioned to Arnold to take his place. As soon as he had done so
the speaker continued--

"We are glad to see that your sentiments are so far in accord with
our own, for that fact will make our negotiations all the easier.

"As you are aware, you are now in the Inner Circle of the Terrorists.
Yonder empty chair at the head of the table is that of our Chief,
who, though not with us in person, is ever present as a guiding
influence in our councils. We act as he directs, and it was from him
that we received news of you and your marvellous invention. It is
also by his direction that you have been invited here to-night with
an object that you are already aware of.

"I see from your face that you are about to ask how this can be,
seeing that you have never confided your secret to any one until last
night. It will be useless to ask me, for I myself do not know. We who
sit here simply execute the Master's will. We ask no questions, and
therefore we can answer none concerning him."

"I have none to ask," said Arnold, seeing that the speaker paused as
though expecting him to say something. "I came at the invitation of
one of your Brotherhood to lay certain terms before you, for you to
accept or reject as seems good to you. How you got to know of me and
my invention is, after all, a matter of indifference to me. With your
perfect system of espionage you might well find out more secret
things than that."

"Quite so," was the reply. "And the question that we have to settle
with you is how far you will consent to assist the work of the
Brotherhood with this invention of yours, and on what conditions you
will do so."

"I must first know as exactly as possible what the work of the
Brotherhood is."

"Under the circumstances there is no objection to your knowing that.
In the first place, that which is known to the outside world as the
Terror is an international secret society underlying and directing
the operations of the various bodies known as Nihilists, Anarchists,
Socialists--in fact, all those organisations which have for their
object the reform or destruction, by peaceful or violent means, of
Society as it is at present constituted.

"Its influence reaches beyond these into the various trade unions and
political clubs, the moving spirits of which are all members of our
Outer Circle. On the other side of Society we have agents and
adherents in all the Courts of Europe, all the diplomatic bodies, and
all the parliamentary assemblies throughout the world.

"We believe that Society as at present constituted is hopeless for
any good thing. All kinds of nameless brutalities are practised
without reproof in the names of law and order, and commercial
economics. On one side human life is a splendid fabric of cloth of
gold embroidered with priceless gems, and on the other it is a mass
of filthy, festering rags, swarming with vermin.

"We think that such a Society--a Society which permits considerably
more than the half of humanity to be sunk in poverty and misery while
a very small portion of it fools away its life in perfectly
ridiculous luxury--does not deserve to exist, and ought to be

"We also know that sooner or later it will destroy itself, as every
similar Society has done before it. For nearly forty years there has
now been almost perfect peace in Europe. At the same time, over
twenty millions of men are standing ready to take the field in a

"War--universal war that will shake the world to its foundations--is
only a matter of a little more delay and a few diplomatic hitches.
Russia and England are within rifleshot of each other in Afghanistan,
and France and Germany are flinging defiances at each other across
the Rhine.

"Some one must soon fire the shot that will set the world in a blaze,
and meanwhile the toilers of the earth are weary of these dreadful
military and naval burdens, and would care very little if the
inevitable happened to-morrow.

"It is in the power of the Terrorists to delay or precipitate that
war to a certain extent. Hitherto all our efforts have been devoted
to the preservation of peace, and many of the so-called outrages
which have taken place in different parts of Europe, and especially
in Russia, during the last few years, have been accomplished simply
for the purpose of forcing the attention of the administrations to
internal affairs for the time, and so putting off what would have led
to a declaration of war.

"This policy has not been dictated by any hope of avoiding war
altogether, for that would have been sheer insanity. We have simply
delayed war as long as possible, because we have not felt that we
have been strong enough to turn the tide of battle at the right
moment in favour of the oppressed ones of the earth and against their

"But this invention of yours puts a completely different aspect on
the European situation. Armed with such a tremendous engine of
destruction as a navigable air-ship must necessarily be, when used in
conjunction with the explosives already at our disposal, we could
make war impossible to our enemies by bringing into the field a force
with which no army or fleet could contend without the certainty of
destruction. By these means we should ultimately compel peace and
enforce a general disarmament on land and sea.

"The vast majority of those who make the wealth of the world are sick
of seeing that wealth wasted in the destruction of human life, and
the ruin of peaceful industries. As soon, therefore, as we are in a
position to dictate terms under such tremendous penalties, all the
innumerable organisations with which we are in touch all over the
world will rise in arms and enforce them at all costs.

"Of course, it goes without saying that the powers that are now
enthroned in the high places of the world will fight bitterly and
desperately to retain the rule that they have held for so long, but
in the end we shall be victorious, and then on the ruins of this
civilisation a new and a better shall arise.

"That is a rough, brief outline of the policy of the Brotherhood,
which we are going to ask you to-night to join. Of course, in the
eyes of the world we are only a set of fiends, whose sole object is
the destruction of Society, and the inauguration of a state of
universal anarchy. That, however, has no concern for us. What is
called popular opinion is merely manufactured by the Press according
to order, and does not count in serious concerns. What I have
described to you are the true objects of the Brotherhood; and now it
remains for you to say, yes or no, whether you will devote yourself
and your invention to carrying them out or not."

For two or three minutes after the masked spokesman of the Inner
Circle had ceased speaking, there was absolute silence in the room.
The calmly spoken words which deliberately sketched out the ruin of a
civilisation and the establishment of a new order of things made a
deep impression on Arnold's mind. He saw clearly that he was standing
at the parting of the ways, and facing the most tremendous crisis
that could occur in the life of a human being.

It was only natural that he should look back, as he did, to the life
from which a single step would now part him for ever, without the
possibility of going back. He knew that if he once put his hands to
the plough, and looked back, death, swift and inevitable, would be
the penalty of his wavering. This, however, he had already weighed
and decided.

Most of what he had heard had found an echo in his own convictions.
Moreover, the life that he had left had no charms for him, while to
be one of the chief factors in a world-revolution was a destiny
worthy both of himself and his invention. So the fatal resolution was
taken, and he spoke the words that bound him for ever to the

"As I have already told Mr. Colston," he began by saying, "I will
join and faithfully serve the Brotherhood if the conditions that I
feel compelled to make are granted"--

"We know them already," interrupted the spokesman, "and they are
freely granted. Indeed, you can hardly fail to see that we are
trusting you to a far greater extent than it is possible for us to
make you trust us, unless you choose to do so. The air-ship once
built and afloat under your command, the game of war would to a great
extent be in your own hands. True, you would not survive treachery
very long; but, on the other hand, if it became necessary to kill
you, the air-ship would be useless, that is, if you took your secret
of the motive power with you into the next world."

"As I undoubtedly should," added Arnold quietly.

"We have no doubt that you would," was the equally quiet rejoinder.
"And now I will read to you the oath of membership that you will be
required to sign. Even when you have heard it, if you feel any
hesitation in subscribing to it, there will still be time to
withdraw, for we tolerate no unwilling or half-hearted recruits."

Arnold bowed his acquiescence, and the spokesman took a piece of
paper from the table and read aloud--

"_I, Richard Arnold, sign this paper in the full knowledge that in
doing so I devote myself absolutely for the rest of my life to the
service of the Brotherhood of Freedom, known to the world as the
Terrorists. As long as I live its ends shall be my ends, and no human
considerations shall weigh with me where those ends are concerned. I
will take life without mercy, and yield my own without hesitation at
its bidding. I will break all other laws to obey those which it
obeys, and if I disobey these I shall expect death as the just
penalty of my perjury._"

As he finished reading the oath, he handed the paper to Arnold,
saying as he did so--

"There are no theatrical formalities to be gone through. Simply sign
the paper and give it back to me, or else tear it up and go in

Arnold read it through slowly, and then glanced round the table. He
saw the eyes of the silent figures sitting about him shining at him
through the holes in their masks. He laid the paper down on the table
in front of him, dipped a pen in an inkstand that stood near, and
signed the oath in a firm, unfaltering hand. Then--committed for
ever, for good or evil, to the new life that he had adopted--he gave
the paper back again.

The President took it and read it, and then passed it to the mask on
his right hand. It went from one to the other round the table, each
one reading it before passing it on, until it got back to the
President. When it reached him he rose from his seat, and, going to
the fireplace, dropped it into the flames, and watched it until it
was consumed to ashes. Then, crossing the room to where Arnold was
sitting, he removed his mask with one hand, and held the other out to
him in greeting, saying as he did so--

"Welcome to the Brotherhood! Thrice welcome! for your coming has
brought the day of redemption nearer!"



As Arnold returned the greeting of the President, all the other
members of the Circle rose from their seats and took off their masks
and the black shapeless cloaks which had so far completely covered
them from head to foot.

Then, one after the other, they came forward and were formally
introduced to him by the President. Nine of the fourteen were men,
and five were women of ages varying from middle age almost to
girlhood. The men were apparently all between twenty-five and
thirty-five, and included some half-dozen nationalities among them.

All, both men and women, evidently belonged to the educated, or
rather to the cultured class. Their speech, which seemed to change
with perfect ease from one language to another in the course of their
somewhat polyglot converse, was the easy flowing speech of men and
women accustomed to the best society, not only in the social but the
intellectual sense of the word.

All were keen, alert, and swift of thought, and on the face of each
one there was the dignifying expression of a deep and settled purpose
which at once differentiated them in Arnold's eyes from the ordinary
idle or merely money-making citizens of the world.

As each one came and shook hands with the new member of the
Brotherhood, he or she had some pleasant word of welcome and greeting
for him; and so well were the words chosen, and so manifestly
sincerely were they spoken, that by the time he had shaken hands all
round Arnold felt as much at home among them as though he were in the
midst of a circle of old friends.

Among the women there were two who had attracted his attention and
roused his interest far more than any of the other members of the
Circle. One of these was a tall and beautifully-shaped woman, whose
face and figure were those of a woman in the early twenties, but
whose long, thick hair was as white as though the snows of seventy
winters had drifted over it. As he returned her warm, firm
hand-clasp, and looked upon her dark, resolute, and yet perfectly
womanly features, the young engineer gave a slight start of
recognition. She noticed this at once and said, with a smile and a
quick flash from her splendid grey eyes--

"Ah! I see you recognise me. No, I am not ashamed of my portrait. I
am proud of the wounds that I have received in the war with tyranny,
so you need not fear to confess your recognition."

It was true that Arnold had recognised her. She was the original of
the central figure of the painting which depicted the woman being
flogged by the Russian soldiers.

Arnold flushed hotly at the words with the sudden passionate anger
that they roused within him, and replied in a low, steady voice--

"Those who would sanction such a crime as that are not fit to live. I
will not leave one stone of that prison standing upon another. It is
a blot on the face of the earth, and I will wipe it out utterly!"

"There are thousands of blots as black as that on earth, and I think
you will find nobler game than an obscure Russian provincial prison.
Russia has cities and palaces and fortresses that will make far
grander ruins than that--ruins that will be worthy monuments of
fallen despotism," replied the girl, who had been introduced by the
President as Radna Michaelis. "But here is some one else waiting to
make your acquaintance. This is Natasha. She has no other name among
us, but you will soon learn why she needs none."

Natasha was the other woman who had so keenly roused Arnold's
interest. Woman, however, she hardly was, for she was seemingly still
in her teens, and certainly could not have been more than twenty.

He had mixed but little with women, and during the past few years not
at all, and therefore the marvellous beauty of the girl who came
forward as Radna spoke seemed almost unearthly to him, and confused
his senses for the moment as some potent drug might have done. He
took her outstretched hand in awkward silence, and for an instant so
far forgot himself as to gaze blankly at her in speechless

She could not help noticing it, for she was a woman, and for the same
reason she saw that it was so absolutely honest and involuntary that
it was impossible for any woman to take offence at it. A quick bright
flush swept up her lovely face as his hand closed upon hers, her
darkly-fringed lids fell for an instant over the most wonderful pair
of sapphire-blue eyes that Arnold had ever even dreamed of, and when
she raised them again the flush had gone, and she said in a sweet,
frank voice--

"I am the daughter of Natas, and he has desired me to bid you welcome
in his name, and I hope you will let me do so in my own as well. We
are all dying to see this wonderful invention of yours. I suppose you
are going to satisfy our feminine curiosity, are you not?"

The daughter of Natas! This lovely girl, in the first sweet flush of
her pure and innocent womanhood, the daughter of the unknown and
mysterious being whose ill-omened name caused a shudder if it was
only whispered in the homes of the rich and powerful; the name with
which the death-sentences of the Terrorists were invariably signed,
and which had come to be an infallible guarantee that they would be
carried out to the letter.

No death-warrants of the most powerful sovereigns of Europe were more
certain harbingers of inevitable doom than were those which bore this
dreaded name. Whether he were high or low, the man who received one
of them made ready for his end. He knew not where or when the fatal
blow would be struck. He only knew that the invisible hand of the
Terror would strike him as surely in the uttermost ends of the earth
as it would in the palace or the fortress. Never once had it missed
its aim, and never once had the slightest clue been obtained to the
identity of the hand that held the knife or pistol.

Some such thoughts as these flashed one after another through
Arnold's brain as he stood talking with Natasha. He saw at once why
she had only that one name. It was enough, and it was not long before
he learnt that it was the symbol of an authority in the Circle that
admitted of no question.

She was the envoy of him whose word was law, absolute and
irrevocable, to every member of the Brotherhood; to disobey whom was
death; and to obey whom had, so far at least, meant swift and
invariable success, even where it seemed least to be hoped for.

Of course, Natasha's almost girlish question about the air-ship was
really a command, which would have been none the less binding had she
only had her own beauty to enforce it. As she spoke the President and
Colston--who had only lost himself for the time behind a mask and
cloak--came up to Arnold and asked him if he was prepared to give an
exhibition of the powers of his model, and to explain its working and
construction to the Circle at once.

He replied that everything was perfectly ready for the trial, and
that he would set the model working for them in a few minutes. The
President then told him that the exhibition should take place in
another room, where there would be much more space than where they
were, and bade him bring the box and follow him.

A door was now opened in the wall of the room remote from that by
which he and Colston had entered, and through this the whole party
went down a short passage, and through another door at the end which
opened into a very large apartment, which, from the fact of its being
windowless, Arnold rightly judged to be underground, like the
Council-chamber that they had just left.

A single glance was enough to show him the chief purpose to which the
chamber was devoted. The wall at one end was covered with arm-racks
containing all the newest and most perfect makes of rifles and
pistols; while at the other end, about twenty paces distant, were
three electric signalling targets, graded, as was afterwards
explained to him, to one, three, and five hundred yards range.

In a word, the chamber was an underground range for rifle and pistol
practice, in which a volley could have been fired without a sound
being heard ten yards away. It was here that the accuracy of the
various weapons invented from time to time was tested; and here, too,
every member of the Circle, man and woman, practised with rifle and
pistol until an infallible aim was acquired. A register of scores was
kept, and at the head of it stood the name of Radna Michaelis.

A long table ran across the end at which the arm-racks were, and on
this Arnold laid the case containing the model, he standing on one
side of the table, and the members of the Circle on the other,
watching his movements with a curiosity that they took no trouble to

He opened the case, feeling something like a scientific demonstrator,
with an advanced and critical class before him. In a moment the man
disappeared, and the mechanician and the enthusiast took his place.
As each part was taken out and laid upon the table, he briefly
explained its use; and then, last of all, came the hull of the

This was three feet long and six inches broad in its midships
diameter. It was made in two longitudinal sections of polished
aluminium, which shone like burnished silver. It would have been
cigar-shaped but for the fact that the forward end was drawn out into
a long sharp ram, the point of which was on a level with the floor of
the hull amidships as it lay upon the table. Two deep bilge-plates,
running nearly the whole length of the hull, kept it in an upright
position and prevented the blades of the propellers from touching the
table. For about half its whole length the upper part of the hull was
flattened and formed a deck from which rose three short strong masts,
each of which carried a wheel of thin metal whose spokes were six
inclined fans something like the blades of a screw.

A little lower than this deck there projected on each side a broad,
oblong, slightly curved sheet of metal, very thin, but strengthened
by means of wire braces, till it was as rigid as a plate of solid
steel, although it only weighed a few ounces. These air-planes worked
on an axis amidships, and could be inclined either way through an
angle of thirty degrees. At the pointed stern there revolved a
powerful four-bladed propeller, and from each quarter, inclined
slightly outwards from the middle line of the vessel, projected a
somewhat smaller screw working underneath the after end of the

The hull contained four small double-cylinder engines, one of which
actuated the stern-propeller, and the other three the fan-wheels and
side-propellers. There were, of course, no furnaces, boilers, or
condensers. Two slender pipes ran into each cylinder from suitably
placed gas reservoirs, or power-cylinders, as the engineer called
them, and that was all.

Arnold deftly and rapidly put the parts together, continuing his
running description as he did so, and in a few minutes the beautiful
miracle of ingenuity stood complete before the wondering eyes of the
Circle, and a murmur of admiration ran from lip to lip, bringing a
flush of pleasure to the cheek of its creator.

"There," said he, as he put the finishing touches to the apparatus,
"you see that she is a combination of two principles--those of the
Aëronef and the Aëroplane. The first reached its highest development
in Jules Verne's imaginary "Clipper of the Clouds," and the second in
Hiram Maxim's Aëroplane. Of course, Jules Verne's Aëronef was merely
an idea, and one that could never be realised while Robur's
mysterious source of electrical energy remained unknown--as it still

"Maxim's Aëroplane is, as you all know, also an unrealised ideal so
far as any practical use is concerned. He has succeeded in making it
fly, but only under the most favourable conditions, and practically
without cargo. Its two fatal defects have been shown by experience to
be the comparatively overwhelming weight of the engine and the fuel
that he has to carry to develop sufficient power to rise from the
ground and progress against the wind, and the inability of the
machine to ascend perpendicularly to any required height.

"Without the power to do this no air-ship can be of any use save
under very limited conditions. You cannot carry a railway about with
you, or a station to get a start from every time you want to rise,
and you cannot always choose a nice level plain in which to come
down. Even if you could the Aëroplane would not rise again without
its rails and carriage. For purposes of warfare, then, it may be
dismissed as totally useless.

"In this machine, as you see, I have combined the two principles.
These helices on the masts will lift the dead weight of the ship
perpendicularly without the slightest help from the side-planes,
which are used to regulate the vessel's flight when afloat. I will
set the engines that work them in motion independently of the others
which move the propellers, and then you will see what I mean."

As he spoke, he set one part of the mechanism working. Those watching
saw the three helices begin to spin round, the centre one revolving
in an opposite direction to the other two, with a soft whirring sound
that gradually rose to a high-pitched note.

When they attained their full speed they looked like solid wheels,
and then the air-ship rose, at first slowly, and then more and more
swiftly, straight up from the table, until it strained hard at the
piece of cord which prevented it from reaching the roof.

A universal chorus of "bravas" greeted it as it rose, and every eye
became fixed on it as it hung motionless in the air, sustained by its
whirling helices. After letting it remain aloft for a few minutes
Arnold pulled it down again, saying as he did so--

"That, I think, proves that the machine can rise from any position
where the upward road is open, and without the slightest assistance
of any apparatus. Now it shall take a voyage round the room.

"You see it is steered by this rudder-fan under the stern propeller.
In the real ship it will be worked by a wheel, like the rudder of a
sea-going vessel; but in the model it is done by this lever, so that
I can control it by a couple of strings from the ground."

He went round to the other side of the table while he was speaking,
and adjusted the steering gear, stopping the engines meanwhile. Then
he put the model down on the floor, set all four engines to work, and
stood behind with the guiding-strings in his hands. The spectators
heard a louder and somewhat shriller whirring noise than before, and
the beautiful fabric, with its shining, silvery hull and side-planes,
rose slantingly from the ground and darted forward down the room,
keeping Arnold at a quick run with the rudder-strings tightly

Like an obedient steed, it instantly obeyed the slightest pull upon
either of them, and twice made the circuit of the room before its
creator pulled it down and stopped the machinery.

The experiment was a perfect and undeniable success in every respect,
and not one of those who saw it had the slightest doubt as to
Arnold's air-ship having at last solved the problem of aërial
navigation, and made the Brotherhood lords of a realm as wide as the
atmospheric ocean that encircles the globe.

As soon as the model was once more resting on the table, the
President came forward and, grasping the engineer by both hands, said
in a voice from which he made but little effort to banish the emotion
that he felt--

"Bravo, brother! Henceforth you shall be known to the Brotherhood as
the Master of the Air, for truly you have been the first among the
sons of men to fairly conquer it. Come, let us go back and talk, for
there is much to be said about this, and we cannot begin too soon to
make arrangements for building the first of our aërial fleet. You can
leave your model where it is in perfect safety, for no one ever
enters this room save ourselves."

So saying the President led the way to the Council-chamber, and
there, after the _Ariel_--as it had already been decided to name the
first air-ship--had been christened in anticipation in twenty-year
old champagne, the Circle settled down at once to business, and for a
good three hours discussed the engineer's estimate and plans for
building the first vessel of the aërial fleet.

At length all the practical details were settled, and the President
rose in token of the end of the conference. As he did so he said
somewhat abruptly to Arnold--

"So far so good. Now there is nothing more to be done but to lay
those plans before the Chief and get his authority for withdrawing
out of the treasury sufficient money to commence operations. I
presume you could reproduce them from memory if necessary--at any
rate, in sufficient outline to make them perfectly intelligible?"

"Certainly," was the reply. "I could reproduce them in _fac simile_
without the slightest difficulty. Why do you ask?"

"Because the Chief is in Russia, and you must go to him and place
them before him from memory. They are far too precious to be trusted
to any keeping, however trustworthy. There are such things as railway
accidents, and other forms of sudden death, to say nothing of the
Russian customs, false arrests, personal searches, and imprisonments
on mere suspicion.

"We can risk none of these, and so there is nothing for it but your
going to Petersburg and verbally explaining them to the Chief. You
can be ready in three days, I suppose?"

"Yes, in two, if you like," replied Arnold, not a little taken aback
at the unexpected suddenness of what he knew at once to be the first
order that was to test his obedience to the Brotherhood. "But as I am
absolutely ignorant of Russia and the Russians, I suppose you will
make such arrangements as will prevent my making any innocent but
possibly awkward mistakes."

"Oh yes," replied the President, with a smile, "all arrangements have
been made already, and I expect you will find them anything but
unpleasant. Natasha goes to Petersburg in company with another lady
member of the Circle whom you have not yet seen.

"You will go with them, and they will explain everything to you _en
route_, if they have no opportunity of doing so before you start. Now
let us go upstairs and have some supper. I am famished, and I suppose
every one else is too."

Arnold simply bowed in answer to the President; but one pair of eyes
at least in the room caught the quick, faint flush that rose in his
cheek as he was told in whose company he was to travel. As for
himself, if the journey had been to Siberia instead of Russia, he
would have felt nothing but pleasure at the prospect after that.

They left the Council-chamber by the passage and the ante-room, the
sentry standing to attention as they passed him, each giving the word
in turn, till the President came last and closed the doors behind
him. Then the sentry brought up the rear and extinguished the lights
as he left the passage.

Fifteen minutes later there sat down to supper, in the solidly
comfortable dining-room of the upper house, a party of ladies and
gentlemen who chatted through the meal as merrily and innocently as
though there were no such things as tyranny or suffering in the
world, and whom not the most acute observer would have taken for the
most dangerous and desperately earnest body of conspirators that ever
plotted the destruction, not of an empire, but of a civilisation and
a social order that it had taken twenty centuries to build up.



Supper was over about eleven, and then the party adjourned to the
drawing-room, where for an hour or so Arnold sat and listened to such
music and singing as he had never heard in his life before. The songs
seemed to be in every language in Europe, and he did not understand
anything like half of them, so far, at least, as the words were

They were, however, so far removed from the average drawing-room
medley of twaddle and rattle that the music interpreted the words
into its own universal language, and made them almost superfluous.

For the most part they were sad and passionate, and once or twice,
especially when Radna Michaelis was singing, Arnold saw tears well up
into the eyes of the women, and the brows of the men contract and
their hands clench with sudden passion at the recollection of some
terrible scene or story that was recalled by the song.

At last, close on midnight, the President rose from his seat and
asked Natasha to sing the "Hymn of Freedom." She acknowledged the
request with an inclination of her head, and then as Radna sat down
to the piano, and she took her place beside it, all the rest rose to
their feet like worshippers in a church.

The prelude was rather longer than usual, and as Radna played it
Arnold heard running through it, as it were, echoes of all the
patriotic songs of Europe from "Scots Wha Hae" and "The Shan van
Voght" to the forbidden Polish National Hymn and the Swiss Republican
song, which is known in England as "God Save the Queen." The prelude
ended with a few bars of the "Marseillaise," and then Natasha began.

It was a marvellous performance. As the air changed from nation to
nation the singer changed the language, and at the end of each verse
the others took up the strain in perfect harmony, till it sounded
like a chorus of the nations in miniature, each language coming in
its turn until the last verse was reached.

Then there was silence for a moment, and then the opening chords of
the "Marseillaise" rang out from the piano, slow and stately at
first, and then quickening like the tread of an army going into

Suddenly Natasha's voice soared up, as it were, out of the music, and
a moment later the Song of the Revolution rolled forth in a flood of
triumphant melody, above which Natasha's pure contralto thrilled
sweet and strong, till to Arnold's intoxicated senses it seemed like
the voice of some angel singing from the sky in the ears of men, and
it was not until the hymn had been ended for some moments that he was
recalled to earth by the President saying to him--

"Some day, perhaps, you will be floating in the clouds, and you will
hear that hymn rising from the throats of millions gathered together
from the ends of the earth, and when you hear that you will know that
our work is done, and that there is peace on earth at last."

"I hope so," replied the engineer quietly, "and, what is more, I
believe that some day I shall hear it."

"I believe so too," suddenly interrupted Radna, turning round on her
seat at the piano, "but there will be many a battle-song sung to the
accompaniment of battle-music before that happens. I wish"--

"That all Russia were a haystack, and that you were beside it with a
lighted torch," said Natasha, half in jest and half in earnest.

"Yes, truly!" replied Radna, turning round and dashing fiercely into
the "Marseillaise" again.

"I have no doubt of it. But, come, it is after midnight, and we have
to get back to Cheyne Walk. The princess will think we have been
arrested or something equally dreadful. Ah, Mr. Colston, we have a
couple of seats to spare in the brougham. Will you and our Admiral of
the Air condescend to accept a lift as far as Chelsea?"

"The condescension is in the offer, Natasha," replied Colston,
flushing with pleasure and glancing towards Radna the while. Radna
answered with an almost imperceptible sign of consent, and Colston
went on: "If it were in an utterly opposite direction"--

"You would not be asked to come, sir. So don't try to pay compliments
at the expense of common sense," laughed Natasha before he could
finish. "If you do you shall sit beside me instead of Radna all the

There was a general smile at this retort, for Colston's avowed
devotion to Radna and the terrible circumstances out of which it had
sprung was one of the romances of the Circle.

As for Arnold, he could scarcely believe his ears when he heard that
he was to ride from Clapham Common to Chelsea sitting beside this
radiantly beautiful girl, behind whose innocence and gaiety there lay
the shadow of her mysterious and terrible parentage.

Lovely and gentle as she seemed, he knew even now how awful a power
she held in the slender little hand whose nervous clasp he could
still feel upon his own, and this knowledge seemed to raise an
invisible yet impassable barrier between him and the possibility of
looking upon her as under other circumstances it would have been
natural for a man to look upon so fair a woman.

Natasha's brougham was so far an improvement on those of the present
day that it had two equally comfortable seats, and on these the four
were cosily seated a few minutes after the party broke up. To Arnold,
and, doubtless, to Colston also, the miles flew past at an unheard-of
speed; but for all that, long before the carriage stopped at the
house in Cheyne Walk, he had come to the conviction that, for good or
evil, he was now bound to the Brotherhood by far stronger ties than
any social or political opinions could have formed.

After they had said good-night at the door, and received an
invitation to lunch for the next day to talk over the journey to
Russia, he and Colston decided to walk to the Savoy, for it was a
clear moonlit night, and each had a good deal to say to the other,
which could be better and more safely said in the open air than in a
cab. So they lit their cigars, buttoned up their coats, and started
off eastward along the Embankment to Vauxhall.

"Well, my friend, tell me how you have enjoyed your evening, and what
you think of the company," said Colston, by way of opening the

"Until supper I had a very pleasant time of it. I enjoyed the
business part of the proceedings intensely, as any other mechanical
enthusiast would have done, I suppose. But I frankly confess that
after that my mind is in a state of complete chaos, in the midst of
which only one figure stands out at all distinctly."

"And that figure is?"

"Natasha. Tell me--who is she?"

"I know no more as to her true identity than you do, or else I would
answer you with pleasure."

"What! Do you mean to say"--

"I mean to say just what I have said. Not only do I not know who she
is, but I do not believe that more than two or three members of the
Circle, at the outside, know any more than I do. Those are, probably,
Nicholas Roburoff, the President of the Executive, and his wife, and
Radna Michaelis."

"Then, if Radna knows, how comes it that you do not know? You must
forgive me if I am presuming on a too short acquaintance; but it
certainly struck me to-night that you had very few secrets from each

"There is no presumption about it, my dear fellow," replied Colston,
with a laugh. "It is no secret that Radna and I are lovers, and that
she will be my wife when I have earned her."

"Now you have raised my curiosity again," interrupted Arnold, in an
inquiring tone.

"And will very soon satisfy it. You saw that horrible picture in the
Council-chamber? Yes. Well, I will tell you the whole story of that
some day when we have more time; but for the present it will be
enough for me to tell you that I have sworn not to ask Radna to come
with me to the altar while a single person who was concerned in that
nameless crime remains alive.

"There were five persons responsible for it to begin with--the
governor of the prison, the prefect of police for the district, a
spy, who informed against her, and the two soldiers who executed the
infernal sentence. It happened nearly three years ago, and there are
two of them alive still--the governor and the prefect of police.

"Of course the Brotherhood would have removed them long ago had it
decided to do so; but I got the circumstances laid before Natas, by
the help of Natasha, and received permission to execute the sentences
myself. So far I have killed three with my own hand, and the other
two have not much longer to live.

"The governor has been transferred to Siberia, and will probably be
the last that I shall reach. The prefect is now in command of the
Russian secret police in London, and unless an accident happens he
will never leave England."

Colston spoke in a cold, passionless, merciless tone, just as a
lawyer might speak of a criminal condemned to die by the ordinary
process of the law, and as Arnold heard him he shuddered. But at the
same time the picture in the Council-chamber came up before his
mental vision, and he was forced to confess that men who could so far
forget their manhood as to lash a helpless woman up to a triangle and
flog her till her flesh was cut to ribbons, were no longer men but
wild beasts, whose very existence was a crime. So he merely said--

"They were justly slain. Now tell me more about Natasha."

"There is very little more that I can tell you, I'm afraid. All I
know is that the Brotherhood of the Terror is the conception and
creation of a single man, and that that man is Natas, the father of
Natasha, as she is known to us. His orders come to us either directly
in writing through Natasha, or indirectly through him you have heard
spoken of as the Chief."

"Oh, then the Chief is not Natas?"

"No, we have all of us seen him. In fact, when he is in London he
always presides at the Circle meetings. You would hardly believe it,
but he is an English nobleman, and Secretary to the English Embassy
at Petersburg."

"Then he is Lord Alanmere, and an old college friend of mine!"
exclaimed Arnold. "I saw his name in the paper the night before last.
It was mentioned in the account of the murder"--

"We don't call those murders, my friend," drily interrupted Colston;
"we call them what they really are--executions."

"I beg your pardon; I was using the phraseology of the newspaper.
What was his crime?"

"I don't know. But the fact that the Chief was there when he died is
quite enough for me. Well, as I was saying, the Chief, as we call
him, is the visible and supreme head of the Brotherhood so far as we
are concerned. We know that Natas exists, and that he and the Chief
admit no one save Natasha to their councils.

"They control the treasury absolutely, and apart from the
contributions of those of the members who can afford to make them,
they appear to provide the whole of the funds. Of course, Lord
Alanmere, as you know, is enormously wealthy, and probably Natas is
also rich. At any rate, there is never any want of money where the
work of the Brotherhood is concerned.

"The estimates are given to Natasha when the Chief is not present,
and at the next meeting she brings the money in English gold and
notes, or in foreign currency as may be required, and that is all we
know about the finances.

"Perhaps I ought to tell you that there is also a very considerable
mystery about the Chief himself. When he presides at the Council
meetings he displays a perfectly marvellous knowledge of both the
members and the working of the Brotherhood.

"It would seem that nothing, however trifling, is hidden from him;
and yet when any of us happen to meet him, as we often do, in
Society, he treats us all as the most perfect strangers, unless we
have been regularly introduced to him as ordinary acquaintances. Even
then he seems utterly ignorant of his connection with the

"The first time I met him outside the Circle was at a ball at the
Russian Embassy. I went and spoke to him, giving the sign of the
Inner Circle as I did so. To my utter amazement, he stared at me
without a sign of recognition, and calmly informed me, in the usual
way, that I had the advantage of him.

"Of course I apologised, and he accepted the apology with perfect
good humour, but as an utter stranger would have done. A little later
Natasha came in with the Princess Ornovski, whom you are going to
Russia with, and who is there one of the most trusted agents of the
Petersburg police. I told her what had happened.

"She looked at me for a moment rather curiously with those wonderful
eyes of hers; then she laughed softly, and said, 'Come, I will set
that at rest by introducing you; but mind, not a word about politics
or those horrible secret societies, as you value my good opinion.'

"I understood from this that there was something behind which could
not be explained there, where every other one you danced with might
be a spy, and I was introduced to his Lordship, and we became very
good friends in the ordinary social way; but I failed to gather the
slightest hint from his conversation that he even knew of the
existence of the Brotherhood.

"When we left I drove home with Natasha and the Princess to supper,
and on the way Natasha told me that his Lordship found it necessary
to lead two entirely distinct lives, and that he adhered so rigidly
to this rule that he never broke it even with her. Since then I have
been most careful to respect what, after all, is a very wise, if not
an absolutely necessary, precaution on his part."

"And, now," said Arnold, speaking in a tone that betrayed not a
little hesitation and embarrassment, "if you can do so, answer me one
more question, and do so as shortly and directly as you can. Is
Natasha in love with, or betrothed to, any member of the Brotherhood
as far as you know?"

Colston stopped and looked at him with a laugh in his eyes. Then he
put his hand on his shoulder and said--

"As I thought, and feared! You have not escaped the common lot of all
heart-whole men upon whom those terrible eyes of hers have looked.
The Angel of the Revolution, as we call her among ourselves, is
peerless among the daughters of men. What more natural, then, that
all the sons of men should fall speedy victims to her fatal charms?
So far as I know, every man who has ever seen her is more or less in
love with her--and mostly more!

"As for the rest, I am as much in the dark as you are, save for the
fact that I know, on the authority of Radna, that she is not
betrothed to any one, and, so far as _she_ knows, still in the
blissful state of maiden fancy-freedom."

"Thank God for that!" said Arnold, with an audible sigh of relief.
Then he went on in somewhat hurried confusion, "But there, of course,
you think me a presumptuous ass, and so I am; wherefore"--

"There is no need for you to talk nonsense, my dear fellow. There
never can be presumption in an honest man's love, no matter how
exalted the object of it may be. Besides, are you not now the central
hope of the Revolution, and is not yours the hand that shall hurl
destruction on its enemies?

"As for Natasha, peerless and all as she is, has not the poet of the
ages said of just such as her--

  She's beautiful, and therefore to be woo'd;
  She is a woman: therefore to be won?

"And who, too, has a better chance of winning her than you will have
when you are commanding the aërial fleet of the Brotherhood, and,
like a very Jove, hurling your destroying bolts from the clouds, and
deciding the hazard of war when the nations of Europe are locked in
the death-struggle? Why, you see such a prospect makes even me

"Seriously, though, you must not consider the distance between you
too great. Remember that you are a very different person now to what
you were a couple of days ago. Without any offence, I may say that
you were then nameless, while now you have the chance of making a
name that will go down to all time as that of the solver of the
greatest problem of this or any other age.

"Added to this, remember that Natasha, after all, is a woman, and,
more than that, a woman devoted heart and soul to a great cause, in
which great deeds are soon to be done. Great deeds are still the
shortest way to a woman's heart, and that is the way you must take if
you are to hope for success."

"I will!" simply replied Arnold, and the tone in which the two words
were said convinced Colston that he meant all that they implied to
its fullest extent.



It was nearly eleven the next morning by the time Arnold and Colston
had finished breakfast. This was mostly due to the fact that Arnold
had passed an almost entirely sleepless night, and had only begun to
doze off towards morning. The events of the previous evening kept on
repeating themselves in various sequences time after time, until his
brain reeled in the whirl of emotions that they gave rise to.

Although of a strongly mathematical and even mechanical turn of mind,
the young engineer was also an enthusiast, and therefore there was a
strong colouring of romance in his nature which lifted him far above
the level upon which his mere intellect was accustomed to work.

Where intellect alone was concerned--as, for instance, in the working
out of a problem in engineering or mechanics--he was cool,
calculating, and absolutely unemotional. His highly-disciplined mind
was capable of banishing every other subject from consideration save
the one which claimed the attention of the hour, and of incorporating
itself wholly with the work in hand until it was finished.

These qualities would have been quite sufficient to assure his
success in life on conventional lines. They would have made him rich,
and perhaps famous, but they would never have made him a great
inventor; for no one can do anything really great who is not a
dreamer as well as a worker.

It was because he was a dreamer that he had sacrificed everything to
the working out of his ideal, and risked his life on the chance of
success, and it was for just the same reason that the tremendous
purposes of the Brotherhood had been able to fire his imagination
with luridly brilliant dreams of a gigantic world-tragedy in which
he, armed with almost supernatural powers, should play the central

This of itself would have been enough to make all other
considerations of trivial moment in his eyes, and to bind him
irrevocably to the Brotherhood. He saw, it is true, that a frightful
amount of slaughter and suffering would be the price either of
success or failure in so terrific a struggle; but he also knew that
that struggle was inevitable in some form or other, and whether he
took a part in it or not.

But since the last sun had set a new element had come into his life,
and was working in line with both his imagination and his ambition.
So far he had lived his life without any other human love than what
was bound up with his recollections of his home and his boyhood. As a
man he had never loved any human being. Science had been his only
mistress, and had claimed his undivided devotion, engrossing his mind
and intellect completely, but leaving his heart free.

And now, as it were in an instant, a new mistress had come forward
out of the unknown. She had put her hand upon his heart, and, though
no words of human speech had passed between them, save the merest
commonplaces, her soul had said to his, "This is mine. I have called
it into life, and for me it shall live until the end."

He had heard this as plainly as though it had been said to him with
the lips of flesh, and he had acquiesced in the imperious claim with
a glad submission which had yet to be tinged with the hope that it
might some day become a mastery.

Thus, as the silent, sleepless hours went by, did he review over and
over again the position in which he found himself on the threshold of
his strange new life, until at last physical exhaustion brought sleep
to his eyes if not to his brain, and he found himself flying over the
hills and vales of dreamland in his air-ship, with the roar of battle
and the smoke of ruined towns far beneath him, and Natasha at his
side, sharing with him the dominion of the air that his genius had

At length Colston came in to tell him that the breakfast was
spoiling, and that it was high time to get up if they intended to be
in time for their appointment at Chelsea. This brought him out of bed
with effective suddenness, and he made a hasty toilet for breakfast,
leaving more important preparations until afterwards.

During the meal their conversation naturally turned chiefly on the
visit that they were to pay, and Colston took the opportunity of
explaining one or two things that it was necessary for him to know
with regard to the new acquaintance that he was about to make at

"So far as the outside world is concerned," said he, "Natasha is the
niece of the Princess Ornovski. She is the daughter of a sister of
hers, who married an English gentleman, named Darrel, who was drowned
with his wife about twelve years ago, when the _Albania_ was wrecked
off the coast of Portugal. The Princess had a sister, who was drowned
with her husband in the _Albania_, and she left a daughter about
Natasha's then age, but who died of consumption shortly after in

"Under these circumstances, it was, of course, perfectly easy for the
Princess to adopt Natasha, and introduce her into Society as her
niece as soon as she reached the age of coming out.

"This has been of immense service to the Brotherhood, as the Princess
is, as I told you, one of the most implicitly trusted allies of the
Petersburg police. She is received at the Russian Court, and is
therefore able to take Natasha into the best Russian Society, where
her extraordinary beauty naturally enables her to break as many
hearts as she likes, and to learn secrets which are of the greatest
importance to the Brotherhood.

"Her Society name is Fedora Darrel, and it will scarcely be necessary
to tell you that outside our own Circle no such being as Natasha has
any existence."

"I perfectly understand," replied Arnold. "The name shall never pass
my lips save in privacy, and indeed it is hardly likely that it will
ever do so even then, for your habit of calling each other by your
Christian names is too foreign to my British insularity."

"It is a Russian habit, as you, of course, know, and added to that,
we are, so far as the Cause is concerned, all brothers and sisters
together, and so it comes natural to us. Anyhow, you will have to use
it with Natasha, for in the Circle she has no other name, and to call
her Miss Darrel there would be to produce something like an

"Oh, in that case, I daresay I shall be able to avoid the calamity,
though there will seem to be a presumption about it that will not
make me very comfortable at first."

"Too much like addressing one's sweetheart, eh?"

This brought the conversation to a sudden stop, for Arnold's only
reply to it was a quick flush, and a lapse into silence that was a
good deal more eloquent than any verbal reply could have been.
Colston noticed it with a smile, and got up and lit a pipe.

For the first time for a good few years Arnold took considerable
pains with his toilet that morning. A new fit-out had just been
delivered by a tailor who had promised the things within twenty-four
hours, and had kept his word. The consequences were that he was able
to array himself in perfect morning costume, from his hat to his
boots, and that was what it had not been his to do since he left

Colston had recommended him in his easy friendly way to pay
scrupulous attention to externals in the part that he would
henceforth have to play before the world. He fully saw the wisdom of
this advice, for he knew that, however well a part may be played, if
it is not dressed to perfection, some sharp eyes will see that it is
a part and not a reality.

The playing of his part was to begin that day, and he recognised that
at least one of the purposes of his visit to Natasha was the
determining of what that part was to be. He thus looked forward with
no little curiosity to the events of the afternoon, quite apart from
the supreme interest that centred in his hostess.

They started out nearly a couple of hours before they were due at
Cheyne Walk, as they had several orders to give with regard to
Arnold's outfit for the journey that was before him; and this done,
they reached the house about a quarter of an hour before lunch time.

They were received in the most delightful of sitting-rooms by a very
handsome, aristocratic-looking woman, who might have been anywhere
between forty and fifty. She shook hands very cordially with Arnold,
saying as she did so--

"Welcome, Richard Arnold! The friends of the Cause are mine, and I
have heard much about you already from Natasha, so that I already
seem to know you. I am very sorry that I was not able to be at the
Circle last night to see what you had to show. Natasha tells me that
it is quite a miracle of genius."

"She is too generous in her praise," replied Arnold, speaking as
quietly as he could in spite of the delight that the words gave him.
"It is no miracle, but only the logical result of thought and work.
Still, I hope that it will be found to realise its promise when the
time of trial comes."

"Of that I have no doubt, from all that I hear," said the Princess.
"Before long I shall hope to see it for myself. Ah, here is Natasha.
Come, I must introduce you afresh, for you do not know her yet as the
world knows her."

Arnold heard the door open behind him as the Princess spoke, and,
turning round, saw Natasha coming towards him with her hand
outstretched and a smile of welcome on her beautiful face. Before
their hands met the Princess moved quietly between them and said,
half in jest and half in earnest--

"Fedora, permit me to present to you Mr. Richard Arnold, who is to
accompany us to Russia to inspect the war-balloon offered to our
Little Father the Tsar. Mr. Arnold, my niece, Fedora Darrel. There,
now you know each other."

"I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Mr. Arnold," said Natasha,
with mock gravity as they shook hands. "I have heard much already of
your skill in connection with aërial navigation, and I have no doubt
but that your advice will be of the greatest service to his Majesty."

"That is as it may be," answered Arnold, at once entering into the
somewhat grim humour of the situation. "But if it is possible I
should like to hear something a little definite as to this mission
with which I have been, I fear, undeservingly honoured. I have been
very greatly interested in the problem of aërial navigation for some
years past, but I must confess that this is the first I have heard of
these particular war-balloons."

"It is for the purpose of enlightening you on that subject that this
little party has been arranged," said the Princess, turning for the
moment away from Colston, with whom she was talking earnestly in a
low tone. "Ha! There goes the lunch-bell. Mr. Colston, your arm.
Fedora, will you show Mr. Arnold the way?"

Arnold opened the door for the Princess to go out, and then followed
with Natasha on his arm. As they went out, she said in a low tone to

"I think, if you don't mind, you had better begin at once to call me
Miss Darrel, so as to get into the way of it. A slip might be
serious, you know."

"Your wishes are my laws, Miss Darrel," replied he, the name slipping
as easily off his tongue as if he had known her by it for months. It
may have been only fancy on his part, he thought he felt just the
lightest imaginable pressure on his arm as he spoke. At any rate, he
was vain enough or audacious enough to take the impression for a
reality, and walked the rest of the way to the dining-room on air.

The meal was dainty and perfectly served, but there were no servants
present, for obvious reasons, and so they waited on themselves.
Colston sat opposite the Princess and carved the partridges, while
Arnold was _vis-à-vis_ to Natasha, a fact which had a perceptible
effect upon his appetite.

"Now," said the Princess, as soon as every one was helped, "I will
enlighten you, Mr. Arnold, as to your mission to Russia. One part of
the business, I presume, you are already familiar with?"

Arnold bowed his assent, and she went on--

"Then the other is easily explained. Interested as you are in the
question, I suppose there is no need to tell you that for several
years past the Tsar has had an offer open to all the world of a
million sterling for a vessel that will float in the air, and be
capable of being directed in its course as a ship at sea can be

"Yes, I am well aware of the fact. Pray proceed." As he said this
Arnold glanced across the table at Natasha, and a swift smile and a
flash from her suddenly unveiled eyes told him that she, too, was
thinking of how the world's history might have been altered had the
Tsar's million been paid for his invention. Then the Princess went

"Well, through a friend at the Russian Embassy, I have learnt that a
French engineer has, as he says, perfected a balloon constructed on a
new principle, which he claims will meet the conditions of the Tsar's

"My friend also told me that his Majesty had decided to take an
entirely disinterested opinion with regard to this invention, and
asked me if I could recommend any English engineer who had made a
study of aërial navigation, and who would be willing to go to Russia,
superintend the trials of the war-balloon, and report as to their
success or otherwise.

"This happened a few days ago only, and as I had happened to read an
article that you will remember you wrote about six months ago in the
_Nineteenth_, or, as it is now called, the _Twentieth Century_, I
thought of your name, and said I would try to find some one. Two days
later I got news from the Circle of your invention--never mind how;
you will learn that later on--and called at the Embassy to say I had
found some one whose judgment could be absolutely relied upon. Now,
wasn't that kind of me, to give you such a testimonial as that to his
Omnipotence the Tsar of All the Russias?"

Once more Arnold bowed his acknowledgments--this time somewhat
ironically, and Natasha interrupted the narrative by saying with a
spice of malice in her voice--

"No doubt the Little Father will duly recognise your kindness,
Princess, when he gets quite to the bottom of the matter."

"I hope he will," replied the Princess, "but that is a matter of the
future--and of considerable doubt as well." Then, turning to Arnold
again, she continued--

"You will now, of course, see the immense advantage there appeared to
be in getting you to examine these war-balloons. They are evidently
the only possible rivals to your own invention in the field, and
therefore it is of the utmost importance that you should know their
strength or their weakness, as the case may be.

"Well, that is all I have to say, so far. It has been decided that
you shall go, if you are willing, with us to Petersburg the day after
to-morrow to see the balloon, and make your report. All your expenses
will be paid on the most liberal scale, for the Tsar is no niggard in
spending either his own or other people's money, and you will have a
handsome fee into the bargain for your trouble."

"So far as the work is concerned, of course, I undertake it
willingly," said Arnold, as the Princess stopped speaking. "But it
hardly seems to me to be right that I should take even the Tsar's
money under such circumstances. To tell you the truth, it looks to me
rather uncomfortably like false pretences."

Again Natasha's eyes flashed approval across the table, but
nevertheless she said--

"You seem to forget, my friend, that we are at war with the Tsar, and
all's fair in--in love and war. Besides, if you have any scruples
about keeping the fee for your professional services--which, after
all, you will render as honestly as though it were the merest matter
of business--you can put it into the treasury, and so ease your
conscience. Remember, too," she went on more seriously, "how the
enormous wealth of this same Tsar has swollen by the confiscation of
fortunes whose possessors had committed no other crime than becoming
obnoxious to the corrupt bureaucracy."

"I will take the fee if I fairly earn it, Miss Darrel," replied
Arnold, returning the glance as he spoke, "and it shall be my first
contribution to the treasury of the Brotherhood."

"Spoken like a sensible man," chimed in the Princess. "After all, it
is no worse than spoiling the Egyptians, and you have scriptural
authority for that. However, you can do as you like with his
Majesty's money when you get it. The main fact is that you have the
opportunity of going to earn it, and that Colonel Martinov is coming
here to tea this afternoon to bring our passports, specially
authorising us to travel without customs examination or any kind of
questioning to any part of the Tsar's dominions, and that, I can
assure you, is a very exceptional honour indeed."

"Who did you say? Martinov? Is that the Colonel Martinov who is the
director of the secret police here?" asked Colston hurriedly.

"Yes," replied the Princess, "the same. Why do you ask?"

"Because," said Colston quietly, "he received the sentence of death
nearly a month ago, and to-morrow night he will be executed, unless
there is some accident. It was he who stood with the governor of
Brovno in the prison-yard and watched Radna Michaelis flogged by the
soldiers. I received news this morning that the arrangements are
complete, and that the sentence will be carried out to-morrow night."

"Yes, that is so," added Natasha, as Colston ceased speaking.
"Everything is settled. It is therefore well that he should do
something useful before he meets his fate."

"How curious that it should just happen so!" said the Princess
calmly, as she rose from the table and moved towards the door
followed by Natasha.

As soon as the ladies had left the room, Colston and Arnold lit their
cigarettes and chatted while they smoked over their last glass of
claret. Arnold would have liked to have asked more about the coming
tragedy, but something in Colston's manner restrained him; and so the
conversation remained on the subject of the Russian journey until
they returned to the sitting-room.



On the 6th of March 1904, just six months after Arnold's journey to
Russia, a special meeting of the Inner Circle of the Terrorists took
place in the Council-chamber, at the house on Clapham Common.

Although it was only attended by twelve persons all told, and those
men and women whose names were unknown outside the circle of their
own Society and the records of the Russian police, it was the most
momentous conference that had taken place in the history of the world
since the council of war that Abdurrhaman the Moslem had held with
his chieftains eleven hundred and seventy-two years before, and, by
taking their advice, spared the remnants of Christendom from the
sword of Islam.

Then the fate of the world hung in the balance of a council of war,
and the supremacy of the Cross or the Crescent depended, humanly
speaking, upon the decision of a dozen warriors. Now the fate of the
civilisation that was made possible by that decision, lay at the
mercy of a handful of outlaws and exiles who had laboriously brought
to perfection the secret schemes of a single man.

The work of the Terrorists was finally complete. Under the whole
fabric of Society lay the mines which a single spark would now
explode, and above this slumbering volcano the earth was trembling
with the tread of millions of armed men, divided into huge hostile
camps, and only waiting until Diplomacy had finished its work in the
dark, and gave the long-awaited signal of inevitable and universal

To-night that spark was to be shaken from the torch of Revolution,
and to-morrow the first of the mines would explode. After that, if
the course to be determined on by the Terrorist Council failed to
arrive at the results which it was designed to reach, the armies of
Europe would fight their way through the greatest war that the world
had ever seen, the Fates would once more decide in favour of the
strongest battalions, the fittest would triumph, and a new era of
military despotism would begin--perhaps neither much better nor much
worse than the one it would succeed.

If, on the other hand, the plans of the Terrorists were successfully
worked out to their logical conclusion, it would not be war only, but
utter destruction that Society would have to face. And then with
dissolution would come anarchy. The thrones of the world would be
overthrown, the fabric of Society would be dissolved, commerce would
come to an end, the structure that it had taken twenty centuries of
the discipline of war and the patient toil of peace to build up,
would crumble into ruins in a few short months, and then--well, after
that no man could tell what would befall the remains of the human
race that had survived the deluge. The means of destruction were at
hand, and they would be used without mercy, but for the rest no man
could speak.

When Nicholas Roburoff, the President of the Executive, rose in his
place at eight o'clock to explain the business in hand, every member
present saw at a glance, by the gravity of his demeanour, that the
communication that he had to make was of no ordinary nature, but even
they were not prepared for the catastrophe that he announced in the
first sentence that he uttered.

"Friends," he said, in a voice that was rendered deeply impressive by
the emotion that he vainly tried to conceal, "it is my mournful duty
to tell you that she whom any one of us would willingly shed our
blood to serve or save from the slightest evil, our beautiful and
beloved Angel of the Revolution, as we so fondly call her, Natasha,
the daughter of the Master, has, in the performance of her duty to
the Cause, fallen into the hands of Russia."

Save for a low, murmuring groan that ran round the table, the news
was received in silence. It was too terrible, too hideous in the
awful meaning that its few words conveyed, for any exclamations of
grief, or any outburst of anger, to express the emotions that it

Not one of those who heard it but had good reason to know what it
meant for a revolutionist to fall into the hands of Russia. For a man
it meant the last extremity of human misery that flesh and blood
could bear, but for a young and beautiful woman it was a fate that no
words could describe--a doom that could only be thought of in silence
and despair; and so the friends of Natasha were silent, though they
did not yet despair. Roburoff bowed his head in acknowledgment of the
inarticulate but eloquent endorsement of his words, and went on--

"You already know the outcome of Richard Arnold's visit to Russia;
how he was present at the trial of the Tsar's war-balloon, and was
compelled to pronounce it such a complete success, that the Autocrat
at once gave orders for the construction of a fleet of fifty
aërostats of the same pattern; and how, thanks to the warning
conveyed by Anna Ornovski, he was able to prevent his special
passport being stolen by a police agent, and so to foil the designs
of the chief of the Third Section to stop him taking the secret of
the construction of the war-balloon out of Russia. You also know that
he brought back the Chief's authority to build an air-ship after the
model which was exhibited to us here, and that since his return he
has been prosecuting that work on Drumcraig Island, one of the
possessions of the Chief in the Outer Hebrides, which he placed at
his disposal for the purpose.

"You know, also, that Natasha and Anna Ornovski went to Russia partly
to discover the terms of the secret treaty that we believed to exist
between France and Russia, and partly to warn, and, if possible,
remove from Russian soil a large number of our most valuable allies,
whose names had been revealed to the Minister of the Interior,
chiefly through the agency of the spy Martinov, who was executed in
this room six months ago.

"The first part of the task was achieved, not without difficulty, but
with complete success, and of that more anon. The second part was
almost finished when Natasha and Anna Ornovski were surprised in the
house of Alexei Kassatkin, a member of the Moscow Nihilist Circle, in
the Bolshoi Dmitrietka. He had been betrayed by one of his own
servants, and a police visit was the result.

"Added to this there is reason to believe that she had, quite apart
from this, become acquainted with enough official secrets to make her
removal desirable in high quarters. I need not tell you that that is
the usual way in which the Tsar rewards those of his secret servants
who get to know too much.

"The fact of her being found in the house of a betrayed Nihilist was
taken as sufficient proof of sympathy or complicity, and she was
arrested. Natasha, as Fedora Darrel, claimed to be a British subject,
and, as such, to be allowed to go free in virtue of the Tsar's safe
conduct, which she exhibited. Instead of that she was taken before
the chief of the Moscow police, rudely interrogated, and then
brutally searched. Unhappily, in the bosom of her dress was found a
piece of paper bearing some of the new police cypher. That was
enough. That night they were thrown into prison, and three days later
taken to the convict depot under sentence of exile by administrative
process to Sakhalin for life.

"You know what that means for a beautiful woman like Natasha. She
will not go to Sakhalin. They do not bury beauty like hers in such an
abode of desolation as that. If she cannot be rescued, she will only
have two alternatives before her. She will become the slave and
plaything of some brutal governor or commandant at one of the
stations, or else she will kill herself. Of course, of these two she
would choose the latter--if she could and when she could. Should she
be driven to that last resort of despair, she shall be avenged as
woman never yet was avenged; but rescue must, if possible, come
before revenge.

"The information that we have received from the Moscow agent tells us
that the convict train to which Natasha and Anna Ornovski are
attached left the depot nearly a fortnight ago; they were to be taken
by train in the usual way to Nizhni Novgorod, thence by barge on the
Volga and Kama to Perm, and on by rail to Tiumen, the forwarding
station for the east. Until they reach Tiumen they will be safe from
anything worse than what the Russians are pleased to call
'discipline,' but once they disappear into the wilderness of Siberia
they will be lost to the world, and far from all law but the will of
their official slave-drivers.

"It has, therefore, been decided that the rescue shall be attempted
before the chain-gang leaves Tiumen, if it can be reached in time. As
nearly as we can calculate, the march will begin on the morning of
Friday the 9th, that is to say, in three nights and one day from now.
Happily we possess the means of making the rescue, if it can be
accomplished by human means. I have received a report from Richard
Arnold saying that the _Ariel_ is complete, and that she has made a
perfectly satisfactory trial trip to the clouds. The _Ariel_ is the
only vehicle in existence that could possibly reach the frontier of
Siberia in the given time, and it is fitting that her first duty
should be the rescue of the Angel of the Revolution from the clutches
of the Tyrant of the North.

"Alexis Mazanoff, it is the will of the Master that you shall take
these instructions to Richard Arnold and accompany him on the voyage
in order to show him what course to steer, and assist him in every
way possible. You will find the Chief's yacht at Port Patrick ready
to convey you to Drumcraig Island. When you have heard what is
further necessary for you to hear, you will take the midnight express
from Euston. Have you any preparations to make?"

"No," replied Mazanoff, or Colston, to call him by a name more
familiar to the reader. "I can start in half an hour if necessary,
and on such an errand you may, of course, depend on me not to lose
much time. I presume there are full instructions here?"

"Yes, both for the rescue and for your conduct afterwards, whether
you are successful or unsuccessful," said the President. Then turning
to the others he continued--

"You may now rest assured that all that can be done to rescue Natasha
will be done, and we must therefore turn to other matters. I said a
short time ago that the conditions of the secret treaty between
France and Russia had been discovered by the two brave women who are
now suffering for their devotion to the cause of the Revolution. A
full copy of them is in the hands of the Chief, who arrives in London
to-day, and will at once lay the documents before Mr. Balfour, the

"It is extremely hostile to England, and amounts, in fact, to a
compact on the part of France to declare war and seize the Suez
Canal, as soon as the first shot is fired between Great Britain and
Russia. In return for this, Russia is to invade Germany and Austria,
destroy the eastern frontier fortresses with her fleet of
war-balloons, and then cross over and do the same on the Rhine, while
France at last throws herself upon her ancient foe.

"Meanwhile, the French fleet is to concentrate in the Mediterranean
as quietly and rapidly as possible, before war actually breaks out,
so as to be able to hold the British and Italians in check, and shut
the Suez Canal, while Russia, who is pushing her troops forward to
the Hindu Kush, gets ready for a dash at the passes, and a rush upon
Cashmere, before Britain can get sufficient men out to India by the
Cape to give her very much trouble.

"As there also exists a secret compact between Britain and the Triple
Alliance, binding all four powers to declare war the moment one is
threatened, the disclosure of this treaty must infallibly lead to war
in a few weeks. In addition to this, measures have been taken to
detach Italy from the Triple Alliance at the last moment, if
possible. Success in this respect is, however, somewhat uncertain.

"To make assurance doubly sure, the Chief informs me that he has
ordered Ivan Brassoff, who is in command of a large reconnoitring
party on the Afghan side of the Hindu Kush, to provoke reprisals from
a similar party of Indian troops who have been told off to watch
their movements. Captain Brassoff is one of us, and can be depended
upon to obey at all costs. He will do this in a fortnight from now,
and therefore we may feel confident that Great Britain and Russia
will be at war within a month.

"With the first outbreak of war our work for the present ceases, so
far as active interference goes. We shall therefore withdraw from the
scene of action until the arrival of the supreme moment when the
nations of Europe shall be locked in the death-struggle, and the fate
of the world will rest in our hands. The will of the Master now is
that all the members of the Brotherhood shall at once wind up their
businesses, and turn all of their possessions that are not portable
and useful into money.

"A large steamer has been purchased and manned with members of the
Outer Circle who are sailors by profession. She is now being loaded
at Liverpool with all the machinery and materials necessary for the
construction of twelve air-ships like the _Ariel_. This steamer, when
ready for sea, will sail, ostensibly, for Rio de Janeiro with a cargo
of machinery, but in reality for Drumcraig, where she will embark the
workmen who will be left there by the _Ariel_ with all the working
plant on the island, and from there she will proceed to a lonely
island off the West Coast of Africa, between Cape Blanco and Cape
Verde, where new works will be set up and the fleet of air-ships put
together as rapidly as possible.

"The position of this island is in the instructions which Alexis
Mazanoff takes to Drumcraig to-night, and the _Ariel_ will rendezvous
there when the work that is in hand for her is done. The members of
the Brotherhood will, of course, go in the steamer as passengers for
Rio, so that no suspicions may be aroused, and every one must be
ready to embark in ten days from now.

"That is all I have to say at present in the name of the Master. And
now, Alexis Mazanoff, it is time you set out. We shall remain here
and discuss every detail fully so that nothing may be overlooked. You
will find that everything has been provided for in the instructions
you have, so go, and may the Master of Destiny be with you!"

As he spoke he held out his hand, which the young man grasped
heartily, saying--

"Farewell! I will obey to the death, and if success can be earned we
will earn it. If not, you shall hear of the _Ariel's_ work in Russia
before the week is out."

He then took leave of the other members of the Council, coming last
to Radna. As their hands clasped she said--

"I wish I could come with you, but that is impossible. But bring
Natasha back to us safe and sound, and there is nothing that you can
ask of me that I will not say 'yes' to. Go, and God speed your good
work. Farewell!"

For all answer he took her in his arms before them all. Their lips
met in one long silent kiss, and a moment later he had gone to strike
the first blow in the coming world-war, and to bring the beginning of
sorrows on the Tyrant of the North.



On the sixth stroke of twelve that night the Scotch express drew out
of Euston Station. At half-past nine the next morning, the _Lurline_,
Lord Alanmere's yacht, steamed out of Port Patrick Harbour, and at
one o'clock precisely she dropped her anchor in the little inlet that
served for a harbour at Drumcraig.

Colston had the quarter-boat lowered and pulled ashore without a
moment's delay, and as his foot touched the shore Arnold grasped his
hand, and, after the first words of welcome, asked for the latest
news of Natasha.

Without immediately answering, Colston put his arm through his, drew
him away from the men who were standing about, and told him as
briefly and gently as he could the terrible news of the calamity that
had befallen the Brotherhood, and the errand upon which he had come.

Arnold received the blow as a brave man should--in silence. His now
bronzed face turned pale, his brows contracted, and his teeth
clenched till Colston could hear them gritting upon each other. Then
a great wave of agony swept over his soul as a picture too horrible
for contemplation rose before his eyes, and after that came calm, the
calm of rapid thought and desperate resolve.

He remembered the words that Natasha had used in a letter that she
had given him when she took leave of him in Russia. "We shall trust
to you to rescue us, and, if that is no longer possible, to avenge

Yes, and now the time had come to justify that trust and prove his
own devotion. It should be proved to the letter, and if there was
cause for vengeance, the proof should be written in blood and flame
over all the wide dominions of the Tsar. Grief might come after, when
there was time for it; but this was the hour of action, and a strange
savage joy seemed to come with the knowledge that the safety of the
woman he loved now depended mainly upon his own skill and daring.

Colston respected his silence, and waited until he spoke. When he did
he was astonished at the difference that those few minutes had made
in the young engineer. The dreamer and the enthusiast had become the
man of action, prompt, stern, and decided. Colston had never before
heard from his lips the voice in which he at length said to him--

"Where is this place? How far is it as the crow flies from here?"

"At a rough guess I should say about two thousand two hundred miles,
almost due east, and rather less than two hundred miles on the other
side of the Ourals."

"Good! That will be twenty hours' flight for us, or less if this
south-west wind holds good."

"What!" exclaimed Colston. "Twenty hours, did you say? You must
surely be making some mistake. Don't you mean forty hours? Think of
the enormous distance. Why, even then we should have to travel over
sixty miles an hour through the air."

"My dear fellow, I don't make mistakes where figures are concerned.
The paradox of aërial navigation is 'the greater the speed the less
the resistance.'

"In virtue of that paradox I am able to tell you that the speed of
the _Ariel_ in moderate weather is a hundred and twenty miles an
hour, and a hundred and twenty into two thousand two hundred goes
eighteen times and one-third. This is Wednesday, and we have to be on
the Asiatic frontier at daybreak on Friday. We shall start at dusk
to-night, and you shall see to-morrow's sun set over the Ourals."

"That means from the eastern side of the range!"

"Of course. There will be no harm in being a few hours too soon. In
case we may have a long cruise, I must have additional stores, and
power-cylinders put on board. Come, you have not seen the _Ariel_

"I have made several improvements on the model, as I expected to do
when I came to the actual building of the ship, and, what is more
important than that, I have immensely increased the motive power and
economised space and weight at the same time. In fact, I don't
despair now of two hundred miles an hour before very long. Come!"

The engineer and the enthusiast had now come to the fore again, and
the man and the lover had receded, put back, as it were, until the
time for love, or perchance for sorrow, had come.

He put his arm through Colston's, and led him up a hill-path and
through a little gorge which opened into a deep valley, completely
screened on all sides by heather-clad hills. Sprinkled about the
bottom of this valley were a few wooden dwelling-houses and
workshops, and in the centre was a huge shed, or rather an enclosure
now, for its roof had been taken off.

In this lay, like a ship in a graving-dock, a long, narrow,
grey-painted vessel almost exactly like a sea-going ship, save for
the fact that she had no funnel, and that her three masts, instead of
yards, each carried a horizontal fan-wheel, while from each of her
sides projected, level with the deck, a plane twice the width of the
deck and nearly as long as the vessel herself.

They entered the enclosure and walked round the hull. This was
seventy feet long and twelve wide amidships, and save for size it was
the exact counterpart of the model already described.

As soon as he had taken Colston round the hull, and roughly explained
its principal features, reserving more detailed description and the
inspection of the interior for the voyage, he gave the necessary
orders for preparing for a lengthy journey, and the two went on board
the _Lurline_ to dinner, which Colston had deferred in order to eat
it in Arnold's company.

After dinner they carefully discussed the situation in order that
every possible accident might be foreseen, argued the pros and cons
of the venture in all their bearings, and even went so far as to plan
the vengeance they would take should, by any chance, the rescue fail
or come too late.

The instructions, signed by Natas himself, were very precise on
certain essential points, and in their broad outlines, but, like all
wisely planned instructions to such men as these, they left ample
margin for individual initiative in case of emergency.

Some of the stores of the _Lurline_ had to be transferred to the
_Ariel_, and these were taken ashore after dinner, and at the same
time Colston made his first inspection of the interior of the
air-ship, under the guidance of her creator. What struck him most at
first sight was the apparent inadequacy of the machinery to the
attainment of the tremendous speed at which Arnold had promised they
should travel.

There were four somewhat insignificant-looking engines in all. Of
these, one drove the stern propeller, one the side propellers, and
two the fan-wheels on the masts. He learnt as soon as the voyage
began, that, by a very simple switch arrangement, the power of the
whole four engines could be concentrated on the propellers; for, once
in the air, the lifting wheels were dispensed with and lowered on
deck, and the ship was entirely sustained by the pressure of the air
under her planes.

There was not an ounce of superfluous wood or metal about the
beautifully constructed craft, but for all that she was complete in
every detail, and the accommodation she had for crew and passengers
was perfectly comfortable, and in some respects cosy in the extreme.
Forward there was a spacious cabin with berths for six men, and aft
there were separate cabins for six people, and a central saloon for
common use.

On deck there were three structures, a sort of little conning tower
forward, a wheel-house aft, and a deck saloon amidships. All these
were, of course, so constructed as to offer the least possible
resistance to the wind, or rather the current created by the vessel
herself when flying through the air at a speed greater than that of
the hurricane itself.

All were closely windowed with toughened glass, for it is hardly
necessary to say that, but for such a protection, every one who
appeared above the level of the deck would be almost instantly
suffocated, if not whirled overboard, by the rush of air when the
ship was going at full speed. Her armament consisted of four long,
slender cannon, two pointing over the bows, and two over the stem.

The crew that Arnold had chosen for the voyage consisted, curiously
enough, of men belonging to the four nationalities which would be
principally concerned in the Titanic struggle which a few weeks would
now see raging over Europe. Their names were Andrew Smith,
Englishman, and coxswain; Ivan Petrovitch, Russian; Franz Meyer,
German; and Jean Guichard, Frenchman. Diverse as they were, there
never were four better workers, or four better friends.

They had no country but the world, and no law save those which
governed their Brotherhood. They conversed in assorted but perfectly
intelligible English, for the very simple reason that Mr. Andrew
Smith consistently refused to attempt even the rudiments of any other

While the stores were being put on board, Arnold made a careful
examination of every part of the machinery, and then of the whole
vessel, in order to assure himself that everything was in perfect
order. This done, he gave his final instructions to those of the
little community who were left behind to await the arrival of the
steamer, and as the sun sank behind the western ridges of the island,
he went on board the _Ariel_ with Colston, took his place at the
wheel, and ordered the fan-wheels to be set in motion.

Colston was standing by the open door of the wheel-house as Arnold
communicated his order to the engine-room by pressing an electric
button, one of four in a little square of mahogany in front of the

There was no vibration or grinding, as would have been the case in
starting a steamer, but only a soft whirring, humming sound, that
rose several degrees in pitch as the engines gained speed, and the
fan-wheels revolved faster and faster until they sang in the air, and
the _Ariel_ rose without a jar or a tremor from the ground, slowly at
first, and then more and more swiftly, until Colston saw the ground
sinking rapidly beneath him, and the island growing smaller and
smaller, until it looked like a little patch on the dark grey water
of the sea.

Away to the north and west he could see the innumerable islands of
the Hebrides, while to the east the huge mountainous mass of the
mainland of Scotland loomed dark upon the horizon.

When the barometer marked eight hundred feet above the sea-level, the
_Ariel_ passed through a stratum of light clouds, and on the upper
side of this the sun was still shining, shooting his almost level
rays across it as though over some illimitable sea of white fleecy
billows, whose crests were tipped with rosy, golden light.

Above the surface of this fairy sea rose north-eastward the black
mass of Ben More on the Island of Mull, and to the southward, the
lesser peaks of Jura and Islay.

While he was still wrapped in admiration of the strange beauty of
this, to him, marvellous scene, the _Ariel_ had risen to a thousand
feet, still almost in a vertical line from the island. Arnold now
pressed another button, and the stern propeller began to revolve
swiftly and noiselessly, and Colston saw the waves of the cloud-sea
begin to slip behind, although so smooth was the working of the
machinery, and the motion of the air-ship, that, but for this, he
could hardly have guessed that he was in motion.

Arnold now turned a few spokes of the wheel, and headed the _Ariel_
due east by the compass. Then he touched a third button. The side
propellers began to turn swiftly on their axes, and, at the same time
the speed of the fan-wheels slackened, and gradually stopped.

Colston now began to feel the air rushing by him in a stream so rapid
and strong, that he had to take hold of the side of the wheel-house
doorway to steady himself.

"I think you had better come inside and shut the door," said Arnold.
"We are getting up speed now, and in a few minutes you won't be able
to hold yourself there. You'll be able to see just as well inside."

Colston did as he was bidden, and as soon as he was safely inside
Arnold pulled a lever beside the wheel, and slightly inclined the
planes from forward aft. At the same time the fan-wheels began to
slide down the masts until they rested upon the deck.

"Now, you shall see her fly," said Arnold, taking a speaking-tube
from the wall and whistling thrice into it.

Colston felt a slight tremor in the deck beneath his feet, and then a
lifting movement. He staggered a little, and said to Arnold--

"What's that? Are we going higher still?"

"Yes," replied the engineer. "She is feeling the air-planes now under
the increased speed. I am going up to fifteen hundred feet, so that
we shall only have the highest peaks to steer clear of in crossing
Scotland. Now, use your eyes, and you will see something worth
looking at."

The upper part of the wheel-house was constructed almost entirely of
glass, and so Colston could see just as well as if he had been on
deck outside. He did use his eyes. In fact, for some time to come,
all his other senses seemed to be merged in that of sight, for the
scene was one of such rare and marvellous beauty, and the sensations
that it called up were of so completely novel a nature, that, for the
time being, he felt as though he had been suddenly transported into

The cloud-sea now lay about seven hundred feet beneath them. The sun
had sunk quite below the horizon, even at that elevation; but his
absence was more than made up for by the nearly full moon, which had
risen to the southward, as though to greet the conqueror of the air,
and was spreading a flood of silvery radiance over the snowy plain
beneath, through the great gaps in which they could see the darker
sheen of the moving sea-waves.

Their course lay almost exactly along the fifty-sixth parallel of
latitude, and took them across Argyle, Dumbarton, and Stirlingshire
to the head of the Firth of Forth. As they approached the mainland,
Colston saw one or two peaks rise up out of the clouds, and soon they
were sweeping along in the midst of a score or so of these. To the
left Ben Lomond towered into the clear sky above his attendant peaks,
and to the right the lower summits of the Campsie Fells soon rose a
few miles ahead.

The rapidity with which these mountain-tops rose up on either side,
and were left behind, proved to Colston that the _Ariel_ must be
travelling at a tremendous speed, and yet, but for a very slight
quivering of the deck, there was no motion perceptible, so smoothly
did the air-ship glide through the elastic medium in which she

So engrossed was he with the unearthly beauty of the new world into
which he had risen, that for nearly two hours he stood without
speaking a word. Arnold, wrapped in his own thoughts, maintained a
like silence, and so they sped on amidst a stillness that was only
broken by the soft whirring of the propellers, and the singing of the
wind past the masts and stays.

At length a faint sound like the dashing of breakers on a rocky coast
roused Colston from his reverie, and he turned to Arnold and said--

"What is that? Not the sea, surely!"

"Yes, those are the waves of the Firth of Forth breaking on the
shores of Fife."

"What! Do you mean to tell me that we have crossed Scotland already?
Why, we have not been an hour on the way yet!"

"Oh yes, we have," replied the engineer. "We have been nearly two.
You have been so busy looking about you that you have not noticed how
the time has passed. We have travelled a little over two hundred and
forty miles. We are over the German Ocean now, and as there will be
no more hills until we reach the Ourals we can go down a little."

As he spoke he moved the lever beside him about an inch, and
instantly the clouds seemed to rise up toward them as the _Ariel_
swept downwards in her flight. A hundred feet above them Arnold
touched the lever again, and the air-ship at once resumed her
horizontal course.

Then he put her head a little more to the northward, and called down
the speaking tube for Andrew Smith to come and relieve him. A minute
later Smith's head appeared at the top of the companion-ladder which
led from the saloon to the wheel-house, and Arnold gave him the wheel
and the course, saying at the same time to Colston--

"Now, come down and have something to eat, and then we will have a
smoke and a chat and go to bed. There is nothing more to be seen
until the morning, and then I will show you Petersburg as it looks
from the clouds."

"If you told me you would show me the Ourals themselves, I should
believe you after what I have seen," replied Colston, as together
they descended the companion-way from the wheel-house to the saloon.

"Ah, I'm afraid that would be too much even for the _Ariel_ to
accomplish in the time," said Arnold. "Still, I think I can guarantee
that you shall cross Europe in such time as no man ever crossed it



After supper the two friends ascended to the deck saloon for a smoke,
and to continue their discussion of the tremendous events in which
they were so soon to be taking part. They found the _Ariel_ flying
through a cloudless sky over the German Ocean, whose white-crested
billows, silvered by the moonlight, were travelling towards the
north-east under the influence of the south-west breeze from which
the engineer had promised himself assistance when they started.

"We seem to be going at a most frightful speed," said Colston,
looking down at the water. "There's a strong south-west breeze
blowing, and yet those white horses seem to be travelling quite the
other way."

"Yes," replied Arnold, looking down. "This wind will be travelling
about twenty miles an hour, and that means that we are making nearly
a hundred and fifty. The German Ocean here is five hundred miles
across, and we shall cross it at this rate in about three hours and a
half, and if the wind holds over the land we shall sight Petersburg
soon after sunrise.

"The sun will rise to-morrow morning a few minutes after five by
Greenwich time, which is about two hours behind Petersburg time.
Altogether we shall make, I expect, from two to two and a half hours'
gain on time."

The two men talked until a few minutes after ten, and then went to
bed. Colston, who had been travelling all the previous night, began
to feel drowsy in spite of the excitement of the novel voyage, and
almost as soon as he lay down in his berth dropped off into a sound,
dreamless sleep, and knew nothing more until Arnold knocked at his
door and said--

"If you want to see the sun rise, you had better get up. Coffee will
be ready in a quarter of an hour."

Colston pulled back the slide which covered the large oblong pane of
toughened glass which was let into the side of his cabin and looked
out. There was just light enough in the grey dawn to enable him to
see that the _Ariel_ was passing over a sea dotted in the distance
with an immense number of islands.

"The Baltic," he said to himself as he jumped out of bed. "This is
travelling with a vengeance! Why, we must have travelled a good deal
over a thousand miles during the night. I suppose those islands will
be off the coast of Finland. If so, we are not far from Petersburg,
as the _Ariel_ seems to count distance."

The most magnificent spectacle that Colston had ever seen in his
life, or, for the matter of that, ever dreamed of, was the one that
he saw from the conning-tower of the _Ariel_ while the sun was rising
over the vast plain of mingled land and water which stretched away to
the eastward until it melted away into the haze of early morning.

The sky was perfectly clear and cloudless, save for a few light
clouds that hung about the eastern horizon, and were blazing gold and
red in the light of the newly-risen sun. The air-ship was flying at
an elevation of about two thousand feet, which appeared to be her
normal height for ordinary travelling. There was land upon both sides
of them, but in front opened a wide bay, the northern shores of which
were still fringed with ice and snow.

"That is the Gulf of Finland," said Arnold. "The winter must have
been very late this year, and that probably means that we shall find
the eastern side of the Ourals still snow-bound."

"So much the better," replied Colston. "They will have a much better
chance of escape if there is good travelling for a sleigh."

"Yes," replied Arnold, his brows contracting as he spoke. "Do you
know, if it were not for the Master's explicit orders, I should be
inclined to smash up the station at Ekaterinburg a few hours
beforehand, and then demand the release of the whole convict train,
under penalty of laying the town in ruins."

Colston shook his head, saying--

"No, no, my friend, we must have a little more diplomacy than that.
Your thirst for the life of the enemy will, no doubt, be fully
gratified later on. Besides, you must remember that you would
probably blow some hundreds of perfectly innocent people to pieces,
and very possibly a good many friends of the Cause among them."

"True," replied Arnold; "I didn't think of that; but I'll tell you
what we can do, if you like, without transgressing our instructions
or hurting any one except the soldiers of the Tsar, who, of course,
are paid to slaughter and be slaughtered, and so don't count."

"What is that?" asked Colston.

"We shall be passing over Kronstadt in a little over an hour, and we
might take the opportunity of showing his Majesty the Tsar what the
_Ariel_ can do with the strongest fortress in Europe. How would you
like to fire the first shot in the war of the Revolution?"

Colston was silent for a few moments, and then he looked up and

"There is not the slightest reason why we should not take a shot at
Kronstadt, if only to give the Russians a foretaste of favours to
come. Still, I won't fire the first shot on any account, simply
because that honour belongs to you. I'll fire the second with

"Very good," replied Arnold. "We'll have two shots apiece, one each
as we approach the fortress, and one each as we leave it. Now come
and take a preparatory lesson in the new gunnery."

They went down into the chief saloon, and there Arnold showed Colston
a model of the new weapon with which the _Ariel_ was armed, and
thoroughly explained the working of it. After this they went to the
wheel-house, where Arnold inclined the planes at a sharper angle, and
sent the _Ariel_ flying up into the sky, until the barometer showed
an elevation of three thousand feet.

Then he signalled to the engine-room, the fan-wheels rose from the
deck, as if by their own volition, and, as soon as they reached their
places, began to spin round faster and faster, until Colston could
again hear the high-pitched singing sound that he had heard as the
_Ariel_ rose from Drumcraig Island.

At the same time the speed of the vessel rapidly decreased; the side
propellers ceased working, and the stern-screw revolved more and more
slowly, until the speed came down to about thirty miles an hour.

By this time the great fortress of Kronstadt could be distinctly seen
lying upon its island, like some huge watch-dog crouched at the
entrance to his master's house, guarding the way to St. Petersburg.

"Now," said Arnold, "we can go outside without any fear of being
blown off into space."

They went out and walked forward to the bow. Arrived there they found
two of the men, each with a curious-looking shell in his arms. The
projectiles were about two feet long and six inches in diameter, and
were, as Arnold told Colston, constructed of _papier-maché_. There
were three blades projecting from the outside, and running spirally
from the point to the butt. These fitted into grooves in the inside
of the cannon, which were really huge air-guns twenty feet long,
including the air-chamber at the breech.

The projectiles were placed in position, the breeches of the guns
closed, and a minute later the air-chambers were filled with air at a
pressure of two hundred atmospheres, pumped from the forward engines
through pipes leading up to the guns for the purpose.

"Now," said Arnold, "we're ready! Meanwhile you two can go and load
the two after guns."

The men saluted and retired, and Arnold continued--

"Just take a look down with your glasses and see if they see us. I
expect they do by this time."

Colston put his field-glass to his eyes, and looked down at the
fortress, which was now only six or seven miles ahead.

"Yes," he said, "at any rate I can see a lot of little figures
running about on the roof of one of the ramparts, which I suppose are
soldiers. What's the range of your gun? I should say the fortress is
about six miles off now."

"We can hit it from here, if you like," replied Arnold, "and if we
were a thousand feet higher I could send a shell into Petersburg.
See! there is the City of Palaces. Away yonder in the distance you
can just see the sun shining on the houses. We could see it quite
plainly if it wasn't for the haze that seems to be lying over the

While he was speaking, Arnold trained the gun according to a scale on
a curved steel rod which passed through a screw socket in the breech
of the piece.

"Now," he said. "Watch!"

He pressed a button on the top of the breech. There was a sharp but
not very loud sound as the compressed air was released; something
rushed out of the muzzle of the gun, and a few seconds later, Colston
could see the missile boring its way through the air, and pursuing a
slanting but perfectly direct path for the centre of the fortress.

A second later it struck. He could see a bright greenish flash as it
smote the steel roof of the central fort. Then the fort seemed to
crumble up and dissolve into fragments, and a few moments later a
dull report floated up into the sky mingled, as he thought, with
screams of human agony.

For a moment he stared in silence through the glasses, then he turned
to Arnold and said in a voice that trembled with violent emotion--

"Good God, that is awful! The whole of the centre citadel is gone as
though it had been swept off the face of the earth. I can hardly see
even the ruins of it. Surely that's murder rather than war!"

"No more murder than the use of torpedoes in naval warfare, as far as
I can see," replied Arnold coolly. "Remember, too," he continued in a
sterner tone, "that fortress belongs to the power that flogged Radna
and has captured Natasha. Come, let's see what execution you can do."

He crossed the deck and set the other gun by its scale, saying as he
did so--

"Put your finger on the button and press when I tell you."

Colston did as he was bid, and as his finger touched the little knob
his hand was as firm as though he had been making a shot at


He pressed the button down hard. There was the same sharp sound, and
a second messenger of destruction sped on its way towards the doomed

[Illustration: "Good God, that is awful."

_See page 82._]

They saw it strike, and then came the flash, and after that a huge
cloud of dust mingled with flying objects that might have been blocks
of masonry, guns, or human bodies, rose into the air, and then fell
back again to the earth.

"There goes one of the angles of the fortification into the sea,"
said Arnold, as he saw the effects of the shot. "Kronstadt won't be
much good when the war breaks out, it strikes me. I suppose they'll
be replying soon with a few rifle shots. We'd better quicken up a

He went aft to the wheel-house, followed by Colston, and signalled
for the three propellers to work at their utmost speed. The order was
instantly obeyed; the fan-wheels ceased revolving, and under the
impetus of her propellers the _Ariel_ leapt forwards and upwards like
an eagle on its upward swoop, rose five hundred feet in the air, and
then swept over Kronstadt at a speed of more than a hundred miles an

As they passed over they saw a series of flashes rise from one of the
untouched portions of the fortress, but no bullets came anywhere near
them. In fact, they must have passed through the air two or three
miles astern of the flying _Ariel_. No soldier who ever carried a
rifle could have sent a bullet within a thousand yards of an object
seventy feet long travelling over a hundred miles an hour at a height
of nearly four thousand feet, and so the Russians wasted their

As soon as they had passed over the fortress, Arnold signalled for
the propellers to stop, and the fan-wheels to revolve again at half
speed. The air-ship stopped within three miles, and remained
suspended in air over the opening mouth of the Neva. Then the two
after guns were trained upon the fortress, and Colston and Arnold
fired them together.

The two shells struck at the same moment, one in each of two angles
of the ramparts. Their impact was followed by a tremendous explosion,
far greater than could be accounted for by the shells themselves.

"There goes one, if not two, of his powder magazines. Look! half the
fortress is a wreck. I wonder which fired the lucky shot."

The man who a year before had been an inoffensive student of
mechanics and an enthusiast dreaming of an unsolved problem, spoke of
the frightful destruction of life and the havoc that he had caused by
just pressing a button with his finger, as coolly and quietly as a
veteran officer of artillery might have spoken of shelling a fort.

There were two reasons for this almost miraculous change. One was to
be found in the bitter hatred of Russian tyranny which he had imbibed
during the last six months, and the other was the fact that the woman
for whom he would have himself died a thousand deaths if necessary,
was a captive in Russian chains, being led at that moment to slavery
and degradation.

As soon as they had seen the effects of the last two shots, Arnold
said with a grim, half-smile on his lips--

"I think it will be better if we don't show ourselves too plainly to
Petersburg. It will take some time for the news of the destruction of
Kronstadt to reach the city, and, of course, there will be the
wildest rumours as to the agency by which it was done, so we may as
well leave them to argue the matter out among themselves."

He signalled again to the engine-room, and with the united aid of her
planes and fan-wheels the _Ariel_ mounted up and up into the sky,
driven only by the stern-propeller and with the force of the other
engines concentrated on the lifting wheels, until a height of five
thousand feet was reached.

At that height she would have looked, if she could have been seen at
all, nothing more than a little grey spot against the blue of the
sky, and as they heard afterwards she passed over St. Petersburg
without being noticed.

From St. Petersburg to Tiumen, as the crow flies, the distance is
1150 English miles, and nine hours after she had passed over the
Capital of the North, the _Ariel_ had winged her way over the Ourals
and the still snow-clad forests of the eastern slopes, past the
tear-washed Pillar of Farewells, and had come to a rest after her
voyage of two thousand two hundred miles, including the delay at
Kronstadt, in twenty hours almost to the minute, as her captain had



The _Ariel_, in order to avoid being seen from the town, had made a
wide circuit to the northward at a considerable elevation, and as
soon as a suitable spot had been sought out by means of the
field-glasses, she dropped suddenly and swiftly from the clouds into
the depths of the dense forest through which the Tobolsk road runs
from Tiumen to the banks of the Tobol.

From Tiumen to the Tobol is about twenty-five miles by road. The
railway, which was then finished as far as Tomsk, ran to Tobolsk by a
more northerly and direct route than the road, but convicts were
still marched on foot along the great post road after the gangs had
been divided at Tiumen according to their destinations.

The spot which had been selected for the resting-place of the _Ariel_
was a little glade formed by the bend of a frozen stream about five
miles east of the town, and at a safe distance from the road.

Painted a light whitish-grey all over, she would have been invisible
even from a short distance as she lay amid the snow-laden trees, and
Arnold gave strict orders that all the window-slides were to be kept
closed, and no light shown on any account.

Every precaution possible was taken to obviate a discovery which
should seriously endanger the success of the rescue, but,
nevertheless, the fan-wheels were kept aloft, and everything was in
readiness to rise into the air at a moment's notice should any
emergency require them to do so.

It was a little after three o'clock on the Thursday afternoon when
the _Ariel_ settled down in her resting-place, and half an hour later
Colston and Ivan Petrovitch appeared on deck completely disguised,
the former as a Russian fur trader, and the latter as his servant.

All the arrangements for the rescue had been once more gone over in
every detail, and just before he swung himself over the side Colston
shook hands for the last time with Arnold, saying as he did so--

"Well, good-bye again, old fellow! Ivan shall come back and bring you
the news, if necessary; but if he doesn't come, don't be uneasy, but
possess your soul in patience till you hear the whistle from the road
in the morning. I expect the train will get in sometime during the
night, and in that case we shall have everything ready to make the
attempt soon after daybreak, if not before.

"If we can get as far as this without being pursued we shall come
right on board. If not we must trust to our horses and our pistols to
keep the Cossacks at a distance till you can help us. In any case,
rest assured that once clear of Tiumen, we shall never be taken
alive. Those are the Master's orders, and I will shoot Natasha myself
before she goes back to captivity."

"Yes, do so," replied Arnold. His lips quivered as he spoke, but
there was no tremor in the hand with which he gripped Colston's in
farewell. "She will prefer death to slavery, and I shall prefer it
for her. But if you have to do it you will at least have the
consolation of knowing that within twelve hours of your death the
Tsar shall be lying buried beneath the ruins of the Peterhof Palace.
I will have his life for hers if only I live to take it."

"I will tell her," said Colston simply, "and if die she must, she
will die content."

So saying, he descended the little rope-ladder, followed by Ivan, and
in a few moments the two were lost in the deep shadow of the trees,
while Arnold went down into the saloon to await with what patience he
might the moment that would decide the fate of the daughter of Natas
and the man who had gone, as he would so gladly have done, to risk
his life to restore her to liberty.

Rather more than half an hour's tramp through the forest brought
Colston and Ivan out on the road at a point a little less than five
miles from Tiumen.

Colston was provided with passports and permits to travel for himself
and Ivan. These, of course, were forged on genuine forms which the
Terrorists had no difficulty in obtaining through their agents in
high places, who were as implicitly trusted as the Princess Ornovski
had been but a few months before.

So skilfully were they executed, however, that it would have been a
very keen official eye that had discovered anything wrong with them.
They described him as "Stepan Bakuinin, fur merchant of Nizhni
Novgorod, travelling in pursuit of his business, with his servant,
Peter Petrovitch, also of Nizhni Novgorod."

Instead of going straight into the town by the main road they made a
considerable detour and entered it by a lane that led them through a
collection of miserable huts occupied by the poorest class of
Siberian mujiks, half peasants, half townsfolk, who cultivate their
patches of ground during the brief spring and summer, and struggle
through the long dreary winter as best they can on their scanty
savings and what work they can get to do from the Government or their
richer neighbours.

Colston had never been in Tiumen before, but Ivan had, for ten years
before he had voluntarily accompanied his father, who had been
condemned to five years' forced labour on the new railway works from
Tiumen to Tobolsk, for giving a political fugitive shelter in his
house. He had died of hard labour and hard usage, and that was one
reason why Ivan was a member of the Outer Circle of the Terrorists.

He led his master through the squalid suburb to the business part of
the town, which had considerably developed since the through line to
Tobolsk and Tomsk had been constructed, and at length they stopped
before a comfortable-looking house in the street that ends at the
railway station.

They knocked, gave their names, and were at once admitted. The
servant who opened the door to them led them to a room in which they
found a man of about fifty in the uniform of a sub-commissioner of
police. As Colston held out his hand to him he said--

"In the Master's name!"

The official took his hand, and, bending over it, replied in a low

"I am his servant. What is his will?"

"That Anna Ornovski and Fedora Darrel, the English girl who was taken
with her, be released as soon as may be," replied Colston. "Is the
train from Ekaterinburg in yet?"

"Not yet. The snow is still deep between here and the mountains. The
winter has been very severe and long. We have almost starved in
Tiumen in spite of the railway. There has been a telegram from
Ekaterinburg to say that the train descended the mountain safely, and
one from Kannishlov to say that we expect it soon after ten

"Good! That is sooner than we expected in London. We thought it would
not reach here till to-morrow morning."

"In London! What do you mean? You cannot have come from London, for
there has been no train for two days."

"Nevertheless I have come from London. I left England yesterday

"Yesterday evening! But, with all submission, that is impossible. If
there were a railway the whole distance it could not be done."

"To the Master there is nothing impossible. Look! I received that the
evening I left London."

As he spoke, Colston held out an envelope. The Russian examined it
closely. It bore the Ludgate Hill post-mark, which was dated "March

Colston's host bent over it with almost superstitious reverence, and
handed it back, saying humbly--

"Forgive my doubts, Nobleness! It is a miracle! I ask no more. The
Tsar himself could not have done it. The Master is all powerful, and
I am proud to be his servant, even to the death."

Although the twentieth century had dawned, the Siberian Russians were
still inclined to look even upon the railway as a miracle. This man,
although he occupied a post of very considerable responsibility and
authority under the Russian Government, was only a member of the
Outer Circle of the Terrorists, as most of the officials were, and
therefore he knew nothing of the existence of the _Ariel_, and
Colston purposely mystified him with the apparent miracle of his
presence in Tiumen after so short an absence from London, in order to
command his more complete obedience in the momentous work that was on

He allowed the official a few moments to absorb the full wonder of
the seeming marvel, and then he replied--

"Yes, we are all his servants _to the death_. At least I know of none
who have even thought of treason to him and lived to put their
thoughts into action. But tell me, are all the arrangements complete
as far as you can make them? Much depends upon how you carry them
out, you know, to say nothing of the two thousand roubles that I
shall hand to you as soon as the two ladies are delivered into my

"All is arranged, Nobleness," replied the official, bowing
involuntarily at the mention of the money. "Such of the prisoners,
that is to say the politicals, who can afford to pay for the
privilege, may, by the new regulations, be lodged in the houses of
approved persons during their sojourn in Tiumen, if it be only for a
night, and so escape the common prison.

"We knew at the police bureau of the arrest of the Princess Ornovski
some days ago, and I have obtained permission from the chief of
police to lodge her Highness and her companion in misfortune--if they
are prepared to pay what I shall ask. It has come to be looked upon
as a sort of perquisite of diligent officials, and as I have been
very diligent here I had no difficulty in getting the
permission--which I shall have to pay for in due course."

"Just so! Nothing for nothing in Russian official circles. Very good.
Now listen. If this escape is successfully accomplished you will be
degraded and probably punished into the bargain for letting the
prisoners slip through your fingers. But that must not happen if it
can be prevented.

"Now this has been foreseen, as everything is with the Master; and
his orders are that you shall take this passport--which you will find
in perfect order, save for the fact that the date has been slightly
altered--from me as soon as I have got the ladies safely in the
troika out on the Tobolsk road, put off the livery of the Tsar,
disguise yourself as effectually as may be, and take the first train
back to Perm and Nizhni Novgorod as Stepan Bakuinin, fur merchant.

"The servant you can leave behind on any excuse. From Novgorod you
can travel _viâ_ Moscow to Königsberg, and, if you will take my
advice, you will get out of Russia as soon as the Fates will let

"It shall be done, Nobleness. But how will the disappearance of
Dmitri Soudeikin, sub-commissioner of police, be accounted for?"

"That also has been provided for. Before you go you will pin this
with a dagger to your sitting-room table."

The official took the little piece of paper which Colston held out to
him as he spoke. It read thus--

    Dmitri Soudeikin, sub-commissioner of police at Tiumen, has been
    removed for over-zeal in the service of the Tsar.


Soudeikin bowed almost to the ground as the dreaded name of the
Master of the Terror met his eyes, and then he said, as he handed the
paper back--

"It is so! The Master sees all, and cares for the least of his
servants. My life shall be forfeited if the ladies are not released
as I have said."

"It probably will be," returned Colston drily. "None of us expect to
get out of this business alive if it does not succeed. Now that is
all I have to say for the present. It is for you to bring the ladies
here as your prisoners, to see us out of the town before daybreak,
and to have the troika in readiness for us on the Tobolsk road. Then
see to yourself and I will be responsible for the rest."

As it still wanted more than two hours to the expected arrival of the
train, Soudeikin had the samovar, or tea-urn, brought in, and Colston
and Ivan made a hearty meal after their five-mile walk through the
snow. Then they and their host lit their pipes, and smoked and
chatted until a distant whistle warned Soudeikin that the train was
at last approaching the station, and that it was time for him to be
on duty to receive his convict-lodgers.



No time had ever seemed so long to Colston as did the hour and a half
which passed after the departure of Soudeikin until his return. He
would have given anything to have accompanied him to the station, but
it would have been so very unwise to have incurred the risk of being
questioned, and perhaps obliged to show the passport that Soudeikin
was to use, that he controlled his impatience as best he could, and
let events take their course.

At length, when he had looked at his watch for the fiftieth time, and
found that it indicated nearly half-past eleven, there was a heavy
knock at the door. As it opened, Colston heard a rattle of arms and a
clinking of chains. Then there was a sound of gruff guttural voices
in the entrance-hall, and the next moment the door of the room was
thrown open, and Soudeikin walked in, followed by a young man in the
uniform of a lieutenant of the line, and after them came two
soldiers, to one of whom was handcuffed the Princess Ornovski, and to
the other Natasha.

Shocked as he was at the pitiable change that had taken place in the
appearance of the two prisoners since he had last seen them in
freedom, Colston was far too well trained in the school of conspiracy
to let the slightest sign of surprise or recognition escape him.

He and Ivan rose as the party entered, greeted Soudeikin and saluted
the officer, hardly glancing at the two pale, haggard women in their
rough grey shapeless gowns and hoods as they stood beside the men to
whom they were chained.

As the officer returned Colston's salute he turned to Soudeikin and
said civilly enough--

"I did not know you had another guest. I hope we shall not overcrowd

"By no means," replied the commissioner, waving his hand toward
Colston as he spoke. "This is only my nephew, Ernst Vronski, who is
staying with me for a day or two on his way through to Nizhni
Novgorod with his furs, and that is his servant, Ivan Arkavitch. You
need not be uneasy. I have plenty of rooms, as I live almost alone,
and I have set apart one for the prisoners which I think will satisfy
you in every way. Would it please you to come and see it?"

"Yes, we will go now and get them put in safety for the night, if you
will lead the way."

As the party left the room Colston caught one swift glance from
Natasha which told him that she understood his presence in the house
fully, and he felt that, despite her miserable position, he had an
ally in her who could be depended upon.

The officer carefully examined the room which had been provided for
the two prisoners, tried the heavy shutters with which the windows
were closed, and took from Soudeikin the keys of the padlocks to the
bars which ran across them. He then directed the prisoners to be
released from their handcuffs and locked them in the room, stationing
one of the soldiers at the door and sending the other to patrol the
back of the house from which the two windows of the room looked out.

At the end of two hours the sentries were to change places, and in
two hours more they were to be relieved by a detachment from the
night patrol. This arrangement had been foreseen by Soudeikin, and it
had been settled that the rescue was to be attempted as soon as the
guard had been changed.

This would give the prisoners time to get a brief but much needed
rest after their long and miserable journey from Perm, penned up like
sheep in iron-barred cattle trucks, and it would leave the drowsiest
part of the night, from four o'clock to sunrise, for the hazardous
work in hand.

"That is a pretty girl you have there, captain," said Colston, as the
officer returned to the sitting-room. "Is she for the mines or

"For Sakhalin by sentence, but as a matter of fact for neither, as
far as I can see."

"You mean that the Little Father will pardon her or give her a
lighter sentence, I suppose."

The officer grinned meaningly as he replied--

"_Nu vot!_ That is hardly likely. What I mean is that Captain
Kharkov, who is in command of the convict train from here, has had
instructions to convey her as comfortably as possible, and with no
more fatigue than is necessary, to Tchit, in the Trans-Baikal, and
that he is also charged with a letter from the Governor of Perm to
the Governor of Tchit.

"You know these gentlemen like to do each other a good turn when they
can, and so, putting two and two together, I should say that his
Excellency of Perm has concluded that our pretty prisoner will serve
to beguile the dulness of that Godforsaken hole in which his
Excellency of Tchit is probably dying of _ennui_. She will be more
comfortable there than at Sakhalin, and it is a lucky thing for her
that she has found favour in his Excellency's eyes."

Colston could have shot the fellow where he sat leering across the
table; but though his blood was at boiling point, he controlled
himself sufficiently to make a reply after the same fashion, and soon
after took his leave and retired for the night.

At four o'clock the guard was changed. The new officer, after taking
the keys, unlocked the door of the room in which Natasha and the
Princess were confined, and roused them up to satisfy himself that
they were still in safe keeping. It was a brutal formality, but
perfectly characteristic of Siberian officialism.

The man who had been on guard so far joined the patrol and returned
to the barracks, while the new officer made himself comfortable with
a bottle of brandy, with which Soudeikin had obligingly provided him,
in the sitting-room. It was a bitterly cold night, and he drank a
couple of glasses of it in quick succession. Ten minutes after he had
swallowed the second he rolled backwards on the couch on which he was
sitting and went fast asleep. A few moments later he had ceased to

Then the door opened softly and Soudeikin and Colston slipped into
the room. The former shook him by the shoulder. His eyes remained
half closed, his head lolled loosely from side to side, and his arms
hung heavily downwards.

"He's gone," whispered Soudeikin; and, without another word, they set
to work to strip the uniform off the lifeless body. Then Colston
dressed himself in it and gave his own clothes to Soudeikin.

As soon as the change was effected, Colston took the keys and went to
the door at which the sentry was keeping guard. The man was already
half asleep, and blinked at him with drowsy eyes as he challenged
him. For all answer the Terrorist levelled his pistol at his head and
fired. There was a sharp crack that could hardly have been heard on
the other side of the wall, and the man tumbled down with a bullet
through his brain.

Colston stepped over the corpse, unlocked the door, and found Natasha
and the Princess already dressed in male attire as two peasant boys,
with sheepskin coats and shapkas, and wide trousers tucked into their
half boots. These disguises had been provided beforehand by
Soudeikin, and hidden in the bed in which they were to sleep.

Colston grasped their hands in silence, and the three left the room.
In the passage they found Ivan and Soudeikin, the former dressed in
the uniform of the soldier who had been on guard outside the house,
and whose half-stripped corpse was now lying buried in the snow.

"Ready?" whispered Soudeikin.

"Have you finished in there?" asked Colston, jerking his thumb
towards the sitting-room.

Soudeikin nodded in reply, and the five left the house by the back

It was then after half-past four. Fortunately it was a dark cloudy
morning, and the streets of the town were utterly deserted. By ones
and twos they stole through the by-streets and lanes without meeting
a soul, until Soudeikin at length stopped at a house on the eastern
edge of the town about a mile from the Tobolsk road.

He tapped at one of the windows. The door was softly opened by an
invisible hand, and they entered and passed through a dark passage
and out into a stable-yard behind the house. Under a shed they found
a troika, or three-horse sleigh, with the horses ready harnessed, in
charge of a man dressed as a mujik.

They got in without a word, all but Soudeikin, who went to the
horses' heads, while the other man went and opened the gates of the
yard. The bells had been removed from the harness, and the horses'
feet made no sound as Soudeikin led them out through the gate. Ivan
took the reins, and Colston held out his hand from the sleigh. There
was a roll of notes in it, and as he gave it to Soudeikin he

"Farewell! If we succeed, the Master shall know how well you have
done your part."

Soudeikin took the money with a salute and a whispered farewell, and
Ivan trotted his horses quietly down the lane and swung round into
the road at the end of it.

So far all had gone well, but the supreme moment of peril had yet to
come. A mile away down the road was the guard-house on the Tobolsk
road leading out of the town, and this had to be passed before there
was even a chance of safety.

As there was no hope of getting the sleigh past unobserved, Colston
had determined to trust to a rush when the moment came. He had given
Natasha and the Princess a magazine pistol apiece, and held a brace
in his own hands; so among them they had a hundred shots.

Ivan kept his horses at an easy trot till they were within a hundred
yards of the guard-house. Then, at a sign from Colston, he suddenly
lashed them into a gallop, and the sleigh dashed forward at a
headlong speed, swept round the curve past the guard-house, hurling
one of the sentries on guard to the earth, and away out on to the
Tobolsk road.

The next instant the notes of a bugle rang out clear and shrill just
as another sounded from the other end of the town. Colston at once
guessed what had happened. The inspector of the patrols, in going his
rounds, had called at Soudeikin's house to see if all was right, and
had discovered the tragedy that had taken place. He looked back and
saw a body of Cossacks galloping down the main street towards the
guard-house, waving their lanterns and brandishing their spears above
their heads.

"Whip up, Ivan, they will be on us in a couple of minutes!" he cried
and Ivan swung his long whip out over his horses' ears, and shouted
at them till they put their heads down and tore over the smooth snow
in gallant style.

By the time the race for life or death really began they had a good
mile start, and as they had only four more to go Ivan did not spare
his cattle, but plied whip and voice with a will till the trees
whirled past in a continuous dark line, and the sleigh seemed to fly
over the snow almost without touching it.

Still the Cossacks gained on them yard by yard, till at the end of
the fourth mile they were less than three hundred yards behind. Then
Colston leant over the back of the sleigh, and taking the best aim he
could, sent half a dozen shots among them. He saw a couple of the
flying figures reel and fall, but their comrades galloped heedlessly
over them, yelling wildly at the tops of their voices, and every
moment lessening the distance between themselves and the sleigh.

Colston fired a dozen more shots into them, and had the satisfaction
of seeing three or four of them roll into the snow. At the same time
he put a whistle to his lips, and blew a long shrill call that
sounded high and clear above the hoarse yells of the Cossacks.

Their pursuers were now within a hundred yards of them, and Natasha,
speaking for the first time since the race had begun, said--

"I think I can do something now."

As she spoke she leaned out of the sleigh sideways, and began firing
rapidly at the Cossacks. Shot after shot told either upon man or
beast, for the daughter of Natas was one of the best shots in the
Brotherhood; but before she had fired a dozen times a bright gleam of
white light shot downwards over the trees, apparently from the
clouds, full in the faces of their pursuers.

Involuntarily they reined up like one man, and their yells of fury
changed in an instant into a general cry of terror. The Cossacks are
as brave as any soldiers on earth, and they can fight any mortal foe
like the fiends that they are, but here was an enemy they had never
seen before, a strange, white, ghostly-looking thing that floated in
the clouds and glared at them with a great blazing, blinding eye,
dazzling them and making their horses plunge and rear like things

They were not long left in doubt as to the intentions of their new
enemy. Something came rushing through the air and struck the ground
almost at the feet of their first rank. Then there was a flash of
green light, a stunning report, and men and horses were rent into
fragments and hurled into the air like dead leaves before a

Only three or four who had turned tail at once were left alive; and
these, without daring to look behind them, drove their spurs into
their horses' flanks and galloped back to Tiumen, half mad with
terror, to tell how a demon had come down from the skies, annihilated
their comrades, and carried the fugitives away into the clouds upon
its back.

When they reached the town it was a scene of the utmost panic.
Soldiers were galloping and running hither and thither, bugles were
sounding, and the whole population were turning out into the
snow-covered streets. On every lip there were only two
words--"Natas!" "The Terrorists!"

The death sentence on Soudeikin, the sub-commissioner of police, had
been found pinned with a dagger to the table in the room in which lay
the body of the lieutenant, with the bloody *T* on his forehead.
Soudeikin had vanished utterly, leaving only his uniform behind him;
so had the two prisoners for whom he had made himself responsible,
and at the door of their room lay the corpse of the sentry with a
bullet-hole clean through his head from front to back, while in the
snow under one of the windows of the room lay the body of the other
sentry, stabbed through the heart.

From the very midst of one of the strongholds of Russian tyranny in
Siberia, two important prisoners and a police official had been
spirited away as though by magic, and now upon the top of all the
wonder and dismay came the fugitive Cossacks with their wild tale
about the air-demon that had swooped down and destroyed their troop
at a single blow. To crown all, half an hour later three horses, mad
with fear, came galloping up the Tobolsk road, dragging behind them
an empty sleigh, to one of the seats of which was pinned a scrap of
paper on which was written--

"The daughter of Natas sends greeting to the Governor of Tiumen, and
thanks him for his hospitality."



On the morning of Tuesday, the 9th of March 1904, the _Times_
published the following telegram at the head of its Foreign


      _Destruction of Kronstadt by an unknown Air-Ship._
      (_From our own Correspondent._)

      St. Petersburg, _March 8th_, 4 P.M.

    Between six and seven this morning, the fortress of Kronstadt was
    partially destroyed by an unknown air-ship, which was first
    sighted approaching from the westward at a tremendous speed.

    Four shots in all were fired upon the fortress, and produced the
    most appalling destruction. There was no smoke or flame visible
    from the guns of the air-ship, and the explosives with which the
    missiles were charged must have been far more powerful than
    anything hitherto used in warfare, as in the focus of the
    explosion masses of iron and steel and solid masonry were
    instantly reduced to powder.

    Two shots were fired as the strange vessel approached, and two as
    she left the fortress. The two latter exploded over one of the
    powder magazines, dissolved the steel roof to dust, and ignited
    the whole contents of the magazine, blowing that portion of the
    fortification bodily into the sea. At least half the garrison has
    disappeared, most of the unfortunate men having been practically
    annihilated by the terrific force of the explosions.

    The air-ship was not of the navigable balloon type, and is
    described by the survivors as looking more like a flying
    torpedo-boat than anything else. She flew no flag, and there is
    no clue to her origin.

    After destroying the fortress, she ascended several thousand
    feet, and continued her eastward course at such a prodigious
    speed, that in less than five minutes she was lost to sight.

    The excitement in St. Petersburg almost reaches the point of
    panic. All efforts to keep the news of the disaster secret have
    completely failed, and I have therefore received permission to
    send this telegram, which has been revised by the Censorship, and
    may therefore be accepted as authentic.

Within an hour of the appearance of this telegram, which appeared
only in the _Times_, the Russian Censorship having refused to allow
any more to be despatched, the astounding news was flying over the
wires to every corner of the world.

The _Times_ had a lengthy and very able article on the subject,
which, although by no means alarmist in tone, told the world, in
grave and weighty sentences, that there could now be no doubt but
that the problem of aërial navigation had been completely solved, and
that therefore mankind stood confronted by a power that was
practically irresistible, and which changed the whole aspect of
warfare by land and sea.

In the face of this power, the fortresses, armies, and fleets of the
world were useless and helpless. The destruction of Kronstadt had
proved that to demonstration. From a height of several thousand feet,
and a distance of nearly seven miles, the unknown air-vessel had
practically destroyed, with four shots from her mysterious,
smokeless, and flameless guns, the strongest fortress in Europe. If
it could do that, and there was not the slightest doubt but that it
had done so, it could destroy armies wholesale without a chance of
reprisals, sink fleets, and lay cities in ruins, at the leisure of
those who commanded it.

And here arose the supreme question of the hour--a question beside
which all other questions of national or international policy sank
instantly into insignificance--Who were those who held this new and
appalling power in their hands? It was hardly to be believed that
they were representatives of any regularly-constituted national
Power, for, although the air was full of rumours of war, there was at
present unbroken peace all over the world.

Even in the hands of a recognised Power, the possession of such a
frightful engine of destruction could not be viewed by the rest of
the world with anything but the gravest apprehension, for that Power,
however insignificant otherwise, would now be in a position to
terrorise any other nation, or league of nations, however great.
Manifestly those who had built the one air-vessel that had been seen,
and had given such conclusive proof of her terrible powers, could
construct a fleet if they chose to do so, and then the world would be
at their mercy.

If, however, as seemed only too probable, the machine was in the
hands of a few irresponsible individuals, or, still worse, in those
of such enemies of humanity as the Nihilists, or that yet more
mysterious and terrible society who were popularly known as the
Terrorists, then indeed the outlook was serious beyond forecast or
description. At any moment the forces of destruction and anarchy
might be let loose upon the world, in such fashion that little less
than the collapse of the whole fabric of Society might be expected as
the result.

     *     *     *     *     *

The above necessarily brief and imperfect digest gives only the
headings of an article which filled nearly two columns of the
_Times_, and it is needless to say that such an article in the
leading columns of the most serious and respectable newspaper in the
world produced an intense impression wherever it was read.

Of course the telegram was instantly copied by the evening papers,
which ran out special editions for the sole purpose of reproducing
it, with their own comments upon it, which, after all, were not much
more original than the telegram. Meanwhile the _Berliner Tageblatt_,
the _Newe Freie Presse_, the _Kölnische Zeitung_, and the _Journal
des Débats_ had received later and somewhat similar telegrams, and
had given their respective views of the catastrophe to the world.

By noon all the capitals of Europe were in a fever of expectation and
apprehension. The cables had carried the news to America and India;
and when the evening of the same day brought the telegraphic account
of the extraordinary occurrence at Tiumen in the grey dusk of the
early morning, proving almost conclusively that the rescue had been
effected by the same agency that had destroyed Kronstadt, and that,
worse than all, the air-vessel was at the command of Natas, the
unknown Chief of the mysterious Terrorists, excitement rose almost to
frenzy, and everywhere the wildest rumours were accepted as truth.

In a word, the "psychological moment" had come all over Europe, the
moment in which all men were thinking of the same thing, discussing
the same event, and dreading the same results. To have found a
parallel state of affairs, it would have been necessary to go back
more than a hundred years, to the hour when the head of Louis XVI.
fell into the basket of the guillotine, and the monarchies of Europe
sprang to arms to avenge his death.

Meanwhile other and not less momentous events had, unknown to the
newspapers or the public, been taking place in three very different
parts of the world.

On the evening of Saturday, the 6th, Lord Alanmere had called upon
Mr. Balfour in Downing Street, and laid the duplicates of the secret
treaty between France and Russia, and copies of all the memoranda
appertaining to it, before him, and had convinced him of their
authenticity. At the same time he showed him plans of the
war-balloons, of which a fleet of fifty would within a few days be at
the command of the Tsar.

The result of this interview was a meeting of a Cabinet Council, and
the immediate despatch of secret orders to mobilise the fleet and the
army, to put every available ship into commission, and to double the
strength of the Mediterranean Squadron at once. That evening three
Queen's messengers left Charing Cross by the night mail, one for
Berlin, one for Vienna, and one for Rome, each of them bearing a copy
of the secret treaty.

On Monday morning a Council of Ministers was held at the Peterhof
Palace in St. Petersburg, presided over by the Tsar, and convened to
discuss the destruction of Kronstadt.

At this Council it was announced that the fleet of war-balloons would
be ready to take the air in a week's time from then, and that the
concentration of troops on the Afghan frontier was as complete as it
could be without provoking immediate hostilities with Britain. In
fact, so close were the Cossacks and the Indian troops to each other,
both on the Pamirs and on the western slopes of the Hindu Kush, that
a collision might be expected at any moment.

The Council of the Tsar decided to let matters take their course in
the East, and to make all arrangements with France to simultaneously
attack the Triple Alliance as soon as the war-balloons had been
satisfactorily tested.

Soon after daybreak on Wednesday, the 10th, an affair of outposts
took place near the northern end of the Sir Ulang Pass of the Hindu
Kush, between two considerable bodies of Cossacks and Ghoorkhas, in
which, after a stubborn fight, the Russians gave way before the
magazine fire of the Indian troops, and fled, leaving nearly a fourth
of their number on the field.

The news of this encounter reached London on Wednesday night, and was
published in the papers on Thursday morning, together with the
intelligence that the fight had been watched from a height of nearly
three thousand feet by a small party of men and women in an air-ship,
evidently a vessel of war, from the fact that she carried four long
guns. She took no part in the fight, and as soon as it was over went
off to the south-west at a speed which carried her out of sight in a
few minutes.



While all Europe was thrilling with the apprehension of approaching
war, and the excitement caused by the appearance of the strange
air-ship and the news of its terrible exploits at Kronstadt and
Tiumen, the _Ariel_ herself was quietly pursuing her way in mid-air
south-westerly from the scene of the skirmish outside the Sir Ulang

She was bound for a region in the midst of Africa, which, even in the
first decade of the twentieth century, was still unknown to the
geographer and untrodden by the explorer.

Fenced in by huge and precipitous mountains, round whose bases lay
vast forests and impenetrable swamps and jungles, from whose deadly
areas the boldest pioneers had turned aside as being too hopelessly
inhospitable to repay the cost and toil of exploration, it had
remained undiscovered and unknown save by two men, who had reached it
by the only path by which it was accessible--through the air and over
the mountains which shut it in on every side from the external world.

These two adventurous travellers were a wealthy and eccentric
Englishman, named Louis Holt, and Thomas Jackson, his devoted
retainer, and these two had taken it into their heads--or rather
Louis Holt had taken it into his head--to achieve in fact the feat
which Jules Verne had so graphically described in fiction, and to
cross Africa in a balloon.

They had set out from Zanzibar towards the end of the last year of
the nineteenth century, and, with the exception of one or two vague
reports from the interior, nothing more had been heard of them until,
nearly a year later, a collapsed miniature balloon had been picked up
in the Gulf of Guinea by the captain of a trading steamer, who had
found in the little car attached to it a hermetically sealed
meat-tin, which contained a manuscript, the contents of which will
become apparent in due course.

The captain of the steamer was a practical and somewhat stupid man,
who read the manuscript with considerable scepticism, and then put it
away, having come to the conclusion that it was no business of his,
and that there was no money in it anyhow. He thought nothing more of
it until he got back to Liverpool, and then he gave it to a friend of
his, who was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and who duly
laid it before that body.

It was published in the _Transactions_, and there was some talk of
sending out an expedition under the command of an eminent explorer to
rescue Louis Holt and his servant; but when that personage was
approached on the subject, it was found that the glory would not be
at all commensurate with the expense and risk, and so, after being
the usual nine days' wonder, and being duly elaborated by several
able editors in the daily and weekly press, the strange adventures of
Louis Holt had been dismissed, as of doubtful authenticity, into the
limbo of exhausted sensations.

One man, however, had laid the story to heart somewhat more
seriously, and that was Richard Arnold, who, on reading it, had
formed the resolve that, if ever his dream of aërial navigation were
realised, the first use he would make of his air-ship would be to
discover and rescue the lonely travellers who were isolated from the
rest of the world in the strange, inaccessible region of which the
manuscript had given a brief but graphic and fascinating account. He
was now carrying out that resolve, and at the same time working out a
portion of a plan that was not his own, and which he had been very
far from foreseeing when he made the resolution.

Louis Holt's original MS. had been purchased by the President of the
Inner Circle, and the _Ariel_ was now, in fact, on a voyage of
exploration, the object of which was the discovery of this unknown
region, with a view to making it the seat of a settlement from which
the members of the Executive could watch in security and peace the
course of the tremendous struggle which would, ere long, be shaking
the world to its foundations.

In such a citadel as this, fenced in by a series of vast natural
obstacles, impassable to all who did not possess the means of aërial
locomotion, they would be secure from molestation, though all the
armies of Europe sought to attack them; and the _Ariel_ could, if
necessary, traverse in twenty-five hours the three thousand odd miles
which separated it from the centre of Europe.

After the rescue of Natasha and the Princess on the Tobolsk road, the
_Ariel_, in obedience to the orders of the Council, had shaped her
course southward to the western slopes of the Hindu Kush, in order to
be present at the prearranged attack of the Cossacks on the British
reconnoitring force.

Arnold's orders were simply to wait for the engagement, and only to
watch it, unless the British were attacked in overwhelming numbers.
In that case he was to have dispersed the Russian force, as the plan
of the Terrorists did not allow of any advantage being gained by the
soldiers of the Tsar in that part of the world just then.

As the British had defeated them unaided, the _Ariel_ had taken no
part in the affair, and, after vanishing from the sight of the
astonished combatants, had proceeded upon her voyage of discovery.

As a good month would have to elapse before she could keep her
rendezvous with the steamer that was to bring out the materials for
the construction of the new air-ships from England, there was plenty
of time to make the voyage in a leisurely and comfortable fashion. As
soon, therefore, as he was out of sight of the skirmishers, he had
reduced the speed of the _Ariel_ to about forty miles an hour, using
only the stern-propeller driven by one engine, and supporting the
ship on the air-planes and two fan-wheels.

At this speed he would traverse the three thousand odd miles which
lay between the Hindu Kush and "Aeria"--as Louis Holt had somewhat
fancifully named the region that could be reached only through the
air--in a little over seventy-five hours, or rather more than three

Those three days were the happiest that his life had so far
contained. The complete success of his invention, and the absolute
fulfilment of his promises to the Brotherhood, had made him a power
in the world, and a power which, as he honestly believed, would be
used for the highest good of mankind when the time came to finally
confront and confound the warring forces of rival despotisms.

But far more than this in his eyes was the fact that he had been able
to use the unique power which his invention had placed in his hands,
to rescue the woman that he loved so dearly from a fate which, even
now that it was past, he could not bring himself to contemplate.

When she had first greeted him in the Council-chamber of the Inner
Circle, the distance that had separated her from him had seemed
immeasurable, and she--the daughter of Natas and the idol of the most
powerful society in the world--might well have looked down upon
him--the nameless dreamer of an unrealised dream, and a pauper, who
would not have known where to have looked for his next meal, had the
Brotherhood not had faith in him and his invention.

But now all that was changed. The dream had become the reality, and
the creation of his genius was bearing her with him swiftly and
smoothly through a calm atmosphere, and under a cloudless sky, over
sea and land, with more ease than a bird wings its flight through
space. He had accomplished the greatest triumph in the history of
human discovery. He had revolutionised the world, and ere long he
would make war impossible. Surely this entitled him to approach even
her on terms of equality, and to win her for his own if he could.

Natasha saw this too as clearly as he did--more clearly, perhaps;
for, while he only arrived at the conclusion by a process of
reasoning, she reached it intuitively at a single step. She knew that
he loved her, that he had loved her from the moment that their hands
had first met in greeting, and, peerless as she was among women, she
was still a woman, and the homage of such a man as this was sweet to
her, albeit it was still unspoken.

She knew, too, that the hopes of the Revolution, which, before all
things human, claimed her whole-souled devotion, now depended mainly
upon him, and the use that he might make of the power that lay in his
hands, and this of itself was no light bond between them, though not
necessarily having anything to do with affection.

So far she was heart-whole, and though many had attempted the task,
no man had yet made her pulses beat a stroke faster for his sake.
Ever since she had been old enough to know what tyranny meant, she
had been trained to hate it, and prepared to work against it, and, if
necessary, to sacrifice herself body and soul to destroy it.

Thus hatred rather than love had been the creed of her life and the
mainspring of her actions, and, save her father and her one friend
Radna, she stood aloof from mankind and its loves and friendships,
rather the beautiful incarnation of an abstract principle than a
woman, to whom love and motherhood were the highest aims of

More than this, she was the daughter of a Jew, and therefore held
herself absolutely at her father's disposal as far as marriage was
concerned, and if he had given her in wedlock even to a Russian
official, telling her that the Cause demanded the sacrifice, she
would have obeyed, though her heart had broken in the same hour.

Although he had never hinted directly at such a thing, the conviction
had been growing upon her for the last two or three years that Natas
really intended her to marry Tremayne, and so, in the case of his own
death, form a bond that should hold him to the Brotherhood when the
chain of his own control was snapped. Though she instinctively shrank
from such a union of mere policy, she would enter it without
hesitation at her father's bidding, and for the sake of the Cause to
which her life was devoted.

How great such a sacrifice would be, should it ever be asked of her,
no one but herself could ever know, for she was perfectly well aware
that in Tremayne's strange double life there were two loves, one of
which, and that not the real and natural one, was hers.

Had she felt that she had the disposal of herself in her own hands,
she would not, perhaps, have waited with such painful apprehension
the avowal which hour after hour, now that they were brought into
such close and constant relationships on board this little vessel
high in mid-air, she saw trembling on the lips of her rescuer.

Arnold's life of hard, honest work, and his constant habit of facing
truth in its most uncompromising forms, had made dissimulation almost
impossible to him; and added to that, situated as he was, there was
no necessity for it. Colston knew of his love, and the Princess had
guessed it long ago. Did Natasha know his open secret? Of that he
hardly dared to be sure, though something told him that the
inevitable moment of knowledge was near at hand.

For the first twenty-four hours of the voyage he had seen very little
of either her or the Princess, as they had mostly remained in their
cabins, enjoying a complete rest after the terrible fatigue and
suffering they had gone through since their capture in Moscow, but on
the Thursday morning they had had breakfast in the saloon with him
and Colston, and had afterwards spent a portion of the morning on
deck, deeply interested in watching the fight between the British and
Russians. Thanks to Radna's foresight, they had each found a trunk
full of suitable clothing on board the _Ariel_. These had been taken
to Drumcraig by Colston, and placed in the cabins intended for their
use, and so they were able to discard the uncouth but useful costumes
in which they had made their escape.

In the afternoon Arnold had had to perform the pleasant task of
showing them over the _Ariel_, explaining the working of the
machinery, and putting the wonderful vessel through various
evolutions to show what she was capable of doing.

He rushed her at full speed through the air, took flying leaps over
outlying spurs of mountain ranges that lay in their path, swooped
down into valleys, and flew over level plains fifty yards from the
ground, like an albatross over the surface of a smooth tropic sea.
Then he soared up from the earth again, until the horizon widened out
to vast extent, and they could see the mighty buttresses of "the Roof
of the World" stretching out below them in an endless succession of
ranges as far as the eye could reach.

Neither Natasha nor the Princess could find words to at all
adequately express all that they saw and learnt during that day of
wonders, and all night Natasha could hardly sleep for waking dreams
of universal empire, and a world at peace equitably ruled by a power
that had no need of aggression, because all the realms of earth and
air belonged to those who wielded it.

When at last she did go to sleep, it was to dream again, and this
time of herself, the Angel of the Revolution, sharing the aërial
throne of the world-empire with the man who had made revolutions
impossible by striking the sword from the hand of the tyrants of
earth for ever.



After breakfast on the Friday morning, Natasha and Arnold were
standing in the bows of the _Ariel_, admiring the magnificent
panorama that lay stretched out five thousand feet below them.

The air-ship had by this time covered a little over 2000 miles of her
voyage, and was now speeding smoothly and swiftly along over the
south-western shore of the Red Sea, a few miles southward of the
sixteenth parallel of latitude. Eastward the bright blue waves of the
sea were flashing behind them in the cloudless morning sun; the high
mountains of the African coast rose to right and left and in front of
them; and through the breaks in the chain they could see the huge
masses of Abyssinia to the southward, and the vast plains that
stretched away westward across the Blue and White Niles, away to the
confines of the Libyan Desert.

"What a glorious world!" exclaimed Natasha, after gazing for many
silent minutes with entranced eyes over the limitless landscape. "And
to think that, after all, all this is but a little corner of it!"

"It is yours, Natasha, if you will have it," replied Arnold quietly,
yet with a note in his voice that warned her that the moment which
she had expected and yet dreaded, had already come. There was no use
in avoiding the inevitable for a time. It would be better if they
understood each other at once; and so she looked round at him with
eyebrows elevated in well-simulated surprise, and said--

"Mine! What do you mean, my friend?"

There was an almost imperceptible emphasis on the last word that
brought the blood to Arnold's cheek, and he answered, with a ring in
his voice that gave unmistakable evidence of the effort that he was
making to restrain the passion that inspired his words--

"I mean just what I say. All the kingdoms of the world, and the glory
of them, from pole to pole, and from east to west, shall be yours,
and shall obey your lightest wish. I have conquered the air, and
therefore the earth and sea. In two months from now I shall have an
aërial navy afloat that will command the world, and I--is it not
needless to tell you, Natasha, why I glory in the possession of that
power? Surely you must know that it is because I love you more than
all that a subject world can give me, and because it makes it
possible for me, if not to win you, at least not to be unworthy to
attempt the task?"

It was a distinctly unconventional declaration--such a one, indeed,
as no woman had ever heard since Alexander the Great had whispered in
the ears of Lais his dreams of universal empire, but there was a
straightforward earnestness about it which convinced her beyond
question that it came from no ordinary man, but from one who saw the
task before him clearly, and had made up his mind to achieve it.

For a moment her heart beat faster than it had ever yet done at the
bidding of a man's voice, and there was a bright flush on her cheeks,
and a softer light in her eyes, as she replied in a more serious tone
than Arnold had ever heard her use--

"My friend, you have forgotten something. You and I are not a man and
a woman in the relationship that exists between us. We are two
factors in a work such as has never been undertaken since the world
began; two units in a mighty problem whose solution is the happiness
or the ruin of the whole human race. It is not for us to speak of
individual love while these tremendous issues hang undecided in the

"One does not speak of love in the heat of war, and you and I and
those who are with us are at war with the powers of the earth, and
higher things than the happiness of individuals are at stake. You
know my training has been one of hate and not of love, and till the
hate is quenched I must not know what love is.

"Remember your oath--the oath which I have taken as well as you--'_As
long as I live those ends shall be my ends, and no human
considerations shall weigh with me where those ends are concerned._'
Is not this love of which you speak a human consideration that might
clash with the purposes of the Brotherhood whose ends you and I have
solemnly sworn to hold supreme above all earthly things?

"My father has told me that when love takes possession of a human
soul, reason abdicates her throne, and great aims become impossible.
No, no; that great power which you hold in your hands was not given
you just to win the love of a woman, and I tell you frankly that you
will never win mine with it.

"More than this, if I saw you using it for such an end, I would take
care that you did not use it for long. No man ever had such an awful
responsibility laid upon him as the possession of this power lays
upon you. It is yours to make or mar the future of the human race, of
which I am but a unit. It is not the power that will ever win either
my respect or my love, but the wisdom and the justice with which it
may be used."

"Ah! I see you distrust me. You think that because I have the power
to be a despot, that therefore I may forget my oath and become one. I
forgive you for the thought, unworthy of you as it is, and also, I
hope, of me. No, Natasha; I am no skilled hand at love-making, for I
have never wooed any mistress but one before to-day, and she is won
only by plain honesty and hard service; just what I will devote to
the winning of you, whether you are to be won or not--but I must have
expressed myself clumsily indeed for you to have even thought of
treason to the Cause.

"You are no more devoted adherent of it than I am. You have suffered
in one way and I in another from the falsehood and rottenness of
present-day Society, but you do not hate it more utterly than I do,
and you would not go to greater lengths than I would to destroy it.
Yours is a hatred of emotion, and mine is a hatred of reason. I have
proved that, as Society is constituted, it is the worst and not the
best qualities of humanity that win wealth and power, and such
respect as the vulgar of all classes can give. But it is not such
power as this that I would lay at your feet, when I ask you to share
the world-empire with me. It is an empire of peace and not of war
that I shall offer to you."

"Then," said Natasha, taking a step towards him, and laying her hand
on his arm as she spoke, "when you have made war impossible to the
rivalry of nations and races, and have proclaimed peace on earth,
then I will give myself to you, body and soul, to do with as you
please, to kill or to keep alive, for then truly you will have done
that which all the generations of men before you have failed to do,
and it will be yours to ask and to have."

As she spoke these last words Natasha bowed her proudly-carried head
as though in submission to the dictum that her own lips had
pronounced; and Arnold, laying his hand on hers and holding it for a
moment unresisting in his own, said--

"I accept the condition, and as you have said so shall it be. You
shall hear no more words of love from my lips until the day that
peace shall be proclaimed on earth and war shall be no more; and when
that day comes, as it shall do, I will hold you to your words, and I
will claim you and take you, body and soul, as you have said, though
I break every other human tie save man's love for woman to possess

Natasha looked him full in the eyes as he spoke these last words. She
had never heard such words before, and by their very strength and
audacity they compelled her respect and even her submission. Her
heart was still untamed and unconquered, and no man was its lord, yet
her eyes sank before the steady gaze of his, and in a low sweet voice
she answered--

"So be it! There never was a true woman yet who did not love to meet
her master. When that day comes I shall have met my master, and I
will do his bidding. Till then we are friends and comrades in a
common Cause to which both our lives are devoted. Is it not better
that it should be so?"

"Yes, I am content. I would not take the prize before I have won it.
Only answer me one question frankly, and then I have done till I may
speak again."

"What is that."

"Have I a rival--not among men, for of that I am careless--but in
your own heart?"

"No, none. I am heart-whole and heart-free. Win me if you can. It is
a fair challenge, and I will abide by the result, be it what it may."

"That is all I ask for. If I do not win you, may Heaven do so to me
that I shall have no want of the love of woman for ever!"

So saying, he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it, in token of
the compact that was made between them. Then, intuitively divining
that she wished to be alone, he turned away without another word, and
walked to the after end of the vessel.

Natasha remained where she was for a good half-hour, leaning on the
rail that surrounded the deck, and gazing out dreamily over the
splendid and ever-changing scene that lay spread out beneath her.
Truly it was a glorious world, as she had said, even now, cursed as
it was with war and the hateful atrocities of human selfishness, and
the sordid ambition of its despots.

What would it be like in the day when the sword should lie rusting on
the forgotten battle-field, and the cannon's mouth be choked with the
desert dust for ever? What was now a hell of warring passions would
then be a paradise of peaceful industry, and he who had the power, if
any man had, to turn that hell into the paradise that it might be,
had just told her that he loved her, and would create that paradise
for her sake.

Could he do it? Was not this marvellous creation of his genius, that
was bearing her in mid-air over land and sea, as woman had never
travelled before, a sufficient earnest of his power? Truly it was.
And to be won by such a man was no mean destiny, even for her, the
daughter of Natas, and the peerless Angel of the Revolution.

Situated as they were, it would of course have been impossible, even
if it had been in any way desirable, for Arnold and Natasha to have
kept their compact secret from their fellow-travellers, who were at
the same time their most intimate friends.

There was not, however, the remotest reason for attempting to do so.
Although with regard to the rest of the world the members of the
Brotherhood were necessarily obliged to live lives of constant
dissimulation, among themselves they had no secrets from each other.

Thus, for instance, it was perfectly well known that Tremayne, during
those periods of his double life in which he acted as Chief of the
Inner Circle, regarded the daughter of Natas with feelings much
warmer than those of friendship or brotherhood in a common cause, and
until Arnold and his wonderful creation appeared on the scene, he was
looked upon as the man who, if any man could, would some day win the
heart of their idolised Angel.

Of the other love that was the passion of his other life, no one save
Natasha, and perhaps Natas himself, knew anything; and even if they
had known, they would not have considered it possible for any other
woman to have held a man's heart against the peerless charms of
Natasha. In fact they would have looked upon such rivalry as mere
presumption that it was not at all necessary for their incomparable
young Queen of the Terror to take into serious account.

In Arnold, however, they saw a worthy rival even to the Chief
himself, for there was a sort of halo of romance, even in their eyes,
about this serious, quiet-spoken young genius, who had come suddenly
forth from the unknown obscurity of his past life to arm the
Brotherhood with a power which revolutionised their tactics and
virtually placed the world at their mercy. In a few months he had
become alike their hero and their supreme hope, so far as all active
operations went; and now that with his own hand he had snatched
Natasha from a fate of unutterable misery, and so signally punished
her persecutors, it seemed to be only in the fitness of things that
he should love her, win her for his own, if won she was to be by any

This, at any rate, was the line of thought which led the Princess and
Colston each to express their unqualified satisfaction with the state
of affairs arrived at in the compact that had been made between
Natasha and Arnold--"armed neutrality," as the former smilingly
described to the Princess while she was telling her of the strange
wooing of her now avowed lover. Natasha was no woman to be wooed and
won in the ordinary way, and it was fitting that she should be the
guerdon of such an achievement as no man had ever undertaken before,
since the world began.

The voyage across Africa progressed pleasantly and almost
uneventfully for the thirty-six hours after the crossing of the Red
Sea. After passing over the mountains of the coast, the _Ariel_ had
travelled at a uniform height of about 3000 feet over a magnificent
country of hill and valley, forest and prairie, occasionally being
obliged to rise another thousand feet or so to cross some of the
ridges of mountain chains which rose into peaks and mountain knots,
some of which touched the snow-line.

Several times the air-ship was sighted by the people of the various
countries over which she passed, and crowds swarmed out of the
villages and towns, gesticulating wildly, and firing guns and beating
drums to scare the flying demon away.

Once or twice they heard bullets singing through the air, but of
these they took little heed, beyond quickening the speed of the
air-ship for the time, knowing that there was not a chance in a
hundred thousand of the _Ariel_ being hit, and that even if she were
the bullet would glance harmlessly off her smooth hull of hardened

Once only they descended in a delightful little valley among the
mountains, which appeared to be totally uninhabited, and here they
renewed their store of fresh water, and laid in one of fruit, as well
as taking advantage of the opportunity to stretch their legs on
_terra firma_.

This was on the Saturday morning; and when they again rose into the
air to continue their voyage, they saw that they had crossed the
great mountain mass that divides the Sahara from the little-known
regions of Equatorial Africa, and that in front of them to the
south-west lay, as far as the eye could reach, a boundless expanse of
dense forest and jungle and swamp, a gloomy and forbidding-looking
region which it would be well-nigh impossible to traverse on foot.

Early in the afternoon the four voyagers were gathered in the
deck-saloon, closely examining a somewhat rudely-drawn chart that was
spread out on the table. It was the map that formed part of the
manuscript which had been found in the car of Louis Holt's miniature
balloon, and sketched out his route from Zanzibar to Aeria, and the
country lying round so far as he had been able to observe it.

"This gives us, after all, very little idea of the distance we have
yet to go," said Arnold; "for though Holt has got his latitude
presumably right, we have very little clue to his longitude, for he
says himself that his watch was stopped in a thunder-storm, and that
in the same storm he lost all count of the distance he had travelled.
Added to that, he admits that he was blown about for twelve days in
one direction and another, so that all we really know is that
somewhere across this fearful wilderness beneath us we shall find
Aeria, but where is still a problem."

"What is your own idea?" asked Colston.

"Not a very clear one, I must confess. At this elevation we can see
about sixty miles as the atmosphere is now, and as far as we can see
to the south-west there is nothing but the same kind of country that
we have under us. We have travelled rather more than 2700 miles since
we left the Hindu Kush, and according to my reckoning Aeria lies
somewhere between 3000 and 3200 miles south-west of where we started
from on Thursday morning. That means that we are within between three
and five hundred miles of Aeria, unless, indeed, our calculations are
wholly at fault, and at that rate, as we only have about four and a
half hours' daylight left, we shall not get there to-day at our
present speed."

"Couldn't we go a bit faster?" put in Natasha. "You know I and the
Princess are dying to see this mysterious unknown country that only
two other people have ever seen."

"You have but to say so, Natasha, and it is already done," replied
Arnold, signalling at the same moment to the engine-room by means of
a similar arrangement of electric buttons to that which was in the
wheel-house. "Only you must remember that you must not go out on deck
now, or you will be blown away like a feather into space."

While he was speaking the three propellers had begun to revolve at
full speed, and the _Ariel_ darted forward with a velocity that
caused the mountains she had just crossed to sink rapidly on the

All the afternoon the _Ariel_ flew at full speed over the seemingly
interminable wilderness of swamp and jungle, until, when the
equatorial sun was within a few degrees of the horizon, one of the
crew, who had been stationed in the conning tower at the bows,
signalled to call the attention of the man in the wheel-house.
Arnold, who was in the after-saloon at the time, heard the signal,
and hurried forward to the look-out. He gave one quick glance ahead,
signalled "half-speed" to the engine-room, and then went aft again to
the saloon, and said--

"Aeria is in sight!"

Immediately everyone hastened to the deck saloon, from the windows of
which could be seen a huge mass of mountains looming dark and
distinct against the crimsoning western sky.

It rose like some vast precipitous island out of the sea of forest
that lay about its base; and above the mighty rock-walls that seemed
to rise sheer from the surrounding plain at least a dozen peaks
towered into the sky, two of their summits covered with eternal snow,
and shining like points of rosy fire in the almost level rays of the

As nearly as Arnold could judge in the deceptive state of the
atmosphere, they were still between thirty and forty miles from it,
and as it would not be safe to approach its lofty cliffs at a high
rate of speed in the half light that would so soon merge into
darkness, he said to his companions--

"We shall have to find a resting-place up among the cliffs on this
side to-night, for we have lost the moon, and unless it were
absolutely necessary to cross the mountains in the dark, I should not
care to do so with the ladies on board. Besides, there is no hurry
now that we are here, and we shall get a much finer first impression
of our new kingdom if we cross at sunrise. What do you think?"

All agreed that this would be the best plan, and so the _Ariel_ ran
up to within a mile of the rocks, and then the forward engine was
connected with the dynamo, and the searchlight, which had so
disconcerted the Cossacks on the Tobolsk road, was turned on to the
cliffs, which they carefully explored, until they found a little
plateau covered with luxuriant vegetation and well watered, about two
thousand feet above the plain below.

Here it was decided to come to a halt for the night, and to reserve
the exploration of Aeria for the morning, and so the fan-wheels were
sent aloft, and the _Ariel_, after hovering for a few minutes over
the verdant little plain seeking for a suitable spot to alight in,
sank gently to the earth after her flight of more than three thousand



Every one on board the _Ariel_ was astir the next morning as soon as
the first rays of dawn were shooting across the vast plain that
stretched away to the eastward, and by the time it was fairly
daylight breakfast was over and all were anxiously speculating as to
what they would find on the other side of the tremendous cliffs, on
an eyrie in which they had found a resting-place for the night.

As soon as all was ready for a start, Arnold said to Natasha, who was
standing alone with him on the after part of the deck--

"If you would like to steer the _Ariel_ into your new kingdom, I
shall be delighted to give you the lesson in steering that I promised
you yesterday."

Natasha saw the inner meaning of the offer at a glance, and replied
with a smile that made his blood tingle--

"That would be altogether too great a responsibility for a beginner.
I might run on to some of these fearful rocks. But if you will take
the helm when the dangerous part comes, I will learn all I can by
watching you."

"As long as you are with me in the wheel-house for the next hour or
so," said Arnold, with almost boyish frankness, "I shall be content.
I need scarcely tell you why I want to be alone with you when we
first sight this new home of our future empire."

"I have half a mind not to come after that very injudicious speech.
Still, if only for the sake of its delightful innocence, I will
forgive you this time. You really must practise the worldly art of
dissimulation a little, or I shall have to get the Princess to play

Natasha spoke these words in a bantering tone, and with a flush on
her lovely cheeks, that forced Arnold to cut short the conversation
for the moment, by giving an order to Andrew Smith, who at that
instant put his head out of the wheel-house door to say--

"All ready, sir!"

"Very well," replied Arnold. "I will take the wheel, and do you tell
every one to keep under cover."

Smith saluted, and disappeared, and then Natasha and Arnold went into
the wheel-house, while Colston and the Princess took their places in
the deck-saloon, the two men off duty going into the conning tower

"Why every one under cover, Captain Arnold?" asked Natasha, as soon
as the two were ensconced in the wheel-house and the door shut.

"Because I am going to put the _Ariel_ through her paces, and enter
Aeria in style," replied he, signalling for the fan-wheels to
revolve. "The fact is that, so far as I can see, these mountains are
too high for us to rise over them by means of the lifting-wheels,
which are only calculated to carry the ship to a height of about five
thousand feet. After that the air gets too rarefied for them to get a
solid grip. Now, these mountains look to me more like seven thousand
feet high."

"Then how will you get over them?"

"I shall first take a cruise and see if I can find a negotiable gap,
and then leap it."

"What! Leap seven thousand feet?"

"No; you forget that we shall be over five thousand up when we take
the jump, and I have no doubt that we shall find a place where a
thousand feet or so more will take us over. That we shall rise easily
with the planes and propellers, and you will see such a leap as man
never made in the world before."

While he was speaking the _Ariel_ had risen from the ground, and was
hanging a few hundred feet above the little plateau. He gave the
signal for the wheels to be lowered, and the propellers to set to
work at half-speed. Then he pulled the lever which moved the
air-planes, and the vessel sped away forwards and upwards at about
sixty miles an hour.

Arnold headed her away from the mountains until he had got an offing
of a couple of miles, and then he swung her round and skirted the
cliffs, rising ever higher and higher, and keeping a sharp look-out
for a depression among the ridges that still towered nearly three
thousand feet above them.

When he had explored some twenty miles of the mountain wall, Arnold
suddenly pointed towards it, and said--

"There is a place that I think will do. Look yonder, between those
two high peaks away to the southward. That ridge is not more than six
thousand feet from the earth, and the _Ariel_ can leap that as easily
as an Irish hunter would take a five-barred gate."

"It looks dreadfully high from here," said Natasha, in spite of
herself turning a shade paler at the idea of taking a six thousand
foot ridge at a flying leap. She had splendid nerves, but this was
her first aërial voyage, and it was also the first time that she had
ever been brought so closely face to face with the awful grandeur of
Nature in her own secret and solitary places.

She would have faced a levelled rifle without flinching, but as she
looked at that frowning mass of rocks towering up into the sky, and
then down into the fearful depths below, where huge trees looked like
tiny shrubs, and vast forests like black patches of heather on the
earth, her heart stood still in her breast when she thought of the
frightful fate that would overwhelm the _Ariel_ and her crew should
she fail to rise high enough to clear the ridge, or if anything went
wrong with her machinery at the critical moment.

"Are you sure you can do it?" she asked almost involuntarily.

"Perfectly sure," replied Arnold quietly, "otherwise I should not
attempt it with you on board. The _Ariel_ contains enough explosives
to reduce her and us to dust and ashes, and if we hit that ridge
going over, she would go off like a dynamite shell. No, I know what
she can do, and you need not have the slightest fear!"

"I am not exactly afraid, but it _looks_ a fearful thing to attempt."

"If there were any danger I should tell you--with my usual lack of
dissimulation. But really there is none, and all you have to do is to
hold tight when I tell you, and keep your eyes open for the first
glimpse of Aeria."

By this time the _Ariel_ was more than ten miles away from the
mountains. Arnold, having now got offing enough, swung her round
again, headed her straight for the ridge between the two peaks, and
signalled "full speed" to the engine-room.

In an instant the propellers redoubled their revolutions, and the
_Ariel_ gathered way until the wind sang and screamed past her masts
and stays. She covered eight miles in less than four minutes, and it
seemed to Natasha as though the rock-wall were rushing towards them
at an appalling speed, still frowning down a thousand feet above
them. For the instant she was all eyes. She could neither open her
lips nor move a limb for sheer, irresistible, physical terror. Then
she heard Arnold say sharply--

"Now, hold on tight!"

The nearest thing to her was his own arm, the hand of which grasped
one of the spokes of the steering wheel. Instinctively she passed her
own arm under it, and then clasped it with both her hands. As she did
so she felt the muscles tighten and harden. Then with his other hand
he pulled the lever back to the full, and inclined the planes to
their utmost.

Suddenly, as though some Titan had overthrown it, the huge black wall
of rock in front seemed to sink down into the earth, the horizon
widened out beyond it, and the _Ariel_ soared upwards and swept over
it nearly a thousand feet to the good.


The exclamation was forced from her white lips by an impulse that
Natasha had no power to resist. All the pride of her nature was
conquered and humbled for the moment by the marvel that she had seen,
and by the something, greater and stranger than all, that she saw in
the man beside her who had worked this miracle with a single touch of
his hand. A moment later she had recovered her self-possession. She
unclasped her hands from his arm, and as the colour came back to her
cheeks she said, as he thought, more sweetly than she had ever spoken
to him before--

"My friend, you have glorious nerves where physical danger is
concerned, and now I freely forgive you for fainting in the
Council-chamber when Martinov was executed. But don't try mine again
like that if you can help it. For the moment I thought that the end
of all things had come. Oh, look! What a paradise! Truly this is a
lovely kingdom that you have brought me to!"

[Illustration: "The _Ariel_ sank down after the leap across the

_See page 123._]

"And one that you and I will yet reign over together," replied Arnold
quietly, as he moved the lever again and allowed the _Ariel_ to sink
smoothly down the other side of the ridge over which she had taken
her tremendous leap.

When she had called it a paradise, Natasha had used almost the only
word that would fitly describe the scene that opened out before them
as the _Ariel_ sank down after her leap across the ridge. The
interior of the mountain mass took the form of an oval valley, as
nearly as they could guess about fifty miles long by perhaps thirty
wide. All round it the mountains seemed to rise unbroken by a single
gap or chasm to between three and four thousand feet above the lowest
part of the valley, and above this again the peaks rose high into the
sky, two of them to the snow-line, which in this latitude was over
15,000 feet above the sea.

Of the two peaks which reached to this altitude, one was at either
end of a line drawn through the greater length of the valley, that is
to say, from north to south. At least ten other peaks all round the
walls of the valley rose to heights varying from eight to twelve
thousand feet.

The centre of the valley was occupied by an irregularly shaped lake,
plentifully dotted with islands about its shores, but quite clear of
them in the middle. In its greatest length it would be about twelve
miles long, while its breadth varied from five miles to a few hundred
yards. Its sloping shores were covered with the most luxuriant
vegetation, which reached upwards almost unbroken, but changing in
character with the altitude, until there was a regular series of
transitions, from the palms and bananas on the shores of the lake, to
the sparse and scanty pines and firs that clung to the upper slopes
of the mountains.

The lake received about a score of streams, many of which began as
waterfalls far up the mountains, while two of them at least had their
origin in the eternal snows of the northern and southern peaks. So
far as they could see from the air-ship, the lake had no outlet, and
they were therefore obliged to conclude that its surplus waters
escaped by some subterranean channel, probably to reappear again as a
river welling from the earth, it might be, hundreds of miles away.

Of inhabitants there were absolutely no traces to be seen, from the
direction in which the _Ariel_ was approaching. Animals and birds
there seemed to be in plenty, but of man no trace was visible, until
in her flight along the valley the _Ariel_ opened up one of the many
smaller valleys formed by the ribs of the encircling mountains.

There, close by a clump of magnificent tree-ferns, and nestling under
a precipitous ridge, covered from base to summit with dark-green
foliage and brilliantly-coloured flowers, was a well-built log-hut
surrounded by an ample verandah, also almost smothered in flowers,
and surmounted by a flagstaff from which fluttered the tattered
remains of a Union-Jack.

In a little clearing to one side of the hut, a man, who might very
well have passed for a modern edition of Robinson Crusoe, so far as
his attire was concerned, was busily skinning an antelope which hung
from a pole suspended from two trees. His back was turned towards
them, and so swift and silent had been their approach that he did not
hear the soft whirring of the propellers until they were within some
three hundred yards of him.

Then, just as he looked round to see whence the sound came, Andrew
Smith, who was standing in the bows near the conning tower, put his
hands to his mouth and roared out a regular sailor's hail--

"Thomas Jackson, ahoy!"

The man straightened himself up, stared open-mouthed for a moment at
the strange apparition, and then, with a yell either of terror or
astonishment, bolted into the house as hard as he could run.

As soon as he was able to speak for laughing at the queer incident,
Arnold sent the fan-wheels aloft and lowered the _Ariel_ to within
about twenty feet of the ground over a level patch of sward, across
which meandered a little stream on its way to the lake. While she was
hanging motionless over this, the man who had fled into the house
reappeared, almost dragging another man, somewhat similarly attired,
after him, and pointing excitedly towards the _Ariel_.

The second comer, if he felt any astonishment at the apparition that
had invaded his solitude, certainly betrayed none. On the contrary,
he walked deliberately from the hut to the bit of sward over which
the _Ariel_ hung motionless, and, seeing two ladies leaning on the
rail that ran round the deck, he doffed his goatskin cap with a
well-bred gesture, and said, in a voice that betrayed not the
slightest symptom of surprise--

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen! Good morning, and welcome to
Aeria! I see that the problem of aërial navigation has been solved; I
always said it would be in the first ten years of the twentieth
century, though I often got laughed at by the wiseacres who know
nothing until they see a thing before their noses. May I ask whether
that little message that I sent to the outside world some years ago
has procured me the pleasure of this visit?"

"Yes, Mr. Holt. Your little balloon was picked up about three years
ago in the Gulf of Guinea, and, after various adventures and much
discussion, has led to our present voyage."

"I am delighted to hear it. I suppose there were plenty of noodles
who put it down to a practical joke or something of that sort? What's
become of Stanley? Why didn't he come out and rescue me, as he did
Emin? Not glory enough, I suppose? It would bother him, too, to get
over these mountains, unless he flew over. By the way, has he got an

"No," replied Arnold, with a laugh. "This is the only one in
existence, and she has not been a week afloat. But if you'll allow
us, we'll come down and get generally acquainted, and after that we
can explain things at our leisure."

"Quite so, quite so; do so by all means. Most happy, I'm sure. Ah!
beautiful model. Comes down as easily as a bird. Capital mechanism.
What's your motive-power? Gas, electricity--no, not steam, no
funnels! Humph! Very ingenious. Always said it would be done some
day. Build flying navies next, and be fighting in the clouds. Then
there'll be general smash. Serve 'em right. Fools to fight. Why can't
they live in peace?"

While Louis Holt was running along in this style, jerking his words
out in little short snappy sentences, and fussing about round the
air-ship, she had sunk gently to the earth, and her passengers had

Arnold for the time being took no notice of the questions with regard
to the motive-power, but introduced first himself, then the ladies,
and then Colston, to Louis Holt, who may be described here, as
elsewhere, as a little, bronzed, grizzled man, anywhere between
fifty-five and seventy, with a lean, wiry, active body, a good square
head, an ugly but kindly face, and keen, twinkling little grey eyes,
that looked straight into those of any one he might be addressing.

The introductions over, he was invited on board the _Ariel_, and a
few minutes later, in the deck-saloon, he was chattering away
thirteen to the dozen, and drinking with unspeakable gusto the first
glass of champagne he had tasted for nearly five years.



Arnold's instructions from the Council had been to remain in Aeria,
and make a thorough exploration of the wonderful region described in
Louis Holt's manuscript, until the time came for him to meet the
_Avondale_, the steamer which was to bring out the materials for
constructing the Terrorists' aërial navy.

Louis Holt and his faithful retainer, during the three years and a
half that they had been shut up in it from the rest of the world, had
made themselves so fully acquainted with its geography that very
little of its surface was represented by blanks on the map which the
former had spent several months in constructing, and so no better or
more willing guides could have been placed at their service than they

Holt was an enthusiastic naturalist, and he descanted at great length
on the strangeness of the flora and fauna that it had been his
privilege to discover and classify in this isolated and hitherto
unvisited region. It appeared that neither its animals nor its plants
were quite like those of the rest of the continent, but seemed rather
to belong to an anterior geological age.

From this fact he had come to the conclusion that at some very remote
period, while the greater portion of Northern Africa was yet
submerged by the waters of that ocean of which what is now the Sahara
was probably the deepest part, Aeria was one of the many islands that
had risen above its surface; and that, as the land rose and the
waters subsided, its peculiar shape had prevented the forms of life
which it contained from migrating or becoming modified in the
struggle for existence with other forms, just as the flora and fauna
of Australia have been shut off from those of the rest of the world.

There were no traces of human inhabitants to be found; but there were
apparently two or three families of anthropoid apes, that seemed, so
far as Holt had been able to judge--for they were extremely shy and
cunning, and therefore difficult of approach--to be several degrees
nearer to man, both in structure and intelligence, than any other
members of the Simian family that had been discovered in other parts
of the world.

As may well be imagined, a month passed rapidly and pleasantly away,
what with exploring excursions by land and air, in the latter of
which by no means the least diverting element was the keen and
quaintly-expressed delight of Louis Holt at the new method of travel.
Two or three times Arnold had, for his satisfaction, sent the _Ariel_
flying over the ridge across which she had entered Aeria, but he had
always been content with a glimpse of the outside world, and was
always glad to get back again to the "happy valley," as he invariably
called his isolated paradise.

The brief sojourn in this delightful land had brought back all the
roses to Natasha's lovely cheeks, and had completely restored both
her and the Princess to the perfect health that they had lost during
their short but terrible experience of Russian convict life; but
towards the end of the month they both began to get restless and
anxious to get away to the rendezvous with the steamer that was
bringing their friends and comrades out from England.

So it came about that an hour or so after sunrise on Friday, the 20th
of May, the company of the _Ariel_ bade farewell for a time to Louis
Holt and his companion, leaving with them a good supply of the
creature comforts of civilisation which alone were lacking in Aeria,
rose into the air, and disappeared over the ridge to the north-west.

They had rather more than 2500 miles of plain and mountain and desert
to cross, before they reached the sea-coast on which they expected to
meet the steamer, and Arnold regulated the speed of the _Ariel_ so
that they would reach it about daybreak on the following morning.

The voyage was quite uneventful, and the course that they pursued led
them westward through the Zegzeb and Nyti countries, then
north-westward along the valley of the Niger, and then westward
across the desert to the desolate sandy shores of the Western Sahara,
which they crossed at sunrise on the Sunday morning, in the latitude
of the island which was to form their rendezvous with the steamer.

They sighted the island about an hour later, but there was no sign of
any vessel for fifty miles round it. The ocean appeared totally
deserted, as, indeed, it usually is, for there is no trade with this
barren and savage coast, and ships going to and from the southward
portions of the continent give its treacherous sandbanks as wide a
berth as possible. This, in fact, was the principal reason why this
rocky islet, some sixty miles from the coast, had been chosen by the
Terrorists for their temporary dockyard.

According to their calculations, the steamer would not be due for
another twenty-four hours at the least, and at that moment would be
about three hundred miles to the northward. The _Ariel_ was therefore
headed in that direction, at a hundred miles an hour, with a view to
meeting her and convoying her for the rest of her voyage, and
obviating such a disaster as Natasha's apprehensions pointed to.

The air-ship was kept at a height of two thousand feet above the
water, and a man was stationed in the forward conning tower to keep a
bright look-out ahead. For more than three hours she sped on her way
without interruption, and then, a few minutes before twelve, the man
in the conning tower signalled to the wheel-house--"Steamer in

The signal was at once transmitted to the saloon, where Arnold was
sitting with the rest of the party; he immediately signalled
"half-speed" in reply to it, and went to the conning tower to see the
steamer for himself.

She was then about twelve miles to the northward. At the speed at
which the _Ariel_ was travelling a very few minutes sufficed to bring
her within view of the ocean voyagers. A red flag flying from the
stern of the air-ship was answered by a similar one from the mainmast
of the steamer. The _Ariel's_ engines were at once slowed down, the
fan-wheels went aloft, and she sank gently down to within twenty feet
of the water, and swung round the steamer's stern.

As soon as they were within hailing distance, those on board the
air-ship recognised Nicholas Roburoff and his wife, Radna Michaelis,
and several other members of the Inner Circle, standing on the bridge
of the steamer. Handkerchiefs were waved, and cries of welcome and
greeting passed and re-passed from the air to the sea, until Arnold
raised his hand for silence, and, hailing Roburoff, said--

"Are you all well on board?"

"Yes, all well," was the reply, "though we have had rather a risky
time of it, for war was generally declared a fortnight ago, and we
have had to run the blockade for a good part of the way. That is why
we are a little before our time. Can you come nearer? We have some
letters for you."

"Yes," replied Arnold. "I'll come alongside. You go ahead, I'll do
the rest."

So saying, he ran the _Ariel_ up close to the quarter of the
_Avondale_ as easily as though she had been lying at anchor instead
of going twenty miles an hour through the water, and went forward and
shook hands with Roburoff over the rail, taking a packet of letters
from him at the same time. Meanwhile Colston, who had grasped the
situation at a glance, had swung himself on to the steamer's deck,
and was already engaged in an animated conversation with Radna.

The first advantage that Arnold took of the leisure that was now at
his disposal, was to read the letter directed to himself that was
among those for Natasha, the Princess, and Colston, which had been
brought out by the _Avondale_. He recognised the writing as
Tremayne's, and when he opened the envelope he found that it
contained a somewhat lengthy letter from him, and an enclosure in an
unfamiliar hand, which consisted of only a few lines, and was signed

He started as his eye fell on the terrible name, which now meant so
much to him, and he naturally read the note to which it was appended
first. There was neither date nor formal address, and it ran as

    You have done well, and fulfilled your promises as a true man
    should. For the personal service that you have rendered to me I
    will not thank you in words, for the time may come when I shall
    be able to do so in deeds. What you have done for the Cause was
    your duty, and for that I know that you desire no thanks. You
    have proved that you hold in your hands such power as no single
    man ever wielded before. Use it well, and in the ages to come men
    shall remember your name with blessings, and you, if the Master
    of Destiny permits, shall attain to your heart's desire.


Arnold laid the little slip of paper down almost reverently, for, few
as the words were, they were those of a man who was not only Natas,
the Master of the Terror, but also the father of the woman whose
love, in spite of his oath, was the object to the attainment of which
he held all things else as secondary, and who therefore had the power
to crown his life-work with the supreme blessing without which it
would be worthless, however glorious, for he knew full well that,
though he might win Natasha's heart, she herself could never be his
unless Natas gave her to him.

The other letter was from Tremayne, dated more than a fortnight
previously, and gave him a brief _résumé_ of the course of events in
Europe since his voyage of exploration had begun. It also urged him
to push on the construction of the aërial navy as fast as possible,
as there was now no telling where or how soon its presence might be
required to determine the issue of the world-war, the first
skirmishes of which had already taken place in Eastern Europe. Natas
and the Chief were both in London, making the final arrangements for
the direction of the various diplomatic and military agents of the
Brotherhood throughout Europe. From London they were to go to
Alanmere, where they would remain until all arrangements were
completed. As soon as the fleet was built and the crews and
commanders of the air-ships had thoroughly learned their duties, the
flagship was to go to Plymouth, where the _Lurline_ would be lying.
The news of her arrival would be telegraphed to Alanmere, and Natas
and Tremayne would at once come south and put to sea in her. The
air-ship was to wait for them at a point two hundred miles due
south-west of the Land's End, and pick them up. The yacht was then to
be sunk, and the Executive of the Terrorists would for the time being
vanish from the sight of men.

It is unnecessary to say that Arnold carried out the plans laid down
in this letter in every detail, and with the utmost possible
expedition. The _Avondale_ arrived the next day at the island which
had been chosen as a dockyard, and the ship-building was at once

All the material for constructing the air-ships had been brought out
completely finished as far as each individual part was concerned, and
so there was nothing to do but to put them together. The crew and
passengers of the steamer included the members of the Executive of
the Inner Circle, and sixty picked members of the Outer Circle,
chiefly mechanics and sailors, destined to be first the builders and
then the crews of the new vessels.

These, under Arnold's direction, worked almost day and night at the
task before them. Three of the air-ships were put together at a time,
twenty men working at each, and within a month from the time that the
_Avondale_ discharged her cargo, the twelve new vessels were ready to
take the air.

They were all built on the same plan as the _Ariel_, and eleven of
them were practically identical with her as regards size and speed;
but the twelfth, the flagship of the aërial fleet, had been designed
by Arnold on a more ambitious scale.

This vessel was larger and much more powerful than any of the others.
She was a hundred feet long, with a beam of fifteen feet amidships.
On her five masts she carried five fan-wheels, capable of raising her
vertically to a height of ten thousand feet without the assistance of
her air-planes, and her three propellers, each worked by duplex
engines, were able to drive her through the air at a speed of two
hundred miles an hour in a calm atmosphere.

She was armed with two pneumatic guns forward and two aft, each
twenty-five feet long and with a range of twelve miles at an altitude
of four thousand feet; and in addition to these she carried two
shorter ones on each broadside, with a range of six miles at the same
elevation. She also carried a sufficient supply of power-cylinders to
give her an effective range of operations of twenty thousand miles
without replenishing them.

In addition to the building materials and the necessary tools and
appliances for putting them together, the cargo of the _Avondale_ had
included an ample supply of stores of all kinds, not the least
important part of which consisted of a quantity of power-cylinders
sufficient to provide the whole fleet three times over.

The necessary chemicals and apparatus for charging them were also on
board, and the last use that Arnold made of the engines of the
steamer, which he had disconnected from the propeller and turned to
all kinds of uses during the building operations, was to connect them
with his storage pumps and charge every available cylinder to its
utmost capacity.

At length, when everything that could be carried in the air-ships had
been taken out of the steamer, she was towed out into deep water, and
then a shot from one of the flagship's broadside guns sent her to the
bottom of the sea, so severing the last link which had connected the
now isolated band of revolutionists with the world on which they were
ere long to declare war.

The naming of the fleet was by common consent left to Natasha, and
her half-oriental genius naturally led her to appropriately name the
air-ships after the winged angels and air-spirits of Moslem and other
Eastern mythologies. The flagship she named the _Ithuriel_, after the
angel who was sent to seek out and confound the Powers of Darkness in
that terrific conflict between the upper and nether worlds, which was
a fitting antetype to the colossal struggle which was now to be waged
for the empire of the earth.

Arnold's first task, as soon as the fleet finally took the air, was
to put the captains and crews of the vessels through a thorough
drilling in management and evolution. A regular code of signals had
been arranged, by means of which orders as to formation, speed,
altitude, and direction could be at once transmitted from the
flagship. During the day flags were used, and at night flashes from
electric reflectors.

The scene of these evolutions was practically the course taken by the
_Ariel_ from Aeria to the island; and as the captains and lieutenants
of the different vessels were all men of high intelligence, and
carefully selected for the work, and as the mechanism of the
air-ships was extremely simple, the whole fleet was well in hand by
the time the mountain mass of Aeria was sighted a week after leaving
the island.

Arnold in the _Ithuriel_ led the way to a narrow defile on the
south-western side, which had been discovered during his first visit,
and which admitted of entrance to the valley at an elevation of about
3000 feet. Through this the fleet passed in single file soon after
sunrise one lovely morning in the middle of June, and within an hour
the thirteen vessels had come to rest on the shores of the lake.

Then for the first time, probably, since the beginning of the world,
the beautiful valley became the scene of a busy activity, in the
midst of which the lean wiry figure of Louis Holt seemed to be here,
there, and everywhere at once, doing the honours of Aeria as though
it were a private estate to which the Terrorists had come by his
special invitation.

He was more than ever delighted with the air-ships, and especially
with the splendid proportions of the _Ithuriel_, and the brilliant
lustre of her polished hull, which had been left unpainted, and shone
as though her plates had been of burnished silver. Altogether he was
well pleased with this invasion of a solitude which, in spite of its
great beauty and his professed contempt for the world in general, had
for the last few months been getting a good deal more tedious than he
would have cared to admit.

In the absence of Natas and the Chief, the command of the new colony
devolved, in accordance with the latter's directions, upon Nicholas
Roburoff, who was a man of great administrative powers, and who set
to work without an hour's delay to set his new kingdom in order,
marking out sites for houses and gardens, and preparing materials for
building them and the factories for which the water-power of the
valley was to be utilised.

Arnold, as admiral of the fleet, had transferred the command of the
_Ariel_ to Colston, but he retained him as his lieutenant in the
_Ithuriel_ for the next voyage, partly because he wanted to have him
with him on what might prove to be a momentous expedition, and partly
because Natasha, who was naturally anxious to rejoin her father as
soon as possible, wished to have Radna for a companion in place of
the Princess, who had elected to remain in the valley. As another
separation of the lovers, who, according to the laws of the
Brotherhood, now only waited for the formal consent of Natas to their
marriage, was not to be thought of, this arrangement gave everybody
the most perfect satisfaction.

Three days sufficed to get everything into working order in the new
colony, and on the morning of the fourth the _Ithuriel_, having on
board the original crew of the _Ariel_, reinforced by two engineers
and a couple of sailors, rose into the air amidst the cheers of the
assembled colonists, crossed the northern ridge, and vanished like a
silver arrow into space.



It will now be necessary to go back about six weeks from the day that
the _Ithuriel_ started on her northward voyage, and to lay before the
reader a brief outline of the events which had transpired in Europe
subsequently to the date of Tremayne's letter to Arnold.

On the evening of that day he went down to the House of Lords, to
make his speech in favour of the Italian Loan. He had previously
spoken some half dozen times since he had taken his seat, and, young
as he was, had always commanded a respectful hearing by his sound
common sense and his intimate knowledge of foreign policy, but none
of his brother peers had been prepared for the magnificent speech
that he had made on this momentous night.

He had never given his allegiance to any of the political parties of
the day, but he was one of the foremost advocates of what was then
known as the Imperial policy, and which had grown up out of what is
known in the present day as Imperial Federation. To this he
subordinated everything else, and held as his highest, and indeed
almost his only political ideal, the consolidation of Britain and her
colonies into an empire commercially and politically intact and apart
from the rest of the world, self-governing in all its parts as
regards local affairs, but governed as a whole by a representative
Imperial Parliament, sitting in London, and composed of delegates
from all portions of the empire.

This ideal--which, it is scarcely necessary to say, was still
considered as "beyond the range of practical politics"--formed the
keynote of such a speech as had never before been heard in the
British House of Lords. He commenced by giving a rapid but minute
survey of foreign policy, which astounded the most experienced of his
hearers. Not only was it absolutely accurate as far as they could
follow it, but it displayed an intimate knowledge of involutions of
policy at which British diplomacy had only guessed.

More than this, members of the Government and the Privy Council saw,
to their amazement, that the speaker knew the inmost secrets of their
own policy even better than they did themselves. How he had become
possessed of them was a mystery, and all that they could do was to
sit and listen in silent wonder.

He drew a graphic word-picture of the nations of the earth standing
full-armed on the threshold of such a war as the world had never seen
before,--a veritable Armageddon, which would shake the fabric of
society to its foundations, even if it did not dissolve it finally in
the blood of countless battlefields.

He estimated with marvellous accuracy the exact amount of force which
each combatant would be able to put on to the field, and summed up
the appalling mass of potential destruction that was ready to burst
upon the world at a moment's notice. He showed the position of Italy,
and proved to demonstration that if the loan were not immediately
granted, it would be necessary either for Britain to seize her fleet,
as she did that of Denmark a century before--an act which the
Italians would themselves resist at all hazards--or else to finance
her through the war, as she had financed Germany during the
Napoleonic struggle.

To grant the loan would be to save the Italian fleet and army for the
Triple Alliance; to refuse it would be to detach Italy from the
Alliance, and to drive her into the arms of their foes, for not only
could she not stand alone amidst the shock of the contending Powers,
but without an immediate supply of ready money she would not be able
to keep the sea for a month.

Thus, he said in conclusion, the fate of Europe, and perhaps of the
world, lay for the time being in their Lordships' hands. The Double
Alliance was already numerically stronger than the Triple, and,
moreover, they had at their command a new means of destruction, for
the dreadful effectiveness of which he could vouch from personal

The trials of the Russian war-balloons had been secret, it was true,
but he had nevertheless witnessed them, no matter how, and he knew
what they could accomplish. It was true that there were in existence
even more formidable engines than these, but they belonged to no
nation, and were in the hands of those whose hands were against every
man's, and whose designs were still wrapped in the deepest mystery.

He therefore besought his hearers not to trust too implicitly to that
hitherto unconquerable valour and resource which had so far rendered
Britain impregnable to her enemies. These were not the days of
personal valour. They were the days of warfare by machinery, of
wholesale destruction by means which men had never before been called
upon to face, and which annihilated from a distance before mere
valour had time to strike its blow.

If ever the Fates were on the side of the biggest battalions, they
were now, and, so far as human foresight could predict the issue of
the colossal struggle, the greatest and the most perfectly equipped
armaments would infallibly insure the ultimate victory, quite apart
from considerations of personal heroism and devotion.

No such speech had been heard in either House since Edmund Burke had
fulminated against the miserable policy which severed America from
Britain, and split the Anglo-Saxon race in two; but now, as then,
personal feeling and class prejudice proved too strong for eloquence
and logic.

Italy was the most intensely Radical State in Europe, and she was
bankrupt to boot; and, added to this, there was a very strong party
in the Upper House which believed that Britain needed no such ally,
that with Germany and Austria at her side she could fight the world,
in spite of the Tsar's new-fangled balloons, which would probably
prove failures in actual war as similar inventions had done before,
and even if her allies succumbed, had she not stood alone before, and
could she not do it again if necessary?

She would fulfil her engagement with the Triple Alliance, and declare
war the moment that one of the Powers was attacked, but she would not
pour British gold in millions into the bottomless gulf of Italian

Such were the main points in the speech of the Duke of Argyle, who
followed Lord Alanmere, and spoke just before the division. When the
figures were announced, it was found that the Loan Guarantee Bill had
been negatived by a majority of seven votes.

The excitement in London that night was tremendous. The two Houses of
Parliament had come into direct collision on a question which the
Premier had plainly stated to be of vital importance, and a deadlock
seemed inevitable. The evening papers brought out special editions
giving Tremayne's speech _verbatim_, and the next morning the whole
press of the country was talking of nothing else.

The "leading journals," according to their party bias, discussed it
pro and con, and rent each other in a furious war of words, the
prelude to the sterner struggle that was to come.

Unhappily the parties in Parliament were very evenly balanced, and a
very strong section of the Radical Opposition was, as it always had
been, bitterly opposed to the arrangement with the Triple Alliance,
which every one suspected and no one admitted until Tremayne
astounded the Lords by reciting its conditions in the course of his

It was the avowed object of this section of the Opposition to stand
out of the war at any price till the last minute, and not to fight at
all if it could possibly be avoided. The immediate consequence was
that, when the Government on the following day asked for an urgency
vote of ten millions for the mobilisation of the Volunteers and the
Naval Reserve, the Opposition, led by Mr. John Morley, mustered to
its last man, and defeated the motion by a majority of eleven.

The next day a Cabinet Council was held, and in the afternoon Mr.
Balfour rose in a densely-crowded House, and, after a dignified
allusion to the adverse vote of the previous day, told the House that
in view of the grave crisis which was now inevitable in European
affairs, a crisis in which the fate, not only of Britain, but of the
whole Western world, would probably be involved, the Ministry felt it
impossible to remain in office without the hearty and unequivocal
support of both Houses--a support which the two adverse votes in
Lords and Commons had made it hopeless to look for as those Houses
were at present constituted.

He had therefore to inform the House that, after consultation with
his colleagues, he had decided to place the resignations of the
Ministry in the hands of his Majesty,[1] and appeal to the country on
the plain issue of Intervention or Non-intervention. Under the
circumstances, there was nothing else to be done. The deplorable
crisis which immediately followed was the logical consequence of the
inherently vicious system of party government.

While the fate of the world was practically trembling in the balance,
Europe, armed to the teeth in readiness for the Titanic struggle that
a few weeks would now see shaking the world, was amused by the
spectacle of what was really the most powerful nation on earth losing
its head amidst the excitement of a general election, and frittering
away on the petty issues of party strife the energies that should
have been devoted with single-hearted unanimity to preparation for
the conflict whose issue would involve its very existence.

For a month the nations held their hand, why, no one exactly knew,
except, perhaps, two men who were now in daily consultation in a
country house in Yorkshire. It may have been that the final
preparations were not yet complete, or that the combatants were
taking a brief breathing-space before entering the arena, or that
Europe was waiting to see the decision of Britain at the
ballot-boxes, or possibly the French fleet of war-balloons was not
quite ready to take the air,--any of these reasons might have been
sufficient to explain the strange calm before the storm; but
meanwhile the British nation was busy listening to the conflicting
eloquence of partisan orators from a thousand platforms throughout
the land, and trying to make up its mind whether it should return a
Conservative or a Radical Ministry to power.

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

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.

[Footnote 1: At the period in which the action of the narrative takes
place, her Majesty Queen Victoria had abdicated in favour of the
present Prince of Wales, and was living in comparative retirement at
Balmoral, retaining Osborne as an alternative residence.]



Six weeks after he had made his speech in the House of Lords,
Tremayne was sitting in his oak-panelled library at Alanmere, in deep
and earnest converse with a man who was sitting in an invalid chair
by a window looking out upon the lawn. The face of this man exhibited
a contrast so striking and at the same time terrible, that the most
careless glance cast upon it would have revealed the fact that it was
the face of a man of extraordinary character, and that the story of
some strange fate was indelibly stamped upon it.

The upper part of it, as far down as the mouth, was cast in a mould
of the highest and most intellectual manly beauty. The forehead was
high and broad and smooth, the eyebrows dark and firm but finely
arched, the nose somewhat prominently aquiline, but well shaped, and
with delicate, sensitive nostrils. The eyes were deep-set, large and
soft, and dark as the sky of a moonless night, yet shining in the
firelight with a strange magnetic glint that seemed to fasten
Tremayne's gaze and hold it at will.

But the lower portion of the face was as repulsive as the upper part
was attractive. The mouth was the mouth of a wild beast, and the lips
and cheeks and chin were seared and seamed as though with fire, and
what looked like the remains of a moustache and beard stood in black
ragged patches about the heavy unsightly jaws.

When the thick, shapeless lips parted, they did so in a hideous grin,
which made visible long, sharp white teeth, more like those of a wolf
than those of a human being.

His body, too, exhibited no less strange a contrast than his face
did. To the hips it was that of a man of well-knit, muscular frame,
not massive, but strong and well-proportioned. The arms were long and
muscular, and the hands white and small, but firm, well-shaped, and

But from his hips downwards, this strange being was a dwarf and a
cripple. His hips were narrow and shrunken, one of his legs was some
inches shorter than the other, and both were twisted and distorted,
and hung helplessly down from the chair as he sat.

Such was Natas, the Master of the Terror, and the man whose wrongs,
whatever they might have been, had caused him to devote his life to a
work of colossal vengeance, and his incomparable powers to the
overthrow of a whole civilisation.

The tremendous task to which he had addressed himself with all the
force of his mighty nature for twenty years, was now at length
approaching completion. The mine that he had so patiently laid, year
after year, beneath the foundations of Society, was complete in every
detail, the first spark had been applied, and the first rumbling of
the explosion was already sounding in the ears of men, though they
little knew how much it imported. The work of the master-intellect
was almost done. The long days and nights of plotting and planning
were over, and the hour for action had arrived at last.

For him there was little more to do, and the time was very near when
he could retire from the strife, and watch in peace and confidence
the reaping of the harvest of ruin and desolation that his hands had
sown. Henceforth, the central figure in the world-revolution must be
the young English engineer, whose genius had brought him forth out of
his obscurity to take command of the subjugated powers of the air,
and to arbitrate the destinies of the world.

This was why he was sitting here, in the long twilight of the June
evening, talking so earnestly with the man who, under the spell of
his mysterious power and master-will, had been his second self in
completing the work that he had designed, and had thought and spoken
and acted as he had inspired him against all the traditions of his
race and station, in that strange double life that he had lived, in
each portion of which he had been unconscious of all that he had been
and had done in the other. The time had now come to draw aside the
veil which had so far divided these two lives from each other, to
show him each as it was in very truth, and to leave him free to
deliberately choose between them.

Natas had been speaking without any interruption from Tremayne for
nearly an hour, drawing the parallel of the two lives before him with
absolute fidelity, neither omitting nor justifying anything, and his
wondering hearer had listened to him in silence, unable to speak for
the crowding emotions which were swarming through his brain. At
length Natas concluded by saying--

"And now, Alan Tremayne, I have shown you faithfully the two paths
which you have trodden since first I had need of you. So far you have
been as clay in the hands of the potter. Now the spell is removed,
and you are free to choose which of them you will follow to the
end,--that of the English gentleman of fortune and high position,
whose country is on the brink of a war that will tax her vast
resources to the utmost, and may end in her ruin; or that of the
visible and controlling head of the only organisation which can at
the supreme moment be the arbiter of peace or war, order or anarchy,
and which alone, if any earthly power can, will evolve order out of
chaos, and bring peace on earth at last."

As Natas ceased, Tremayne passed his hand slowly over his eyes and
brows, as though to clear away the mists which obscured his mental
vision. Then he rose from his chair, and paced the floor with quick,
uneven strides for several minutes. At length he replied, speaking as
one might who was just waking from some evil dream--

"You have made a conspirator and a murderer of me. How is it possible
that, knowing this, I can again become what I was before your
infernal influence was cast about me?"

"What you have done at my command is nothing to you, and leaves no
stain upon your honour, if you choose to put it so, for it was not
your will that was working within you, but mine. As for the killing
of Dornovitch, it was necessary, and you were the only instrument by
which it could have been accomplished before irretrievable harm had
been done.

"He alone of the outside world possessed the secret of the Terror. A
woman of the Outer Circle in Paris had allowed her love for him to
overcome her duty to the Brotherhood, and had betrayed what she
could, in order, as she vainly thought, to shield him from its
vengeance for the executive murders of the year before. He too had on
him the draft of the secret treaty, the possession of which has
enabled us to control the drift of European politics at the most
crucial time.

"Had he escaped, not only would hundreds of lives have been
sacrificed on suspicion to Russian official vengeance, but Russia and
France would now be masters of the British line of communication to
the East, for it would not have been possible for Mr. Balfour to have
been forewarned, and therefore forearmed, in time to double the
Mediterranean Squadron as he has done. Surely one Russian's life is
not too great a price to pay for all that."

"I do not care for the man's life, for he was an enemy, and even then
plotting the ruin of my own country in the dark. It is not the
killing, but the manner of it. England does not fight her battles
with the assassin's knife, and his blood is on my hands"--

"On your hands, perhaps, but not on your soul. It is on mine, and I
will answer for it when we stand face to face at the Bar where all
secrets are laid bare. The man deserved death, for he was plotting
the death of thousands. What matter then how or by whose hands he

"It is time the world had done with these miserable sophistries, and
these spurious distinctions between murder by wholesale and by
retail, and it soon will have done with them. I, by your hand, killed
Dornovitch in his sleep. That was murder, says the legal casuist. You
read this morning in the _Times_ how one of the Russian war-balloons
went the night before last and hung in the darkness over a sleeping
town on the Austrian frontier, and dropped dynamite shells upon it,
killing and maiming hundreds who had no personal quarrel with Russia.
That is war, and therefore lawful!

"Nonsense, my friend, nonsense! There is no difference. All violence
is crime, if you will, but it is a question of degree only. The world
is mad on this subject of war. It considers the horrible thing
honourable, and gives its highest distinctions to those who shed
blood most skilfully on the battlefield, and the triumphs that are
won by superior force or cunning are called glorious, and those who
achieve them the nations fall down and worship.

"The nations must be taught wisdom, for war has had victims enough.
But men are still foolish, and to cure them a terrible lesson will be
necessary. But that lesson shall be taught, even though the whole
earth be turned into a battlefield, and all the dwellings of men into
charnel-houses, in order to teach it to them."

"In other words, Society is to be dissolved in order that anarchy and
lawlessness may take its place. Society may not be perfect,--nay, I
will grant that its sins are many and grievous, that it has forgotten
its duty both to God and man in its worship of Mammon and its slavery
to externals,--but you who have plotted its destruction, have you
anything better to put in its place? You can destroy, perhaps, but
can you build up?"

"The jungle must be cleared and the swamp drained before the
habitations of men can be built in their place. It has been mine to
destroy, and I will pursue the work of destruction to the end, as I
have sworn to do by that Name which a Jew holds too sacred for
speech. I believe myself to be the instrument of vengeance upon this
generation, even as Joshua was upon Canaan, and as Khalid the Sword
of God was upon Byzantium in the days of her corruption. You may hold
this for an old man's fancy if you will, but it shall surely come to
pass in the fulness of time, which is now at hand; and then, where I
have destroyed, may you, if you will, build up again!"

"What do you mean? You are speaking in parables."

"Which shall soon be made plain. You read in your newspaper this
morning of a mysterious movement that is taking place throughout the
Buddhist peoples of the East. They believe that Buddha has returned
to earth, reincarnated, to lead them to the conquest of the world.
Now, as you know, every fourth man, woman, and child in the whole
human race is a Buddhist, and the meaning of this movement is that
that mighty mass of humanity, pent up and stagnant for centuries, is
about to burst its bounds and overflow the earth in a flood of
desolation and destruction.

"The nations of the West know nothing of this, and are unsheathing
the sword to destroy each other. Like a house divided against itself,
their power shall be brought to confusion, and their empire be made
as a wilderness. And over the starving and war-smitten lands of
Europe these Eastern swarms shall sweep, innumerable as the locusts,
resistless as the pestilence, and what fire and sword have spared
they shall devour, and nothing shall be left of all the glory of
Christendom but its name and the memory of its fall!"

Natas spoke his frightful prophecy like one entranced, and when he
had finished he let his head fall forward for a moment on his breast,
as though he were exhausted. Then he raised it again, and went on in
a calmer voice--

"There is but one power under heaven that can stand between the
Western world and this destruction, and that is the race to which you
belong. It is the conquering race of earth, and the choicest fruit of
all the ages until now. It is nearly two hundred million strong, and
it is united by the ties of kindred blood and speech the wide world

"But it is also divided by petty jealousies, and mean commercial
interests. But for these the world might be an Anglo-Saxon planet.
Would it not be a glorious task for you, who are the flower of this
splendid race, so to unite it that it should stand as a solid barrier
of invincible manhood before which this impending flood of yellow
barbarism should dash itself to pieces like the cloud-waves against
the granite summits of the eternal hills?"

"A glorious task, truly!" exclaimed Tremayne, once more springing
from his chair and beginning to pace the room again; "but the man is
not yet born who could accomplish it."

"There are fifty men on earth at this moment who can accomplish it,
and of them the two chief are Englishmen,--yourself and this Richard
Arnold, whose genius has given the Terrorists the command of the air.

"Come, Alan Tremayne! here is a destiny such as no man ever had
before revealed to him. It is not for a man of your nation and
lineage to shrink from it. You have reproached me for using you to
unworthy ends, as you thought them, and with pulling down where I am
not able to build up again. Obey me still, this time of your own free
will and with your eyes open, and, as I have pulled down by your
hand, so by it will I build up again, if the Master of Destiny shall
permit me; and if not, then shall you achieve the task without me.
Now give me your ears, for the words that I have to say are weighty

"No human power can stop the war that has now begun, nor can any
curtail it until it has run its appointed course. But we have at our
command a power which, if skilfully applied at the right moment, will
turn the tide of conflict in favour of Britain, and if at that moment
the Mother of Nations can gather her children about her in obedience
to the call of common kindred, all shall be well, and the world shall
be hers.

"But before that is made possible she must pass through the fire, and
be purged of that corruption which is even now poisoning her blood
and clouding her eyes in the presence of her enemies. The overweening
lust of gold must be burnt out of her soul in the fiery crucible of
war, and she must learn to hold honour once more higher than wealth,
and rich and poor and gentle and simple must be as one family, and
not as master and servant.

"East and west, north and south, wherever the English tongue is
spoken, men must clasp hands and forget all other things save that
they are brothers of blood and speech, and that the world is theirs
if they choose to take it. This is a work that cannot be done by any
nation, but only by a whole race, which with millions of hands and a
single heart devotes itself to achieve success or perish."

"Brave words, brave words!" cried Tremayne, pausing in his walk in
front of the chair in which Natas sat; "and if you could make me
believe them true, I would follow you blindly to the end, no matter
what the path might be. But I cannot believe them. I cannot think
that you or I and a few followers, even aided by Arnold and his
aërial fleet, could accomplish such a stupendous task as that. It is
too great. It is superhuman! And yet it would be glorious even to
fail worthily in such a task, even to fall fighting in such a Titanic

He paused, and stood silent and irresolute, as though appalled by the
prospect with which he was confronted here at the parting of the
ways. He glanced at the extraordinary being sitting near him, and saw
his deep, dark eyes fixed upon him, as though they were reading his
very soul within him. Then he took a step towards the cripple's
chair, took his right hand in his, and said slowly and steadily and

"It is a worthy destiny! I will essay it for good or evil, for life
or death. I am with you to the end!"

As Tremayne spoke the fatal words which once more bound him, and this
time for life and of his own free will, to Natas the Jew, this
cripple who, chained to his chair, yet aspired to the throne of a
world, he fancied he saw his shapeless lips move in a smile, and into
his eyes there came a proud look of mingled joy and triumph as he
returned the handclasp, and said in a softer, kinder voice than
Tremayne had ever heard him use before--

"Well spoken! Those words were worthy of you and of your race! As
your faith is, so shall your reward be. Now wheel my chair to yonder
window that looks out towards the east, and you shall look past the
shadows into the day which is beyond. So! that will do. Now get
another chair and sit beside me. Fix your eyes on that bright star
that shows above the trees, and do not speak, but think only of that
star and its brightness."

Tremayne did as he was bidden in silence, and when he was seated
Natas swept his hands gently downwards over his open eyes again and
again, till the lids grew heavy and fell, shutting out the brightness
of the star, and the dim beauty of the landscape which lay sleeping
in the twilight and the June night.

Then suddenly it seemed as though they opened again of their own
accord, and were endowed with an infinite power of vision. The trees
and lawns of the home park of Alanmere and the dark rolling hills of
heather beyond were gone, and in their place lay stretched out a
continent which he saw as though from some enormous height, with its
plains and lowlands and rivers, vast steppes and snowclad hills,
forests and tablelands, huge mountain masses rearing lonely peaks of
everlasting ice to a sunlight that had no heat; and then beyond these
again more plains and forests, that stretched away southward until
they merged in the all-surrounding sea.

[Illustration: "You have seen the Field of Armageddon."

_See page 149._]

Then he seemed to be carried forward towards the scene until he could
distinguish the smallest objects upon the earth, and he saw, swarming
southward and westward, vast hordes of men, that divided into long
streams, and poured through mountain passes and defiles, and spread
themselves again over fertile lands, like locusts over green fields
of young corn. And wherever those hordes swept forward, a long line
of fire and smoke went in front of them, and where they had passed
the earth was a blackened wilderness.

Then, too, from the coasts and islands vast fleets of war-ships put
out, pouring their clouds of smoke to the sky, and making swiftly for
the southward and westward, where from other coasts and islands other
vessels put out to meet them, and, meeting them, were lost with them
under great clouds of grey smoke, through which flashed incessantly
long livid tongues of flame.

Then, like a panorama rolled away from him, the mighty picture
receded and new lands came into view, familiar lands which he had
traversed often. They too were black and wasted with the tempest of
war from east to west, but nevertheless those swarming streams came
on, countless and undiminished, up out of the south and east, while
on the western verge vast armies and fleets battled desperately with
each other on sea and land, as though they heeded not those locust
swarms of dusky millions coming ever nearer and nearer.

Once more the scene rolled backwards, and he saw a mighty city
closely beleaguered by two vast hosts of men, who slowly pushed their
batteries forward until they planted them on all the surrounding
heights, and poured a hail of shot and shell upon the swarming,
helpless millions that were crowded within the impassable ring of
fire and smoke. Above the devoted city swam in mid-air strange shapes
like monstrous birds of prey, and beneath where they floated the
earth seemed ever and anon to open and belch forth smoke and flame
into which the crumbling houses fell and burnt in heaps of shapeless
ruins. Then----

He felt a cool hand laid almost caressingly on his brow, and the
voice of Natas said beside him--

"That is enough. You have seen the Field of Armageddon, and when the
day of battle comes you shall be there and play the part allotted to
you from the beginning. Do you believe?"

"Yes," replied Tremayne, rising wearily from his chair, "I believe;
and as the task is, so may Heaven make my strength in the stress of

"Amen!" said Natas very solemnly.

That night the young Lord of Alanmere went sleepless to bed, and lay
awake till dawn, revolving over and over again in his mind the
marvellous things that he had seen and heard, and the tremendous task
to which he had now irrevocably committed himself for good or evil.
In all these waking dreams there was ever present before his mental
vision the face of a woman whose beauty was like and yet unlike that
of the daughter of Natas. It lacked the brilliance and subtle charm
which in Natasha so wondrously blended the dusky beauty of the
daughters of the South with the fairer loveliness of the daughters of
the North; but it atoned for this by that softer grace and sweetness
which is the highest charm of purely English beauty.

It was the face of the woman whom, in that portion of his strange
double life which had been free from the mysterious influence of
Natas, he had loved with well-assured hope that she would one day
rule his house and broad domains with him. She was now Lady Muriel
Penarth, the daughter of Lord Marazion, a Cornish nobleman, whose
estates abutted on those which belonged to Lord Alanmere as Baron
Tremayne, of Tremayne, in the county of Cornwall, as the _Peerage_
had it. Noble alike by lineage and nature, no fairer mistress could
have been found for the lands of Tremayne and Alanmere, but--what
seas of blood and flame now lay between him and the realisation of
his love-ideal!

He must forsake his own, and become a revolutionary and an outcast
from Society. He must draw the sword upon the world and his own race,
and, armed with the most awful means of destruction that the wit of
man had ever devised, he must fight his way through universal war to
that peace which alone he could ask her to share with him. Still much
could be done before he took the final step of severance which might
be perpetual, and he would lose no time in doing it.

As soon as it was fairly light, he rose and took a long, rapid walk
over the home park, and when he returned to breakfast at nine he had
resolved to execute forthwith a deed of gift, transferring the whole
of his vast property, which was unentailed and therefore entirely at
his own disposal, to the woman who was to have shared it with him in
a few months as his wife. If the Fates were kind, he would come back
from the world-war and reclaim both the lands and their mistress, and
if not he would have the satisfaction of knowing that his broad acres
at least had a worthy mistress.

At breakfast he met Natas again, and during the meal one of his
footmen entered, bringing the letters that had come by the morning

There were several letters for each of them, those for Natas being
addressed to "Herr F. Niemand," and for some time they were both
employed in looking through their correspondence. Suddenly Natas
looked up, and said--

"When do you expect to hear that Arnold is off the south coast?"

"Almost any day now; in fact, within the week, if everything has gone
right. Here is a letter from Johnston to say that the _Lurline_ has
arrived at Plymouth, and that a bright look-out is being kept for
him. He will telegraph here and to the club in London as soon as the
air-ship is sighted. Twenty-four hours will then see us on board the
_Ariel_, or whichever of the ships he comes in."

"I hope the news will come soon, for Michael Roburoff, the
President's brother, who has been in command of the American Section,
cables to say that he sails from New York the day after to-morrow
with detailed accounts. That means that he will come with full
reports of what the Section has done and will be ready to do when the
time comes, and also what the enemy are doing.

"He sails in the _Aurania_, and as the Atlantic routes are swarming
with war-ships and torpedo-boats, she will probably have to run the
gauntlet, and it is of the last importance that Michael and his
reports reach us safely. It will therefore be necessary for the
air-ship to meet the _Aurania_ as soon as possible on her passage,
and take him off her before any harm happens to him. If he and his
reports fell into the hands of the enemy, there is no telling what
might happen."

"As nearly as I can calculate," said Tremayne, "the air-ship should
be sighted in three days from now, perhaps in two. It will take the
_Aurania_ over four days to cross the Atlantic, and so we ought to be
able to meet her somewhere in mid-ocean if she is able to get so far
without being overhauled. Unfortunately she is known to be a British
ship and subsidised by the British Government, so there will be very
little chance of her getting through under the American flag. Still
she's about the fastest steamer afloat, and will take a lot of

"And if the worst comes and she falls into the hands of the enemy, we
must fight our first naval battle and retake her, even if we have to
sink a few cruisers to do so," added Natas; "for, come what may,
Michael must not be captured."

"Arnold will almost certainly come in his flagship, and if she is
what he promised, she should be more than a match for a whole fleet,
so I don't think there is much to fear unless the _Aurania_ gets sunk
before we reach her," said Tremayne.

Natas and his host devoted the rest of the forenoon to their
correspondence, and to making the final arrangements for leaving
Alanmere. Tremayne wrote full instructions to his lawyers for the
drawing up of the deed, and directed them to have it ready for his
signature by two o'clock on the following day. After lunch he rode
over to Knaresborough himself with the post-bag, telegraphed an
abstract of his instructions in advance, and ordered his private
saloon carriage to be attached to the up express which passed through
at eight the next morning.



As the train drew up in King's Cross station at twelve the next day,
almost the first words that Tremayne heard were--

"Special _Pall Mall_, sir! Appearance of the mysterious air-ship over
Plymouth this morning! Great battle in Austria yesterday, defeat of
the Austrians--awful slaughter with war-balloons! Special!"

The boy was selling the papers as fast as he could hand them out to
the eager passengers. Tremayne secured one, shut the door of the
saloon again, and, turning to the middle page, read aloud to Natas--

"We have just received a telegram from our Plymouth correspondent, to
say that soon after daybreak this morning torpedo-boat No. 157
steamed into the Sound, bringing the news that she had sighted a
large five-masted air-ship about ten miles from the coast, when in
company with the cruiser _Ariadne_, whose commander had despatched
her with the news. Hardly had the report been received when the
air-ship herself passed over Mount Edgcumbe and came towards the

"The news spread like wildfire, and in a few minutes the streets were
filled with crowds of people, who had thrown on a few clothes and
rushed out to get a look at the strange visitant. At first it was
thought that an attack on the arsenal was intended by the mysterious
vessel, and the excitement had risen almost to the pitch of panic,
when it was observed that she was flying a plain white flag, and that
her intentions were apparently peaceful.

"Panic then gave place to curiosity. The air-ship crossed the town at
an elevation of about 3000 feet, described a complete circle round it
in the space of a few minutes, and then suddenly shot up into the air
and vanished to the south-westward at an inconceivable speed. The
vessel is described as being about a hundred feet long, and was
apparently armed with eight guns. Her hull was of white polished
metal, probably aluminium, and shone like silver in the sunlight.

"The wildest rumours are current as to the object of her visit, but
of course no credence can be attached to any of them. The vessel is
plainly of the same type as that which destroyed Kronstadt two months
ago, but larger and more powerful. The inference is that she is one
of a fleet in the hands of the Terrorists, and the profoundest
uncertainty and anxiety prevail throughout naval and military circles
everywhere as to the use that they may make of these appalling means
of destruction should they take any share in the war."

"Humph!" said Tremayne, as he finished reading. "Johnston's telegram
must have crossed us on the way, but I shall find one at the club.
Well, we have no time to lose, for we ought to start for Plymouth
this evening. Your men will take you straight to the Great Western
Hotel, and I will hurry my business through as fast as possible, and
meet you there in time to catch the 6.30. At this rate we shall meet
the _Aurania_ soon after she leaves New York."

Within the next six hours Tremayne transferred the whole of his vast
property in a single instrument to his promised wife, thus making her
the richest woman in England; handed the precious deeds to her
astonished father; obtained his promise to take his wife and daughter
to Alanmere at the end of the London season, and to remain there with
her until he returned to reclaim her and his estates together; and
said good-bye to Lady Muriel herself in an interview which was a good
deal longer than that which he had with his bewildered and somewhat
scandalised lawyers, who had never before been forced to rush any
transaction through at such an indecent speed. Had Lord Alanmere not
been the best client in the kingdom, they might have rebelled against
such an outrage on the law's time-honoured delays; but he was not a
man to be trifled with, and so the work was done and an unbeatable
record in legal despatch accomplished, albeit very unwillingly, by
the men of law.

By midnight the _Lurline_, ostensibly bound for Queenstown, had
cleared the Sound, and, with the Eddystone Light on her port bow,
headed away at full-speed to the westward. She was about the fastest
yacht afloat, and at a pinch could be driven a good twenty-seven
miles an hour through the water. As both Natas and Tremayne were
anxious to join the air-ship as soon as possible, every ounce of
steam that her boilers would stand was put on, and she slipped along
in splendid style through the long, dark seas that came rolling
smoothly up Channel from the westward.

In an hour and a half after passing the Eddystone she sighted the
Lizard Light, and by the time she had brought it well abeam the first
interruption of her voyage occurred. A huge, dark mass loomed
suddenly up out of the darkness of the moonless night, then a
blinding, dazzling ray of light shot across the water from the
searchlight of a battleship that was patrolling the coast, attended
by a couple of cruisers and four torpedo-boats. One of these last
came flying towards the yacht down the white path of the beam of
light, and Tremayne, seeing that he would have to give an account of
himself, stopped his engines and waited for the torpedo-boat to come
within hail.

"Steamer ahoy! Who are you? and where are you going to at that

"This is the _Lurline_, the Earl of Alanmere's yacht, from Plymouth
to Queenstown. We're only going at our usual speed."

"Oh, if it's the _Lurline_, you needn't say that," answered the
officer who had hailed from the torpedo-boat, with a laugh. "Is Lord
Alanmere on board?"

"Yes, here I am," said Tremayne, replying instead of his
sailing-master. "Is that you, Selwyn? I thought I recognised your

"Yes, it's I, or rather all that's left of me after two months in
this buck-jumping little brute of a craft. She bobs twice in the same
hole every time, and if it's a fairly deep hole she just dives right
through and out on the other side; and there are such a lot of
Frenchmen about that we get no rest day or night on this patrolling

"Very sorry for you, old man; but if you will seek glory in a
torpedo-boat, I don't see that you can expect anything else. Will you
come on board and have a drink?"

"No, thanks. Very sorry, but I can't stop. By the way, have you heard
of that air-ship that was over this way this morning? I wonder what
the deuce it really is, and what it's up to?"

"I've heard of it; it was in the London papers this morning. Have you
seen any more of it?"

"Oh yes; the thing was cruising about in mid-air all this morning,
taking stock of us and the Frenchmen too, I suppose. She vanished
during the afternoon. Where to, I don't know. It's awfully
humiliating, you know, to be obliged to crawl about here on the
water, at twenty-five knots at the utmost, while that fellow is
flying a hundred miles an hour or so through the clouds without
turning a hair, or I ought to say without as much as a puff of smoke.
He seems to move of his own mere volition. I wonder what on earth he

"Not much on earth apparently, but something very considerable in the
air, where I hope he'll stop out of sight until I get to Queenstown;
and as I want to get there pretty early in the morning, perhaps
you'll excuse me saying good-night and getting along, if you won't
come on board."

"No, very sorry I can't. Good-night, and keep well in to the coast
till you have to cross to Ireland. Good-bye?"

"Good-bye!" shouted Tremayne in reply, as the torpedo-boat swung
round and headed back to the battleship, and he gave the order to go
ahead again at full-speed.

In another hour they were off the Land's End, and from there they
headed out due south-west into the Atlantic. They had hardly made
another hundred miles before it began to grow light, and then it
became necessary to keep a bright look-out for the air-ship, for
according to what they had heard from the commander of the
torpedo-boat she might be sighted at any moment as soon as it was
light enough to see her.

Another hour passed, but there was still no sign of the air-ship.
This of course was to be expected, for they had still another
seventy-five miles or so to go before the rendezvous was reached.

"Steamer to the south'ard!" sang out the man on the forecastle, just
as Tremayne came on deck after an attempt at a brief nap. He picked
up his glass, and took a good look at the thin cloud of smoke away on
the southern horizon.

From what he could see it was a large steamer, and was coming up very
fast, almost at right angles to the course of the _Lurline_. Fifteen
minutes later he was able to see that the stranger was a warship, and
that she was heading for Queenstown. She was therefore either a
British ship attached to the Irish Squadron, or else she was an enemy
with designs on the liners bound for Liverpool.

In either case it was most undesirable that the yacht should be
overhauled again. Any mishap to her, even a lengthy delay, might have
the most serious consequences. A single unlucky shell exploding in
her engine-room would disable her, and perhaps change the future
history of the world.

Tremayne therefore altered her course a little more to the northward,
thus increasing the distance between her and the stranger, and at the
same time ordered the engineer to keep up the utmost head of steam,
and get the last possible yard out of her.

The alteration in her course appeared to be instantly detected by the
warship, for she at once swerved off more to the westward, and
brought herself dead astern of the _Lurline_. She was now near enough
for Tremayne to see that she was a large cruiser, and attended by a
brace of torpedo-boats, which were running along one under each of
her quarters, like a couple of dogs following a hunter.

There was now no doubt but that, whatever her nationality, she was
bent on overhauling the yacht, if possible, and the dense volumes of
smoke that were pouring out of her funnels told Tremayne that she was
stoking up vigorously for the chase.

By this time she was about seven miles away, and the _Lurline_, her
twin screws beating the water at their utmost speed, and every plate
in her trembling under the vibration of her engines, rushed through
the water faster than she had ever done since the day she was
launched. As far as could be seen, she was holding her own well in
what had now become a dead-on stern chase.

Still the stranger showed no flag, and though Tremayne could hardly
believe that a hostile cruiser and a couple of torpedo-boats would
venture so near to the ground occupied by the British battle-ships,
the fact that she showed no colours looked at the best suspicious.
Determined to settle the question, if possible, one way or the other,
he ran up the ensign of the Royal Yacht Squadron.

This brought no reply from the cruiser, but a column of bluish-white
smoke shot up a moment later from the funnels of one of the
torpedo-boats, telling that she had put on the forced draught, and,
like a greyhound slipped from the leash, she began to draw away from
the big ship, plunging through the long rollers, and half-burying
herself in the foam that she threw up from her bows.

Tremayne knew that there were some of these viperish little craft in
the French navy that could be driven thirty miles an hour through the
water, and if this was one of them, capture was only a matter of
time, unless the air-ship sighted them and came to the rescue.

Happily, although there was a considerable swell on, the water was
smooth and free from short waves, and this was to the advantage of
the _Lurline_; for she went along "as dry as a bone," while the
torpedo-boat, lying much lower in the water, rammed her nose into
every roller, and so lost a certain amount of way. The yacht was
making a good twenty-eight miles an hour under the heroic efforts of
the engineers; and at this rate it would be nearly two hours before
she was overhauled, provided that the torpedo-boat was not able to
use the gun that she carried forward of her funnels with any
dangerous effect.

There could now be no doubt as to the hostility of the pursuers. Had
they been British, they would have answered the flag flying at the
peak of the yacht.

"Steamer coming down from the nor'ard, sir!" suddenly sang out a man
whom Tremayne had just stationed in the fore cross-trees to look out
for the air-ship that was now so anxiously expected.

A dense volume of smoke was seen rising in the direction indicated,
and a few minutes later a second big steamer came into view, bearing
down directly on the yacht, and so approaching the torpedo-boat
almost stem on. There was no doubt about her nationality. A glance
through the glass showed Tremayne the white ensign floating above the
horizontal stream of smoke that stretched behind her. She was a
British cruiser, no doubt a scout of the Irish Squadron, and had
sighted the smoke of the yacht and her pursuers, and had come to

Tremayne breathed more freely now, for he knew that his flag would
procure the assistance of the new-comer in case it was wanted, as
indeed it very soon was.

Hardly had the British cruiser come well in sight than a puff of
smoke rose from the deck of the other warship, and a shell came
whistling through the air, and burst within a hundred yards of the
_Lurline_. Twenty-four hours ago Tremayne had been one of the richest
men in England, and just now he would have willingly given all that
he had possessed to be twenty-five miles further to the
south-westward than he was.

Another shell from the Frenchman passed clear over the _Lurline_, and
plunged into the water and burst, throwing a cloud of spray high into
the air. Then came one from the torpedo-boat, but she was still too
far off for her light gun to do any damage, and the projectile fell
spent into the sea nearly five hundred yards short.

Immediately after this came a third shell from the French cruiser,
and this, by an unlucky chance, struck the forecastle of the yacht,
burst, and tore away several feet of the bulwarks, and, worse than
all, killed four of her crew instantly.

"First blood!" said Tremayne to himself through his clenched teeth.
"That shall be an unlucky shot for you, my friend, if we reach the
air-ship before you sink us."

Meanwhile the two cruisers, each approaching the other at a speed of
more than twenty miles an hour, had got within shot. A puff of smoke
spurted out from the side of the latest comer. The well-aimed
projectile passed fifty yards astern of the _Lurline_, and struck the
advancing torpedo-boat square on the bow.

The next instant it was plainly apparent that there was nothing more
to be feared from her. The solid shot had passed clean through her
two sides. Her nose went down and her stern came up. Then bang went
another gun from the British cruiser. This time the messenger of
death was a shell. It struck the inclined deck amidships, there was a
flash of flame, a cloud of steam rose up from her bursting boilers,
and then she broke in two and vanished beneath the smooth-rolling

Two minutes later the duel began in deadly earnest. The tricolor ran
up to the masthead of the French cruiser, and jets of mingled smoke
and flame spurted one after the other from her sides, and shells
began bursting in quick succession round the rapidly-advancing
Englishman. Evidently the Frenchman, with his remaining torpedo-boat,
thought himself a good match for the British cruiser, for he showed
no disposition to shirk the combat, despite the fact that he was so
near to the cruising ground of a powerful squadron.

As the two cruisers approached each other, the fire from their heavy
guns was supplemented by that of their light quick-firing armament,
until each of them became a floating volcano, vomiting continuous
jets of smoke and flame, and hurling showers of shot and shell across
the rapidly-lessening space between them.

The din of the hideous concert became little short of appalling, even
to the most hardened nerves. The continuous deep booming of the heavy
guns, as they belched forth their three-hundred-pound projectiles,
mingled with the sharp ringing reports of the thirty and forty pound
quick-firers, and the horrible grinding rattle of the machine guns in
the tops that sounded clearly above all, and every few seconds came
the scream and the bang of bursting shells, and the dull, crashing
sound of rending and breaking steel, as the terrible missiles of
death and destruction found their destined mark.

Happily the _Lurline_ was out of the line of fire, or she would have
been torn to fragments and sent to the bottom in a few seconds. She
continued on her course at her utmost speed, and the French cruiser
was, of course, too busy to pay any further attention to her. Not so
the remaining torpedo-boat, however, which, leaving the two big ships
to fight out their duel for the present, was pursuing the yacht at
the utmost speed of her forced draught.

Capture or destruction soon only became a matter of a few minutes.
Tremayne, determined to hold on till he was sunk or sighted the
air-ship, kept his flag flying and his engines working to the last
ounce that the quivering boilers would stand, and the Frenchman,
seeing that he was determined to escape if he could, opened fire on
him with his twenty-pounder.

Owing to the high speed of the two vessels, and the rolling of the
torpedo-boat, not much execution was done at first; but, as the
distance diminished, shell after shell crashed through the bulwarks
of the _Lurline_, ripping them longitudinally, and tearing up the
deck-planks with their jagged fragments. The wheel-house and the
funnel escaped by a miracle, and the yacht being end on to her
pursuer, the engines and boilers were comparatively safe.

One boat had also escaped, and that was hanging ready to be lowered
at a moment's notice.

At last a shell struck the funnel, burst, and shattered it to
fragments. Almost at the same moment the man in the fore-cross-trees,
who had stuck to his post in defiance of the cannonade, sang out with
a triumphant shout--

"The air-ship! The air-ship!"

Hardly had the words left his lips when a shell from the torpedo-boat
struck the _Lurline_ under the quarter, and ripped one of her plates
out like a sheet of paper. The next instant the engineer rushed up on
deck, crying--

"The bottom's out of her! She'll go down in five minutes!"

Tremayne, who was the only man on deck save the look-out, ran out of
the wheel-house, dived into the cabin, and a moment later reappeared
with Natas in his arms, and followed by his two attendants. Then,
without the loss of a second, but in perfect order, the quarter-boat
was manned and lowered, and pulled clear of the ill-fated _Lurline_
just as she pitched backwards into the sea and went down with a run,
stern foremost.

The air-ship, coming up at a tremendous speed, swooped suddenly down
from a height of two thousand feet, and slowed up within a thousand
yards of the torpedo-boat. A projectile rushed through the air and
landed on the deck of the Frenchman. There was a flash of greenish
flame, a cloud of mingled smoke and steam, and when this had drifted
away there was not a vestige of the torpedo-boat to be seen. Then a
few fragments of iron splashed into the water here and there, and
that was all that betokened her fate.



Hardly had the _Lurline_ disappeared than the air-ship was lying
alongside the boat, floating on the water as easily and lightly as a
seagull, and Natas and his two attendants, Tremayne, and the three
men who had been saved from the yacht, were at once taken on board.

It would be useless to interrupt the progress of the narrative to
describe the welcoming greetings which passed between the rescued
party and the crew of the _Ithuriel_, or the amazement of Arnold and
his companions when Natasha threw her arms round the neck of the
almost helpless cripple, who was rifted over the rail by Tremayne and
his two attendants, kissed him on the brow, and said so that all
could hear her--

"We were in time! Thank God we were in time, my father!"

Her father! This paralytic creature, who could not move a yard
without the assistance of some one else--this was Natas, the father
of Natasha, and the Master of the Terror, the man who had planned the
ruin of a civilisation, and for all they knew might aspire to the
empire of the world!

It was marvellous, inconceivable, but there was no time to think
about it now, for the two cruisers were still blazing away at each
other, and Tremayne had determined to punish the Frenchman for his
discourtesy in not answering his flag, and his inhumanity in firing
on an unarmed vessel which was well known as a private pleasure-yacht
all round the western and southern shores of Europe.

As soon as Natas had been conveyed into the saloon, Tremayne, after
returning Arnold's hearty handclasp, said to him--

"That rascally Frenchman chased and fired on us, and then sent his
torpedo-boat after us, without the slightest provocation. I purposely
hoisted the Yacht Squadron flag to show that we were non-combatants,
and still he sank us. I suppose he took the _Lurline_ for a fast
despatch boat, but still he ought to have had the sense and the
politeness to let her alone when he saw she was a yacht, so I want
you to teach him better manners."

"Certainly," replies Arnold. "I'll sink him for you in five seconds
as soon as we get aloft again."

"I don't want you to do that if you can help it. She has five or six
hundred men on board, who are only doing as they are told, and we
have not declared war on the world yet. Can't you disable her, and
force her to surrender to the British cruiser that came to our
rescue? You know we must have been sunk or captured half an hour ago
if she had not turned up so opportunely, in spite of your so happily
coming fifty miles this side of the rendezvous. I should like to
return the compliment by delivering his enemy into his hand."

"I quite see what you mean, but I'm afraid I can't guarantee success.
You see, our artillery is intended for destruction, and not for
disablement. Still I'll have a try with pleasure. I'll see if I can't
disable his screws, only you mustn't blame me if he goes to the
bottom by accident."

"Certainly not, you most capable destroyer of life and property,"
laughed Tremayne. "Only let him off as lightly as you can. Ah,
Natasha! Good morning again! I suppose Natas has taken no harm from
the unceremonious way in which I had to almost throw him on board the
boat. Aërial voyaging seems to agree with you, you"--

"Must not talk nonsense, my Lord of Alanmere, especially when there
is sterner work in hand," interrupted Natasha, with a laugh. "What
are you going to do with those two cruisers that are battering each
other to pieces down there? Sink them both, or leave them to fight it

"Neither, with your permission, fair lady. The British cruiser saved
us by coming on the scene at the right moment, and as the Frenchman
fired upon us without due cause, I want Captain Arnold to disable her
in some way and hand her over a prisoner to our rescuer."

"Ah, that would be better, of course. One good turn deserves another.
What are you going to do, Captain Arnold?"

"Drop a small shell under his stern and disable his propellers, if I
can do so without sinking him, which I am afraid is rather doubtful,"
replied Arnold.

While they were talking, the _Ithuriel_ had risen a thousand feet or
so from the water, and had advanced to within about half a mile of
the two cruisers, which were now manœuvring round each other at a
distance of about a thousand yards, blazing away without cessation,
and waiting for some lucky shot to partially disable one or the
other, and so give an opportunity for boarding, or ramming.

In the old days, when France and Britain had last grappled in the
struggle for the mastery of the sea, the two ships would have been
laid alongside each other long before this. But that was not to be
thought of while those terrible machine guns were able to rain their
hail of death down from the tops, and the quick-firing cannon were
hurling their thirty shots a minute across the intervening space of

The French cruiser had so far taken no notice of the sudden
annihilation of her second torpedo-boat by the air-ship, but as soon
as the latter made her way astern of her she seemed to scent
mischief, and turned one of her three-barrelled Nordenfeldts on to
her. The shots soon came singing about the _Ithuriel_ in somewhat
unpleasant proximity, and Arnold said--

"Monsieur seems to take us for a natural enemy, and if he wants fight
he shall have it. If I don't disable him with this shot I'll sink him
with the next."

So saying he trained one of the broadside guns on the stern of the
French cruiser, and at the right moment pressed the button. The shell
bored its way through the air and down into the water until it struck
and exploded against the submerged rudder.

A huge column of foam rose up under the cruiser's stern; half lifted
out of the water, she plunged forward with a mighty lurch, burying
her forecastle in the green water, and then she righted and lay
helpless upon the sea, deprived of the power of motion and steering,
and with the useless steam roaring in great clouds from her pipes. A
moment later she began to settle by the stern, showing that her after
plates had been badly injured, if not torn away by the explosion.

Meanwhile the _Ithuriel_ had shot away out of range until the two
cruisers looked like little toy-ships spitting fire at each other,
and Arnold said to Tremayne, who was with him in the wheel-house--

"I think that has settled her, as far as any more real fighting is
concerned. Look! She can't stand that sort of thing very long."

He handed Tremayne the glasses as he spoke. The French cruiser was
lying motionless upon the water, with her after compartments full,
and very much down by the stern. She was still blazing away gamely
with all her available guns, but it was obvious at a glance that she
was now no match for her antagonist, who had taken full advantage of
the help rendered by her unknown ally, and was pouring a perfect hail
of shot and shell point-blank into her half-disabled adversary,
battering her deck-works into ruins, and piercing her hull again and

At length, when the splendid fabric had been reduced to little better
than a floating wreck by the terrible cannonade, the fire from the
British cruiser stopped, and the signal "Will you surrender?" flew
from her masthead.

A few moments later the tricolor, for the first time in the war,
dipped to the White Ensign, and the naval duel was over.

"Now we will leave them to talk it over," said Tremayne, shutting the
glasses. "I should like to hear what they have to say about us, I
must confess, but there is something more important to be done, and
the sooner we are on the other side of the Atlantic the better. The
_Aurania_ started from New York this morning. How soon can you get

"In about sixteen hours if we had to go all the way," replied Arnold.
"It is, say, three thousand miles from here to New York, and the
_Ithuriel_ can fly two hundred miles an hour if necessary. But the
_Aurania_, if she starts in good time, will make between four and
five hundred miles during the day, and so we ought to meet her soon
after sundown this evening if we are lucky."

As Arnold ceased speaking, the report of a single gun came up from
the water, and a string of signal flags floated out from the masthead
of the British cruiser.

"Hullo!" said Tremayne, once more turning the glasses on the two
vessels, "that was a blank cartridge, and as far as I can make out
that signal reads, 'We want to speak you.' And look: there goes a
white flag to the fore. His intentions are evidently peaceful. What
do you say, shall we go down?"

"I see no objection to it. It will only make a difference of half an
hour or so, and perhaps we may learn something worth knowing from the
captain about the naval force afloat in the Atlantic. I think it
would be worth while. We have no need for concealment now; and
besides, all Europe is talking about us, so there can be no harm in
showing ourselves a bit more closely."

"Very well, then, we will go down and hear what he has to say,"
replied Tremayne. "But I don't think it would be well for me to show
myself just now, and so I will go below."

Arnold at once signalled the necessary order from the conning tower
to the engine-room. The fan-wheels revolved more slowly, and the
_Ithuriel_ sank swiftly downwards towards the two cruisers, now lying
side by side.

As soon as she came to a standstill within speaking distance of the
British man-of-war, discipline was for the moment forgotten on board
of both victor and vanquished, under the influence of the intense
excitement and curiosity aroused by seeing the mysterious and
much-talked-of air-ship at such close quarters.

The French and British captains were both standing on the
quarter-deck eagerly scanning the strange craft through their glasses
till she came near enough to dispense with them, and every man and
officer on board the two cruisers who was able to be on deck, crowded
to points of 'vantage, and stared at her with all their eyes. The
whole company of the _Ithuriel_, with the exception of Natas,
Tremayne, and those whose duties kept them in the engine-room, were
also on deck, and Arnold stood close by the wheel-house and the after
gun, ready to give any orders that might be necessary in case the
conversation took an unfriendly turn.

"May I ask the name of that wonderful craft, and to what I am
indebted for the assistance you have given me?" hailed the British

"Certainly. This is the Terrorist air-ship _Ithuriel_, and we
disabled the French cruiser because her captain had the bad manners
to fire upon and sink an unarmed yacht that had no quarrel with him.
But for that we should have left you to fight it out."

"The Terrorists, are you? If I had known that, I confess I should not
have asked to speak you, and I tell you candidly that I am sorry you
did not leave us to fight it out, as you say. As I cannot look upon
you as an ally or a friend, I can only regret the advantage you have
given me over an honourable foe."

There was an emphasis on the word "honourable" which brought a flush
to Arnold's cheek, as he replied--

"What I did to the French cruiser I should have done whether you had
been on the scene or not. We are as much your foes as we are those of
France, that is to say, we are totally indifferent to both of you. As
for _honourable_ foes, I may say that I only disabled the French
cruiser because I thought she had acted both unfairly and
dishonourably. But we are wasting time. Did you merely wish to speak
to us in order to find out who we were?"

"Yes, that was my first object, I confess. I also wished to know
whether this is the same air-ship which crossed the Mediterranean
yesterday, and if not, how many of these vessels there are in
existence, and what you mean to do with them?"

"Before I answer, may I ask how you know that an air-ship crossed the
Mediterranean yesterday?" asked Arnold, thoroughly mystified by this
astounding piece of news.

"We had it by telegraph at Queenstown during the night. She was going
northward, when observed, by Larnaka"--

"Oh yes, that was one of our despatch boats," replied Arnold, forcing
himself to speak with a calmness that he by no means felt. "I'm
afraid my orders will hardly allow me to answer your other questions
very fully, but I may tell you that we have a fleet of air-ships at
our command, all constructed in England under the noses of your
intelligent authorities, and that we mean to use them as it seems
best to us, should we at any time consider it worth our while to
interfere in the game that the European Powers are playing with each
other. Meanwhile we keep a position of armed neutrality. When we
think the war has gone far enough we shall probably stop it when a
good opportunity offers."

This was too much for a British sailor to listen to quietly on his
own quarter-deck, whoever said it, and so the captain of the
_Andromeda_ forgot his prudence for the moment, and said somewhat

"Confound it, sir! you talk as if you were omnipotent and arbiters of
peace and war. Don't go too far with your insolence, or I shall haul
that flag of truce down and give you five minutes to get out of range
of my guns or take your chance"--

For all answer there came a contemptuous laugh from the deck of the
_Ithuriel_, the rapid ringing of an electric bell, and the
disappearance of her company under cover. Then with one mighty leap
she rose two thousand feet into the air, and before the astounded and
disgusted captain of H.M. cruiser _Andromeda_ very well knew what had
become of her, she was a mere speck of light in the sky, speeding
away at two hundred miles an hour to the westward.

As soon as she was fairly on her course, Arnold gave up the wheel to
one of the crew, and went into the saloon to discuss with Tremayne
and Natas the all-important scrap of news that had fallen from the
lips of the captain of the British cruiser. What was the other
air-ship that had been seen crossing the Mediterranean?

Surely it must be one of the Terrorist fleet, for there were no
others in existence. And yet strict orders had been given that none
of the fleet were to take the air until the _Ithuriel_ returned. Was
it possible that there were traitors, even in Aeria, and that the
air-ship seen from Larnaka was a deserter going northward to the
enemy, the worst enemy of all, the Russians?



At half-past five on the morning of the 23rd of June, the Cunard
liner _Aurania_ left New York for Queenstown and Liverpool. She was
the largest and swiftest passenger steamer afloat, and on her maiden
voyage she had lowered the Atlantic record by no less than twelve
hours; that is to say, she had performed the journey from Sandy Hook
to Queenstown in four days and a half exactly. Her measurement was
forty-five thousand tons, and her twin screws, driven by quadruple
engines, developing sixty thousand horse-power, forced her through
the water at the unparalleled speed of thirty knots, or thirty-four
and a half statute miles an hour.

Since the outbreak of the war it had been found necessary to take all
but the most powerful vessels off the Atlantic route, for, as had
long been foreseen, the enemies of the Anglo-German Alliance were
making the most determined efforts to cripple the Transatlantic trade
of Britain and Germany, and swift, heavily-armed French and Italian
cruisers, attended by torpedo-boats and gun-boats, and supported by
battle-ships and depôt vessels for coaling purposes, were swarming
along the great ocean highway.

These, of course, had to be opposed by an equal or greater force of
British warships. In fact, the burden of keeping the Atlantic route
open fell entirely on Britain, for the German and Austrian fleets had
all the work they were capable of doing nearer home in the Baltic and

The terrible mistake that had been made by the House of Lords in
negativing the Italian Loan had already become disastrously apparent,
for though the Anglo-Teutonic Alliance was putting forth every
effort, its available ships were only just sufficient to keep the
home waters clear and the ocean routes practically open, even for the
fastest steamers.

The task, therefore, which lay before the _Aurania_ when she cleared
American waters was little less than running the gauntlet for nearly
three thousand miles. The French cruiser which had been captured by
the _Andromeda_, thanks to the assistance of the _Ithuriel_, had left
Brest with the express purpose of helping to intercept the great
Cunarder, for she had crossed the Atlantic five times already without
a scratch since the war had begun, showing a very clean pair of heels
to everything that had attempted to overhaul her, and now on her
sixth passage a grand effort was to be made to capture or cripple the
famous ocean greyhound.

It was by far her most important voyage in more senses than one. In
the first place, her incomparable speed and good luck had made her
out of sight the prime favourite with those passengers who were
obliged to cross the Atlantic, war or no war, and for the same
reasons she also carried more mails and specie than any other liner,
and this voyage she had an enormously valuable consignment of both on
board. As for passengers, every available foot of space was taken for
months in advance.

Enterprising agents on both sides of the water had bought up every
berth from stem to stern, and had put them up to auction, realising
fabulous prices, which had little chance of being abated, even when
her sister ship the _Sidonia_, the construction of which was being
pushed forward on the Clyde with all possible speed, was ready to
take the water.

But the chief importance of this particular passage lay, though
barely half a dozen persons were aware of it, in the fact that among
her passengers was Michael Roburoff, chief of the American Section of
the Terrorists, who was bringing to the Council his report of the
work of the Brotherhood in the United States, together with the
information which he had collected, by means of an army of spies, as
to the true intentions of the American Government with regard to the

These, so far as the rest of the world was concerned, were a profound
secret, and he was the only man outside the President's Cabinet and
the Tsar's Privy Council who had accurate information with regard to
them. The _Aurania_ was therefore not only carrying mails, treasure,
and passengers, but, in the person of Michael Roburoff, she was
carrying secrets on the revelation of which the whole issue of the
war and the destiny of the world might turn.

America was the one great Power not involved in the tremendous
struggle that was being waged. The most astute diplomatist in Europe
had no idea what her real policy was, but every one knew that the
side on which she threw the weight of her boundless wealth and vast
resources must infallibly win in the long run.

The plan that had been adopted by Britain for keeping the Atlantic
route open was briefly as follows:--All along the 3000 miles of the
steamer track a battleship was stationed at the end of every day's
run, that is to say, at intervals of about 500 miles, and patrolled
within a radius of 100 miles. Each of these was attended by two
heavily-armed cruisers and four torpedo-boats, while between these
points swifter cruisers were constantly running to and fro convoying
the liners.

Thus, when the _Aurania_ left New York, she was picked up on the
limit of the American water by two cruisers, which would keep pace
with her as well as they could until she reached the first
battleship. As she passed the ironclad these two would leave her, and
the next two would take up the running, and so on until she reached
the range of operations of the Irish Squadron.

No other Power in the world could have maintained such a system of
ocean police, but Britain was putting forth the whole of her mighty
naval strength, and so she spared neither ships nor money to keep
open the American and Canadian routes, for on them nearly half her
food-supply depended, as well as her chief line of communication with
the far East.

On the other hand, her enemies were making desperate efforts to break
the chain of steel that was thus stretched across the hemisphere, for
they well knew that, this once broken, the first real triumph of the
war would have been won.

Five hundred miles out from New York the _Aurania_ was joined by the
_Oceana_, the largest vessel on the Canadian Pacific line from
Halifax to Liverpool. So far no enemy had been seen. The two great
liners reached the first battleship together, and were joined by the
second pair of cruisers. Before sunset the Cunarder had drawn ahead
of her companions, and by nightfall was racing away alone over the
water with every light carefully concealed, and keeping an eager
look-out for friend or foe.

There was no moon, and the sky was so heavily overcast with clouds,
that, under any other circumstances, it would have been the height of
rashness to go rushing through the darkness at such a headlong speed.
But the captain of the _Aurania_ was aware of the state of the road,
and he knew that in speed and secrecy lay his only chances of getting
his magnificent vessel through in safety.

Soon after ten o'clock lights were sighted dead ahead. The course was
slightly altered, and the great liner swept past one of the North
German Lloyd boats in company with a cruiser. The private signal was
made and answered, and in half an hour she was again alone amidst the

It was nearly eleven o'clock, when Michael Roburoff, who was standing
under the lee of one of the ventilators amidships, smoking a last
pipe before turning in, saw a figure muffled in a huge grey ulster
creeping into the deeper shadows under the bridge. It was so dark
that he could only just make out the outline of the figure, but he
could see enough to rouse his ever ready suspicions in the furtive
movements that the man was making.

He stole out on the starboard, that is the southward, rail of the
spar-deck, and Michael, straining his eyes to the utmost, saw him
take a round flat object from under his coat, and then look round
stealthily to see if he was observed. As he did so Michael whipped a
pistol out of his pocket, levelled it at the man, and said in a low,
distinct tone--

"Put that back, or I'll shoot!"

For all answer the man raised his arm to throw the object overboard.
Michael, taking the best aim he could in the darkness, fired. The
bullet struck the elbow of the raised arm, the man lurched forward
with a low cry of rage and pain, grasped the object with his other
hand, and, as he fell to the deck, flung it into the sea.

Scarcely had it touched the water when it burst into flame, and an
intensely bright blaze of bluish-white light shot up, shattering the
darkness, and illuminating the great ship from the waterline to the
trucks of her masts. Instantly the deck of the liner was a scene of
wild excitement. In a moment the man whom Roburoff had wounded was
secured in the act of trying to throw himself overboard. Michael
himself was rapidly questioned by the captain, who was immediately on
the spot.

He told his story in a dozen words, and explained that he had fired
to disable the man and prevent the fire-signal falling into the sea.
There was no doubt about the guilt of the traitor, for he himself cut
the captain's interrogation short by saying defiantly, in broken
English that at once betrayed him as a Frenchman--

"Yees, I do it! I give signal to ze fleet down there. If I succeeded,
I got half million francs. I fail, so shoot! C'est la fortune de la
guerre! Voilà, look! They come!"

As the spy said this he pointed to the south-eastern horizon. A brief
bright flash of white light went up through the night and vanished.
It was the answering signal from the French or Italian cruisers,
which were making all speed up from the south-east to head off the
_Aurania_ before she reached the next station and gained the
protection of the British battleship.

The spy's words were only too true. He had gone to America for the
sole purpose of returning in the _Aurania_ and giving the signal at
this particular point on the passage. Within ten miles were four of
the fleetest French and Italian cruisers, six torpedo-boats, and two
battleships, which, by keeping well to the southward during the day,
and then putting on all steam as soon as night fell, had managed to
head off the ocean greyhound at last.

Two cruisers and a battleship with two torpedo-boats were coming up
from the south-east; one cruiser, the other battleship, and two
torpedo-boats were bearing down from the south-west, and the
remaining cruiser and brace of torpedo-boats had managed to slip
through the British line and gain a position to the northward.

This large force had not been brought up without good reason. The
_Aurania_ was the biggest prize afloat, and well worth fighting for,
if it came to blows, as it very probably would do; added to which
there was a very good chance of one or two other liners falling
victims to a well-planned and successful raid.

The French spy was at once sent below and put into safe keeping, and
the signal to "stoke up" was sent to the engine-rooms. The firemen
responded with a will, extra hands were put on in the stokeholes, and
the furnaces taxed to their utmost capacity. The boilers palpitated
under the tremendous head of steam, the engines throbbed and groaned
like labouring giants, and the great ship, trembling like some live
animal under the lash, rushed faster and faster over the long dark
rollers under the impulse of her whirling screws.

There was no longer any need for concealment even if it had been
possible. Speed and speed only afforded the sole chance of escape. Of
course the captain of the _Aurania_ had no idea of the strength or
disposition of the force that had undertaken his capture. Had he
known the true state of the case, his anxiety would have been a good
deal greater than it was. He fully believed that he could outsteam
the vessels to the south-east, and, once past these, he knew that he
would be in touch with the British ships at the next station before
any harm could come to him. He therefore headed a little more to the
northward, and trusted with perfect confidence to his heels.

Michael Roburoff was the hero of the moment, and the captain
cordially thanked him for his prompt attempt to frustrate the
atrocious act of the spy which deliberately endangered the liberty
and perhaps the lives of more than a thousand non-combatants.
Michael, however, cut his thanks short by taking him aside and asking
him what he thought of the position of affairs. He spoke so seriously
that the captain thought he was frightened, and by way of reassuring
him replied cheerily--

"Don't have any fear for the _Aurania_, Mr. Roburoff. That's only a
cruiser, or perhaps a couple, down there, and the enemy haven't a
ship that I can't give a good five knots and a beating to. We shall
sight the British ships soon after daybreak, and by that time those
fellows will be fifty miles behind us."

"I have as much confidence in the _Aurania's_ speed as you have,
Captain Frazer," replied Michael, "but I'm afraid you are underrating
the enemy's strength. Do you know that within the last few days it
has been almost doubled, and that a determined effort is to be made,
not only to catch or sink the _Aurania_, but also to break the
British line of posts, and cut the line of American and Canadian
communication altogether?"

"No, sir," replied the captain, looking sharply at Michael. "I don't
know anything of the sort, neither do the commanders of the British
warships on this side. If your information is correct, I should like
to know how you came by it. You are a Russian by name"--

"But not a subject of the Tsar," quickly interrupted Michael. "I am
an American citizen, and I have come by this information not as the
friend of Russia, as you seem to suspect, but as her enemy, or rather
as the enemy of her ruler. How I got it is my business. It is enough
for you to know that it is correct, and that you are in far greater
danger than you think you are. The signal given by that French spy
was evidently part of a prearranged plan, and for all you know you
may even now be surrounded, or steaming straight into a trap that has
been laid for you. If I may advise, I would earnestly counsel you to
double on your course and make every effort to rejoin the other liner
and the cruisers we have passed."

"Nonsense, sir, nonsense!" answered the captain testily. "Our
watch-dogs are far too wide awake to be caught napping like that. You
have been deceived by one of the rumours that are filling the air
just now. You can go to your berth and sleep in peace, and to-morrow
you shall be half-way across the Atlantic without an enemy's ship in

"Captain Frazer," said Michael very seriously, "with your leave I
shall not go to my berth; and what is more, I can tell you that very
few of us will get much sleep to-night, and that if you do not back I
hardly think you will be flying the British flag to-morrow. Ha! look
there--and there!"

Michael seized the captain's arm suddenly, and pointed rapidly to the
south-east and north-east. Two thin rays of light flashed up into the
sky one after the other. Then came a third from the south-west, and
then darkness again. At the same instant came the hails from the
look-outs announcing the lights.

Captain Frazer was wrong, and he saw that he was at a glance. The
flash in the north-east could not be from a friend, for it was a
plain answer to the known enemy in the south-east, and so too in all
probability was the third. If so, the _Aurania_ was almost

The captain wasted no words in confessing his error, but ran up on to
the bridge to rectify it as far as he could at once. The helm was put
hard over, the port screw was reversed, and the steamer swung round
in a wide sweep, and was soon speeding back westward over her own
tracks. An hour's run brought her in sight of the lights of the
_North German_ and her escort. She slowed as she passed them, and
told the news. Then she sped on again at full-speed to meet the
_Oceana_ and the two cruisers, which were about fifty miles behind.

By one A.M. the three cruisers and the three liners had joined
forces, and were steaming westward at twenty knots an hour, the
liners in single file led by a cruiser, and having one on each beam.
Soon the flashes on the horizon grew more frequent, always drawing
closer together.

Then those in the westward dropped from the perpendicular to the
horizontal, and swept the water as though seeking something. It was
not long before the darting rays of one of the searchlights fell
across the track of the British flotilla. Instantly from all three
points converging flashes were concentrated upon it, revealing the
outline of every ship with the most perfect distinctness.

The last hope of running through the hostile fleet unperceived had
now vanished. There was nothing for it but to go ahead full-speed,
and trust to the chances of a running fight to get clear. With a view
of finding out the strength of the enemy, the British cruisers now
turned their searchlights on and swept the horizon.

A very few moments sufficed to show that an overwhelming force was
closing in on them from three sides. They were completely caught in a
trap, from which there was no escape save by running the gauntlet.
Whichever way they headed they would have to pass through the
converging fire of the enemy.

The weakest point, so far as they could see, was the one cruiser and
two torpedo-boats to the northward, and so towards them they headed.
At the speed at which they were travelling it needed but a few
minutes to bring them within range, and the British commanders
rightly decided to concentrate their fire for the present on the
single cruiser and her two attendants, in the hope of sinking them
before the others could get into action.

At three thousand yards the heavy guns came into play, and a storm of
shell was hurled upon the advancing foe, who lost no time in replying
in the same terms. As the vessels approached each other the shooting
became closer and terribly effective.

The searchlights of the British cruisers were kept full ahead, and
every attempt of the torpedo-boats to get round on the flank was
foiled by a hail of shot from the quick-firing guns. Within fifteen
minutes of opening fire one of these was sunk and the other disabled.
The French cruiser, too, suffered fearfully from the tempest of shot
and shell that was rained upon her.

Had the British got within range of her half an hour sooner the plan
would have been completely foiled. As it was, her fate was sealed,
but it was too late. The three British warships rushed at her
together, vomiting flame and smoke and iron across the
rapidly-decreasing distance, until within five hundred yards of her.
Then the fire from the two on either flank suddenly stopped.

The centre one, still blazing away, put on her forced draught,
swerved sharply round, and then darted in on her with the ram. There
was a terrific shock, a heavy, grinding crunch, and then the mighty
mass of the charging vessel, hurled at nearly thirty miles an hour
upon her victim, bored and ground her resistless way into her side.

Then she suddenly reversed her engines and backed out. In less than
thirty seconds it was all over. The Frenchman, almost cut in half by
the frightful blow, reeled once, and once only, and then went down
like a stone.

But by this time the other two divisions of the enemy were within
range, and through the roar of the lighter artillery now came the
deep, sullen boom of the big guns on the battleships, and the great
thousand-pound projectiles began to scream through the air and fling
the water up into mountains of foam where they pitched.

Where one of them struck, death and destruction would follow as
surely as though it were a thunderbolt from Heaven. The three liners
scattered and steamed away to the northward as fast as their
propellers would drive them. But what was their utmost speed to that
of the projectiles cleaving through the air at more than two thousand
feet a second?

See! one at length strikes the German liner square amidships, and
bursts. There is a horrible explosion. The searchlight thrown on her
shows a cloud of steam and smoke and flame rising up from her riven
decks. Where her funnels were is a huge ragged black hole. This is
visible for an instant, then her back breaks, and in two halves she
follows the French cruiser to the bottom of the Atlantic.

The sinking of the German liner was the signal for the appearance of
a new actor on the scene, and the commencement of a work of
destruction more appalling than anything that human warfare had so
far known.

Michael Roburoff, standing on the spar-deck of the flying _Aurania_,
suddenly saw a bright stream of light shoot down from the clouds, and
flash hither and thither, till it hovered over the advancing French
and Italian squadron. For the moment the combat ceased, so astounded
were the combatants on both sides at this mysterious apparition.

Then, without the slightest warning, with no flash or roar of guns,
there came a series of frightful explosions among the ships of the
pursuers. They followed each other so quickly that the darkness
behind the electric lights seemed lit with a continuous blaze of
livid green flame for three or four minutes.

Then there was darkness and silence. Black darkness and absolute
silence. The searchlights were extinguished, and the roar of the
artillery was still. The British waited in dazed silence for it to
begin again, but it never did. The whole of the pursuing squadron had
been annihilated.

[Illustration: "This mysterious apparition."

_See page 178._]



It will now be necessary, in order to insure the continuity of the
narrative, to lay before the reader a brief sketch of the course of
events in Europe from the actual commencement of hostilities on a
general scale between the two immense forces which may be most
conveniently designated as the Anglo-Teutonic Alliance and the
Franco-Slavonian League.

In order that these two terms may be fully understood, it will be
well to explain their general constitution. When the two forces, into
which the declaration of war ultimately divided the nations of
Europe, faced each other for the struggle which was to decide the
mastery of the Western world, the Anglo-Teutonic Alliance consisted
primarily of Britain, Germany, and Austria, and, ranged under its
banner, whether from choice or necessity, stood Holland, Belgium, and
Denmark in the north-west, with Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey in the

Egypt was strongly garrisoned for the land defence of the Suez Canal
and the high road to the East by British, Indian, and Turkish troops.
British and Belgian troops held Antwerp and the fortresses of the
Belgian Quadrilateral in force.

A powerful combined fleet of British, Danish, and Dutch war vessels
of all classes held the approaches by the Sound and Kattegat to the
Baltic Sea, and co-operated in touch with the German fleet; the Dutch
and the German having, at any rate for the time being, and under the
pressure of irresistible circumstances, laid aside their hereditary
national hatred, and consented to act as allies under suitable
guarantees to Holland.

The co-operation of Denmark had been secured, in spite of the family
connections existing between the Danish and the Russian Courts, and
the rancour still remaining from the old Schleswig-Holstein quarrel,
by very much the same means that had been taken in the historic days
of the Battle of the Baltic. It is true that matters had not gone so
far as they went when Nelson disobeyed orders by putting his
telescope to his blind eye, and engaged the Danish fleet in spite of
the signals; but a demonstration of such overwhelming force had been
made by sea and land on the part of Britain and Germany, that the
House of Dagmar had bowed to the inevitable, and ranged itself on the
side of the Anglo-Teutonic Alliance.

Marshalled against this imposing array of naval and military force
stood the Franco-Slavonian League, consisting primarily of France,
Russia, and Italy, supported--whether by consent or necessity--by
Spain, Portugal, and Servia. The co-operation of Spain had been
purchased by the promise of Gibraltar at the conclusion of the war,
and that of Portugal by the guarantee of a largely increased sphere
of influence on the West Coast of Africa, plus the Belgian States of
the Congo.

Roumania and Switzerland remained neutral, the former to be a
battlefield for the neighbouring Powers, and the latter for the
present safe behind her ramparts of everlasting snow and ice.
Scandinavia also remained neutral, the sport of the rival diplomacies
of East and West, but not counted of sufficient importance to
materially influence the colossal struggle one way or the other.

In round numbers the Anglo-Teutonic Alliance had seven millions of
men on the war footing, including, of course, the Indian and Colonial
forces of the British Empire, while in case of necessity urgent
levies were expected to produce between two and three millions more.
Opposed to these, the Franco-Slavonian League had about ten millions
under arms, with nearly three millions in reserve.

As regards naval strength, the Alliance was able to pit rather more
than a thousand warships of all classes, and about the same number of
torpedo-boats, against nearly nine hundred warships and about seven
hundred torpedo-boats at the disposal of the League.

In addition to this latter armament, it is very necessary to name a
fleet of a hundred war-balloons of the type mentioned in an earlier
chapter, fifty of which belonged to Russia and fifty to France. No
other European Power possessed any engine of destruction that was
capable of being efficiently matched against the invention of M.
Riboult, who was now occupying the position of Director of the aërial
fleet in the service of the League.

It would be both a tedious repetition of sickening descriptions of
scenes of bloodshed and a useless waste of space, to enumerate in
detail all the series of conflicts by sea and land which resulted
from the collision of the tremendous forces which were thus arrayed
against each other in a conflict that was destined to be unparalleled
in the history of the human race.

To do so would be to occupy pages filled with more or less technical
descriptions of strategic movements, marches, and countermarches,
skirmishes, reconnaissances, and battles, which followed each other
with such unparalleled rapidity that the combined efforts of the war
correspondents of the European press proved entirely inadequate to
keep pace with them in the form of anything like a continuous

It will therefore be necessary to ask the reader to remain content
with such brief summary as has been given, supplemented with the
following extracts from a very lengthy _résumé_ of the leading events
of the war up to date, which were published in a special War
Supplement issued by the _Daily Telegraph_ on the morning of Tuesday
the 28th of June 1904:--

"Although little more than a period of six weeks has elapsed since
the actual outbreak of hostilities which marked the commencement of
what, be its issue what it may, must indubitably prove the most
colossal struggle in the history of human warfare, changes have
already occurred which must infallibly mark their effect upon the
future destiny of the world. Almost as soon as the first shot was
fired the nations of Europe, as if by instinct or under the influence
of some power higher than that of international diplomacy,
automatically marshalled themselves into the two most mighty hosts
that have ever trod the field of battle since man first fought with

"Not less than twenty millions of men are at this moment facing each
other under arms throughout the area of the war. These are almost
equally divided; for, although what is now known as the
Franco-Slavonian League has some three millions of men more on land,
it may be safely stated that the preponderance of naval strength
possessed by the Anglo-Teutonic Alliance fully counterbalances this

"There is, however, another most important element which has now for
the first time been introduced into warfare, and which, although it
is most unhappily arrayed amongst the forces opposed to our own
country and her gallant allies, it would be both idle and most
imprudent to ignore. We refer, of course, to the two fleets of
war-balloons, or, as it would be more correct to call them, navigable
aerostats, possessed by France and Russia.

"So tremendous has been the influence which these terrible inventions
have exercised upon the course of the war, that we are not
transgressing the bounds of sober truth when we say that they have
utterly disconcerted and brought to nought the highest strategy and
the most skilfully devised plans of the brilliant array of masters of
the military art whose presence adorns the ranks and enlightens the
councils of the Alliance.

"Since the day when the Russians crossed the German and Austrian
frontiers, and the troops of France and Italy simultaneously flung
themselves across the western frontiers of Germany and through the
passes of the Tyrol, their progress, unparalleled in rapidity even by
the marvellous marches of Napoleon, has been marked, not by what we
have hitherto been accustomed to call battles, but rather by a series
of colossal butcheries.

"In every case of any moment the method of procedure on the part of
the attacking forces has been the same, and, with the deepest regret
we confess it, it has been marked with the same unvarying success.
Whenever a large army has been set in motion upon a predetermined
point of attack, whether a fortress, an entrenched camp, or a
strongly occupied position in the field, a squadron of aerostats has
winged its way through the air under cover of the darkness of night,
and silently and unperceived has marked the disposition of forces,
the approximate strength of the army or the position to be attacked,
and, as far as they were observable, the points upon which the attack
could be most favourably delivered. Then they have returned with
their priceless information, and, according to it, the assailants
have been able, in every case so far, to make their assault where
least expected, and to make it, moreover, upon an already partially
demoralised force.

"From the detailed descriptions which we have already published of
battles and sieges, or rather of the storming of great fortresses, it
will be remembered that every assault on the part of the troops of
the League has been preceded by a preliminary and irresistible attack
from the clouds.

"The aerostats have stationed themselves at great elevations over the
ramparts of fortresses and the bivouacs of armies, and have rained
down a hail of dynamite, melinite, fire-shells and cyanogen
poison-grenades, which have at once put guns out of action, blown up
magazines, rendered fortifications untenable, and rent masses of
infantry and squadrons of cavalry into demoralised fragments, before
they had the time or the opportunity to strike a blow in reply. Then
upon these silenced batteries, these wrecked fortifications, and
these demoralised brigades, there has been poured a storm of
artillery fire from the untouched enemy, advancing in perfect order,
and inspired with high-spirited confidence, which has been
irresistibly opposed to the demoralisation of their enemies.

"Is it any wonder, or any disgrace, to the defeated, that under such
novel and appalling conditions the orderly and disciplined onslaughts
of the legions of the League have in almost every case been
completely successful? The sober truth is that the invention and
employment of these devastating appliances have completely altered
the face of the field of battle and the conditions of modern warfare.
It is not in human valour, no matter how heroic or self-devoted it
may be, to oppose itself with anything like confidence to an enemy
which strikes from the skies, and cannot be struck in return.

"It was thus that the battles of Alexandrovo, Kalisz, and Czernowicz
were won in the early stages of the war upon the Austro-German
frontier. So, too, in the Rhine Provinces, were the battles of
Treves, Mulhausen, and Freiburg turned by the aid of the French
aerostats from battles into butcheries. It was under the assault of
these irresistible engines that the great fortresses of Königsberg,
Thorn, Breslau, Strasburg, and Metz, to say nothing of many minor,
but strongly fortified, places, were first reduced to a state of
impotence for defence, and then battered into ruins by the siege-guns
of the assailants.

"All these terrible events, forming a series of catastrophes
unparalleled in the annals of war, are still fresh in the minds of
our readers, for they have followed one upon the other with almost
stupefying rapidity, and it is yet hardly six weeks since the
Cossacks and Uhlans were engaged in their first skirmish near Gnesen.

"This is an amazingly brief space of time for the fate of empires to
be decided, and yet we are forced, with the utmost sorrow and
reluctance, to admit that what were two months ago the magnificently
disciplined and equipped armies of Germany and Austria, are now
completely shattered and broken up into fragmentary and isolated army
corps, decimated as to numbers and demoralised as to discipline,
gathered in and about such strong places as are left to them, and
awaiting only with the courage of desperation the moment, we fear the
inevitable moment, when they shall be finally crushed between the
rapidly converging hosts of the victorious League.

"Within the next few days, Berlin, Hanover, Prague, Munich, and
Vienna must be invested, and may possibly be destroyed or compelled
to ignominious and unconditional surrender by the irresistible forces
that will be arrayed against them.

"Meanwhile, with still deeper regret, we are forced to confess that
those operations in the Low Countries and the east of Europe and Asia
Minor in which our own gallant troops have been engaged in
conjunction with their several allies, have been, if not equally
disastrous, at least void of any tangible success.

"Erzeroum, Trebizond, and Scutari have fallen; the passes of the
Balkans have been forced, although at immense cost to the enemy;
Belgrade has been stormed; Adrianople is invested, and Constantinople
is therefore most seriously threatened.

"By heroic efforts the French attack upon the Quadrilateral has been
rolled back at a fearful expense of human life. Antwerp is still
untouched, and the command of the Baltic is still ours. In our own
waters, as well as in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, we have won
victories which prove that Great Britain is still the unconquered,
and we trust unconquerable, mistress of the seas. We have kept the
Dardanelles open, and the Suez Canal is still inviolate.

"Two combined attacks, delivered by the allied French and Italian
squadrons on Malta and Gibraltar, have been repulsed by Admiral
Beresford with heavy loss to the enemy, thanks to the timely warning
delivered to Mr. Balfour by the Earl of Alanmere--upon whose
mysterious disappearance we comment in another column--and the Prime
Minister's prompt and statesmanlike action in doubling the strength
of the Mediterranean fleet before the outbreak of hostilities.

"Thanks to the tireless activity and splendid handling of the Channel
fleet, the North Sea Division, and the Irish Squadron, the enemy's
flag has been practically swept from the home waters, and the shores
of our beloved country are as inviolate as they have been for more
than seven centuries. These brilliant achievements go far to
compensate us as an individual nation for the disasters which have
befallen our allies on the Continent, and, in addition, we have the
satisfaction of knowing that, so far, the most complete success has
attended our arms in the East, and that the repeated and determined
assaults of our Russian foes have been triumphantly hurled back from
the impregnable bulwarks of our Indian Empire.

"It has been pointed out, and it would be vain to ignore the fact,
that not only have all our victories been won in the absence of the
aërial fleets of the League; but that we, in common with our allies,
have been worsted in each of the happily few cases in which even one
of these terrible aerostats has delivered its assaults upon us.
Against this, however, we take leave to set our belief that these
machines do not yet inspire sufficient confidence in their possessors
to warrant them in undertaking operations above the sea, or at any
considerable distance from their bases of manœuvring. It is true that
we are entirely ignorant of the essentials of their construction; but
the fact that no attempt has yet been made to send them into action
over blue water inspires us with the hope and belief that their
effective range of operations is confined to the land....

"It would be superfluous to say that the British Empire is now
involved in a struggle in comparison with which all our former wars
sink into absolute insignificance, a struggle which will tax its
immense resources to the very utmost. Nothing, however, has yet
occurred to warrant the belief that those resources will not prove
equal to the strain, or that the greatest empire on earth will not
emerge from this combat of the giants with her ancient glory enhanced
by new and hitherto unequalled triumphs.

"Certainly at no period in our history have we been so splendidly
prepared to face our enemies both at home and abroad. All arms of the
Services are in the highest state of efficiency, and the Government
dockyards and arsenals, as well as private firms, are working day and
night to still further strengthen them, and provide ample supplies of
munitions of war. The hearts of all the nations united under our flag
are beating as that of one man, and from the highest to the lowest
ranks of Society all are inspired by a spirit of whole-souled
patriotism which, if necessary, will make any sacrifice to preserve
the flag untarnished, and the honour of Britain without a spot.

"At the head of affairs stands the man who of all others has proved
himself to be the most fitted to direct the destinies of the empire
in this tremendous crisis of her history. Party feeling for the time
being has almost entirely disappeared, save amongst the few scattered
bands of isolated Revolutionaries and malcontents, and Mr. Balfour
possesses the absolute confidence of his Majesty on the one hand, and
the undivided support of an impregnable majority in both Houses of
Parliament on the other. He is admirably seconded by such lieutenants
as Lord Randolph Churchill, Sir Joseph Chamberlain, and Sir George J.
Goschen on his own side of the House, and by the Earls of Rosebery
and Morley, Lord Brassey, and Sir Charles Dilke in what, previous to
the outbreak of the war, was the opposing political camp, but which
is now a party as loyal as that of the Government to the best
interests of the Empire, and fully determined to give the utmost
possible moral support consistent with fair and impartial criticism.

"The disastrous mistake which was made by a very small majority of
the Upper House in rejecting the Government guarantee for the
ill-fated Italian loan is now, of course, past repair; for Italy, as
events have proved, exasperated by what her spokesmen termed her
selfish betrayal by Britain, has passionately thrown herself into the
arms of the League, and the Alliance has now no more bitter enemy
than she is. It is, however, only justice to those who defeated the
loan to add that they have now clearly seen and frankly owned their
grievous mistake, and rallied as one man to the support of the



Another column in the same issue contained an account of the
"Mysterious Disappearance of Lord Alanmere" and the doings of the
_Ithuriel_ in the Atlantic. The account concluded as follows:--

"As the enemy's squadron came up in chase it was annihilated without
warning and with appalling suddenness by the air-ship, which must
have crossed the Atlantic in something like sixteen hours. After this
fearful achievement it descended to the _Aurania_, took off a saloon
passenger named Michael Roburoff, evidently, from his reception, a
Terrorist himself, and then vanished through the clouds. For the
present, and until we have fuller information, we attempt no detailed
analysis of these astounding events. We merely content ourselves with
saying in the most solemn words that we can use, that, awful and
disastrous as is the war that is now raging throughout the greatest
part of the old world, it is our firm belief that, behind the
smoke-clouds of battle, and beneath the surface of visible events,
there is working a secret power, possibly greater than any which has
yet been called into action, and which at an unexpected moment may
suddenly put forth its strength, upheave the foundations of Society,
and bury existing institutions in the ruins of Civilisation.

"One fact is quite manifest, and that is, that although the League
possesses a weapon of fearful efficiency for destruction in their
fleet of aerostats, the Terrorists, controlled by no law save their
own, and hampered by no traditions or limitations of civilised
warfare, are in command of another fleet of unknown strength, the
air-ships of which are apparently as superior to the aerostats of the
League as a modern battleship would be to a three-decker of the time
of Nelson.

"The power represented by such a fleet as this is absolutely
inconceivable. The aerostats are large, clumsy, and comparatively
slow. They do not carry guns, and can only drop their projectiles
vertically downwards. Moreover, their sphere of operations has so far
been entirely confined to the land.

"Very different, however, would seem to be the powers of the
Terrorist air-ships. They have proved conclusively that they are
swift almost beyond imagination. They have crossed oceans and
continents in a few hours; they can ascend to enormous heights, and
they carry artillery of unknown design and tremendous range, whose
projectiles excel in destructiveness the very lightnings of heaven

"In the presence of such an awful and mysterious power as this even
the quarrels of nations seem to shrink into unimportance, and almost
to pettiness. Where and when it may strike, no man knows save those
who wield it, and therefore there is nothing for the peoples of the
earth, however mighty they may be, to do but to await the blow in
humiliating impotence, but still with a humble trust in that Higher
Power which alone can save it from accomplishing the destruction of
Society and the enslavement of the human race."

It may well be imagined with what interest, and it may fairly be
added with what intense anxiety, these words were read by hundreds of
thousands of people throughout the British Islands. Even the news
from the Seat of War began to pall in interest before such tidings as
these, invested as they were with the irresistible if terrible charm
of the unknown and the mysterious.

By noon it was almost impossible to get any one in London or any of
the large towns to talk of anything but the disappearance of Lord
Alanmere, the Terrorists, and their marvellous aërial fleet. But it
goes without saying that nowhere did the news produce greater
distress or more utter bewilderment than it did among the occupants
of Alanmere Castle, and especially in the breast of her who had been
so quickly and so strangely installed as its new owner and mistress.

Everywhere the wildest rumours passed from lip to lip, growing in
sensation and absurdity as they went. A report, telegraphed by an
anonymous idiot from Liverpool, to the effect that six air-ships had
appeared over the Mersey, and demanded a ransom of £10,000,000 from
the town, was eagerly seized on by the cheaper evening papers, which
rushed out edition after edition on the strength of it, until the
_St. James's Gazette_ put an end to the excitement by publishing a
telegram from the Mayor of Liverpool denouncing the report as an
insane and criminal hoax.

The next edition of the _St. James's_, however, contained a telegram
from Hiorring, in Denmark, _viâ_ Newcastle, which was of almost, if
not quite, as startling and disquieting a nature, and which,
moreover, contained a very considerable measure of truth. The
telegram ran as follows:--


      _The Sound forced by a Russian Squadron, assisted by a
      Terrorist Air-Ship._

      (_From our own Correspondent._)

      Hiorring, _June 28th_, 8 A.M.

    With the deepest regret I have to record the first naval disaster
    to the British arms during the present war. As soon as it became
    dark last night heavy firing was heard from Copenhagen to the
    southward, and before long the sound deepened into an almost
    continuous roar of light and heavy guns.

    Our naval force in the Baltic was so strong that it was deemed
    incredible that the Russian fleet, which we have held imprisoned
    here since the commencement of hostilities, should dream even of
    making an attempt to escape. The cannonade, however, was the
    beginning of such an attempt, and it is useless disguising the
    fact that it has been completely successful. That this would have
    been the case, or, indeed, that the attempt would ever have been
    made by the Russian fleet alone, cannot be for a moment credited.
    But, incredible as it seems, it is nevertheless true that it was
    assisted, and that in a practically irresistible fashion, by one
    of those air-ships which have hitherto been believed to belong
    exclusively to the Terrorists, that is to say, to the deadliest
    enemies that Russia possesses.

    As nearly as is known the Russian fleet consisted of twelve
    battleships, twenty-five armoured and unarmoured cruisers, and
    about forty torpedo-boats. These came charging ahead at full
    speed into the entrance to the Sound in spite of the overwhelming
    force of the Allied fleets, supported by the fortresses of
    Copenhagen and Elsinore. The attack was so sudden and so
    completely unexpected, that it must be confessed the defenders
    were to a certain extent taken unawares. The Russians came on in
    the form of an elongated wedge, their most powerful vessels being
    at the apex and external sides.

    [Illustration: "On the water the results of the air-ship's attack
    were destructive almost beyond description."

    _See page 191._]

    The firing was furious and sustained from beginning to end of the
    rush, but the damage inflicted by the cannonade of the Russian
    fleet and the torpedo-boats, which every now and then darted out
    from between the warships as opportunity offered to employ their
    silent and deadly weapons, was as nothing in comparison with the
    frightful havoc achieved by the air-ship.

    This extraordinary craft hovered over the attacking force,
    darting hither and thither with bewildering rapidity, and raining
    down shells charged with an unknown explosive of fearful power
    among the crowded ships of the great force which was blocking the
    Sound. Half a dozen of these shells were fired upon the seaward
    fortifications of Copenhagen in passing, and produced a perfectly
    paralysing effect.

    On the water the results of the air-ship's attack were
    destructive almost beyond description, particularly when she
    stationed herself over the Allied fleet and began firing her four
    guns right and left, ahead and astern. Every time a shell struck
    either a battleship or a cruiser, the terrific explosion which
    resulted either sank the ship in a few minutes, or so far
    disabled it that it fell an easy prey to the guns and rams of the
    Russians. As for the torpedo-boats which were struck, they were
    simply scattered over the water in indistinguishable fragments.

    Under these conditions maintenance of formation and effective
    fighting were practically impossible, and the huge iron wedge of
    the Russian squadron was driven almost without a check through
    the demoralised ranks of the Allied fleet. The Gut of Elsinore
    was reached in a little more than three hours after the first
    sounds of the cannonade were heard. Shortly before this the
    air-ship had stationed itself about a thousand feet above the
    water, and a mile from the fortifications.

    From this position it commenced a brief, rapid cannonade from its
    smokeless and flameless guns, the effects of which on the
    fortress are said to have been indescribably awful. Great blocks
    of steel-sheathed masonry were dislodged from the ramparts and
    hurled bodily into the sea, carrying with them guns and men to
    irretrievable destruction. In less than half an hour the once
    impregnable fortress of Elsinore was little better than a heap of
    ruins. The last shell blew up the central magazine; the
    tremendous explosion was heard for miles along the coast, and
    proved to be the closing act of the briefest but most deadly
    great naval action in the history of war.

    The Russian fleet steamed triumphantly past the silenced Cerberus
    of the Sound with flashing searchlights, blazing rockets, and
    jubilant salvos of blank cartridge in honour of their really
    brilliant victory.

    The losses of the Allied fleet, so far as they are at present
    known, are distressingly heavy. We have lost the battleships
    _Neptune_, _Hotspur_, _Anson_, _Superb_, _Black Prince_, and
    _Rodney_, the armoured cruisers _Narcissus_, _Beatrice_, and
    _Mersey_, the unarmoured cruisers _Arethusa_, _Barossa_, _Clyde_,
    _Lais_, _Seagull_, _Grasshopper_, and _Nautilus_, and not less
    than nineteen torpedo-boats of the first and second classes.

    The Germans and Danes have lost the battleships _Kaiser Wilhelm_,
    _Friedrich der Grosse_, _Dantzig_, _Viborg_, and _Funen_, five
    German and three Danish cruisers, and about a dozen

    Under whatever circumstances the Russians have obtained the
    assistance of the air-ship, which rendered them services that
    have proved so disastrous to the Allies, there can be no doubt
    but that her arrival on the scene puts a completely different
    aspect on the face of affairs at sea.

    I have written this telegram on board first-class torpedo-boat,
    No. 87, which followed the Russian fleet from the Sound round the
    Skawe. They passed through the Kattegat in two columns of line
    ahead, with the air-ship apparently resting after her flight on
    board one of the largest steamers. We could see her quite
    distinctly by the glare of the rockets and the electric light.
    She is a small three-masted vessel almost exactly resembling the
    one which partially destroyed Kronstadt in the middle of March.

    After rounding the Skawe, the Russian fleet steamed away westward
    into the German Ocean, and we put in here to send off our
    despatches. This telegram has, of course, been officially
    revised, and my information, as far as it goes, can therefore be
    relied upon.



At noon on the 26th, as the tropical sun was pouring down its
vertical rays upon the lovely valley of Aeria, the _Ithuriel_ crossed
the Ridge which divided it from the outer world, and came to rest on
the level stretch of sward on the northern shore of the lake.

Before she touched the earth Arnold glanced rapidly round and
discovered his aërial fleet resting under a series of large
palm-thatched sheds which had already been erected to protect them
from the burning sun, and the rare but violent tropical rain-storms.
He counted them. There were only eleven, and therefore the evil
tidings that they had heard from the captain of the _Andromeda_ was

Even before greetings were exchanged with the colonists Natas ordered
Nicholas Roburoff to be summoned on board alone. He received him in
the lower saloon, on either side of which, as he went in, he found a
member of the crew armed with a magazine rifle and fixed bayonet.

Seated at the cabin table were Natas, Tremayne, and Arnold. The
President was received in cold and ominous silence, not even a glance
of recognition was vouchsafed to him. He stood at the other end of
the table with bowed head, a prisoner before his judges. Natas looked
at him for some moments in dead silence, and there was a dark gleam
of anger in his eyes which made Arnold tremble for the man whose life
hung upon a word of a judge from whose sentence there could be no

At length Natas spoke; his voice was hard and even; there were no
modulations in it that displayed the slightest feeling, whether of
anger or any other emotion. It was like the voice of an impassive
machine speaking the very words of Fate itself.

"You know why we have returned, and why you have been sent for?"

"Yes, Master."

Roburoff's voice was low and respectful, but there was no quaver of
fear in it.

"You were left here in command of the settlement and in charge of the
fleet. You were ordered to permit no vessel to leave the valley till
the flagship returned. One of them was seen crossing the
Mediterranean in a northerly direction three days ago. Either you are
a traitor, or that vessel is in the hands of traitors. Explain."

Nicholas Roburoff remained silent for a few moments. His breast
heaved once or twice convulsively, as though he were striving hard to
repress some violent emotion. Then he drew himself up like a soldier
coming to attention, and, looking straight in front of him, told his
story briefly and calmly, though he knew that, according to the laws
of the Order, its sequel might, and probably would, be his own death.

"The night of the day on which the flagship left the valley was
visited by a violent storm, which raged for about four hours without
cessation. We had no proper shelter but the air-ships, and so I
distributed the company among them.

"When nearly all had been provided for, there was one vessel left
unoccupied, and four of the unmarried men had not been accommodated.
They therefore took their places in the spare vessel. They were Peter
Tamboff, Amos Vornjeh, Ivan Tscheszco, and Paul Oreloff, all

"We closed the hatches of the vessels, and remained inside till the
storm ceased. When we were able to open the hatches again, it was
pitch dark--so dark that it was impossible to see even a yard from
one's face. Suspecting no evil, we retired to rest again till
sunrise. When day dawned it was found that the vessel in which the
four men I have named had taken shelter had disappeared.

"I at once ordered three vessels to rise and pass through the defile.
On the outside we separated and made the entire circuit of Aeria,
rising as high as the fan-wheels would take us, and examining the
horizon in all directions for the missing vessel.

"We failed to discover her, and were forced to the conclusion that
the deserters had taken her away early in the night at full speed,
and would, therefore, be far beyond the possibility of capture, as we
possessed no faster vessel than the missing one. So we returned. That
is all."

"Go to the forward cabin and remain there till you're sent for," said

The President instantly turned and walked mechanically through the
door that was opened for him by one of the sentinels. The other went
in front of him, the second behind, closing the door as he left the

A brief discussion took place between Natas and his two lieutenants,
and within a quarter of an hour Nicholas Roburoff was again standing
at the end of the table to hear the decision of his judges. Without
any preamble it was delivered by Natas in these words--

"We have heard your story, and believe it. You have been guilty of a
serious mistake, for these four men were all ordinary members of the
Outer Circle, who had only been brought here on account of their
mechanical skill to occupy subordinate positions. You therefore
committed a grave error, amounting almost to a breach of the rule
which states that no members of the Outer Circle shall be entrusted
with any charge, or work, save under the supervision of a member of
the Inner Circle responsible for them.

"Had such a breach been even technically committed your life would
have been forfeited, and you would have been executed for breach of
trust. We have considered the circumstances, and find you guilty of
indiscretion and want of forethought.

"You will cease from now to be President of the Inner Circle. Your
place will be taken for the time by Alan Tremayne as Chief of the
Executive. You will cease also to share the Councils of the Order for
a space of twelve months, during which time you will be incapable of
any responsible charge or authority. Your restoration will, of
course, depend upon your behaviour. I have said."

As he finished speaking Natas waved his hand towards the door. It was
opened, the sentries stepped aside, and Nicholas Roburoff walked out
in silence, with bowed head and a heart heavy with shame. The penalty
was really the most severe that could be inflicted on him, for he
found himself suddenly deprived both of authority and the confidence
of his chiefs at the very hour when the work of the Brotherhood was
culminating to its fruition.

Yet, heavy as the punishment seemed in comparison with the fault, it
was justified by the necessities of the case. Without the strictest
safeguards, not only against treachery or disobedience, but even mere
carelessness, it would have been impossible to have carried on the
tremendous work which the Brotherhood had silently and secretly
accomplished, and which was soon to produce results as momentous as
they would be unexpected. No one knew this better than the late
President himself, who frankly acknowledged the justice and the
necessity of his punishment, and prepared to devote himself heart and
soul to regaining his lost credit in the eyes of the Master.

No sooner was the sentence pronounced than the matter was instantly
dismissed and never alluded to again, so far as Roburoff was
concerned, by any one. No one presumed even to comment upon a word or
deed of the Master. The disgraced President fell naturally, and
apparently without observation, into his humbler sphere of duties,
and the members of the colony treated him with exactly the same
friendliness and fraternity as they had done before. Natas had
decided, and there was nothing more for any one to say or do in the

Arnold, as soon as he had exchanged greetings with the Princess, now
known simply as Anna Ornovski, and his other friends and
acquaintances in the colony, not, of course, forgetting Louis Holt,
at once shut himself up in his laboratory by the turbine, and for the
next four hours remained invisible, preparing a large supply of his
motor gases, and pumping them into the exhausted cylinders of the
_Ithuriel_, and all the others that were available, by means of his
hydraulic machinery.

Soon after four he had finished his task, and come out to take his
part in a ceremony of a very different character to that at which he
had been obliged to assist earlier in the day. This was the
fulfilment of the promise which Radna Michaelis had made to Colston
in the Council-chamber of the house on Clapham Common on the evening
of his departure on the expedition which had so brilliantly proved
the powers of the _Ariel_, and brought such confusion on the enemies
of the Brotherhood.

Almost the first words that Colston had said to Radna when he boarded
the _Avondale_ were--

"Natasha is yonder, safe and sound, and you are mine at last!"

And she had replied very quietly, yet with a thrill in her voice that
told her lover how gladly she accepted her own condition--

"What you have fairly won is yours to take when you will have it.
Besides, you cannot do justice on Kastovitch now, for it has already
been done. We had news before we left England that he had been shot
through the heart by the brother of a girl whom he treated worse than
he treated me."

But, as has been stated before, the laws of the Brotherhood did not
permit of the marriage of any of its members without the direct
sanction of Natas, and therefore it had been necessary to wait until

As Radna and Colston were two of the most trusted and prominent
members of the Inner Circle, it was fitting that their wedding should
be honoured by the presence of the Master in person. An added
solemnity was also given to it by the fact that, in all human
probability, it was the first time since the world began that the
mighty hills which looked down upon Aeria had witnessed the plighting
of the troth of a man and a woman.

Like all other formal acts of the Brotherhood, the ceremony was
simple in the extreme; but, in this case at least, it was none the
less impressive on that account. In a lovely glade, through which a
crystal stream ran laughing on its way to the lake, Natas sat under
the shade of a spreading tree-fern. In front of him was a small table
covered with a white cloth, on which lay a roll of parchment and a
copy of the Hebrew Scriptures.

At this table, facing Natas, stood the betrothed pair with their
witnesses, Natasha for Radna, and Arnold for Colston, or Alexis
Mazanoff, to give him his true name, which must, of course, be used
on such an occasion. In a wide semicircle some four yards off stood
all the members of the little community, Louis Holt and his faithful
servitor not excepted.

In the midst of a silence broken only by the whispering of the warm,
scented wind in the tree-tops, the Master of the Terror spoke in a
kindly yet solemn tone--

"Alexis Mazanoff and Radna Michaelis, you stand here before Heaven,
and in the presence of your comrades, to take each other for wedded
wife and husband, till death shall part the hands that now are

"Your mutual vows have long ago been pledged, and what you are about
to do is good earnest of their fulfilment. But above the duty that
you owe to each other stands your duty to that great Cause to which
you have already irrevocably devoted your lives. You have already
sworn that as long as you shall live its ends shall be your ends, and
that no human considerations shall weigh with you where those ends
are concerned. Do you take each other for husband and wife subject to
that condition and all that it implies?"

"We do!" replied the lovers with one voice, and then Natas went on--

"Then by the laws of our Order, the only laws that we are permitted
to obey, I pronounce you man and wife before Heaven and this company.
Be faithful to each other and the Cause in the days to come as you
have been in the days that are past, and if it shall please the
Master of Destiny that you shall be blessed with children, see to it
that you train them up in the love of truth, freedom, and justice,
and in the hatred of tyranny and wrong.

"May the blessings of life be yours as you shall deserve them, and
when the appointed hour shall come, may you be found ready to pass
from the mystery of the things that are into the deeper mystery of
the things that are to be!"

So saying, the Master raised his hands as though in blessing, and as
Alexis and Radna bent their heads the slanting sunrays fell upon the
thickly coiled white hair of the new-made wife, crowning her shapely
head like a diadem of silver.

All that remained to do now was to sign the Marriage Roll of the
Brotherhood, and when they had done this the entry stood as

    "Married on the tenth day of the Month Tamuz, in the Year of the
    World five thousand six hundred and sixty-four, in the presence
    of me, Natas, and those of the Brotherhood now resident in the
    Colony of Aeria:--


      Witnesses   {RICHARD ARNOLD,

As Natasha laid down the pen after signing she looked up quickly, as
though moved by some sudden impulse, her eyes met Arnold's, and an
instant later the happy flush on Radna's cheek was rivalled by that
which rose to her own. Her lips half parted in a smile, and then she
turned suddenly away to be the first to offer her congratulations to
the newly-wedded wife, while Arnold, his heart beating as it had
never done since the model of the _Ariel_ first rose from the floor
of his room in the Southwark tenement-house, grasped Mazanoff by the
hand and said simply--

"God bless you both, old man!"

The whole ceremony had not taken more than fifteen minutes from
beginning to end. After Arnold came Tremayne with his good wishes,
and then Anna Ornovski and the rest of the friends and comrades of
the newly-wedded lovers.

One usually conspicuous feature in similar ceremonies was entirely
wanting. There were no wedding presents. For this there was a very
sufficient reason. All the property of the members of the Inner
Circle, saving only articles of personal necessity, were held in
common. Articles of mere convenience or luxury were looked upon with
indifference, if not with absolute contempt, and so no one had
anything to give.

After all, this was not a very serious matter for a company of men
and women who held in their hands the power of levying indemnities to
any amount upon the wealth-centres of the world under pain of
immediate destruction.

That evening the supper of the colonists took the shape of a sylvan
marriage feast, eaten in the open air under the palms and tree ferns,
as the sun was sinking down behind the western peaks of Aeria, and
the full moon was rising over those to the eastward.

The whole earth might have been searched in vain for a happier
company of men and women than that which sat down to the marriage
feast of Radna Michaelis and Alexis Mazanoff in the virgin groves of
Aeria. For the time being the world-war and all its horrors were
forgotten, and they allowed their thoughts to turn without restraint
to the promise of the days when the work of the Brotherhood should be
accomplished, and there should be peace on earth at last.

It had been decided that three of the air-ships would be sufficient
for the chase and capture or destruction, as the case might be, of
the deserters. These were the _Ithuriel_, under the command of
Arnold; the _Ariel_, commanded by Mazanoff, who, of course, did not
sail alone; and the _Orion_, in charge of Tremayne, who had already
mastered the details of aërial navigation under Arnold's tuition.

To the unspeakable satisfaction of the latter, Natas had signified
his intention of accompanying him in the _Ithuriel_. As Natasha
utterly refused to be parted so soon from her father again, one of
his attendants was dispensed with and she took his place. This fact
had, of course, something to do with the Admiral's satisfaction with
the arrangement.

By nine o'clock the moon was high in the heavens. At that hour the
fan-wheels of the little squadron rose from the decks, and at a
signal from Arnold began to revolve. The three vessels ascended
quietly into the air amidst the cheers and farewells of the
colonists, and in single file passed slowly down the beautiful valley
bathed in the brilliant moonlight. One by one they disappeared
through the defile that led to the outer world, and, once clear of
the mountains, the _Ithuriel_, with one of her consorts on either
side, headed away due north at the speed of a hundred miles an hour.



The _Ithuriel_ and her consorts crossed the northern coast of Africa
soon after daybreak on the 27th, in the longitude of Alexandria, at
an elevation of nearly 4000 feet. From thence they pursued almost the
same course as that steered by the deserters, as Natas had rightly
judged that they would first make for Russia, probably St.
Petersburg, and there hand the air-ship over to the representatives
of the Tsar.

There was, of course, another alternative, and that was the
supposition that they had stolen the _Lucifer_--the "fallen Angel,"
as Natasha had now re-named her--for purposes of piracy and private
revenge; but that was negatived by the fact that Tamboff knew that he
only had a certain supply of motive power which he could not renew,
and which, once exhausted, left his air-ship as useless as a steamer
without coal. His only reasonable course, therefore, would be to sell
the vessel to the Tsar, and leave his Majesty's chemists to discover
and renew the motive power if they could.

These conclusions once arrived at, it was an easy matter for the keen
and subtle intellect of Natas to deduce from them almost the exact
sequence of events that had actually taken place. The _Lucifer_ had a
sufficient supply of power-cylinders and shells for present use, and
these would doubtless be employed at once by the Tsar, who would
trust to his chemists and engineers to discover the nature of the
agents employed.

For this purpose it would be absolutely necessary for him to give
them one or two of the shells, and at least two of the spare
power-cylinders as subjects for their experiments.

Now Natas knew that if there was one man in Russia who could discover
the composition of the explosives, that man was Professor Volnow of
the Imperial Arsenal Laboratory, and therefore the shells and
cylinders would be sent to him at the Arsenal for examination. The
whereabouts of the deserters for the present mattered nothing in
comparison with the possible discovery of the secret on which the
whole power of the Terrorists depended.

That once revealed, the sole empire of the air was theirs no longer.
The Tsar, with millions of money at his command, could very soon
build an aërial fleet, not only equal, but, numerically at least,
vastly superior to their own, and this would practically give him the
command of the world.

Natas therefore came to the conclusion that no measures could be too
extreme to be justified by such a danger as this, and so, after a
consultation with the commanders of the three vessels, it was decided
to, if necessary, destroy the Arsenal at St. Petersburg, on the
strength of the reasoning that had led to the logical conclusion that
within its precincts the priceless secret either might be or had
already been discovered.

As the crow flies, St. Petersburg is thirty degrees of latitude, or
eighteen hundred geographical miles, north of Alexandria, and this
distance the _Ithuriel_ and her consorts, flying at a speed of a
hundred and twenty miles an hour, traversed in fifteen hours,
reaching the Russian capital a few minutes after seven on the evening
of the 27th.

The Rome of the North, basking in the soft evening sunlight of the
incomparable Russian summer, lay vast and white and beautiful on the
islands formed by the Neva and its ten tributaries; its innumerable
palaces, churches, and theatres, and long straight streets of stately
houses, its parks and gardens, and its green shady suburbs, making up
a picture which forced an exclamation of wonder from Arnold's lips as
the air-ships slowed down and he left the conning-tower of the
_Ithuriel_ to admire the magnificent view from the bows. They passed
over the city at a height of four thousand feet, and so were quite
near enough to see and enjoy the excitement and consternation which
their sudden appearance instantly caused among the inhabitants. The
streets and squares filled in an inconceivably short space of time
with crowds of people, who ran about like tiny ants upon the ground,
gesticulating and pointing upwards, evidently in terror lest the fate
of Kronstadt was about to fall upon St. Petersburg.

The experimental department of the Arsenal had within the last two or
three years been rebuilt on a large space of waste ground outside the
northern suburbs, and to this the three air-ships directed their
course after passing over the city. It was a massive three-storey
building, built in the form of a quadrangle. The three air-ships
stopped within a mile of it at an elevation of two thousand feet. It
had been decided that, before proceeding to extremities, which, after
all, might still leave them in doubt as to whether or not they had
really destroyed all means of analysing the explosives, they should
make an effort to discover whether Professor Volnow had received them
for experiment, and, if so, what success he had had.

Mazanoff had undertaken this delicate and dangerous task, and so, as
soon as the _Ithuriel_ and the _Orion_ came to a standstill, and hung
motionless in the air, with all their guns ready trained on different
parts of the building, the _Ariel_ sank suddenly and swiftly down,
and stopped within forty feet of the heads of a crowd of soldiers and
mechanics, who had rushed pell-mell out of the building, under the
impression that it was about to be destroyed.

The bold manœuvre of the _Ariel_ took officers and men completely by
surprise. So intense was the terror in which these mysterious
air-ships were held, and so absolute was the belief that they were
armed with perfectly irresistible means of destruction, that the
sight of one of them at such close quarters paralysed all thought and
action for the time being. The first shock over, the majority of the
crowd took to their heels and fled incontinently. Of the remainder a
few of the bolder spirits handled their rifles and looked inquiringly
at their officers. Mazanoff saw this, and at once raised his hand
towards the sky and shouted--

"Ground arms! If a shot is fired the Arsenal will be destroyed as
Kronstadt was, and then we shall attack Petersburg."

The threat was sufficient. A grey-haired officer in undress uniform
glanced up at the _Ithuriel_ and her consort, and then at the guns of
the _Ariel_, all four of which had been swung round and brought to
bear on the side of the building near which she had descended. He was
no coward, but he saw that Mazanoff had the power to do what he said,
and that even if this one air-ship were captured or destroyed, the
other two would take a frightful vengeance. He thought of Kronstadt,
and decided to parley. The rifle butts had come to the ground before
Mazanoff had done speaking.

"Order arms, and keep silence!" said the officer, and then he
advanced alone from the crowd and said--

"Who are you, and what is your errand?"

"Alexis Mazanoff, late prisoner of the Tsar, and now commander of the
Terrorist air-ship _Ariel_. I have not come to destroy you unless you
force me to do so, but to ask certain questions, and demand the
giving up of certain property delivered into your hands by deserters
and traitors."

"What are your questions?"

"First, is Professor Volnow in the building?"

"He is."

"Then I must ask you to send for him at once."

It went sorely against the grain of the servant of the Tsar to
acquiesce in the demand of an outlaw, but there was nothing else for
it. The outlaw could blow him and all his subordinates into space
with a pressure of his finger; and so he sent an orderly with a
request for the presence of the professor. Meanwhile Mazanoff

"An air-ship similar to this arrived here three days ago, I believe?"

The officer bit his lips with rage at his helpless position, and
bowed affirmatively.

"And certain articles were taken out of her for examination here--two
gas cylinders and a projectile, I believe?"

Again the officer bowed, wondering how on earth the Terrorist could
have come by such accurate information.

"And the air-ship has been sent on to the seat of war, while the
Professor is trying to discover the composition of the gases and the
explosive used in the shell?" went on Mazanoff, risking a last shot
at the truth.

The officer did not bow this time. Giving way at last to his rising
fury, he stamped on the ground and almost screamed--

"Great God! you insolent scoundrel! Why do you ask me questions when
you know the answers as well as I do, and better? Yes, we have got
one of your diabolical ships of the air, and we will build a fleet
like it and hunt you from the world!"

"All in good time, my dear sir," replied Mazanoff ironically. "When
you have found a place in which to build them that we cannot blow off
the face of the earth before you get one finished. Meanwhile, let me
beg of you to keep your temper, and to remember that there is a lady
present. That girl standing yonder by the gun was once stripped and
flogged by Russians calling themselves men and soldiers. Her fingers
are itching to make the movement that would annihilate you and every
one standing near you, so pray try keep your temper; for if we fire a
shot the air-ships up yonder will at once open fire, and not stop
while there is a stone of that building left upon another. Ah! here
comes the Professor."

As he spoke the man of science advanced, looking wonderingly at the
air-ship. Mazanoff made a sign to the old officer to keep silence,
and continued in the same polite tone that he had used all along--

"Good evening, Professor! I have come to ask you whether you have yet
made any experiments on the contents of the shell and the two
cylinders that were given to you for examination?"

"I must first ask for your authority to put such an inquiry to me on
a confidential subject," replied the Professor stiffly.

"On the authority given me by the power to enforce an answer, sir,"
returned the Terrorist quietly. "I know that Professor Volnow will
not lie to me, even at the order of the Tsar, and when I tell you
that your refusal to reply will cost the lives of every one here, and
possibly involve the destruction of Petersburg itself, I feel sure
that, as a mere matter of humanity, you will comply with my request."

"Sir, the orders of my master are absolute secrecy on this subject,
and I will obey them to the death. I have analysed the contents of
one of the cylinders, but what they are I will tell to no one save by
the direct command of his Majesty. That is all I have done."

"Then in that case, Professor, I must ask you to surrender yourself
prisoner of war, and to come on board this vessel at once."

As Mazanoff said this the _Ariel_ dropped to within ten feet of the
ground, and a rope-ladder fell over the side.

"Come, Professor, there is no time to be lost. I shall give the order
to fire in one minute from now."

He took out his watch, and began to count the seconds. Ten, twenty,
thirty passed and the Professor stood irresolute. Two of the
_Ariel's_ guns pointed at the gables of the Arsenal, and two swept
the crowded space in front.

Konstantin Volnow knew enough to see clearly the frightful slaughter
and destruction that twenty seconds more would bring if he refused to
give himself up. As Mazanoff counted "forty" he threw up his hands
with a gesture of despair, and cried--

"Stop! I will come. The Tsar has as good servants as I am! Colonel,
tell his Majesty that I gave myself up to save the lives of better

Then the Professor mounted the ladder amidst a murmur of relief and
applause from the crowd, and, gaining the deck of the _Ariel_, bowed
coldly to Mazanoff and said--

"I am your prisoner, sir!"

The captain of the _Ariel_ bowed in reply, and stamped thrice on the
deck. The fan-wheels whirled round, and the air-ship rapidly
ascended, at the same time moving diagonally across the quadrangle of
the Arsenal.

Scarcely had she reached the other side when there was a tremendous
explosion in the north-eastern angle of the building. A sheet of
flame shot up through the roof, the walls split asunder, and masses
of stone, wood, and iron went flying in all directions, leaving only
a fiercely burning mass of ruins where the gable had been.

The Professor turned ashy pale, staggered backwards with both his
hands clasped to his head, and gasped out brokenly as he stared at
the conflagration--

"God have mercy on me! My laboratory! My assistant--I told him"--

"What did you tell him, Professor?" said Mazanoff sternly, grasping
him suddenly by the arm.

"I told him not to open the other cylinder."

"And he has done so, and paid for his disobedience with his life,"
said Mazanoff calmly. "Console yourself, my dear sir! He has only
saved me the trouble of destroying your laboratory. I serve a sterner
and more powerful master than yours. He ordered me to make your
experiments impossible if it cost a thousand lives to do so, and I
would have done it if necessary. Rest content with the knowledge that
you have saved, not only the rest of the Arsenal, but also
Petersburg, by your surrender; for sooner than that secret had been
revealed, we should have laid the city in ruins to slay the man who
had discovered it."

The prisoner of the Terrorists made no reply, but turned away in
silence to watch the rapidly receding building, in the angle of which
the flames were still raging furiously. A few minutes later the
_Ariel_ had rejoined her consorts. Her captain at once went on board
the flagship to make his report and deliver up his prisoner to Natas,
who looked sharply at him and said--

"Professor, will you give me your word of honour to attempt no
communication with the earth while it may be found necessary to
detain you? If not, I shall be compelled to keep you in strict
confinement till it is beyond your power to do so."

"Sir, I give you my word that I will not do so," said the Professor,
who had now somewhat regained his composure.

"Very well," replied Natas. "Then on that condition you will be made
free of the vessel, and we will make you as comfortable as we can.
Captain Arnold, full speed to the south-westward, if you please."



A few minutes after two on the following morning, that is to say on
the 28th, the electric signal leading from the conning-tower of the
_Ithuriel_ to the wall of Arnold's cabin, just above his berth,
sounded. As it was only permitted to be used on occasions of urgency,
he knew that his presence was immediately required forward for some
good reason, and so he turned out at once, threw a dressing-gown over
his sleeping suit, and within three minutes was standing in the
conning-tower beside Andrew Smith, whose watch it then happened to

"Well, Smith, what's the matter?"

"Fleet of war-balloons coming up from the south'ard, sir. You can
just see 'em, sir, coming on in line under that long bank of cloud."

The captain of the _Ithuriel_ took the night-glasses, and looked
eagerly in the direction pointed out by his keen-eyed coxswain. As
soon as he picked them up he had no difficulty in making out twelve
small dark spots in line at regular intervals sharply defined against
a band of light that lay between the earth and a long dark bank of

It was a division of the Tsar's aërial fleet, returning from some
work of death and destruction in the south to rejoin the main force
before Berlin. Arnold's course was decided on in an instant. He saw a
chance of turning the tables on his Majesty in a fashion that he
would find as unpleasant as it would be unexpected. He turned to his
coxswain and said--

"How is the wind, Smith?"

"Nor'-nor'-west, with perhaps half a point more north in it, sir.
About a ten-knot breeze--at least that's the drift that Mr. Marston's
allowing for."

"Yes, that's near enough. Then those fellows, if they are going full
speed, are coming up at about twenty miles an hour, or not quite
that. They're nearly twenty miles off, as nearly as I can judge in
this light. What do you make it?"

"That's about it, sir; rather less than more, if anything, to my

"Very well, then. Now signal to stop, and send up the fan-wheels; and
tell the _Ariel_ and the _Orion_ to close up and speak."

"Ay, ay, sir," said the coxswain, as he saluted and disappeared.
Arnold at once went back to his cabin and dressed, telling his second
officer, Frank Marston, a young Englishman, whom he had chosen to
take Mazanoff's place, to do the same as quietly as possible, as he
did not wish to awaken any of his three passengers just at present.

By the time he got on deck the three air-ships had slowed down
considerably, and the two consorts of the _Ithuriel_ were within easy
speaking distance. Mazanoff and Tremayne were both on deck, and to
them he explained his plans as follows--

"There are a dozen of the Tsar's war-balloons coming up yonder to the
southward, and I am going to head them off and capture the lot if I
can. If we can do that, we can make what terms we like for the
surrender of the _Lucifer_.

"You two take your ships and get to windward of them as fast as you
can. Keep a little higher than they are, but not much. On no account
let one of them get above you. If they try to descend, give each one
that does so a No. 1 shell, and blow her up. If one tries to pass
you, ram her in the upper part of the gas-holder, and let her down
with a smash.

"I am going up above them to prevent any of them from rising too far.
They can outfly us in that one direction, so I shall blow any that
attempt it into little pieces. If you have to fire on any of them,
don't use more than No. 1; you'll find that more than enough.

"Keep an eye on me for signals, and remember that the whole fleet
must be destroyed rather than one allowed to escape. I want to give
the Tsar a nice little surprise. He seems to be getting a good deal
too cock-sure about these old gas-bags of his, and it's time to give
him a lesson in real aërial warfare."

There was not a great newspaper in the world that would not have
given a very long price to have had the privilege of putting a
special correspondent on the deck of the _Ithuriel_ for the two hours
which followed the giving of Arnold's directions to his brother
commanders of the little squadron. The journal which could have
published an exclusive account of the first aërial skirmish in the
history of the world would have scored a triumph which would have
left its competitors a long way behind in the struggle to be "up to

As soon as Arnold had given his orders, the three air-ships at once
separated. The _Ariel_ and the _Orion_ shot away to the southward on
only a slightly upward course, while the _Ithuriel_ soared up beyond
the stratum of clouds which lay in thin broken masses rather more
than four thousand feet above the earth.

It was still rather more than an hour before sunrise, and, as the
moon had gone down, and the clouds intercepted most of the starlight,
it was just "the darkest hour before the dawn," and therefore the
most favourable for the carrying out of the plan that Arnold had in

Shortly after half-past two he knocked at Natasha's cabin-door, and

"If you would like to see an aërial battle, get up and come into the
conning-tower at once. We have overtaken a squadron of Russian
war-balloons, and we are going either to capture or destroy them."

"Glorious!" exclaimed Natasha, wide awake in an instant at such
startling news. "I'll be with you in five minutes. Tell my father,
and please don't begin till I come."

"I shouldn't think of opening the ball without your ladyship's
presence," laughed Arnold in reply, and then he went and called Natas
and his attendant and the Professor before going to the
conning-tower, where in a very few minutes he was joined by Natasha.
The first words she said were--

"I have told Ivan to send us some coffee as soon as he has attended
to my father. You see how thoughtful I am for your creature comforts.
Now, where are the war-balloons?"

[Illustration: "Come now, and fire the first shot in the warfare of
the future."

_See page 211._]

"On the other side of those clouds. There, look down through that big
rift, and you will see one of them."

"Why, what a height we must be from the earth! The balloon looks like
a little toy thing, but it must be a great clumsy contrivance for all

"The barometer gives five thousand three hundred feet. You will soon
see why I have come up so high. The balloons can rise to fifteen or
twenty thousand feet, if they wish to, and in that way they could
easily escape us; therefore, if one of them attempts to rise through
those clouds, I shall send him back to earth in little bits."

"And what are the other two air-ships doing?"

"They are below the clouds, heading the balloons off from the Russian
camp, which is about fifty miles to the north-westward. Ha! look,
there go the searchlights!"

As he spoke, two long converging beams of light darted across a broad
space of sky that was free from cloud. They came from the _Ariel_ and
the _Orion_, which thus suddenly revealed themselves to the
astonished and disgusted Russians, one at each end of their long
line, and only a little more than half a mile ahead of it.

The searchlights flashed to and fro along the line, plainly showing
the great masses of the aerostats' gas-holders, with their long
slender cars beneath them. A blue light was burnt on the largest of
the war-balloons, and at once the whole flotilla began to ascend
towards the clouds, followed by the two air-ships.

"Here they come!" said Arnold, as he saw them rising through a
cloud-rift. "Come out and watch what happens to the first one that
shows herself."

He went out on deck, followed by Natasha, and took his place by one
of the broadside guns. At the same time he gave the order for the
_Ithuriel's_ searchlight to be turned on, and to sweep the
cloud-field below her. Presently a black rounded object appeared
rising through the clouds like a whale coming to the surface of the

He trained the gun on to it as it came distinctly into view, and said
to Natasha--

"Come, now, and fire the first shot in the warfare of the future. Put
your finger on the button, and press when I tell you."

Natasha did as he told her, and at the word "Fire!" pressed the
little ivory button down. The shell struck the upper envelope of the
balloon, passed through, and exploded. A broad sheet of flame shot
up, brilliantly illuminating the sea of cloud for an instant, and all
was darkness again. A few seconds later there came another blaze, and
the report of a much greater explosion from below the clouds.

"What was that?" asked Natasha.

"That was the car full of explosives striking the earth and going off
promiscuously," replied Arnold. "There isn't as much of that aerostat
left as would make a pocket-handkerchief or a walking-stick."

"And the crew?"

"Never knew what happened to them. In the new warfare people will not
be merely killed, they will be annihilated."

"Horrible!" exclaimed Natasha, with a shudder. "I think you may do
the rest of the shooting. The effects of that shot will last me for
some time. Look, there's another of them coming up!"

The words were hardly out of her mouth before Arnold had crossed to
the other side of the deck and sped another missile on its errand of
destruction with almost exactly the same result as before. This
second shot, as it was afterwards found, threw the Russian squadron
into complete panic.

The terrific suddenness with which the two aerostats had been
destroyed convinced those in command of the others that there was a
large force of air-ships above the clouds ready to destroy them one
by one as they ascended. Arnold waited for a few minutes, and then,
seeing that no others cared to risk the fate that had overwhelmed the
first two that had sought to cross the cloud-zone, sank rapidly
through it, and then stopped again.

He found himself about six hundred feet above the rest of the
squadron. The _Ithuriel_ coming thus suddenly into view, her eight
guns pointing in all directions, and her searchlight flashing hither
and thither as though seeking new victims, completed the
demoralisation of the Russians. For all they knew there were still
more air-ships above the clouds. Even this one could not be passed
while those mysterious guns of unknown range and infallible aim were
sweeping the sky, ready to hurl their silent lightnings in every

Ascend they dare not. To descend was to be destroyed in detail as
they lay helpless upon the earth. There was only one chance of
escape, and that was to scatter. The commander of the squadron at
once signalled for this to be done, and the aerostats headed away to
all points of the compass. But here they had reckoned without the
incomparable speed of their assailants.

Before they had moved a hundred yards from their common centre the
_Ariel_ and the _Orion_ headed away in different directions, and in
an inconceivably short space of time had described a complete circle
round them, and then another and another, narrowing each circle that
they made. One of the aerostats, watching its opportunity, put on
full speed and tried to get outside the narrowing zone. She had
almost succeeded, when the _Orion_ swerved outwards and dashed at her
with the ram.

In ten seconds she was overtaken. The keen steel prow of the
air-ship, driven at more than a hundred miles an hour, ripped her
gas-holder from end to end as if it had been tissue paper. It
collapsed like broken bubble, and the wreck, with its five occupants
and its load of explosives, dropped like a stone to the earth, three
thousand feet below, exploding like one huge shell as it struck.

This was the last blow struck in the first aërial battle in the
history of warfare. The Russians had no stomach for this kind of
fighting. It was all very well to sail over armies and fortresses on
the earth and drop shells upon them without danger of retaliation;
but this was an entirely different matter.

Three of the aerostats had been destroyed in little more than as many
minutes, so utterly destroyed that not a vestige of them remained,
and the whole squadron had not been able to strike a blow in
self-defence. They carried no guns, not even small arms, for they had
no use for them in the work that they had to do. There were only two
alternatives before them--surrender or piecemeal destruction.

As soon as she had destroyed the third aerostat, the _Orion_ swerved
round again, and began flying round the squadron as before in an
opposite direction to the _Ariel_. None of the aerostats made an
attempt to break the strange blockage again. As the circles narrowed
they crowded closer and closer together, like a flock of sheep
surrounded by wolves.

Meanwhile the _Ithuriel_, floating above the centre of the disordered
squadron, descended slowly until she hung a hundred feet above the
highest of them. Then Arnold with his searchlight flashed a signal to
the _Ariel_ which at once slowed down, the _Orion_ continuing on her
circular course as before.

As soon as the _Ariel_ was going slowly enough for him to make
himself heard, Mazanoff shouted through a speaking-trumpet--

"Will you surrender, or fight it out?"

"_Nu vot_! how can we fight with those devil-ships of yours? What is
your pleasure?"

The answering hail came from one of the aerostats in the centre of
the squadron. Mazanoff at once replied--

"Unconditional surrender for the present, under guarantee of safety
to every one who surrenders. Who are you?"

"Colonel Alexei Alexandrovitch, in command of the squadron. I
surrender on those terms. Who are you?"

"The captain of the Terrorist air-ship _Ariel_. Be good enough to
come out here, Colonel Alexei Alexandrovitch."

One of the aerostats moved out of the midst of the Russian squadron
and made its way towards the _Ariel_. As she approached Mazanoff
swung his bow round and brought it level with the car of the
aerostat, at the same time training one of his guns full on it. Then,
with his arm resting on the breach of the gun, he said,--

"Come on board, Colonel, and bid your balloon follow me. No nonsense,
mind, or I'll blow you into eternity and all your squadron after

The Russian did as he was bidden, and the _Ariel_, followed by the
aerostat, ascended to the _Ithuriel_, while the _Orion_ kept up her
patrol round the captive war-balloons.

"Colonel Alexandrovitch, in command of the Tsar's aërial squadron,
surrenders unconditionally, save for guarantee of personal safety to
himself and his men," reported Mazanoff, as he came within earshot of
the flagship.

"Very good," replied Arnold from the deck of the _Ithuriel_. You will
keep Colonel Alexandrovitch as hostage for the good behaviour of the
rest, and shoot him the moment one of the balloons attempts to
escape. After that destroy the rest without mercy. They will form in
line close together. The _Ariel_ and the _Orion_ will convoy them on
either flank, and you will follow me until you have the signal to
stop. On the first suspicion of any attempt to escape you will know
what to do. You have both handled your ships splendidly."

Mazanoff saluted formally, more for the sake of effect than anything
else, and descended again to carry out his orders. The captured
flotilla was formed in line, the balloons being closed up until there
was only a couple of yards or so between any of them and her next
neighbour, with the _Orion_ and the _Ariel_ to right and left, each
with two guns trained on them, and the _Ithuriel_ flying a couple of
hundred feet above them. In this order captors and captured made
their way at twenty miles an hour to the north-west towards the
headquarters of the Tsar.



By the time the captured war-balloons had been formed in order, and
the voyage fairly commenced, the eastern sky was bright with the
foreglow of the coming dawn, and, as the flotilla was only floating
between eight and nine hundred feet above the earth, it was not long
before the light was sufficiently strong to render the landscape
completely visible.

Far and wide it was a scene of desolation and destruction, of wasted,
blackened fields trampled into wildernesses by the tread of countless
feet, of forests of trees broken, scorched, and splintered by the
iron hail of artillery, and of towns and villages, reduced to heaps
of ruins, still smouldering with the fires that had destroyed them.

No more eloquent object-lesson in the horrors of what is called
civilised warfare could well have been found than the scene which was
visible from the decks of the air-ships. The promised fruits of a
whole year of patient industry had been withered in a few hours under
the storm-blast of war; homes which but a few days before had
sheltered stalwart, well-fed peasants and citizens, were now mere
heaps of blackened brick and stone and smoking thatches.

Streets which had been the thoroughfares of peaceful industrious
folk, who had no quarrel with the Powers of the earth, or with any of
their kind, were now strewn with corpses and encumbered with ruins,
and the few survivors, more miserable than those who had died, were
crawling, haggard and starving, amidst the wrecks of their vanished
prosperity, seeking for some scanty morsels of food to prolong life
if only for a few more days of misery and nights of sleepless

As the sun rose and shed its midsummer splendour, as if in sublime
mockery, over the scene of suffering and desolation, hideous features
of the landscape were brought into stronger and more horrifying
relief; the scorched and trampled fields were seen to be strewn with
unburied corpses of men and horses, and ploughed up with cannon shot
and torn into great irregular gashes by shells that had buried
themselves in the earth and then exploded.

It was evident that some frightful tragedy must have taken place in
this region not many hours before the air-ships had arrived upon the
scene. And this, in fact, had been the case. Barely three days
previously the advance guard of the Russian army of the North had
been met and stubbornly but unsuccessfully opposed by the remnants of
the German army of the East, which, driven back from the frontier,
was retreating in good order to join the main force which had
concentrated about Berlin, under the command of the Emperor, there to
fight out the supreme struggle, on the issue of which depended the
existence of that German Empire which fifty years before had been so
triumphantly built up by the master-geniuses of the last generation.

After a flight of a little over two hours the flotilla came in sight
of the Russian army lying between Cüstrin on the right and
Frankfort-on-Spree on the left. The distance between these two towns
is nearly twelve English miles, and yet the wings of the vast host
under the command of the Tsar spread for a couple of miles on either
side to north and south of each of them.

In spite of the colossal iniquity which it concealed, the spectacle
was one of indescribable grandeur. Almost as far as the eye could
reach the beams of the early morning sun were gleaming upon
innumerable white tents, and flashing over a sea of glittering metal,
of bare bayonets and sword scabbards, of spear points and helmets, of
gold-laced uniforms and the polished accoutrements of countless
batteries of field artillery.

Far away to the westward the stately city of Berlin could be seen
lying upon its intersecting waters, and encircled by its
fortifications bristling with guns, and in advance of it were the
long serried lines of its defenders gathered to do desperate battle
for home and fatherland.

As soon as the Russian army was fairly in sight the _Ithuriel_ shot
ahead, sank to the level of the flotilla, and then stopped until she
was overtaken by the _Orion_. Tremayne was on deck, and Arnold as
soon as he came alongside said--

"You must stop here for the present. I want the aerostat commanded by
Colonel Alexandrovitch to come with me; meanwhile you and the _Ariel_
will rise with the rest of the balloons to a height of four thousand
feet; you will keep strict guard over the balloons, and permit no
movement to be made until my return. We are going to bring his
Majesty the Tsar to book, or else make things pretty lively for him
if he won't listen to reason."

"Very well," replied Tremayne. "I will do as you say, and await
developments with considerable interest. If there is going to be a
fight, I hope you're not going to leave us out in the cold."

"Oh no," replied Arnold. "You needn't be afraid of that. If his
Majesty won't come to terms, you will smash up the war-balloons and
then come and join us in the general bombardment. I see, by the way,
that there are ten or a dozen more of these unwieldy monsters with
the Russian force moored to the ground yonder on the outskirts of
Cüstrin. It will be a little amusement for us if we have to come to
blows to knock them to pieces before we smash up the Tsar's

So saying, Arnold increased the speed of the _Ithuriel_, swept round
in front of the line, and communicated the same instructions to the
captain of the _Ariel_.

A few minutes later the _Ariel_ and the _Orion_ began to rise with
their charges to the higher regions of the air, leaving the
_Ithuriel_ and the one aerostat to carry out the plan which had been
arranged by Natas and Arnold an hour previously.

As the speed of the aerostat was only about twenty miles an hour
against the wind, a rope was passed from the stern of the _Ithuriel_
to the cordage connecting the car with the gas-holder, and so the
aerostat was taken in tow by the air-ship, and dragged through the
air at a speed of about forty miles an hour, as a wind-bound sailing
vessel might have been towed by a steamer.

On the journey the elevation was increased to more than four thousand
feet,--an elevation at which both the _Ithuriel_ and her captive, and
especially the former, presented practically impossible marks for the
Russian riflemen. Almost immediately over Cüstrin they came to a
standstill, and then Colonel Alexandrovitch and Professor Volnow were
summoned by Natas into the deck saloon.

He explained to them the mission which he desired them to undertake,
that is to say, the conveyance of a letter from himself to the Tsar
offering terms for the surrender of the _Lucifer_. They accepted the
mission; and in order that they might fully understand the gravity of
it, Natas read them the letter, which ran as follows:--


    Three days ago one of my fleet of air-ships, named the _Lucifer_,
    was delivered into your hands by traitors and deserters, whose
    lives are forfeit in virtue of the oaths which they took of their
    own free will. I have already taken measures to render abortive
    the analysis which you ordered to be performed in the chemical
    department of your Arsenal at St. Petersburg, and I have now come
    to make terms, if possible, for the restoration of the air-ship.
    Those terms are as follows--

    An hour before daybreak this morning I captured nine of your
    war-balloons, after destroying three others which attempted to
    escape. I have no desire to take any present part in the war
    which you are now carrying on with the Anglo-Teutonic Alliance,
    and if you will tell me where the _Lucifer_ is now to be found,
    and will despatch orders both by land and through Professor
    Volnow, who brings this letter to you, and will return with your
    answer, for her to be given up to me forthwith with everything
    she has on board, and will surrender with her the four traitors
    who delivered her into your hands, I will restore the nine
    war-balloons to you intact, and when I have recovered the
    _Lucifer_ I will take no further part in the war unless either
    you or your opponents proceed to unjustifiable extremities.

    If you reject these terms, or if I do not receive an answer to
    this letter within two hours of the time that the bearer of it
    descends in the aerostat, I shall give orders for the immediate
    destruction of the war-balloons now in my hands, and I shall then
    proceed to destroy Cüstrin and the other aerostats which are
    moored near the town. That done I shall, for the time being,
    devote the force at my disposal to the defence of Berlin, and do
    my utmost to bring about the defeat and dispersal of the army
    which will then no longer be commanded by yourself.

    In case you may doubt what I say as to the capture of the fleet
    of war-balloons, Professor Volnow will be accompanied by Colonel
    Alexei Alexandrovitch, late in command of the squadron, and now
    my prisoner of war.


The ambassadors were at once transferred to the aerostat, and with a
white flag hoisted on the after stays of the balloon she began to
sink rapidly towards the earth, and at the same time Natas gave
orders for the _Ithuriel_ to ascend to a height of eight thousand
feet in order to frustrate any attempts that might be made, whether
with or without the orders of the Tsar, to injure her by means of a
volley from the earth.

Even from that elevation, those on board the _Ithuriel_ were able
with the aid of their field-glasses to see with perfect ease the
commotion which the appearance of the air-ship with the captured
aerostat had produced in the Russian camp. The whole of the vast
host, numbering more than four millions of men, turned out into the
open to watch their aërial visitors, and everywhere throughout the
whole extent of the huge camp the plainest signs of the utmost
excitement were visible.

In less than half an hour they saw the aerostat touch the earth near
to a large building, above which floated the imperial standard of
Russia. An hour had been allowed for the interview and for the Tsar
to give his decision, and half an hour for the aerostat to return and
meet the air-ship.

In all the history of the world there had probably never been an hour
so pregnant with tremendous consequences, not only to Europe, but to
the whole civilised world, as that was; and though apparently a
perfect calm reigned throughout the air-ship, the issue of the
embassy was awaited with the most intense anxiety.

Another half hour passed, and hardly a word was spoken on the deck of
the _Ithuriel_, hanging there in mid-air over the mighty Russian
host, and in range of the field-glasses of the outposts of the German
army of Berlin lying some ten or twelve miles away to the westward.

It was the calm before the threatening storm,--a storm which in less
than an hour might break in a hail of death and destruction from the
sky, and turn the fields of earth into a volcano of shot and flame.
Certainly the fate of an empire, and perhaps of Europe, or indeed the
world, hung in the balance over that field of possible carnage.

If the Russians regained their war-balloons and were left to
themselves, nothing that the heroic Germans could do would be likely
to save Berlin from the fate that had overwhelmed Strassburg and
Metz, Breslau and Thorn.

On the other hand, should the aerostat not return in time with a
satisfactory answer, the victorious career of the Tsar would be cut
short by such a bolt from the skies as had wrecked his fortress at
Kronstadt,--a blow which he could neither guard against nor return,
for it would come from an unassailable vantage point, a little vessel
a hundred feet long floating in the air six thousand feet from the
earth, and looking a mere bright speck amidst the sunlight. She
formed a mark that the most skilful rifle-shot in his army could not
hit once in a thousand shots, and against whose hull of hardened
aluminium, bullets, even if they struck, would simply splash and
scatter, like raindrops on a rock.

The remaining minutes of the last half hour were slipping away one by
one, and still no sign came from the earth. The aerostat remained
moored near the building surmounted by the Russian standard, and the
white flag, which, according to arrangement, had been hauled down to
be re-hoisted if the answer of the Tsar was favourable, was still
invisible. When only ten minutes of the allotted time were left,
Arnold, moving his glass from his eyes, and looking at his watch,
said to Natas--

"Ten minutes more; shall I prepare?"

"Yes," said Natas. "And let the first gun be fired with the first
second of the eleventh minute. Destroy the aerostats first and then
the batteries of artillery. After that send a shell into Frankfort,
if you have a gun that will carry the distance, so that they may see
our range of operations; but spare the Tsar's headquarters for the

"Very good," replied Arnold. Then, turning to his lieutenant, he

"You have the guns loaded with No. 3, I presume, Mr. Marston, and the
projectile stands are filled, I see. Very good. Now descend to six
thousand feet and go a mile to the westward. Train one broadside gun
on that patch of ground where you see those balloons, another to
strike in the midst of those field-guns yonder by the
ammunition-waggons, and train the starboard after-gun to throw a
shell into Frankfort. The distance is a little over twelve miles, so
give sufficient elevation."

By the time these orders had been executed, swiftly as the necessary
evolution had been performed, only four minutes of the allotted time
were left. Arnold took his stand by the broadside gun trained on the
aerostats, and, with one hand on the breech of the gun and the other
holding his watch, he waited for the appointed moment. Natasha stood
by him with her eyes fastened to the eye-pieces of the glasses
watching for the white flag in breathless suspense.

"One minute more!" said Arnold.

"Stop, there it goes!" cried Natasha as the words left his lips. "His
Majesty has yielded to circumstances!"

Arnold took the glasses from her, and through them saw a tiny white
speck shining against the black surface of the gas-holder of the
balloon. He handed the glasses back to her, saying--

"We must not be too sure of that. His message may be one of

"True," said Natasha. "We shall see."

Ten minutes later the aerostat was released from her moorings and
rose swiftly and vertically into the air. As soon as it reached her
own altitude the _Ithuriel_ shot forward to meet it, and stopped
within a couple of hundred yards, a gun ready trained upon the car in
case of treachery. In the car stood Professor Volnow and Colonel
Alexandrovitch. The former held something white in his hand, and
across the intervening space came the reassuring hail: "All well!"

In five minutes he was standing on the deck of the _Ithuriel_
presenting a folded paper to Natas. He was pale to the lips, and his
whole body trembled with violent emotion. As he handed him the paper,
he said to Natas in a low, husky voice that was barely recognisable
as his--

"Here is the answer of the Tsar. Whether you are man or fiend, I know
not, but his Majesty has yielded and accepted your terms. May I never
again witness such anger as was his when I presented your letter. It
was not till the last moment that he yielded to my entreaties and
those of his staff, and ordered the white flag to be hoisted."

"Yes," replied Natas. "He tempted his fate to the last moment. The
guns were already trained upon Cüstrin, and thirty seconds more would
have seen his headquarters in ruins. He did wisely, if he acted

So saying, Natas broke the imperial seal. On a sheet of paper bearing
the imperial arms were scrawled three or four lines in the Autocrat's
own handwriting--

    I accept your main terms. The air-ship has joined the Baltic
    fleet. She will be delivered to you with all on board. The four
    men are my subjects, and I feel bound to protect them; they will
    therefore not be delivered up. Do as you like.


"A Royal answer, though it comes from a despot," said Natas as he
refolded the paper. "I will waive that point, and let him protect the
traitors, if he can. Colonel Alexandrovitch," he continued, turning
to the Russian, who had also boarded the air-ship, "you are free. You
may return to your war-balloon, and accompany us to give the order
for the release of your squadron."

"Free!" suddenly screamed the Russian, his face livid and distorted
with passion. "Free, yes, but disgraced! Ruined for life, and
degraded to the ranks! I want no freedom from you. I will not even
have my life at your hands, but I will have yours, and rid the earth
of you if I die a thousand deaths!"

As he spoke he wrenched his sword from its scabbard, thrust the
Professor aside, and rushed at Natas with the uplifted blade. Before
it had time to descend a stream of pale flame flashed over the back
of the Master's chair, accompanied by a long, sharp rattle, and the
Russian's body dropped instantly to the deck riddled by a hail of

"I saw murder in that man's eyes when he began to speak," said
Natasha, putting back into her pocket the magazine pistol that she
had used with such terrible effect.

"I saw it too, daughter," quietly replied Natas. "But you need not
have been afraid; the blow would never have reached me, for I would
have paralysed him before he could have made the stroke."

"Impossible! No man could have done it!"

The exclamation burst involuntarily from the lips of Professor
Volnow, who had stood by, an amazed and horrified spectator of the
rapidly enacted tragedy.

"Professor," said Natas, in quick, stern tones, "I am not accustomed
to say what is not true, nor yet to be contradicted by any one in
human shape. Stand there till I tell you to move."

As he spoke these last words Natas made a swift, sweeping downward
movement with one of his hands, and fixed his eyes upon those of the
Professor. In an instant Volnow's muscles stiffened into immovable
rigidity, and he stood rooted to the deck powerless to move so much
as a finger.

"Captain Arnold," continued Natas, as though nothing had happened.
"We will rejoin our consorts, please, and release the aerostats in
accordance with the terms. This man's body will be returned in one of
them to his master, and the Professor here will write an account of
his death in order that it may not be believed that we have murdered
him. Konstantin Volnow, go into the saloon and write that letter, and
bring it to me when it is done."

Like an automaton the Professor turned and walked mechanically into
the deck-saloon. Meanwhile the _Ithuriel_ started on her way towards
the captive squadron. Before she reached it Volnow returned with a
sheet of paper in his hand filled with fresh writing, and signed with
his name.

Natas took it from him, read it, and then fixing his eyes on his
again, said--

"That will do. I give you back your will. Now, do you believe?"

The Professor's body was suddenly shaken with such a violent
trembling that he almost fell to the deck. Then he recovered himself
with a violent effort, and cried through his chattering teeth--

"Believe! How can I help it? Whoever and whatever you are, you are
well named the Master of the Terror."



As soon as the captive war-balloons had been released, the _Ithuriel_
and her consorts, without any further delay or concern for the issue
of the decisive battle which would probably prove to be the
death-struggle of the German Empire, headed away to the northward at
the utmost speed of the two smaller vessels. Their objective point
was Copenhagen, and the distance rather more than two hundred and
sixty miles in a straight line.

This was covered in under two hours and a half, and by noon they had
reached the Danish capital. In crossing the water from Stralsund they
had sighted several war-vessels, all flying British, German, or
Danish colours, and all making a northerly course like themselves.
They had not attempted to speak to any of these, because, as they
were all apparently bound for the same point, and, as the speed of
the air-ships was more than five times as great as that of the
swiftest cruiser, to do so would have been a waste of time, when
every moment might be of the utmost consequence.

Off Copenhagen the aërial travellers saw the first signs of the
terrible night's work, with the details of which the reader has
already been made acquainted. Wrecked fortifications, cruisers and
battleships bearing every mark of a heavy engagement, some with their
top-works battered into ruins, their military masts gone, and their
guns dismounted; some down by the head, and some by the stern, and
others evidently run ashore to save them from sinking; and the
harbour crowded with others in little better condition--everywhere
there were eloquent proofs of the disaster which had overtaken the
Allied fleets on the previous night.

"There seems to have been some rough work going on down there within
the last few hours," said Arnold to Natas as they came in sight of
this scene of destruction. "The Russians could not have done this
alone, for when the war began they were shut up in the Baltic by an
overwhelming force, of which these seem to be the remains. And those
forts yonder were never destroyed by anything but our shells."

"Yes," replied Natas. "It is easy to see what has happened. The
_Lucifer_ was sent here to help the Russian fleet to break the
blockade, and it looks as though it had been done very effectually.
We are just a few hours too late, I fear.

"That one victory will have an immense effect on the course of the
war, for it is almost certain that the Russians will make for the
Atlantic round the north of the Shetland Islands, and co-operate with
the French and Italian squadrons along the British line of
communication with the West. That once cut, food will go up to famine
prices in Britain, and the end will not be far off."

Natas spoke without the slightest apparent personal interest in the
subject; but his words brought a flush to Arnold's cheeks, and make
him suddenly clench his hands and knit his brows. After all he was an
Englishman, and though he owed England nothing but the accident of
his birth, the knowledge that one of his own ships should be the
means of bringing this disaster upon her made him forget for the
moment the gulf that he had placed between himself and his native
land, and long to go to her rescue. But it was only a passing
emotion. He remembered that his country was now elsewhere, and that
all his hopes were now alien to Britain and her fortunes.

If Natas noticed the effect of his words he made no sign that he did,
and he went on in the same even tone as before--

"We must overtake the fleet, and either recapture the _Lucifer_ or
destroy her before she does any more mischief in Russian hands. The
first thing to do is to find out what has happened, and what course
they have taken. Hoist the Union Jack over a flag of truce on all
three ships, and signal to Mazanoff to come alongside. We had better
stop here till we get the news."

The Master's orders were at once executed, and as soon as the _Ariel_
was floating beside the flagship he said to her captain--

"Go down and speak that cruiser lying at anchor off the harbour, and
learn all you can of what has happened. Tell them freely how it
happened that the _Lucifer_ assisted the Russian, if it turns out
that she did so. Say that we have no hostility to Britain at present,
but rather the reverse, and that our only purpose just now is to
retake the air-ship and prevent her doing any more damage. If you can
get any newspapers, do so."

"I understand fully," replied Mazanoff, and a minute later his vessel
was sinking rapidly down towards the cruiser.

His reception was evidently friendly, for those on board the
_Ithuriel_ saw that he ran the _Ariel_ close alongside the
man-of-war, after the first hails had been exchanged, and conversed
for some time with a group of officers across the rails of the two
vessels. Then a large roll of newspapers was passed from the cruiser
to the air-ship, salutes were exchanged, and the _Ariel_ rose
gracefully into the air to rejoin her consorts, followed by the
envious glances of the crews of the battered warships.

Mazanoff presented his report, the facts of which were substantially
those given in the _St. James's Gazette_ telegram, and added that the
British officers had confessed to him that the damage done was so
great, both to the fleet and the shore fortifications, that the Sound
was now practically as open as the Atlantic, and that it would be two
or three weeks before even half the Allied force would be able to
take the sea in fighting trim.

They added that there was not the slightest need to conceal their
condition, as the Russians, who had steamed in triumph past their
shattered ships and silenced forts, knew it just as well as they did.
As regards the Russian fleet, it had been followed past the Skawe,
and had headed out westward.

In their opinion it would consider itself strong enough, with the aid
of the air-ship, to sweep the North Sea, and would probably attempt
to force the Straits of Dover, as it has done the Sound, and effect a
junction with the French squadrons at Brest and Cherbourg. This done,
a combined attack might possibly be made upon Portsmouth, or the
destruction of the Channel fleet attempted. The effects of the
air-ship's shells upon both forts and ships had been so appalling
that the Russians would no doubt think themselves strong enough for
anything as long as they had possession of her.

"They were extremely polite," said Mazanoff, as he concluded his
story. "They asked me to go ashore and interview the Admiral, who,
they told me, would guarantee any amount of money on behalf of the
British Government if we would only co-operate with their fleets for
even a month. They said Britain would gladly pay a hundred thousand a
month for the hire of each ship and her crew; and they looked quite
puzzled when I refused point-blank, and said that a million a month
would not do it.

"They evidently take us for a new sort of pirates, corsairs of the
air, or something of that kind; for when I said that a few odd
millions were no good to people who could levy blackmail on the whole
earth if they chose, they stared at me and asked me what we did want
if we didn't want money. The idea that we could have any higher aims
never seemed to have entered their heads, and, of course, I didn't
enlighten them."

"Quite right," said Natas, with a quiet laugh. "They will learn our
aims quite soon enough. And now we must overtake the Russian fleet as
soon as possible. You say they passed the Skawe soon after five this
morning. That gives them nearly six hours' start, and if they are
steaming twenty miles an hour, as I daresay they are, they will now
be some hundred and twenty miles west of the Skawe. Captain Arnold,
if we cut straight across Zeeland and Jutland, about what distance
ought we to travel before we meet them?"

Arnold glanced at the chart which lay spread out on the table of the
saloon in which they were sitting, and said--

"I should say a course of about two hundred miles due north-west from
here ought to take us within sight of them, unless they are making
for the Atlantic, and keep very close to the Swedish coast. In that
case I should say two hundred and fifty in the same direction."

"Very well, then, let us take that course and make all the speed we
can," said Natas; and within ten minutes the three vessels were
speeding away to the north-westward at a hundred and twenty miles an
hour over the verdant lowlands of the Danish peninsula.

The _Ithuriel_ kept above five miles ahead of the others, and when
the journey had lasted about an hour and three-quarters, the man who
had been stationed in the conning-tower signalled, "Fleet in sight"
to the saloon. The air-ships were then travelling at an elevation of
3000 feet. A good ten miles to the northward could be seen the
Russian fleet steering to the westward, and, judging by the dense
clouds of smoke that were pouring out of the funnels of the vessels,
making all the speed they could.

Arnold, who had gone forward to the conning-tower as soon as the
signal sounded, at once returned to the saloon and made his formal
report to Natas.

"The Russian fleet is in sight, heading to the westward, and
therefore evidently meaning to reach the Atlantic by the north of the
Shetlands. There are twelve large battleships, about twenty-five
cruisers of different sizes, eight of them very large, and a small
swarm of torpedo-boats being towed by the larger vessels, I suppose
to save their coal. I see no signs of the _Lucifer_ at present, but
from what we have learnt she will be on the deck of one of the large
cruisers. What are your orders?"

"Recover the air-ship if you can," replied Natas. "Send Mazanoff with
Professor Volnow to convey the Tsar's letter to the Admiral, and
demand the surrender of the _Lucifer_. If he refuses, let the _Ariel_
return at once, and we will decide what to do. I leave the details
with you with the most perfect confidence."

Arnold bowed in silence and retired, catching, as he turned to leave
the saloon, a glance from Natasha which, it must be confessed, meant
more to him than even the command of the Master. From the expression
of his face as he went to the wheel-house to take charge of the ship,
it was evident that it would go hard with the Russian fleet if the
Admiral refused to recognise the order of the Tsar.

When he got to the wheel-house the _Ithuriel_ was almost over the
fleet. He signalled "stop" to the engine-room. Immediately the
propellers slowed and then ceased their rapid revolutions, and at the
same time the fan-wheels went aloft and began to revolve. This was a
prearranged signal to the others to do the same, and by the time they
had overtaken the flagship they also came to a standstill. As soon as
they were within speaking distance Arnold hailed the _Orion_ and the
_Ariel_ to come alongside.

After communicating to Tremayne and Mazanoff the orders of Natas, he
said to the latter--

"You will take Professor Volnow to present the Tsar's letter to the
Admiral in command of the fleet. Fly the Russian flag over a flag of
truce, and if he acknowledges it say that if the _Lucifer_ is given
up we shall allow the fleet to go on its way unmolested and without
asking any question.

"The cruiser that has her on board must separate from the rest of the
fleet and allow two of your men to take possession of her and bring
her up here. The lives of the four traitors are safe for the present
if the air-ship is given up quietly."

"And if they will not recognise the authority of the Tsar's letter,
and refuse to give the air-ship up, what then?" asked Mazanoff.

"In that case haul down the Russian flag, and get aloft as quickly as
you can. You can leave the rest to us," said Arnold. "Meanwhile,
Tremayne, will you go down to two thousand feet or so, and keep your
eye on that big cruiser a bit ahead of the rest of the fleet. I fancy
I can make out the _Lucifer_ on her deck. Train a couple of guns on
her, and don't let the air-ship rise without orders. I shall stop up
here for the present, and be ready to make things lively for the
Admiral if he refuses to obey his master's orders."

The _Ariel_ took the Professor on board, and hoisted the Russian
colours over the flag of truce, and began to sink down towards the
fleet. As she descended, the Admiral in command of the squadron,
already not a little puzzled by the appearance of the three
air-ships, was still more mystified by seeing the Russian ensign
flying from her flagstaff.

Was this only a ruse of the Terrorists, or were they flying the
Russian flag for a legitimate reason? As he knew from the experience
of the previous night that the air-ships, if their intentions were
hostile, could destroy his fleet in detail without troubling to
parley with him, he concluded that there was a good reason for the
flag of truce, and so he ordered one to be flown from his own
masthead in answer to it.

The white flag at once enabled Mazanoff to single out the huge
battleship on which it was flying as the Admiral's flagship. The
fleet was proceeding in four columns of line abreast. First two long
lines of cruisers, each with one or two torpedo boats in tow, and
with scouts thrown out on each wing, and then two lines of
battleships, in the centre of the first of which was the flagship.

It was a somewhat risky matter for the _Ariel_ to descend thus right
in the middle of the whole fleet, but Mazanoff had his orders, and
they had to be obeyed, and so down he went, running his bow up to
within a hundred feet of the hurricane deck, on which stood the
Admiral surrounded by several of his officers.

"I have a message for the Admiral of the fleet," he shouted, as soon
as he came within hail.

"Who are you, and from whom is your message?" came the reply.

"Konstantin Volnow, of the Imperial Arsenal at Petersburg, brings the
message from the Tsar in writing.'

"His Majesty's messenger is welcome. Come alongside."

The _Ariel_ ran ahead until her prow touched the rail of the
hurricane deck, and the Professor advanced with the Tsar's letter in
his hand, and gave it to the Admiral, saying--

"You are acquainted with me, Admiral Prabylov. Though I bear it
unwillingly, I can vouch for the letter being authentic. I saw his
Majesty write it, and he gave it into my hands."

"Then how do you come to be an unwilling bearer of it?" asked the
Admiral, scowling and gnawing his moustache as he read the unwelcome
letter. "What are these terms, and with whom were they made?"

"Pardon me, Admiral," interrupted Mazanoff, "that is not the
question. I presume you recognise his Majesty's signature, and see
that he desires the air-ship to be given up."

"His Majesty's signature can be forged, just as Nihilists' passports
can be, Mr. Terrorist, for that's what I presume you are, and"--

"Admiral, I solemnly assure you that that letter is genuine, and that
it is really his Majesty's wish that the air-ship should be given
up," the Professor broke in before Mazanoff had time to reply. "It is
to be given in exchange for nine war-balloons which these air-ships
captured before daybreak this morning."

"How do you come to be the bearer of it, sir? Please answer me that

"I am a prisoner of war. I surrendered to save the Arsenal and
perhaps Petersburg from destruction under circumstances which I
cannot now explain"--

"Thank you, sir, that is quite enough! A pretty story, truly! And you
ask me to believe this, and to give up that priceless air-ship on
such grounds as these--a story that would hardly deceive a child? You
captured nine of the Tsar's war-balloons this morning, had an
interview with his Majesty, got this letter from him at Cüstrin--more
than five hundred miles away, and bring it here, and it is barely two
in the afternoon!

"No, gentlemen, I am too old a sailor to be taken in by a yarn like
that. I believe this letter to be a forgery, and I will not give the
air-ship up on its authority."

"That is your last word, is it?" asked Mazanoff, white with passion,
but still forcing himself to speak coolly.

"That is my last word, sir, save to tell you that if you do not haul
that flag you are masquerading under down at once I will fire upon
you," shouted the Admiral, tearing the Tsar's letter into fragments
as he spoke.

"If I haul that flag down it will be the signal for the air-ships up
yonder to open fire upon you, so your blood be on your own heads!"
said Mazanoff, stamping thrice on the deck as he spoke. The
propellers of the _Ariel_ whirled round in a reverse direction, and
she sprang swiftly back from the battleship, at the same time rising
rapidly in the air.

Before she had cleared a hundred yards, and before the flag of truce
was hauled down, there was a sharp, grinding report from one of the
tops of the man-of-war, and a hail of bullets from a machine gun
swept across the deck. Mazanoff heard a splintering of wood and
glass, and a deep groan beside him. He looked round and saw the
Professor clasp his hand to a great red wound in his breast, and fall
in a heap on the deck.

This was the event of an instant. The next he had trained one of the
bow-guns downwards on the centre of the deck of the Russian flagship
and sent the projectile to its mark. Then quick as thought he sprang
over and discharged the other gun almost at random. He saw the
dazzling green flash of the explosions, then came a shaking of the
atmosphere, and a roar as of a hundred thunder-claps in his ears, and
he dropped senseless to the deck beside the corpse of the Professor.

[Illustration: "There was a sharp, grinding report from one of the
tops of the man-of-war."

_See page 232._]



Mazanoff came to himself about ten minutes later, lying on one of the
seats in the after saloon, and all that he saw when he first opened
his eyes was the white anxious face of Radna bending over him.

"What is the matter? What has happened? Where am I?" he asked, as
soon as his tongue obeyed his will. His voice, although broken and
unsteady, was almost as strong as usual, and Radna's face immediately
brightened as she heard it. A smile soon chased away her anxious
look, and she said cheerily--

"Ah, come! you're not killed after all. You are still on board the
_Ariel_, and what has happened is this as far as I can see. In your
hurry to return the shot from the Russian flagship you fired your
guns at too close range, and the shock of the explosion stunned you.
In fact, we thought for the moment you had blown the _Ariel_ up too,
for she shook so that we all fell down; then her engines stopped, and
she almost fell into the water before they could be started again."

"Is she all right now? Where's the Russian fleet, and what happened
to the flagship? I must get on deck," exclaimed Mazanoff, sitting up
on the seat. As he did so he put his hand to his head and said: "I
feel a bit shaky still. What's that--brandy you've got there? Get me
some champagne, and put the brandy into it. I shall be all right when
I've had a good drink. Now I think of it, I wonder that explosion
didn't blow us to bits. You haven't told me what became of the
flagship," he continued, as Radna came back with a small bottle of
champagne and uncorked it.

"Well, the flagship is at the bottom of the German Ocean. When
Petroff told me that you had fallen dead, as he said, on deck, I ran
up in defiance of your orders and saw the battleship just going down.
The shells had blown the middle of her right out, and a cloud of
steam and smoke and fire was rising out of a great ragged space where
the funnels had been. Before I got you down here she broke right in
two and went down."

"That serves that blackguard Prabylov right for saying we forged the
Tsar's letter, and firing on a flag of truce. Poor Volnow's dead, I

"Oh yes," replied Radna sadly. "He was shot almost to pieces by the
volley from the machine gun. The deck saloon is riddled with bullets,
and the decks badly torn up, but fortunately the hull and propellers
are almost uninjured. But come, drink this, then you can go up and
see for yourself."

So saying she handed him a tumbler of champagne well dashed with
brandy. He drank it down at a gulp, like the Russian that he was, and
said as he put the glass down--

"That's better. I feel a new man. Now give me a kiss, _batiushka_,
and I'll be off."

When he reached the deck he found the _Ariel_ ascending towards the
_Ithuriel_, and about a mile astern of the Russian fleet, the vessels
of which were blazing away into the air with their machine guns, in
the hope of "bringing him down on the wing," as he afterwards put it.
He could hear the bullets singing along underneath him; but the
_Ariel_ was rising so fast, and going at such a speed through the
air, that the moment the Russians got the range they lost it again,
and so merely wasted their ammunition.

Neither the _Ithuriel_ nor the _Orion_ seemed to have taken any part
in the battle so far, or to have done anything to avenge the attack
made upon the _Ariel_. Mazanoff wondered not a little at this, as
both Arnold and Tremayne must have seen the fate of the Russian
flagship. As soon as he got within speaking distance of the
_Ithuriel_, he sang out to Arnold, who was on the deck--

"I got in rather a tight place down there. That scoundrel fired upon
us with the flag of truce flying, and when I gave him a couple of
shells in return I thought the end of the world was come."

"You fired at too close range, my friend. Those shells are sudden
death to anything within a hundred yards of them. Are you all well on
board? You've been knocked about a bit, I see."

"No; poor Volnow's dead. He was killed standing close beside me, and
I wasn't touched, though the explosion of the shell knocked the
senses out of me completely. However, the machinery's all right, and
I don't think the hull is hurt to speak of. But what are you doing? I
should have thought you'd have blown half the fleet out of the water
by this time."

"No. We saw that you had amply avenged yourself, and the Master's
orders were not to do anything till you returned. You'd better come
on board and consult with him."

Mazanoff did so, and when he had told his story to Natas, the latter
mystified him not a little by replying--

"I am glad that none of you are injured, though, of course, I'm sorry
that I sent Volnow to his death; but that is the fortune of war. If
one of us fell into his master's hands his fate would be worse than
that. You avenged the outrage promptly and effectively.

"I have decided not to injure the Russian fleet more than I can help.
It has work to do which must not be interfered with. My only object
is to recover the _Lucifer_, if possible, and so we shall follow the
fleet for the present across the North Sea on our way to the
rendezvous with the other vessels from Aeria which are to meet us on
Rockall Island, and wait our opportunity. Should the opportunity not
come before then, we must proceed to extremities, and destroy her and
the cruiser that has her on board.

"And do you think we shall get such an opportunity?"

"I don't know," replied Natas. "But it is possible. I don't think it
likely that the fleet will have coal enough for a long cruise in the
Atlantic, and therefore it is possible that they will make a descent
on Aberdeen, which they are quite strong enough to capture if they
like, and coal up there. In that case it is extremely probable that
they will make use of the air-ship to terrorise the town into
surrender, and as soon as she takes the air we must make a dash for
her, and either take her or blow her to pieces."

Arnold expressed his entire agreement with this idea, and, as the
event proved, it was entirely correct. Instead of steering
nor'-nor'-west, as they would have done had they intended to go round
the Shetland Islands, or north-west, had they chosen the course
between the Orkneys and the Shetlands, the Russian vessels kept a due
westerly course during the rest of the day, and this course could
only take them to the Scotch coast near Aberdeen.

The distance from where they were was a little under five hundred
miles, and at their present rate of steaming they would reach
Aberdeen about four o'clock on the following afternoon. The air-ships
followed them at a height of four thousand feet during the rest of
the day and until shortly before dawn on the following morning.

They then put on speed, took a wide sweep to the northward, and
returned southward over Banffshire, and passing Aberdeen to the west,
found a secluded resting-place on the northern spur of the
Kincardineshire Hills, about five miles to the southward of the
Granite City.

Here the repairs which were needed by the _Ariel_ were at once taken
in hand by her own crew and that of the _Ithuriel_, while the _Orion_
was sent out to sea again to keep a sharp look-out for the Russian
fleet, which she would sight long before she herself became visible,
and then to watch the movements of the Russians from as great a
distance as possible until it was time to make the counter-attack.

As Aberdeen was then one of the coaling depots for the North Sea
Squadron, it was defended by two battleships, the _Ascalon_ and the
_Menelaus_, three powerful coast-defence vessels, the _Thunderer_,
the _Cyclops_, and the _Pluto_, six cruisers, and twelve
torpedo-boats. The shore defences consisted of a fort on the north
bank at the mouth of the Dee, mounting ten heavy guns, and the
Girdleness fort, mounting twenty-four 9-inch twenty-five ton guns, in
connection with which was a station for working navigable torpedoes
of the Brennan type, which had been considerably improved during the
last ten years.

Shortly after two o'clock on the afternoon of the 30th the _Orion_
returned to her consorts with the news that the Russian fleet was
forty miles off the land, heading straight for Aberdeen, and that
there were no other warships in sight as far as could be seen to the
southward. From this fact it was concluded that the Russians had
escaped the notice of the North Sea Squadron, and so would only have
the force defending Aberdeen to reckon with.

Even had they not possessed the air-ship, this force was so far
inferior to their own that there would be little chance of
successfully defending the town against them. They had eleven
battleships, twenty-five cruisers, eight of which were very large and
heavily armed, and forty torpedo-boats, to pit against the little
British force and the two forts.

But given the assistance of the _Lucifer_, and the town practically
lay at their mercy. They evidently feared no serious opposition in
their raid, for, without even waiting for nightfall, they came on at
full speed, darkening the sky with their smoke, the battleships in
the centre, a dozen cruisers on either side of them, and one large
cruiser about a mile ahead of their centre.

When the captain of the _Ascalon_, who was in command of the port,
saw the overwhelming force of the hostile fleet, he at once came to
the conclusion that it would be madness for him to attempt to put to
sea with his eleven ships and six torpedo-boats. The utmost that he
could do was to remain inshore and assist the forts to keep the
Russians at bay, if possible, until the assistance, which had already
been telegraphed for to Dundee and the Firth of Forth, where the bulk
of the North Sea Squadron was then stationed, could come to his aid.

Five miles off the land the Russian fleet stopped, and the _Lucifer_
rose from the deck of the big cruiser and stationed herself about a
mile to seaward of the mouth of the river at an elevation of three
thousand feet. Then a torpedo-boat flying a flag of truce shot out
from the Russian line and ran to within a mile of the shore.

The Commodore of the port sent out one of his torpedo-boats to meet
her, and this craft brought back a summons to surrender the port for
twelve hours, and permit six of the Russian cruisers to fill up with
coal. The alternative would be bombardment of the town by the fleet
and the air-ship, which alone, as the Russians said, held the fort
and the ships at its mercy.

To this demand the British Commodore sent back a flat refusal, and
defiance to the Russian Commander to do his worst.

Where the _Ithuriel_ and her consorts were lying the hills between
them and the sea completely screened them from the observation of
those on board the _Lucifer_. Arnold and Tremayne had climbed to the
top of a hill above their ships, and watched the movements of the
Russians through their glasses. As soon as they saw the _Lucifer_
rise into the air they returned to the _Ithuriel_ to form their plans
for their share in the conflict that they saw impending.

"I'm afraid we can't do much until it gets a good deal darker than it
is now," said Arnold, in reply to a question from Natas as to his
view of the situation. "If we take the air now the _Lucifer_ will see
us; and we must remember that she is armed with the same weapons as
we have, and a shot from one of her guns would settle any of us that
it struck. Even if we hit her first we should destroy her, and we
could have done that easily yesterday.

"It has felt very like thunder all day, and I see there are some very
black-looking clouds rolling up there over the hills to the
south-west. My advice is to wait for those. I'm afraid we can't do
anything to save the town under the circumstances, but in this state
of the atmosphere a heavy bombardment is practically certain to bring
on a severe thunderstorm, and to fetch those clouds up at the double

"I don't for a moment think that the British will surrender, big and
all as the Russian force is, and as they have never seen the effects
of our shells they won't fear the _Lucifer_ much until she commences
operations, and then it will be too late. Listen! They've begun.
There goes the first gun!"

A deep, dull boom came rolling up the hills from the sea as he spoke,
and was almost immediately followed by a rapid series of similar
reports, which quickly deepened into a continuous roar. Every one who
could be spared from the air-ship at once ran up to the top of the
hill to watch the progress of the fight. The Russian fleet had
advanced to within three miles of the land, and had opened a furious
cannonade on the British ships and the forts, which were manfully
replying to it with every available gun.

By the time the watchers on the hill had focussed their glasses on
the scene, the _Lucifer_ discharged her first shell on the fort on
Girdleness. They saw the blaze of the explosion gleam through the
smoke that already hung thick over the low building. Another and
another followed in quick succession, and the firing from the fort
ceased. The smoke drifted slowly away, and disclosed a heap of
shapeless ruins.

"That is horrible work, isn't it?" said Arnold to Tremayne through
his clenched teeth. "Anywhere but on British ground would not be so
bad, but the sight of that makes my blood boil. I would give my ears
to take our ships into the air, and smash up that Russian fleet as we
did the French Squadron in the Atlantic."

"There spoke the true Briton, Captain Arnold," said Natasha, who was
standing beside him under a clump of trees. "Yes, I can quite
understand how you feel watching a scene like that, for country is
country after all. Even my half-English blood is pretty near boiling
point; and though I wouldn't give my ears, I would give a good deal
to go with you and do as you say.

"But you may rest assured that the Master's way is the best, and will
prove the shortest road to the universal peace which can only come
through universal war. Courage, my friend, and patience! There will
be a heavy reckoning to pay for this sort of thing one day, and that
before very long."

"Ha!" exclaimed Tremayne. "There goes the other fort. I suppose it
will be the turn of the ships next. What a frightful scene! Twenty
minutes ago it was as peaceful as these hills, and look at it now."

The second fort had been destroyed as rapidly as the first, and the
cessation of the fire of both had made a very perceptible difference
in the cannonade, though the great guns of the Russian fleet still
roared continuously and poured a hurricane of shot and shell into the
mouth of the river across which the British ships were drawn, keeping
up the unequal conflict like so many bull-dogs at bay.

Over them and the river hung a dense pall of bluish-white smoke,
through which the _Lucifer_ sent projectile after projectile in the
attempt to sink the British ironclads. As those on board her could
only judge by the flash of the guns, the aim was very imperfect, and
several projectiles were wasted, falling into the sea and exploding
there, throwing up mountains of water, but not doing any further
damage. At length a brilliant green flash shot up through the smoke
clouds over the river mouth.

"He's hit one of the ships at last!" exclaimed Tremayne, as he saw
the flash. "It'll soon be all up with poor old Aberdeen."

"I don't think so," exclaimed Arnold. "At any rate the _Lucifer_
won't do much more harm. There comes the storm at last! Back to the
ships all of you at once, it's time to go aloft!"

As he spoke a brilliant flash of lightning split the inky clouds
which had now risen high over the western hills, and a deep roll of
thunder came echoing up the valleys as if in answer to the roar of
the cannonade on the sea. The moment every one was on board, Arnold
gave the signal to ascend. As soon as the fan-wheels had raised them
a hundred feet from the ground he gave the signal for full speed
ahead, and the three air-ships swept upwards to the west as though to
meet the coming storm.



The flight of the _Ithuriel_ and her consorts was so graduated, that
as they rose to the level of the storm-cloud they missed it and
passed diagonally beyond it at a sufficient distance to avoid
disturbing the electrical balance between it and the earth. The
object of doing so was not so much to escape a discharge of
electricity, since all the vital parts of the machinery and the
power-cylinders were carefully insulated, but rather in order not to
provoke a lightning flash which might have revealed their rapid
passage to the occupants of the _Lucifer_.

As it was, they swept upwards and westward at such a speed that they
had gained the cover of the thunder-cloud, and placed a considerable
area of it between themselves and the town, long before the storm
broke over Aberdeen, and so they were provided with ample shelter
under, or rather over, which they were to make their attack on the

They waited until the clouds coming up from the westward joined those
which had begun to gather thick and black and threatening over the
Russian fleet soon after the tremendous cannonade had begun. The
shock of the meeting of the two cloud-squadrons formed a fitting
counterpart to the drama of death and destruction that was being
played on land and sea.

The brilliant sunshine of the midsummer afternoon was suddenly
obscured by a darkness born of smoke and cloud like that of a
midwinter night. The smoke of the cannonade rose heavily and mingled
with the clouds, and the atmospheric concussions produced by the
discharge of hundreds of heavy guns, brought down the rain in
torrents. Almost continuous streams of lightning flashed from cloud
to cloud, and from heaven to earth, eclipsing the spouting fire of
the guns, while to the roar of the bombardment was added an almost
unbroken roll of thunder.

Above all this hideous turmoil of human and elemental strife, the
three air-ships floated for awhile in a serene and sunlit atmosphere.
But this was only for a time. Arnold had taken the position and
altitude of the _Lucifer_ very carefully by means of his sextant and
compass before he rose into the air, and as soon as his preparations
were complete he made another observation of the angle of the sun's
elevation, allowing, of course, for his own, and placed his three
ships as nearly perpendicular as he could over the _Lucifer_,
floating on the under side of the storm-cloud.

His preparations had been simple in the extreme. Four light strong
grappling-irons hung downwards from the _Ithuriel_, two at the bow
and two at the stern, by thin steel-wire rope; two similar ones hung
from the starboard side of the _Orion_, which was on his left hand,
and two from the port side of the _Ariel_, which was on his right
hand. As they gained the desired position, a man was stationed at
each of the ropes, with instructions how to act when the word was
given. Then the fan-wheels were slowed down, and the three vessels
sank swiftly through the cloud.

Through the mist and darkness underneath they saw the white shape of
the _Lucifer_ almost immediately below them, so accurately had the
position been determined. They sank a hundred feet farther, and then
Arnold shouted--

"Now is your time. Cast!"

Instantly the eight grappling-irons dropped and swung towards the
_Lucifer_, hooking themselves in the stays of her masts and the
railing that ran completely round her deck.

"Now, up again, and ahead!" shouted Arnold once more, and the
fan-wheels of the three ships revolved at their utmost speed; the
air-planes had already been inclined to the full, the nine propellers
whirled round, and the recaptured _Lucifer_ was dragged forward and
upwards through the mist and darkness of the thunder-cloud into the
bright sunshine above.

[Illustration: "Now is your time, cast!"

_See page 242._]

So suddenly had the strange manœuvre been executed that those on
board her had not time to grasp what had really happened to them
before they found themselves captured and utterly helpless. As she
hung below her three captors it was impossible to bring one of the
_Lucifer's_ guns to bear upon them, while four guns, two from the
_Ariel_ and two from the _Orion_, grinned down upon her ready to blow
her into fragments at the least sign of resistance.

Added to this, a dozen magazine rifles covered her deck, threatening
sudden death to the six bewildered men who were still staring
helplessly about them in wonderment at the strange thing that had
happened to them.

"Who are the Russian officers in command of that air-ship?" hailed
Mazanoff from the _Ariel_.

Two men in Russian uniform raised their hands in reply, and Mazanoff
hailed again--

"Which will you have--surrender or death? If you surrender your lives
are safe, and we will put you on to the land as soon as possible; if
not you will be shot."

"We surrender!" exclaimed one of the officers, drawing his sword and
dropping it on the deck. The other followed suit, and Mazanoff

"Very good. Remain where you are. The first man that moves will be
shot down."

Almost before the last words had left his lips half a dozen men had
slid down the wire ropes and landed on the deck of the _Lucifer_. The
moment their feet had touched the deck each whipped a magazine pistol
out of his belt and covered his man.

Within a couple of minutes the captives were all disarmed; indeed,
most of them had thrown their weapons down on the first summons. The
arms were tossed overboard, and all but the two Russian officers were
rapidly bound hand and foot. Then three of the six men descended to
the engine-room, and one went to the wheel-house. In another minute
the fan-wheels of the _Lucifer_ began to spin round faster, and
quickly raised her to the level of the other three ships, and so the
recapture of the deserter was completed.

The two officers were at once summoned on board the _Ithuriel_ and
shut up under guard in separate cabins. The rest of the crew of the
_Lucifer_ was found to consist of the four traitors who had carried
her away, and two Russian engineers who had been put on board to
assist in the working of the vessel.

As soon as these had been replaced by a crew drafted from the
_Ithuriel_ and her consorts under the command of Lieutenant Marston,
Arnold gave the order to go ahead at fifty miles an hour to the
northward, and the four air-ships immediately sped away in that
direction, leaving Aberdeen to its fate, and within a little over an
hour the sounds of both storm and battle had died away in silence
behind them.

When they were fairly under way Natas ordered the four deserters to
be brought before him in the after saloon of the flagship. He sat at
one end of the table, and they were placed in a line in front of him
at the other, each with a guard behind him, and the muzzle of a
pistol at his head.

"Peter Tamboff, Amos Vornjeh, Ivan Tscheszco, and Paul Oreloff! you
have broken your oaths, betrayed your companions, deserted the Cause
to which you devoted your lives, and placed in the hands of the
Russian tyrant the means of destruction which has enabled him to
break the blockade of the Baltic, and so perhaps to change the whole
course of the war which he is now waging, as you well know, with the
object of conquering Europe and enslaving its peoples.

"Already the lives of thousands of better men than you have been lost
through this vile treason of yours, the vilest of all treason, for it
was committed for love of money. By the laws of the Brotherhood your
lives are forfeit, and if you had a hundred lives each they would be
forfeited again by the calamities that your treason has brought, and
will bring, upon the world. You will die in half an hour. If you have
any preparations to make for the next world, make them. I have done
with you. Go!"

Half an hour later the four deserters were taken up on to the deck of
the _Ithuriel_. The signal was given to stop the flotilla, which was
then flying three thousand feet above the waters of the Moray Firth.
As soon as they came to a standstill their crews were summoned on
deck. The three smaller vessels floated around the _Ithuriel_ at a
distance of about fifty yards from her. The traitors, bound hand and
foot, were stood up facing the rail of the flagship, and four of her
crew were stationed opposite to them on the other side of the deck
with loaded rifles.

They were allowed one last look upon sun and sky, and then their eyes
were bandaged. As soon as this was done Arnold raised his hand; the
four rifles came up to the ready; a stream of flame shot from the
muzzles, and the bodies of the four traitors lurched forward over the
rail and disappeared into the abyss beneath.

"Now, gentlemen," said Arnold in French, turning to the two Russian
officers who had been spectators of the scene, "that is how we punish
traitors. Your own lives are spared because we do not murder
prisoners of war. You will, I hope, in due time return to your
master, and you will tell him why we have been obliged to retake the
air-ship which he surrendered to us by force, and therefore why we
destroyed his flagship in the North Sea. If Admiral Prabylov had
obeyed his orders, the _Lucifer_ would have been surrendered to us
quietly, and there would have been for the present no further

"Tell him also from me, as Admiral of the Terrorist fleet, that, so
far as matters have now gone, we shall take no further part in the
war; but that the moment he brings his war-balloons across the waters
which separate Britain from Europe, the last hour of his empire will
have struck.

"If he neglects this warning with which I now entrust you, I will
bring a force against him before which he shall be as helpless as the
armies of the Alliance have so far been before him and his
war-balloons; and, more than this, tell him that if I conquer I will
not spare. I will hold him and his advisers strictly to account for
all that may happen after that moment.

"There will be no treaties with conquered enemies in the hour of our
victory. We will have blood for blood, and life for life. Remember
that, and bear the message to him faithfully. For the present you
will be prisoners on parole; but I warn you that you will be watched
night and day, and at the first suspicion of treachery you will be
shot, and cast into the air as those traitors were just now.

"You will remain on board this ship. The two engineers will be placed
one on board of each of two of our consorts. In twenty-four hours or
so you will be landed on Spanish soil and left to your own devices.
Meanwhile we shall make you as comfortable as the circumstances

The two Russian officers bowed their acknowledgments, and Arnold gave
the signal for the flotilla to proceed.

It was then about seven o'clock in the evening. Plying at the rate of
a hundred miles an hour, the squadron crossed the mouth of the Moray
Firth trending to the westward until they passed over Thurso, and
then took a westerly course to Rockall Island, four hundred miles to
the west. Here they met the two other air-ships which had been
despatched from Aeria with extra power-cylinders and munitions of war
in case they had been needed for a prolonged campaign.

The cylinders, which had been exhausted on board the _Ithuriel_ and
her three consorts, were replaced, and then the whole squadron rose
into the air from one of the peaks of Rockall Island and winged its
way southward to the north-western coast of Spain. They made the
Spanish land near Corunna shortly before eight on the following
evening, and here the four Russian prisoners were released on the
sea-shore and provided with money to take them as far as Valladolid,
whence they would be able to communicate with the French military
authorities at Toulouse.

The Terrorist Squadron then rose once more into the air, ascended to
a height of two thousand feet, skirted the Portuguese coast, and then
took a south-easterly course over Morocco through one of the passes
of the Atlas Mountains, and so across the desert of Sahara and the
wilds of Central Africa to Aeria.



The first news of the Russian attack on Aberdeen was received in
London soon after five o'clock on the afternoon of the 30th, and
produced an effect which it is quite beyond the power of language to
describe. The first telegram containing the bare announcement of the
fact fell like a bolt from the blue on the great Metropolis. It ran
as follows:--

      Aberdeen, 4.30 P.M.

    A large fleet, supposed to be the Russian fleet which broke the
    blockade of the Baltic on the morning of the 28th, has appeared
    off the town. About forty large vessels can be made out. Our
    defences are quite inadequate to cope with such an immense force,
    but we shall do our best till help comes.

After that the wires were kept hot with messages until well into the
night. The newspapers rushed out edition after edition to keep pace
with them, and in all the office windows of the various journals
copies of the telegrams were posted up as soon as they arrived.

As the messages multiplied in number they brought worse and worse
tidings, until excitement grew to frenzy and frenzy degenerated into
panic. The thousand tongues of rumour wagged faster and faster as
each hour went by. The raid upon a single town was magnified into a
general invasion of the whole country.

Very few people slept in London that night, and the streets were
alive with anxious crowds till daybreak, waiting for the
confidently-expected news of the landing of the Russian troops, in
spite of the fact that the avowed and real object of the raid had
been made public early in the evening. The following are the most
important of the telegrams which were received, and will suffice to
inform the reader of the course of events after the departure of the
four air-ships from the scene of action--

      5 P.M.

    A message has been received from the Commander of the Russian
    fleet demanding the surrender of the town for twelve hours to
    allow six of his ships to fill up with coal. The captain of the
    _Ascalon_, in command of the port, has refused this demand, and
    declares that he will fight while he has a ship that will float
    or a gun that can be fired. The Russians are accompanied by the
    air-ship which assisted them to break the blockade of the Sound.
    She is now floating over the town. The utmost terror prevails
    among the inhabitants, and crowds are flying into the country to
    escape the bombardment. Aid has been telegraphed for to Edinburgh
    and Dundee; but if the North Sea Squadron is still in the Firth
    of Forth, it cannot get here under nearly twelve hours' steaming.

      5.30 P.M.

    The bombardment has commenced, and fearful damage has been done
    already. With three or four shells the air-ship has blown up and
    utterly destroyed the fort on Girdleness, which mounted
    twenty-four heavy guns. But for the ships, this leaves the town
    almost unprotected. News has just come from the North Shore that
    the batteries there have met with the same fate. The Russians are
    pouring a perfect storm of shot and shell into the mouth of the
    river where our ships are lying, but the town has so far been

      5.45 P.M.

    We have just received news from Edinburgh that the North Sea
    Squadron left at daybreak this morning under orders to proceed to
    the mouth of the Elbe to assist in protecting Hamburg from an
    anticipated attack by the same fleet which has attacked us. There
    is now no hope that the town can be successfully defended, and
    the Provost has called a towns-meeting to consider the
    advisability of surrender, though it is feared that the Russians
    may now make larger demands. The whole country side is in a state
    of the utmost panic.

      7 P.M.

    The towns-meeting empowered the Provost to call upon Captain
    Marchmont, of the _Ascalon_, to make terms with the Russians in
    order to save the town from destruction. He refused point blank,
    although one of the coast-defence ships, the _Thunderer_, has
    been disabled by shells from the air-ship, and all his other
    vessels have been terribly knocked about by the incessant
    cannonade from the fleet, which has now advanced to within two
    miles of the shore, having nothing more to fear from the land
    batteries. A terrific thunderstorm is raging, and no words can
    describe the horror of the scene. The air-ship ceased firing
    nearly an hour ago.

      10 P.M.

    Five of our eleven ships--two battleships and three
    cruisers--have been sunk; the rest are little better than mere
    wrecks, and seven torpedo-boats have been destroyed in attempting
    to torpedo some of the enemy's ships. Heavy firing has been heard
    to the southward, and we have learnt from Dundee that four
    battleships and six cruisers have been sent to our relief. A
    portion of the Russian fleet has been detached to meet them. We
    cannot hope anything from them. Captain Marchmont has now only
    four ships capable of fighting, but refuses to strike his flag.
    The storm has ceased, and a strong land breeze has blown the
    clouds and smoke to seaward. The air-ship has disappeared. Six
    large Russian ironclads are heading at full speed towards the
    mouth of the river--

The telegram broke off short here, and no more news was received from
Aberdeen for several hours. Of this there was only one possible
explanation. The town was in the hands of the Russians, and they had
cut the wires. The long charm was broken, and the Isle Inviolate was
inviolate no more. The next telegram from the North came from Findon,
and was published in London just before ten o'clock on the following
morning. It ran thus--

      Findon, N.B., 9.15.

    About ten o'clock last night the attack on Aberdeen ended in a
    rush of six ironclads into the river mouth. They charged down
    upon the four half-crippled British ships that were left, and in
    less than five minutes rammed and sank them. The Russians then
    demanded the unconditional surrender of the town, under pain of
    bombardment and destruction. There was no other course but to
    yield, and until eight o'clock this morning the town has been in
    the hands of the enemy.

    The Russians at once landed a large force of sailors and marines,
    cut the telegraph wires and the railway lines, and fired without
    warning upon every one who attempted to leave the town. The
    stores of coal and ammunition were seized, and six large cruisers
    were taking in coal all night. The banks were also entered, and
    the specie taken possession of, as indemnity for the town. At
    eight o'clock the cruisers and battleships steamed out of the
    river without doing further damage. The squadron from the Tay was
    compelled to retire by the overwhelming force that the Russians
    brought to bear upon it after Aberdeen surrendered.

    Half an hour ago the Russian fleet was lost sight of proceeding
    at full speed to the north-eastward. Our loss has been terribly
    heavy. The fort and batteries have been destroyed, all the ships
    have been sunk or disabled, and of the whole defending force
    scarcely three hundred men remain. Captain Marchmont went down on
    the _Ascalon_ with his flag flying, and fighting to the last

While the excitement caused by the news of the raid upon Aberdeen was
at its height, that is to say, on the morning of the 2nd of July,
intelligence was received in London of a tremendous disaster to the
Anglo-Teutonic Alliance. It was nothing less, in short, than the fall
of Berlin, the collapse of the German Empire, and the surrender of
the Kaiser and the Crown Prince to the Tsar. After nearly sixty hours
of almost continuous fighting, during which the fortifications had
been wrecked by the war-balloons, the German ammunition-trains burnt
and blown up by the fire-shells rained from the air, and the heroic
defenders of the city disorganised by the aërial bombardment of
melinite shells and cyanogen poison-bombs, and crushed by an
overwhelming force of not less than four million assailants. So fell
like a house of cards the stately fabric built up by the genius of
Bismarck and Moltke; and so, after bearing his part gallantly in the
death-struggle of his empire, had the grandson of the conqueror of
Sedan yielded up his sword to the victorious Autocrat of the Russias.

The terrible news fell upon London like the premonitory echo of an
approaching storm. The path of the triumphant Muscovites was now
completely open to the forts of the Belgian Quadrilateral, under the
walls of which they would form a junction, which nothing could now
prevent, with the beleaguering forces of France. Would the Belgian
strongholds be able to resist any more effectually than the
fortifications of Berlin had done the assaults of the terrible
war-balloons of the Tsar?



This narrative does not in any sense pretend to be a detailed history
of the war, but only of such phases of it as more immediately concern
the working out of those deep-laid and marvellously-contrived plans
designed by their author to culminate in nothing less than the
collapse of the existing fabric of Society, and the upheaval of the
whole basis of civilisation.

It will therefore be impossible to follow the troops of the Alliance
and the League through the different campaigns which were being
simultaneously carried out in different parts of Europe. The most
that can be done will be to present an outline of the leading events
which, operating throughout a period of nearly three months, prepared
the way for the final catastrophe in which the tremendous issues of
the world-war were summed up.

The fall of Berlin was the first decisive blow that had been struck
during the war. Under it the federation of kingdoms and states which
had formed the German Empire fell asunder almost instantly, and the
whole fabric collapsed like a broken bubble. The shock was felt
throughout the length and breadth of Europe, and it was immediately
seen that nothing but a miracle could save the whole of Central
Europe from falling into the hands of the League.

Its immediate results were the surrender of Magdeburg, Brunswick,
Hanover, and Bremen. Hamburg, strongly garrisoned by British and
German troops, supported by a powerful squadron in the Elbe, and
defended by immense fortifications on the landward side, alone
returned a flat defiance to the summons of the Tsar. The road to the
westward, therefore, lay entirely open to his victorious troops. As
for Hamburg, it was left for the present under the observation of a
corps of reconnaissance to be dealt with when its time came.

When Berlin fell the position of affairs in Europe may be briefly
described as follows:--The French army had taken the field nearly
five millions strong, and this immense force had been divided into an
Army of the North and an Army of the East. The former, consisting of
about two millions of men, had been devoted to the attack on the
British and German forces holding an almost impregnable position
behind the chain of huge fortresses known at present as the Belgian

This Army of the North, doubtless acting in accordance with the
preconceived schemes of operations arranged by the leaders of the
League, had so far contented itself with a series of harassing
attacks upon different points of the Allied position, and had made no
forward movement in force. The Army of the East, numbering nearly
three million men, and divided into fifteen army corps, had crossed
the German frontier immediately on the outbreak of the war, and at
the same moment that the Russian Armies of the North and South had
crossed the eastern Austro-German frontier, and the Italian army had
forced the passes of the Tyrol.

The whole of the French fleet of war-balloons had been attached to
the Army of the East with the intention, which had been realised
beyond the most sanguine expectations, of overrunning and subjugating
Central Europe in the shortest possible space of time. It had swept
like a destroying tempest through the Rhine Provinces, leaving
nothing in its track but the ruins of towns and fortresses, and wide
wastes of devastated fields and vineyards.

Before the walls of Munich it had effected a junction with the
Italian army, consisting of ten army corps, numbering two million
men. The ancient capital of Bavaria fell in three days under the
assault of the aërial fleet and the overwhelming numbers of the
attacking force. Then the Franco-Italian armies advanced down the
valley of the Danube and invested Vienna, which, in spite of the
heroic efforts of what had been left of the Austrian army after the
disastrous conflicts on the Eastern frontier, was stormed and sacked
after three days and nights of almost continuous fighting, and the
most appalling scenes of bloodshed and destruction, four days after
the surrender of the German Emperor to the Tsar had announced the
collapse of what had once been the Triple Alliance.

From Vienna the Franco-Italian armies continued their way down the
valley of the Danube, and at Budapest was joined by the northern
division of the Russian Army of the South, and from there the mighty
flood of destruction rolled south-eastward until it overflowed the
Balkan peninsula, sweeping everything before it as it went, until it
joined the force investing Constantinople.

The Turkish army, which had retreated before it, had concentrated
upon Gallipoli, where, in conjunction with the allied British and
Turkish Squadrons holding the Dardanelles, it prepared to advance to
the relief of Constantinople.

The final attack upon the Turkish capital had been purposely delayed
until the arrival of the French war-balloons, and as soon as these
appeared upon the scene the work of destruction instantly
recommenced. After four days of bombardment by sea and land, and from
the air, and a rapid series of what can only be described as
wholesale butcheries, the ancient capital of the Sultan shared the
fate of Berlin and Vienna, and after four centuries and a half the
Turkish dominion in Europe died in its first stronghold.

Meanwhile one of the wings of the Franco-Italian army had made a
descent upon Gallipoli, and after forty-eight hours' incessant
fighting had compelled the remnant of the Turkish army, which it thus
cut off from Constantinople, to take refuge on the Turkish and
British men-of-war under the protection of the guns of the fleet. In
view of the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, and the terrible
effectiveness of the war-balloons, it was decided that any attempt to
retake Constantinople, or even to continue to hold the Dardanelles,
could only result in further disaster.

The forts of the Dardanelles were therefore evacuated and blown up,
and the British and Turkish fleet, with the remains of the Turkish
army on board, steamed southward to Alexandria to join forces with
the British Squadron that was holding the northern approaches to the
Suez Canal. There the Turkish troops were landed, and the Allied
fleets prepared for the naval battle which the release of the Russian
Black Sea Squadron, through the opening of the Dardanelles, was
considered to have rendered inevitable.

Five days later was fought a second battle of the Nile, a battle
compared with which the former conflict, momentous as it had been,
would have seemed but child's play. On the one side Admiral
Beresford, in command of the Mediterranean Squadron, had collected
every available ship and torpedo-boat to do battle for the defence of
the all-important Suez Canal, and opposed to him was an immense
armament formed by the junction of the Russian Black Sea Squadron
with the Franco-Italian fleet, or rather those portions of it which
had survived the attacks, or eluded the vigilance of the British

The battle, fought almost on the ancient battle-ground of Nelson and
Collingwood, was incomparably the greatest sea-fight in the history
of war.

The fleet under Admiral Beresford's command consisted of fifty-five
battleships of the first and second class, forty-six armoured and
seventy-two unarmoured cruisers, fifty-four gunboats, and two hundred
and seventy torpedo-boats; while the Franco-Italian Allied fleets
mustered between them forty-six battleships, seventy-five armoured
and sixty-three unarmoured cruisers, forty gunboats, and two hundred
and fifty torpedo-boats.

The battle began soon after sundown on the 24th of August, and raged
continuously for over sixty hours. The whole issue of the fight was
the question of the command of the Mediterranean, and the British
line of communication with India and the East _viâ_ the Suez Canal.

The prize was well worthy of the tremendous struggle that the two
contending forces waged for it; and from the two Admirals in command
to the boys employed on the most insignificant duties about the
ships, every one of the combatants seemed equally impressed with the
magnitude of the momentous issues at stake.

To the League, victory meant a deadly blow inflicted upon the only
enemy now seriously to be reckoned with. It meant the severing of the
British Empire into two portions, and the cutting of the one
remaining channel of supply upon which the heart of the Empire now
depended for its nutrition. To destroy Admiral Beresford's fleet
would be to achieve as great a triumph on the sea as the armies of
the League had achieved on land by the taking of Berlin, Vienna, and
Constantinople. On the other hand, the defeat of the Franco-Italian
fleets meant complete command of the Mediterranean, and the ability
to destroy in detail all the important sea-board fortresses and
arsenals of the League that were situated on its shores.

It meant the keeping open of the Suez Canal, the maintenance of
communication with India and Australia by the shortest route, and,
what was by no means the least important consideration, the
vindication of British prestige in Egypt, the Soudan, and India. It
was with these enormous gains and losses before their eyes that the
two forces engaged and fought as perhaps men had never fought with
each other in the world before. Everything that science and
experience could suggest was done by the leaders of both sides. Human
life was counted as nothing in the balance, and deeds of the most
reckless heroism were performed in countless instances as the mighty
struggle progressed.

With such inflexible determination was the battle waged on either
side, and so appalling was the destruction accomplished by the
weapons brought into play, that by sunrise on the morning of the
27th, more than half the opposing fleets had been destroyed, and of
the remainder the majority were so crippled that a continuance of the
fight had become a matter of physical impossibility.

What advantage remained appeared to be on the side of the remains of
the Franco-Italian fleet; but this was speedily negatived an hour
after sunrise by the appearance of a fresh British Squadron,
consisting of the five battleships, fifteen cruisers, and a large
flotilla of gunboats and torpedo-boats which had passed through the
Canal during the night from Aden and Suakim, and appeared on the
scene just in time to turn the tide of battle decisively in favour of
the British Admiral.

As soon as this new force got into action it went to work with
terrible effectiveness, and in three hours there was not a single
vessel that was still flying the French or Italian flag. The victory
had, it is true, been bought at a tremendous price, but it was
complete and decisive, and at the moment that the last of the ships
of the League struck her flag, Admiral Beresford stood in the same
glorious position as Sir George Rodney had done a hundred and
twenty-two years before, when he saved the British Empire in the
ever-memorable victory of the 12th of April 1782.

The triumph in the Mediterranean was, however, only a set-off to a
disaster which had occurred more than five weeks previously in the
Atlantic. The Russian fleet, which had broken the blockade of the
Sound, with the assistance of the _Lucifer_, had, after coaling at
Aberdeen, made its way into the Atlantic, and there, in conjunction
with the Franco-Italian fleets operating along the Atlantic steamer
route, had, after a series of desperate engagements, succeeded in
breaking up the line of British communication with America and

This result had been achieved mainly in consequence of the contrast
between the necessary methods of attack and defence. On the one hand,
Britain had been compelled to maintain an extended line of ocean
defence more than three thousand miles in length, and her ships had
further been hampered by the absolute necessity of attending, first,
to the protection of the Atlantic liners, and, secondly, to warding
off isolated attacks which were directed upon different parts of the
line by squadrons which could not be attacked in turn without
breaking the line of convoy which it was all-essential to preserve

For two or three weeks there had been a series of running fights; but
at length the ocean chain had broken under the perpetual strain, and
a repulse inflicted on the Irish Squadron by a superior force of
French, Italian, and Spanish warships had settled the question of the
command of the Atlantic in favour of the League. The immediate result
of this was that food supplies from the West practically stopped.

Now and then a fleet Atlantic greyhound ran the blockade and brought
her priceless cargo into a British port; but as the weeks went by
these occurrences became fewer and further between, till the time
news was received in London of the investment of the fortresses of
the Quadrilateral by the innumerable hosts of the League, brought
together by the junction of the French and Russian Armies of the
North and the conquerors of Vienna and Constantinople, who had
returned on their tracks after garrisoning their conquests in the

Food in Britain, already at war prices, now began to rise still
further, and soon touched famine prices. Wheat, which in the last
decade of the nineteenth century had averaged about £9 a ton, rose to
over £31 a ton, its price two years before the Battle of Waterloo.
Other imported food-stuffs, of course, rose in proportion with the
staple commodity, and the people of Britain saw, at first dimly, then
more and more clearly, the real issue that had been involved in the
depopulation of the rural districts to swell the populations of the
towns, and the consequent lapse of enormous areas of land either into
pasturage or unused wilderness.

In other words, Britain began to see approaching her doors an enemy
before whose assault all human strength is impotent and all valour
unavailing. Like Imperial Rome, she had depended for her food supply
upon external sources, and now these sources were one by one being
cut off.

The loss of the command of the Atlantic, the breaking of the Baltic
blockade, and the consequent closing of all the continental ports
save Hamburg, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Antwerp, had left her
entirely dependent upon her own miserably insufficient internal
resources and the Mediterranean route to India and the East.

More than this, too, only Hamburg, Antwerp, and the fortresses of the
Quadrilateral now stood between her and actual invasion,--that
supreme calamity which, until the raid upon Aberdeen, had been for
centuries believed to be impossible.

Once let the League triumph in the Netherlands, as it had done in
Central and South-Eastern Europe, and its legions would descend like
an avalanche upon the shores of England, and the Lion of the Seas
would find himself driven to bay in the stronghold which he had held
inviolate for nearly a thousand years.



During the three months of incessant strife and carnage which deluged
the plains and valleys of Europe with blood after the fall of Berlin,
the Terrorists took no part whatever in the war. At long intervals an
air-ship was seen from the earth flying at full speed through the
upper regions of the atmosphere, now over Europe, now over America,
and now over Australia or the Cape of Good Hope; but if they held any
communication with the earth they did so secretly, and only paid the
briefest of visits, the objects of which could only be guessed at.

When one was sighted the fact was mentioned in the newspapers, and
vague speculations were indulged in; but there was soon little room
left for these in the public attention, especially in Britain, for as
the news of disaster after disaster came pouring in, and the hosts of
the League drew nearer and nearer to the western shores of Europe,
all eyes were turned more and more anxiously across "the silver
streak" which now alone separated the peaceful hills and valleys of
England and Scotland from the destroying war-storm which had so
swiftly desolated the fields of Europe, and all hearts were heavy
with apprehension of coming sorrows.

The rapidity of their movements had naturally led to the supposition
that several of the air-ships had taken the air for some unknown
purpose, but in reality there were only two of them afloat during
nearly the whole of the three mouths.

Of these, one was the _Orion_, on board of which Tremayne was
visiting the various centres of the Brotherhood throughout the
English-speaking world, making everything ready for the carrying out
at the proper time of the great project to which he had devoted
himself since the memorable night at Alanmere, when he had seen the
vision of the world's Armageddon. The other was under the command of
Michael Roburoff, who was busy in America and Canada perfecting the
preparations for checkmating the designs of the American Ring, which
were described in a former chapter.

The remainder of the members of the Inner Circle and those of the
Outer Circle, living in Aeria, were quietly pursuing the most
peaceful avocations, building houses and water-mills, clearing fields
and laying out gardens, fishing in the lake and streams, and hunting
in the forests as though they had never heard of the horrors of war,
and had no part or share in the Titanic strife whose final issue they
would soon have to go forth and decide.

One of the hardest workers in the colony was the Admiral of the
aërial fleet. Morning after morning he shut himself up in his
laboratory for three or four hours experimenting with explosives of
various kinds, and especially on a new form of fire-shell which he
had invented, and which he was now busy perfecting in preparation for
the next, and, as he hoped, final conflict that he would have to wage
with the forces of despotism and barbarism.

The afternoons he spent supervising the erection of the mills, and
the construction of new machinery, and in exploring the mountain
sides in search of mineral wealth, of which he was delighted to find
abundant promise that was afterwards realised beyond his

On these exploring expeditions he was frequently accompanied by
Natasha and Radna and her husband. Sometimes Arnold would be enticed
away from his chemicals, and his designs on the lives of his enemies,
and after breakfasting soon after sunrise would go off for a long
day's ramble to some unknown part of their wonderful domain, in
which, like children in a fairyland, they were always discovering
some new wonders and beauties. And, indeed, no children could have
been happier or freer from care than they were during this delightful
interval in the tragedy in which they were so soon to play such
conspicuous parts. The two wedded lovers, with the dark past put far
behind them for ever, found perfect happiness in each other's
society, and so left, it is almost needless to add, Arnold and
Natasha pretty much to their own devices. Indeed, Natasha had more
than once declared that she would have to get the Princess to join
the party, as Radna had proved herself a hopeless failure as a

Every one in the valley by this time looked upon Arnold and Natasha
as lovers, though their rank in the Brotherhood was so high that no
one ventured to speak of them as betrothed save by implication. How
Natas regarded them was known only to himself. He, of course, saw
their intimacy, and since he said nothing he doubtless looked upon it
with approval; but whether he regarded it as an intimacy of friends
or of lovers, remained a mystery even to Natasha herself, for he
never by any chance made an allusion to it.

As for Arnold, he had scrupulously observed the compact tacitly made
between them on the first and only occasion that he had ever spoken
words of love to her. They were the best of friends, the closest
companions, and their intercourse with each other was absolutely
frank and unrestrained, just as it would have been between two close
friends of the same sex; but they understood each other perfectly,
and by no word or deed did either cross the line that divides
friendship from love.

She trusted him absolutely in all things, and he took this trust as a
sacred pledge between them that until his part of their compact had
been performed, love was a forbidden subject, not even to be

So perfectly did Natasha play her part that though he spent hours and
hours alone with her on their exploring expeditions, and in rowing
and sailing on the lake, and though he spent many another hour in
solitude, weighing her every word and action, he was utterly unable
to truthfully congratulate himself on having made the slightest
progress towards gaining that love without which, even if he held her
to the compact in the day of victory, victory itself would be robbed
of its crowning glory and dearest prize.

To a weaker man it would have been an impossible situation, this
constant and familiar companionship with a girl whose wonderful
beauty dazzled his eyes and fired his blood as he looked upon it, and
whose winning charm of manner and grace of speech and action seemed
to glorify her beauty until she seemed a being almost beyond the
reach of merely human love--rather one of those daughters of men whom
the sons of God looked upon in the early days of the world, and found
so fair that they forsook heaven itself to woo them.

Trained and disciplined as he had been in the sternest of all
schools, and strengthened as he was by the knowledge of the compact
that existed between them, there were moments when his self-control
was very sorely tried, moments when her hand would be clasped in his,
or rested on his shoulder as he helped her across a stream or down
some steep hillside, or when in the midst of some animated discussion
she would stop short and face him, and suddenly confound his logic
with a flash from her eyes and a smile on her lips that literally
forced him to put forth a muscular effort to prevent himself from
catching her in his arms and risking everything for just one kiss,
one taste of the forbidden fruit within his reach, and yet parted
from him by a sea of blood and flame that still lay between the world
and that empire of peace which he had promised to win for her sweet

Once, and once only, she had tried him almost too far. They had been
discussing the possibility of ruling the world without the ultimate
appeal to force, when the nations, weary at length of war, should
have consented to disarm, and she, carried away by her own eloquent
pleading for the ultimate triumph of peace and goodwill on earth, had
laid her hand upon his arm, and was looking up at him with her lovely
face aglow with the sweetest expression even he had ever seen upon

Their eyes met, and there was a sudden silence between them. The
eloquent words died upon her lips, and a deep flush rose to her
cheeks and then faded instantly away, leaving her pale and with a
look almost of terror in her eyes. He took a quick step backwards,
and, turning away as though he feared to look any longer upon her
beauty, said in a low tone that trembled with the strength of his
repressed passion--

"Natasha, for God's sake remember that I am only made of flesh and

In a moment she was by his side again, this time with her eyes
downcast and her proud little head bent as though in acknowledgment
of his reproof. Then she looked up again, and held out her hand and

"Forgive me; I have done wrong! Let us be friends again!"

There was a gentle emphasis on the word "friends" that was
irresistible. He took her hand in silence, and after a pressure that
was almost imperceptibly returned, let it go again, and they walked
on together; but there was very little more said between them that

This had happened one afternoon towards the middle of September, and
two days later their delightful companionship came suddenly to an
end, and the bond that existed between them was severed in a moment
without warning, as a nerve thrilling with pleasure might be cut by
an unexpected blow with a knife.

On the 16th of September the _Orion_ returned from Australia. She
touched the earth shortly after mid-day, and before sunset the
_Azrael_, the vessel in which Michael Roburoff had gone to America,
also returned, but without her commander. Her lieutenant, however,
brought a despatch from him, which he delivered at once to Natas,
who, immediately on reading it, sent for Tremayne.

It evidently contained matters of great importance, for they remained
alone together discussing it for over an hour. At the end of that
time Tremayne left the Master's house and went to look for Arnold. He
found him just helping Natasha out of a skiff at a little
landing-stage that had been built out into the lake for boating
purposes. As soon as greetings had been exchanged, he said--

"Natasha, I have just left your father. He asked me, if I saw you, to
tell you that he wishes to speak to you at once."

"Certainly," said Natasha. "I hope you have not brought bad news home
from your travels. You are looking very serious about something," and
without waiting for an answer, she was gone to obey her father's
summons. As soon as she was out of earshot Tremayne put his arm
through Arnold's, and, drawing him away towards a secluded portion of
the shore of the lake, said--

"Arnold, old man, I have some very serious news for you. You must
prepare yourself for the severest strain that, I believe, could be
put on your loyalty and your honour."

"What is it? For Heaven's sake don't tell me that it has to do with
Natasha!" exclaimed Arnold, stopping short and facing round, white to
the lips with the sudden fear that possessed him. "You know"--

"Yes, I know everything," replied Tremayne, speaking almost as gently
as a woman would have done, "and I am sorry to say that it has to do
with her. I know what your hopes have been with regard to her, and no
man on earth could have wished to see those hopes fulfilled more
earnestly than I have done, but"--

"What do you mean, Tremayne? Speak out, and let me know the worst. If
you tell me that I am to give her up, I tell you that I am"--

"'That I am an English gentleman, and that I will break my heart
rather than my oath'--that is what you will tell me when I tell you
that you must not only give up your hopes of winning Natasha, but
that it is the Master's orders that you shall have the _Ithuriel_
ready to sail at midnight to take her to America to Michael Roburoff,
who has written to Natas to ask her for his wife."

Arnold heard him out in dazed, stupefied silence. It seemed too
monstrous, too horrible, to be true. The sudden blow had stunned him.
He tried to speak, but the words would not come. Tremayne, still
standing with his arm through his, felt his whole body trembling, as
though stricken with some sudden palsy. He led him on again, saying
in a sterner tone than before--

"Come, come! Play the man, and remember that the work nearest to your
hand is war, and not love. Remember the tremendous issues that are
gathering to their fulfilment, and the part that you have to play in
working them out. This is not a question of the happiness or the
hopes of one man or woman, but of millions, of the whole human race.
You, and you alone, hold in your hands the power to make the defeat
of the League certain."

"And I will use it, have no fear of that!" replied Arnold, stopping
again and passing his hand over his eyes like a man waking from an
evil dream. "What I have sworn to do I will do; I am not going back
from my oath. I will obey to the end, for she will do the same, and
what would she think of me if I failed! Leave me alone for a bit now,
old man. I must fight this thing out with myself, but the _Ithuriel_
shall be ready to start at twelve."

Tremayne saw that he was himself again, and that it was better that
he should do as he said; so with a word of farewell he turned away
and left him alone with his thoughts. Half-way back to the settlement
he met Natasha coming down towards the lake. She was deadly pale, but
she walked with a firm step, and carried her head as proudly erect as
ever. As they met she stopped him and said--

"Where is he?"

Tremayne's first thought was to try and persuade her to go back and
leave Arnold to himself, but a look at Natasha's white set face and
burning eyes warned him that she was not in a mood to take advice,
and so he told her, and without another word she went on swiftly down
the path that led to the lake.

The brief twilight of the tropics had passed before he reached a
grove of palms on the western shore of the lake, towards which he had
bent his steps when he left Tremayne. He walked with loose, aimless
strides, now quickly and now slowly, and now stopping to watch the
brightening moon shining upon the water.

He caught himself thinking what a lovely night it would be to take
Natasha for a row, and then his mind sprang back with a jerk to the
remembrance of the horrible journey that he was to begin at
midnight--to take Natasha to another man, and leave her with him as
his wife.

No, it could not be true. It was impossible that he should have
fought and triumphed as he had done, and all for this. To give up the
one woman he had ever loved in all his life, the woman he had
snatched from slavery and degradation when not another man on earth
could have done it.

What had this Roburoff done that she should be given to him for the
mere asking? Why had he not come in person like a man to woo and win
her if he could, and then he would have stood aside and bowed to her
choice. But this curt order to take her away to him as though she
were some piece of merchandise--no, if such things were possible,
better that he had never--


He felt a light touch on his arm, and turned round sharply. Natasha
was standing beside him. He had been so engrossed by his dark
thoughts that he had not heard her light step on the soft sward, and
now he seemed to see her white face and great shining eyes looking up
at him in the moonlight as though there was some mist floating
between him and her. Suddenly the mist seemed to vanish. He saw tears
under the long dark lashes, and the sweet red lips parted in a faint

Lose her he might to-morrow, but for this one moment she was his and
no other man's, let those who would say nay. That instant she was
clasped helpless and unresisting in his arms, and her lips were
giving his back kiss for kiss. Wreck and chaos might come now for all
he cared. She loved him, and had given herself to him, if only for
that one moonlit hour.

After that he could plunge into the battle again, and slay and spare
not--yes, and he would slay without mercy. He would hurl his
lightnings from the skies, and where they struck there should be
death. If not love and life, then hate and death--it was not his
choice. Let those who had chosen see to that; but for the present
love and life were his, why should he not live? Then the mad, sweet
delirium passed, and saner thoughts came. He released her suddenly,
almost brusquely, and said with a harsh ring in his voice--

"Why did you come? Have you forgotten what so nearly happened the day
before yesterday?"

"No, I have not forgotten it. I have remembered it, and that is why I
came to tell you--what you know now."

Her face was rosy enough now, and she looked him straight in the eyes
as she spoke, proud to confess the mastery that he had won.

"Now listen," she went on, speaking in a low, quick, passionate tone.
"The will of the Master must be done. There is no appeal from that,
either for you or me. He can dispose of me as he chooses, and I shall
obey, as I warned you I should when you first told me that you would
win me if you could.

"Well, you have won me, so far as I can be won. I love you, and I
have come to tell you so before the shadow falls between us. And I
have come to tell you that what you have won shall belong to no one
else. I will obey my father to the letter, but the spirit is my
affair. Now kiss me again, dear, and say good-bye. We have had our
glimpse of heaven, and this is not the only life."

For one more brief moment she surrendered herself to him again. Their
lips met and parted, and in an instant she had slipped out of his
arms and was gone, leaving him dazed with her beauty and her



An hour later he walked back to the settlement, looking five years
older than he had done a couple of hours before, but with his nerves
steady and with the light of a solemn resolve burning in his eyes. He
went straight to the _Ithuriel_, and made a minute personal
inspection of the whole vessel, inside and out. He saw that every
cylinder was charged, and that there was an ample supply of spare
ones and ammunition on board, including a number of his new
fire-shells. Then he went to Lieutenant Marston's quarters, and told
him to have the crew in their places by half-past eleven; and this
done, he paid a formal visit to the Master to report all ready.

Natas received him as usual, just as though nothing out of the common
had happened; and if he noticed the change that had come over him, he
made no sign that he did so. When Arnold had made his report, he
merely said--

"Very good. You will start at twelve. The Chief has told you the
nature and purpose of the voyage you are about to make, I presume?"

He bowed a silent affirmative, and Natas went on--

"The Chief and Anna Ornovski will go with you as witnesses for
Michael Roburoff and Natasha, and the Chief will be provided with my
sealed orders for your guidance in the immediate future. The
rendezvous is a house on one of the spurs of the Alleghany Mountains.
What time will it take to reach there?"

"The distance is about seven thousand miles. That will be from thirty
to thirty-five hours' flight according to the wind. With a fair wind
we shall reach the Alleghanies a little before sunrise on the 18th."

"Then to make sure of that, if possible, you had better start an hour
earlier. Natasha is making her preparations, and will be on board at

"Very well; I will be ready to start then," replied Arnold, speaking
as calmly and formally as Natas had done. Then he saluted and walked

When he got into the open air he drew a deep breath. His teeth came
together with a sharp snap, and his hands clenched. So it was true,
then, this horrible thing, this sacrilege, this ruin, that had fallen
upon his life and hers. Natas had spoken of giving her to this man as
quietly as though it had been the most natural proceeding possible,
an understood arrangement about which there could be no question.
Well, he had sworn, and he would obey, but there would be a heavy
price to pay for his obedience.

He did not see Natasha again that night. When the _Ithuriel_ rose
into the air she was in her cabin with the Princess, and did not
appear during the voyage save at meals, when all the others were
present, and then she joined in the conversation with a composure
which showed that, externally at least, she had quite regained her
habitual self-control.

Arnold spent the greater part of the voyage in the deck-saloon with
Tremayne, talking over the events of the war, and arranging plans of
future action. By mutual consent the object of their present voyage
was not mentioned. As Arnold was more than two months and a half
behind the news, he found not a little relief in hearing from
Tremayne of all that had taken place since the recapture of the

The two men, who were now to be the active leaders of the Revolution
which, as they hoped, was soon to overturn the whole fabric of
Society, and introduce a new social order of things, conversed in
this fashion, quietly discussing the terrific tragedy in which they
were to play the leading parts, and arranging all the details of
their joint action, until well into the night of the 17th.

About eleven Tremayne went to his cabin, and Arnold, going to the
conning-tower, told the man on the look-out to go below until he was
called. Then he took his place, and remained alone with his thoughts
as the _Ithuriel_ sped on her way a thousand feet above the deserted
waters of the Atlantic, until the dark mass of the American Continent
loomed up in front of him to the westward.

As soon as he sighted land he went aft to the wheel-house, and
slightly inclined the air-planes, causing the _Ithuriel_ to soar
upwards until the barometer marked a height of 6000 feet. At this
elevation he passed over the mouth of the Chesapeake, and across
Virginia; and a little more than an hour before sunrise the
_Ithuriel_ sank to the earth on one of the spurs of the Alleghanies,
in sight of a lonely weather-board house, in one of the windows of
which three lights were burning in the form of a triangle.

This building was used ostensibly as a shooting and hunting-box by
Michael Roburoff and a couple of his friends, and in reality as a
meeting-place for the Inner Circle or Executive Council of the
American Section of the Brotherhood. This Section was, numerically
speaking, the most important of the four branches into which the
Outer Circle of the Brotherhood was divided--that is to say, the
British, Continental, American, and Colonial Sections.

All told, the Terrorists had rather more than five million adherents
in America and Canada, of whom more than four millions were men in
the prime of life, and nearly all of Anglo-Saxon blood and English
speech. All these men were not only armed, but trained in the use of
firearms to a high degree of skill; their organisation, which had
gradually grown up with the Brotherhood for twenty years, was known
to the world only under the guise of the different forms of
industrial unionism, but behind these there was a perfect system of
discipline and command which the outer world had never even

The Section was divided first into squads of ten under the command of
an eleventh, who alone knew the leaders of the other squads in his
neighbourhood. Ten of these squads made a company, commanded by one
man, who was only known to the squad-captains, and who alone knew the
captain of the regiment, which was composed of ten companies.

The next step in the organisation was the brigade, consisting of ten
regiments, the captains of which alone knew the commander of the
brigade, while the commanders of the brigades were alone acquainted
with the members of the Inner Circle or Executive Council which
managed the affairs of the whole Section, and whose Chief was the
only man in the Section who could hold any communication with the
Inner Circle of the Brotherhood itself, which, under the immediate
command of Natas, governed the whole organisation throughout the

This description will serve for all the Sections, as all were
modelled upon exactly the same plan. The advantages of such an
organisation will at once be obvious. In the first place, no member
of the rank and file could possibly betray more than ten of his
fellows, including his captain; while his treachery could, if
necessary, be made known in a few hours to ten thousand others, not
one of whom he knew, and thus it would be impossible for him to
escape the invariable death penalty. The same is, of course, equally
true of the captains and the commanders.

On the other hand, the system was equally convenient for the
transmission of orders from headquarters. An order given to ten
commanders of brigades could, in a single night, be transmitted
individually to the whole of the Section, and yet those in command of
the various divisions would not know whence the orders came, save as
regards their immediate superiors.

It will be necessary for the reader to bear these few particulars in
mind in order to understand future developments, which, without them,
might seem to border on the impossible. It is only necessary to add
that the full fighting strength of the four Sections of the
Brotherhood amounted to about twelve millions of men, a considerable
proportion of whom were serving as soldiers in the armies of the
League and the Alliance, and that in its cosmopolitan aspect it was
known to the rank and file as the Red International, whose members
knew each other only by the possession of a little knot of red ribbon
tied into the button-hole in a peculiar fashion on occasions of
meetings for instruction or drill.

The three lights burning in the form of a triangle in the window of
the house were a prearranged signal to avoid mistake on the part of
those on board the air-ship. When they reached the earth, Arnold,
acting under the instructions of Tremayne, who was his superior on
land though his voluntary subordinate when afloat, left the
_Ithuriel_ and her crew in charge of Lieutenant Marston and Andrew
Smith, the coxswain.

The remainder disembarked, and then the air-ship rose from the ground
and ascended out of sight through a layer of clouds that hung some
eight hundred feet above the high ground of the hills. Lieutenant
Marston's orders were to remain out of sight for an hour and then

Arnold had not seen Natasha for several hours previous to the
landing, and he noticed with wonder, by no means unmixed with
something very like anger, that she looked a great deal more cheerful
than she had done during the voyage. She had preserved her composure
all through, but the effort of restraint had been visible. Now this
had vanished, although the supreme hour of the sacrifice that her
father had commanded her to make was actually at hand. When her feet
touched the earth she looked round with a smile on her lips and a
flush on her cheeks, and said, in a voice in which there was no
perceptible trace of anxiety or suffering--

"So this is the place of my bridal, is it? Well, I must say that a
more cheerful one might have been selected; yet perhaps, after all,
such a gloomy spot is more suitable to the ceremony. Come along; I
suppose the bridegroom will be anxiously waiting the coming of the
bride. I wonder what sort of a reception I shall have. Come, my Lord
of Alanmere, your arm; and you, Captain Arnold, bring the Princess.
We have a good deal to do before it gets light."

These were strange words to be uttered by a girl who but a few hours
before had voluntarily confessed her love for one man, and was on the
eve of compulsorily giving herself up to another one. Had it been any
one else but Natasha, Arnold could have felt only disgust; but his
love made it impossible for him to believe her guilty of such
unworthy lightness as her words bespoke, even on the plain evidence
before him, so he simply choked back his anger as best he might, and
followed towards the house, speechless with astonishment at the
marvellous change that had come over the daughter of Natas.

Tremayne knocked in a peculiar fashion on the window, and then
repeated the knock on the door, which was opened almost immediately.

"Who stands there?" asked a voice in French.

"Those who bring the expected bride," replied Tremayne in German.

"And by whose authority?" This time the question was in Spanish.

"In the Master's name," said Tremayne in English.

"Enter! you are welcome."

A second door was now opened inside the house, and through it a light
shone into the passage. The four visitors entered, and, passing
through the second door, found themselves in a plainly-furnished
room, down the centre of which ran a long table, flanked by five
chairs on each side, in each of which, save one, sat a masked and
shrouded figure exactly similar to those which Arnold had seen when
he was first introduced to the Council-chamber in the house on
Clapham Common. In a chair at one end of the table sat another figure
similarly draped.

The door was closed as they entered, and the member of the Circle who
had let them in returned to his seat. No word was spoken until this
was done. Then Natasha, leaving her three companions by the door,
advanced alone to the lower end of the table.

As she did so, Arnold for the first time noticed that she carried her
magazine pistol in a sheath at her belt. He and Tremayne were, as a
matter of course, armed with a brace of these weapons, but this was
the first time that he had ever seen Natasha carry her pistol openly.
Wondering greatly what this strange sight might mean, he waited with
breathless anxiety for the drama to begin.

As Natasha took her stand at the opposite end of the table, the
figure in the chair at the top rose and unmasked, displaying the
pallid countenance of the Chief of the American Section. He looked to
Arnold anything but a bridegroom awaiting his bride, and the ceremony
which was to unite him to her for ever. His cheeks and lips were
bloodless, and his eyes wandered restlessly from Natasha to Tremayne
and back again. He glanced to and fro in silence for several moments,
and when he at last found his voice he said, in half-choked, broken

"What is this? Why am I honoured by the presence of the Chief and the
Admiral of the Air? I asked only that if the Master consented to
grant my humble petition in reward for my services, the daughter of
Natas should come attended simply by a sister of the Brotherhood and
the messenger that I sent."

They let him finish, although it was with manifest difficulty that he
stammered to the end of his speech. Arnold, still wondering at the
strange turn events had taken, saw Tremayne's lips tighten and his
brows contract in the effort to repress a smile. The other masked
figures at the table moved restlessly in their seats, and glanced
from one to another. Seeing this, Tremayne stepped quickly forward to
Natasha's side, and said in a stern, commanding tone--

"I am the Chief of the Central Council, and I order every one here to
keep his seat and remain silent until the daughter of Natas has

The ten masked and hooded heads instantly bowed consent. Then
Tremayne stepped back again, and Natasha spoke. There was a keen,
angry light in her eyes, and a bright flush upon her cheek, but her
voice was smooth and silvery, and in strange contrast to the words
that she used, almost to the end.

"Did you think, Michael Roburoff, that the Master of the Terror would
send his daughter to her bridal so poorly escorted as you say? Surely
that would have been almost as much of a slight as you put upon me
when, instead of coming to woo me as a true lover should have done,
you contented yourself with sending a messenger as though you were
some Eastern potentate despatching an envoy to demand the hand of the
daughter of a vassal.

"It would seem that this sudden love which you do me the honour to
profess for me has destroyed your manners as well as your reason. But
since you have assumed so high a dignity, it is not seemly that you
should stand to hear what I have to say; sit down, for it looks as
though standing were a trouble to you."

Michael Roburoff, who by this time could scarcely support himself on
his trembling limbs, sank suddenly back into his chair and covered
his face with his hands.

"That is not very lover-like to cover your eyes when the bride that
you have asked for is standing in front of you; but as long as you
don't cover your ears as well, I will forgive you the slight. Now,

"I have come, as you see, and I have brought with me the answer of
the Master to your request. Until an hour ago I did not know what it
was myself, for, like the rest of the faithful members of the
Brotherhood, I obey the word of the Master blindly.

"You, as it would appear, maddened by what you are pleased to call
your love for me, have dared to attempt to make terms where you swore
to obey blindly to the death. You have dared to place me, the
daughter of Natas, in the balance against the allegiance of the
American Section on the eve of the supreme crisis of its work, thus
imperilling the results of twenty years of labour.

"If you had not been mad you would have foreseen the results of such
treachery. As it is you must learn them now. What I have said has
been proved by your own hand, and the proof is here in the hand of
the Chief. This is the answer of Natas to the servant who would have
betrayed him in the hour of trial."

She took a folded paper from her belt as she spoke, and, unfolding
it, read in clear, deliberate tones--

    Michael Roburoff, late chief of the American Section of the
    Brotherhood. When you joined the Order, you took an oath to obey
    the directions of its chiefs to the death, and you acknowledged
    that death would be the just penalty of perjury. My orders to you
    were to complete the arrangements for bringing the American
    Section into action when you received the signal to do so.
    Instead of doing that, you have sought to bargain with me for the
    price of its allegiance. That is treachery, and the penalty of
    treachery is death.


"Those are the words of the Master," continued Natasha, throwing the
paper down upon the table with one hand, and drawing her pistol with
the other. "It rests with the Chief to say when and where the
sentence of the Master shall be carried out."

[Illustration: "He dropped back into his chair with a bullet in his

_See page 275._]

"Let it be carried out here, and now," said Tremayne, "and let him
who has anything to say against it speak now, or for ever hold his

The ten heads bowed once more in silence, and Natasha went on still
addressing the trembling wretch who sat huddled in the chair in front
of her.

"You have asked for a bride, Michael Roburoff, and she has come to
you, and I can promise you that you shall sleep soundly in her
embrace. Your bride is Death, and I have chosen to bring her to you
with my own hand, that all here may see how the daughter of Natas can
avenge an insult to her womanhood.

"You have been guilty of treachery to the Brotherhood, and for that
you might have been punished by any hand; but you would also have
condemned me to the infamy of a loveless marriage, and that is an
insult that no one shall punish but myself. Look up, and, if you can,
die like a man."

Roburoff took his hands from his face, and with an inarticulate cry
started to his feet. The same instant Natasha's hand went up, her
pistol flashed, and he dropped back again into his chair with a
bullet in his brain. Then she replaced the pistol in her belt, and
going up to Arnold held out both her hands and said, as he clasped
them in his own--

"If the Master's reply had been different, that bullet would by this
time have been in my own heart."



Within an hour after the execution of Michael Roburoff the _Ithuriel_
was winging her way back to Aeria, and at least two of her company
were anticipating their return to the valley with feelings very
different to those with which they had contemplated their departure.

When the last farewells and congratulations had been spoken, and the
air-ship rose from the earth, Tremayne returned to the house to
commence forthwith the great task which now developed upon him; for
in addition to being Chief of the Central Executive, he now assumed
the direct command of the American Section, which, after long
consideration, had been selected as the nucleus of the Federation of
the English-speaking peoples of the world.

For a fortnight he worked almost night and day, attending to every
detail with the utmost care, and bringing into play all those rare
powers of mind which in the first instance had led Natas to select
him as the visible head of the Executive. In this way the chief
consequence of the love-madness of Roburoff had been to place at the
head of affairs in America the one man of all others most fitted by
descent and ability to carry out such a work, and to this fact its
complete success must in a great measure be attributed.

So perfectly were his plans laid and executed, that right up to the
moment when the signal was given and the plans became actions,
American society went about its daily business without the remotest
suspicion that it was living on the slope of a slumbering volcano
whose fires were so soon to burst forth and finally consume the
social fabric which, despite its splendid exterior, was inwardly as
rotten as were the social fabrics of Rome and Byzantium on the eve of
their fall.

On the 1st of October the cables brought the news of the fall of the
Quadrilateral, the storming of Hamburg, and the retreat of the
British forces on Antwerp. Four days later came the tidings of a
great battle under the walls of Antwerp, in which the British and
German forces, outnumbered ten to one by the innumerable hosts of the
League, had suffered a decisive defeat, which rendered it imperative
for them to fall back upon the Allied fleets in the Scheldt, and to
leave the Netherlands to the mercy of the Tsar and his allies, who
were thus left undisputed masters of the continent of Europe.

This last and crowning victory had been achieved by exactly the same
means which had accomplished all the other triumphs of the campaign,
and therefore there will be no need to enter into any detailed
description of it. Indeed, the fall of the Quadrilateral and the
defeat of the last army of the Alliance round Antwerp would have been
accomplished much more easily and speedily than it had been but for
the fact that the weather, which had been fine up to the end of July,
had suddenly broken, and a succession of violent storms and gales
from the north and north-west had made it impossible for the
war-balloons to be brought into action with any degree of

During the last week of September the storms had ceased, and then the
work of destruction began. Not even the hitherto impregnable
fortresses of Tournay, Mons, Namur, and Liége had been able to
withstand the assault from the air any better than the forts of
Berlin or the walls of Constantinople. A day's bombardment had
sufficed to reduce them to ruins, and, the chain once broken, the
armies of the League swept in wave after wave across the plains which
they had guarded.

The loss of life had been unparalleled even in this the greatest of
all wars, for the British and Germans had fought with a dogged
resolution which, but for the vastly superior numbers and the
irresistible means of destruction employed against them, must
infallibly have triumphed. As it was, it was only when valour had
achieved its last sacrifice, and further resistance became rather
madness than devotion, that the retreat was finally sounded in time
to embark the remnants of the armies of the Alliance on board the
warships. Happily at the very hour when this was being done the
weather broke again, and the ships of the Allied fleets were
therefore able to make their way to sea through storm and darkness,
unmolested by the war-balloons.

While the American press was teeming with columns of description
telegraphed at enormous cost from the seat of war, and with
absolutely misleading articles as to the policy of the League and the
attitude of studious neutrality that was to be observed by the United
States Government, the dockyards, controlled directly and indirectly
by the American Ring, were working night and day putting the
finishing touches to the flotilla of dynamite cruisers and other
war-vessels intended to carry out the plan revealed by Michael
Roburoff on board the _Ithuriel_, after he had been taken off the
_Aurania_ in the Mid-Atlantic.

Briefly described, this was as follows:--Representative government in
America had by this time become a complete sham. The whole political
machinery and internal resources of the United States were now
virtually at the command of a great Ring of capitalists who, through
the medium of the huge monopolies which they controlled, and the
enormous sums of money at their command, held the country in the
hollow of their hand. These men were as totally devoid of all human
feeling or public sentiment as it was possible for human beings to
be. They had grown rich in virtue of their contempt of every
principle of justice and mercy, and they had no other object in life
than to still further increase their gigantic hoards of wealth, and
to multiply the enormous powers which they already wielded. The then
condition of affairs in Europe had presented them with such an
opportunity as no other combination of circumstances could have given
them, and ignoring, as such wretches would naturally do, all ties of
blood and kindred speech, they had determined to take advantage of
the situation to the utmost.

In the guise of the United States Government the Ring had concluded a
secret treaty with the commanders of the League, in virtue of which,
at a stipulated point in the struggle, America was to declare war on
Britain, invade Canada by land, and send to sea an immense flotilla
of swift dynamite cruisers of tremendously destructive power, which
had been constructed openly in the Government dockyards, ostensibly
for coast defence, and secretly in private yards belonging to the
various Corporations composing the Ring.

This flotilla was to co-operate with the fleet of the League as soon
as England had been invaded, and complete the blockade of the British
ports. Were this once accomplished nothing could save Britain from
starvation into surrender, and the British Empire from disintegration
and partition between the Ring and the Commanders of the League, who
would then practically divide the mastery of the world among them.

On the night of the 4th of October the five words: "The hour and the
man," went flying over the wires from Washington throughout the
length and breadth of the North American Continent. The next morning
half the industries of the United States were paralysed; all the
lines of communication by telegraph and rail between the east and
west were severed, the shore ends of the Atlantic cables were cut, no
newspapers appeared, and every dockyard on the eastern coast was in
the hands of the Terrorists.

To complete the stupor produced by this swift succession of
astounding events, when the sun rose an air-ship was seen floating
high in the air over the ten arsenals of the United States--that is
to say, over Portsmouth, Charlestown, Brooklyn, League Island, New
London, Washington, Norfolk, Pensacola, Mare Island, and Port Royal,
while two others held Chicago and St. Louis, the great railway
centres for the west and south, at their mercy, and the _Ithuriel_,
with a broad red flag flying from her stern, swept like a meteor
along the eastern coast from Maine to Florida.

To attempt to describe the condition of frenzied panic into which the
inhabitants of the threatened cities, and even the whole of the
Eastern States were thrown by the events of that ever-memorable
morning, would be to essay an utterly hopeless task. From the
millionaire in his palace to the outcasts who swarmed in the slums,
not a man or a woman kept a cool head save those who were in the
councils of the Terrorists. The blow had fallen with such stupefying
suddenness that as far as America was concerned the Revolution was
practically accomplished before any one very well knew what had

Out of the midst of an apparently peaceful and industrious population
five millions of armed men had sprung in a single night. Factories
and workshops had opened their doors, but none entered them; ships
lay idle by the wharves, offices were deserted, and the great reels
of paper hung motionless beside the paralysed machines which should
have converted them into newspapers.

It was not a strike, for no mere trade organisation could have
accomplished such a miracle. It was the force born of the
accumulation of twenty years of untiring labour striking one mighty
blow which shattered the commercial fabric of a continent in a single
instant. Those who had been clerks or labourers yesterday, patient,
peaceful, and law-abiding, were to-day soldiers, armed and
disciplined, and obeying with automatic regularity the unheard
command of some unknown chief.

This of itself would have been enough to throw the United States into
a panic; but, worse than all, the presence of the air-ships, holding
at their mercy the arsenals and the richest cities in the Eastern
States, proved that tremendous and all as it was, this was only a
phase of some vast and mysterious cataclysm which might as easily
involve the whole civilised world as it could overwhelm the United
States of America.

By noon, almost without striking a blow, every dynamite cruiser and
warship on the eastern coast had been seized and manned by the
Terrorists. To the dismay of the authorities, it was found that more
than half the army and navy, officers and men alike, had obeyed the
mysterious summons that had gone throughout the land the night
before; and matters reached a climax when, as the clocks of
Washington were striking twelve, the President himself was arrested
in the White House.

All the streets of Washington were in the hands of the Terrorists,
and at one o'clock Tremayne, after posting guards at all the
approaches, entered the Senate, and in the name of Natas proclaimed
the Constitution of the United States null and void, and the
Government dissolved.

Then with a copy of the Constitution in his hand he proceeded to the
steps of the Capitol, and, in the presence of a vast throng of the
armed members of the American Section, he proclaimed the Federation
of the English-speaking races of the world, in virtue of their bonds
of kindred blood and speech and common interests; and amidst a scene
of the wildest enthusiasm called upon all who owned those bonds to
forget the artificial divisions that had separated them into hostile
nations and communities, and to follow the leadership of the
Brotherhood to the conquest of the earth.

Then in a few strong and simple phrases he exposed the subservience
of the Government to the capitalist Ring, and described the inhuman
compact that it had entered into with the arch-enemies of national
freedom and personal liberty to crush the motherland of the
Anglo-Saxon nations, and for the sake of sordid gain to rivet the
fetters of oppression upon the limbs of the race which for a thousand
years had stood in the forefront of the battle for freedom.

As he concluded his appeal, one mighty shout of wrath and execration
rose up to heaven from a million throats. He waited until this died
away into silence, then, raising the copy of the Constitution above
his head, he cried in clear ringing tones--

"For a hundred and fifty years this has been boasted as the bulwark
of liberty, and used as the instrument of social and commercial
oppression. The Republic of America has been governed, not by
patriots and statesmen, but by millionaires and their hired political
puppets. It is therefore a fraud and a sham, and deserves no longer
to exist!"

So saying, he tore the paper into fragments and cast them into the
air amidst a storm of cheers and volley after volley of musketry.
While the enthusiasm was at its height the _Ithuriel_ suddenly swept
downwards from the sky in full view of the mighty assemblage that
swarmed round the Capitol. She was greeted with a roar of wondering
welcome, for her appearance was the fulfilment of a promise upon
which the success of the Revolution in America had largely depended.

This was the promise, issued by Tremayne several days previously
through the commanders of the various divisions of the Section, that
as soon as the Anglo-Saxon Federation was proclaimed and accepted in
America, the whole Brotherhood throughout the world would fall into
line with it, and place its aërial navy at the disposal of its
leaders. Practically this was giving the empire of the world in
exchange for a money-despotism, of which every one save the
millionaires and their servants had become heartily sick.

There were few who in their hearts did not believe the Republic to be
a colossal fraud, and therefore there were few who regretted it.

The _Ithuriel_ passed slowly over the heads of the wondering crowd,
and came to a standstill alongside the steps on which Tremayne was
standing. The crowd saw a man on her deck shake hands with Tremayne
and give him a folded paper. Then the air-ship swept gracefully
upward again in a spiral curve until she hung motionless over the
dome of the Capitol.

Amidst a silence born of breathless interest to know the import of
this message from the sky, Tremayne opened the paper, glanced at its
contents, and handed it to the senior officer in command of the
brigades, who stood beside him. This man, a veteran who had grown
grey in the service of the Brotherhood, advanced with the open paper
in his hand, and read out in a loud voice--

    Natas sends greeting to the Brotherhood in America. The work has
    been well done, and the reward of patient labour is at hand. This
    is to name Alan Tremayne, Chief of the Central Executive, first
    President of the Anglo-Saxon Federation throughout the world, and
    to invest him with the supreme authority for the ordering of its
    affairs. The aërial navy of the Brotherhood is placed at his
    disposal to co-operate with the armies and fleets of the


When the mighty shout of acclamation which greeted the reading of
this commission had died away, Tremayne stepped forward again and
spoke the few words that now remained to be said--

"I accept the office and all that it implies. The fate of the world
lies in our hands, and as we decide it so will the future lot of
humanity be good or evil. The armies of the Franco-Slavonian League
are now masters of the continent of Europe, and are preparing for the
invasion of Britain. The first use that I shall make of the authority
now vested in me will be to summon the Tsar in the name of the
Federation to sheathe the sword at once, and relinquish his designs
on Britain. The moment that one of his soldiers sets foot on the
sacred soil of our motherland I shall declare war upon him, and it
shall be a war, not of conquest, but of extermination, and we will
make an end of tyranny on earth for ever.

"Now let those who are not on guard-duty go to their homes, and
remember that they are now citizens of a greater realm than the
United States, and endowed with more than national duties and
responsibilities. Let every man's person and property be respected,
and let the penalty of all violence be death. Those who have plotted
against the public welfare will be dealt with in due course, and
yonder air-ship will be despatched with our message to the Tsar at
sundown. Long live the Federation!"

Millions of throats took up the cry as the last words left his lips
until it rolled away from the Capitol in mighty waves of sound,
flowing along the crowded streets and overrunning the utmost confines
of the capital.

Thus, without the loss of a hundred lives, and in a space of less
than twelve hours, was the Revolution in America accomplished. The
triumph of the Terrorists was as complete as it had been unexpected.
Menaced by air and sea and land, the great centres of population made
no resistance, and, when they learnt the true object of the
Revolution, wanted to make none. No one really believed in the late
Government, and every one in his soul hated and despised the

There was no bond between them and their fellow-men but money, and
the moment that was snapped they were looked upon in their true
nature as criminals and outcasts from the pale of humanity. By
sundown, when the _Ithuriel_ left for the seat of war, the members of
the Ring and those of the late Government who refused to acknowledge
the Federation were lodged in prison, and news had been received from
Montreal that the simultaneous rising of the Canadian Section had
been completely successful, and that all the railways and arsenals
and ships of war were in the hands of the Terrorists, so completing
the capture of the North American continent.

The President of the Federation and his faithful subordinates went to
work, without losing an hour, to reorganise as far as was necessary
the internal affairs of the continent of which they had so suddenly
become the undisputed masters. There was some trouble with the
British authorities in Canada, who, from mistaken motives of duty to
the mother country, at first refused to recognise the Federation.

The consequence of this was that Tremayne went north the next day and
had an interview with the Governor-General at Montreal. At the same
time he ordered six air-ships and twenty-five dynamite cruisers to
blockade the St. Lawrence and the eastern ports. The Canadian Pacific
Railway and the telegraph lines to the west were already in the hands
of the Terrorists, and a million men were under arms waiting his

A very brief explanation, therefore, sufficed to show the Governor
that forcible resistance would not only be the purest madness, but
that it would also seriously interfere with the working of the great
scheme of Federation, the object of which was, not merely to place
Britain in the first place among the nations, but to make the
Anglo-Saxon race the one dominant power in the whole world.

To all the Governor's objections on the score of loyalty to the
British Crown, Tremayne, who heard him to the end without
interruption, simply replied in a tone that precluded all further

"The day of states and empires, and therefore of loyalty to
sovereigns, has gone by. The history of nations is the history of
intrigue, quarrelling, and bloodshed, and we are determined to put a
stop to warfare for good and all. We hold in our hands the only power
that can thwart the designs of the League and avert an era of tyranny
and retrogression. That power we intend to use whether the British
Government likes it or not.

"We shall save Britain, if necessary, in spite of her rulers. If they
stand in the way, so much the worse for them. They will be called
upon to resign in favour of the Federation and its Executive within
the next seven days. If they consent, the forces of the League will
never cross the Straits of Dover. If they refuse we shall allow
Britain to taste the results of their choice, and then settle the
matter in our own way."

The next day the Governor dissolved the Canadian Legislatures "under
protest," and retired into private life for the present. He felt that
it was no time to argue with a man who had millions of men behind
him, to say nothing of an aërial fleet which alone could reduce
Montreal to ruins in twelve hours.

After arranging matters in Canada the President returned to
Washington in the _Ariel_, which he had taken into his personal
service for the present, and set about disposing of the Ring and
those members of the late Government who were most deeply implicated
in the secret alliance with the leaders of the League. When the facts
of this scheme were made public they raised such a storm of popular
indignation, that if those responsible for it had been turned loose
in the streets of Washington they would have been torn to pieces like

As it was, however, they were placed upon their trial before a
Commission of seven members of the Inner Circle of the American
Section, presided over by the President. Their guilt was speedily
proved beyond the shadow of a doubt. Documents, memoranda, and
telegrams were produced by men who had seemed their most trusted
servants, but had been in reality members of the Brotherhood told off
to unearth their schemes.

Cyphers were translated which showed that they had practically sold
the resources of the country in advance to the Tsar and his allies,
and that they were only waiting the signal to declare war without
warning and without cause upon Britain, blockade her ports, and
starve her into surrender and acceptance of any terms that the
victors might choose to impose. Last of all, the terms of the bargain
between the League and the Ring were produced, signed by the late
President and the Secretary of State, and countersigned by the
Russian Minister at Washington.

The Court sat for three days, and reassembled on the fourth to
deliver its verdict and sentence. Fifteen members of the late
Government, including the President, the Vice-President, and the
Secretary of State, and twenty-four great capitalists composing the
Ring, were found guilty of giving and receiving bribes, directly and
indirectly, and of betraying and conspiring to betray the confidence
of the American people in its elected representatives, and also of
conspiring to make war without due cause on a friendly Power for
purely commercial reasons.

At eleven o'clock on the morning of the 9th of October the President
of the Federation rose in the Senate House, amidst breathless
silence, to pronounce the sentence of the Court.

"All the accused," he said, speaking in slow, deliberate tones, "have
been proved guilty of such treason against their own race and the
welfare of humanity as no men ever were guilty of before in all the
disreputable history of state-craft. In view of the suffering and
misery to millions of individuals, and the irreparable injury to the
cause of civilisation that would have resulted from the success of
their schemes, it would be impossible for human wit to devise any
punishment which in itself would be adequate. The sentence of the
Court is the extreme penalty known to human justice--Death!"

A shudder passed through the vast assembly as he pronounced the
ominous word, and the accused, who but a few days before had looked
upon the world as their footstool, gazed with blanched faces and
terror-stricken eyes upon each other. He paused for a moment, and
looked sternly upon them. Then he went on--

"But the Federation does not seek a punishment of revenge, but of
justice; nor shall its first act of government be the shedding of
blood, however guilty. Therefore, as President I override the
sentence of death, and instead condemn you, who have been proved
guilty of this unspeakable crime, to confiscation of the wealth that
you have acquired so unscrupulously and used so mercilessly, and to
perpetual banishment with your wives and families, who have shared
the profits of your infamous traffic.

"You will be at once conveyed to Kodiak Island, off the south coast
of Alaska, and landed there. Once every six months you will be
visited by a steamer, which will supply you with the necessaries of
life, and the original penalty of death will be the immediate
punishment of any one of you who attempts to return to a world of
which you from this moment cease to be citizens."

The sentence was carried out without an hour's delay. The exiles,
with their wives and families, were placed under a strong guard in a
special train, which conveyed them from Washington _viâ_ St. Louis to
San Francisco, where they were transferred to a steamer which took
them to the lonely and desolate island in the frozen North which was
to be their home for the rest of their lives. They were followed by
the execrations of a whole people and the regrets of none save the
money-worshippers who had respected them, not as men, but as
incarnations of the purchasing power of wealth.

The huge fortunes which they had amassed, amounting in the aggregate
to more than three hundred millions in English money, were placed in
the public treasury for the immediate purposes of the war which the
Federation was about to wage for the empire of the world. All their
real estate property was transferred to the various municipalities in
which it was situated, and their rents devoted to the relief of
taxation, while the railways and other enterprises which they had
controlled were declared public property, and placed in the hands of
boards of management composed of their own officials.

Within a week everything was working as smoothly as though no
Revolution had ever taken place. All officials whose honesty there
was no reason to suspect were retained in their offices, while those
who were dismissed were replaced without any friction. All the
affairs of government were conducted upon purely business principles,
just as though the country had been a huge commercial concern, save
for the fact that the chief object was efficiency and not

Money was abundantly plentiful, and the necessaries of life were
cheaper than they had ever been before. Perhaps the principal reason
for this happy state of affairs was the fact that law and politics
had suddenly ceased to be trades at which money could be made. People
were amazed at the rapidity with which public business was

The President and his Council had at one stroke abrogated every civil
and criminal law known to the old Constitution, and proclaimed in
their place a simple, comprehensive code which was practically
identical with the Decalogue. To this a final clause was added,
stating that those who could not live without breaking any of these
laws would not be considered as fit to live in civilised society, and
would therefore be effectively removed from the companionship of
their fellows.

While the internal affairs of the Federation in America were being
thus set in order, events had been moving rapidly in other parts of
the world. The Tsar, the King of Italy, and General le Gallifet, who
was now Dictator of France in all but name, were masters of the
continent of Europe. The Anglo-Teutonic Alliance was a thing of the
past. Germany, Austria, and Turkey were completely crushed, and the
minor Powers had succumbed.

Britain, crippled by the terrible cost in ships and men of the
victory of the Nile, had evacuated the Mediterranean after
dismantling the fortifications of Gibraltar and Malta, and had
concentrated the remains of her fleets in the home waters, to prepare
for the invasion which was now inevitable as soon as fair winds and
fine weather made it possible for the war-balloons of the League to
cross the water and co-operate with the invading forces.

The Tsar, as had been expected, had not even deigned to reply to
Tremayne's summons to disarm, and so the last arrangements for
bringing the forces of the Federation into action at the proper time
were pushed on with the utmost speed. The blockade of the American
and Canadian coasts was rigidly maintained, and no vessels allowed to
enter or leave any of the ports. All the warships of the League had
been withdrawn from the Atlantic, and the great ocean highway
remained unploughed by a single keel.

On the 10th of October the _Ithuriel_ had returned from her second
trip to the West, with the refusal of the British Government to
recognise the Federation as a duly constituted Power, or to have any
dealings with its leaders. "Great Britain," the reply concluded,
"will stand or fall alone; and even in the event of ultimate defeat,
the King of England will prefer to make terms with the sovereigns
opposed to him rather than with those whose acts have proved them to
be beyond the pale of the law of nations."

"Ah!" said Tremayne to Arnold, as he read the royal words, "the
policy which lost the American Colonies for the sake of an idea still
rules at Westminster, it seems. But I'm not going to let the old Lion
be strangled in his den for all that.

"Natas was right when he said that Britain would have to pass through
the fire before she would accept the Federation, and so I suppose she
must, more's the pity. Still, perhaps it will be all for the best in
the long run. You can't expect to root up a thousand-year-old oak as
easily as a mushroom that only came up the day before yesterday."



It is now time to return to Britain, to the land which the course of
events had so far appeared to single out as the battle-ground upon
which was to be fought the Armageddon of the Western World--that
conflict of the giants, the issue of which was to decide whether the
Anglo-Saxon race was still to remain in the forefront of civilisation
and progress, or whether it was to fall, crushed and broken, beneath
the assaults of enemies descending upon the motherland of the
Anglo-Saxon nations; whether the valour and personal devotion, which
for a thousand years had scarcely known a defeat by flood or field,
was still to pursue its course of victory, or whether it was to
succumb to weight of numbers and mechanical discipline, reinforced by
means of assault and destruction which so far had turned the
world-war of 1904 into a succession of colossal and unparalleled
butcheries, such as had never been known before in the history of
human strife.

When the Allied fleets, bearing the remains of the British and German
armies which had been driven out of the Netherlands, reached England,
and the news of the crowning disaster of the war in Europe was
published in detail in the newspapers, the popular mind seemed
suddenly afflicted with a paralysis of stupefaction.

Men looked back over the long series of triumphs in which British
valour and British resolution had again and again proved themselves
invulnerable to the assaults of overwhelming numbers. They thought of
the glories of the Peninsula, of the unbreakable strength of the thin
red line at Waterloo, of the magnificent madness of Balaclava, and
the invincible steadiness and discipline that had made Inkermann a
word to be remembered with pride as long as the English name endured.

Then their thoughts reverted to the immediate past, and they heard
the shock of colossal armaments, compared with which the armies of
the past appeared but pigmies in strength. They saw empires defended
by millions of soldiers crushed in a few weeks, and a wave of
conquest sweep in one unbroken roll from end to end of a continent in
less time than it would have taken Napoleon or Wellington to have
fought a single campaign. Huge fortresses, rendered, as men had
believed, impregnable by the employment of every resource known to
the most advanced military science, had been reduced to heaps of
defenceless ruins in a few hours by a bombardment, under which their
magnificent guns had lain as impotent as though they had been the
culverins of three hundred years ago.

It seemed like some hideous nightmare of the nations, in which Europe
had gone mad, revelling in superhuman bloodshed and destruction,--a
conflict in which more than earthly forces had been let loose,
accomplishing a carnage so immense that the mind could only form a
dim and imperfect conception of it. And now this red tide of
desolation had swept up to the western verge of the Continent, and
was there gathering strength and volume day by day against the hour
when it should burst and oversweep the narrow strip of water which
separated the inviolate fields of England from the blackened and
blood-stained waste that it had left behind it from the Russian
frontier to the German Ocean.

It seemed impossible, and yet it was true. The first line of defence,
the hitherto invincible fleet, magnificently as it had been managed,
and heroically as it had been fought, had failed in the supreme hour
of trial. It had failed, not because the sailors of Britain had done
their duty less valiantly than they had done in the days of Rodney
and Nelson, but simply because the conditions of naval warfare had
been entirely changed, because the personal equation had been almost
eliminated from the problem of battle, and because the new warfare of
the seas had been waged rather with machinery than with men.

In all the war not a single battle had been fought at close quarters;
there had been plenty of instances of brilliant manœuvring, of
torpedo-boats running the gauntlet and hurling their deadly missiles
against the sides of battleships and cruisers, and of ships rammed
and sunk in a few instants by consummately-handled opponents; but the
days of boarding and cutting out, of night surprises and fire-ships,
had gone by for ever.

The irresistible artillery with which modern science had armed the
warships of all nations had made these feats impossible, and so had
placed the valour which achieved them out of court. Within the last
few weeks scarcely a day had passed but had witnessed the return of
some mighty ironclad or splendid cruiser, which had set out a miracle
of offensive and defensive strength, little better than a floating
ruin, wrecked and shattered almost beyond recognition by the awful
battle-storm through which she had passed.

The magnificent armament which had held the Atlantic route had come
back represented only by a few crippled ships almost unfit for any
further service. True, they and those which never returned had
rendered a splendid account of themselves before the enemy, but the
fact remained--they were not defeated, but they were no longer able
to perform the Titanic task which had been allotted to them.

So, too, with the Mediterranean fleet, which, so far as sea-fighting
was concerned, had achieved the most splendid triumph of the war. It
had completely destroyed the enemy opposed to it, but the victory had
been purchased at such a terrible price that, but for the squadron
which had come to its aid, it would hardly have been able to reach
home in safety.

In a word, the lesson of the struggle on the sea had been, that
modern artillery was just as effective whether fired by Englishmen,
Frenchmen, or Russians; that where a torpedo struck a warship was
crippled, no matter what the nationality or the relative valour of
her crew; and that where once the ram found its mark the ship that it
struck went down, no matter what flag she was flying.

And then, behind and beyond all that was definitely known in England
of the results of the war, there were vague rumours of calamities and
catastrophes in more distant parts of the world, which seemed to
promise nothing less than universal anarchy, and the submergence of
civilisation under some all-devouring wave of barbarism.

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

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.

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

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.

But the old Lion of the Seas was not skulking in his lair, or
trembling at the advent of his enemies, however numerous and mighty
they might be. On sea not a day passed but some daring raid was made
on the transports passing to and fro in the narrow seas, and all the
while a running fight was kept up with cruisers and battleships that
approached too near to the still inviolate shore. So surely as they
did so the signals flashed along the coast; and if they escaped at
all from the fierce sortie that they provoked, it was with
shot-riddled sides and battered top-works, sure signs that the Lion
still had claws, and could strike home with them.

On shore, from Land's End to John o' Groats, and from Holyhead to the
Forelands, everything that could be done was being done to prepare
for the struggle with the invader. It must, however, be confessed
that, in comparison with the enormous forces of the League, the ranks
of the defenders were miserably scanty. Forty years of universal
military service on the Continent had borne their fruits.

Soldiers are not made in a few weeks or months; and where the League
had millions in the field, Britain, even counting the remnant of her
German allies, that had been brought over from Antwerp, could hardly
muster hundreds of thousands. All told, there were little more than a
million men available for the defence of the country; and should the
landing of the invaders be successfully effected, not less than six
millions of men, trained to the highest efficiency, and flushed with
a rapid succession of unparalleled victories, would be hurled against

This was the legitimate outcome of the policy to which Britain had
adhered since first she had maintained a standing army, instead of
pursuing the ancient policy of making every man a soldier, which had
won the triumphs of Creçy and Agincourt. She had trusted everything
to her sea-line of defence. Now that was practically broken, and it
seemed inevitable that her second line, by reason of its miserable
inadequacy, should fail her in a trial which no one had ever dreamt
it would have to endure.

A very grave aspect was given to the situation by the fact that the
great mass of the industrial population seemed strangely indifferent
to the impending catastrophe which was hanging over the land. It
appeared to be impossible to make them believe that an invasion of
Britain was really at hand, and that the hour had come when every man
would be called upon to fight for the preservation of his own hearth
and home.

Vague threats of "eating the Russians alive" if they ever did dare to
come, were heard on every hand; but beyond this, and apart from the
regular army and the volunteers, men went about their daily
avocations very much as usual, grumbling at the ever-increasing price
of food, and here and there breaking out into bread riots wherever it
was suspected that some wealthy man was trying to corner food for his
own commercial benefit, but making no serious or combined efforts to
prepare for a general rising in case the threatened invasion became a

Such was the general state of affairs in Britain when, on the night
of the 27th of October, the north-west gales sank suddenly to a calm,
and the dawn of the 28th brought the news from Dover to London that
the war-balloons of the League had taken the air, and were crossing
the Straits.



Until the war of 1904, it had been an undisputed axiom in naval
warfare that a territorial attack upon an enemy's coast by a fleet
was foredoomed to failure unless that enemy's fleet had been either
crippled beyond effective action, or securely blockaded in distant
ports. As an axiom secondary to this, it was also held that it would
be impossible for an invading force, although convoyed by a powerful
fleet, to make good its footing upon any portion of a hostile coast
defended by forts mounting heavy long-range guns.

These principles have held good throughout the history of naval
warfare from the time when Sir Walter Raleigh first laid them down in
the early portion of his _History of the World_, written after the
destruction of the Spanish Armada.

But now two elements had been introduced which altered the conditions
of naval warfare even more radically than one of them had changed
those of military warfare. Had it not been for this the attack upon
the shores of England made by the commanders of the League would
probably either have been a failure, or it would have stopped at a
demonstration of force, as did that of the great Napoleon in 1803.

The portion of the Kentish coast selected for the attack was that
stretching from Folkestone to Deal, and it would perhaps have been
difficult to find in the whole world any portion of sea-coast more
strongly defended than this was on the morning of October 28, 1904;
and yet, as the event proved, the fortresses which lined it were as
useless and impotent for defence as the old Martello towers of a
hundred and fifty years before would have been.

As the war-balloons rose into the air from the heights above
Boulogne, good telescopes at Dover enabled their possessors to count
no less than seventy-five of them. Fifty of these were quite newly
constructed, and were of a much improved type, as they had been built
in view of the practical experience gained by the first fleet.

This aërial fleet divided into three squadrons; one, numbering
twenty-five, steered south-westward in the direction of Folkestone,
twelve shaped their course towards Deal, and the remaining
thirty-eight steered directly across the Straits to Dover. As they
approached the English coast they continually rose, until by the time
they had reached the land, aided by the light south-easterly breeze
which was then blowing, they floated at a height of more than five
thousand feet.

All this while not a warship or a transport had put to sea. The whole
fleet of the League lay along the coast of France between Calais and
Dieppe, under the protection of shore batteries so powerful that it
would have been madness for the British fleet to have assumed the
offensive with regard to them. With the exception of two squadrons
reserved for a possible attack upon Portsmouth and Harwich, all that
remained from the disasters and costly victories of the war of the
once mighty British naval armament was massed together for the
defence of that portion of the coast which would evidently have to
bear the brunt of the attack of the League.

Ranged along the coast from Folkestone to Deal was an armament
consisting of forty-five battleships of the first, second, and third
classes, supported by fifteen coast-defence ironclads, seventy
armoured and thirty-two unarmoured cruisers, forty gunboats, and a
hundred and fifty torpedo-boats.

Such was the still magnificent fleet that patrolled the waters of the
narrow sea,--a fleet as impotent for the time being as a flotilla of
Thames steamboats would have been in face of the tactics employed
against it by the League. Had the enemy's fleet but come out into the
open, as it would have been compelled to do under the old conditions
of warfare, to fight its way across the narrow strip of water, there
is little doubt but that the issue of the day would have been very
different, and that what had been left of it would have been driven
back, shattered and defeated, to the shelter of the French shore

But, in accordance with the invariable tactics of the League, the
first and most deadly assault was delivered from the air. The
war-balloons stationed themselves above the fortifications on land,
totally ignoring the presence of the fleet, and a few minutes after
ten o'clock began to rain their deadly hail of explosives down upon
them. Fifteen were placed over Dover Castle, and five over the fort
on the Admiralty Pier, while the rest were distributed over the town
and the forts on the hills above it. In an hour everything was in a
state of the most horrible confusion. The town was on fire in a
hundred places from the effects of the fire-shells. The Castle hill
seemed as if it had been suddenly turned into a volcano; jets of
bright flame kept leaping up from its summit and sides, followed by
thunderous explosions and masses of earth and masonry hurled into the
air, mingled with guns and fragments of human bodies.

The end of the Admiralty Pier, with its huge blocks of stone wrenched
asunder and pulverised by incessant explosions of dynamite and
emmensite, collapsed and subsided into the sea, carrying fort, guns,
and magazine with it; and all along the height of the Shakespeare
cliff the earthworks had been blown up and scattered into dust, and a
huge portion of the cliff itself had been blasted out and hurled down
on to the beach.

Meanwhile the victims of this terrible assault had, in the nature of
the case, been able to do nothing but keep up a vertical fire, in the
hope of piercing the gas envelopes of the balloons, and so bringing
them to the earth. For more than an hour this fusilade produced no
effect; but at length the concentrated fire of several Maxim and
Nordenfelt guns, projecting a hail of missiles into the sky, brought
about a result which was even more disastrous to the town than it was
to its assailants.

Four of the aerostats came within the zone swept by the bullets.
Riddled through and through, their gas-holders collapsed, and their
cars plunged downwards from a height of more than 5000 feet. A few
seconds later four frightful explosions burst forth in different
parts of the town, for the four cargoes exploded simultaneously as
they struck the earth.

The emmensite and dynamite tore whole streets of houses to fragments,
and hurled them far and wide into the air, to fall back again on
other parts of the town, and at the same time the fire-shells
ignited, and set the ruins blazing like so many furnaces. No more
shots were fired into the air after that.

There was nothing for it but for British valour to bow to the
inevitable, and evacuate the town and what remained of its
fortifications; and so with sad and heavy hearts the remnant of the
brave defenders turned their faces inland, leaving Dover to its fate.
Meanwhile exactly the same havoc had been wrought upon Folkestone and
Deal. Hour after hour the merciless work continued, until by three
o'clock in the afternoon there was not a gun left upon the whole
range of coast that was capable of firing a shot.

All this time the ammunition tenders of the aërial fleet had been
winging their way to and fro across the Strait constantly renewing
the shells of the war-balloons.

As soon as it began to grow dusk the naval battle commenced.
Numerically speaking the attacking force was somewhat inferior to
that of the defenders, but now the second element, which so
completely altered the tactics of sea fighting, was for the first
time in the war brought into play.

As the battleships of the League steamed out to engage the opponents,
who were thirsting to avenge the destruction that had been wrought
upon the land, a small flotilla of twenty-five insignificant-looking
little craft, with neither masts nor funnels, and looking more like
half-submerged elongated turtles than anything else, followed in tow
close under their quarters. Hardly had the furious cannonade broken
out into thunder and flame along the two opposing lines, than these
strange craft sank gently and silently beneath the waves. They were
submarine vessels belonging to the French navy, an improved type of
the _Zédé_ class, which had been in existence for more than ten

These vessels were capable of sinking to a depth of twenty feet, and
remaining for four hours without returning to the surface. They were
propelled by twin screws worked by electricity at a speed of twenty
knots, and were provided with an electric searchlight, which enabled
them to find the hulls of hostile ships in the dark.

Each carried three torpedoes, which could be launched from a tube
forward so as to strike the hull of the doomed ship from beneath. As
soon as the torpedo was discharged the submarine boat spun round on
her heel and headed away at full speed in an opposite direction out
of the area of the explosion.

The effects of such terrible and, indeed, irresistible engines of
naval warfare were soon made manifest upon the ships of the British
fleet. In the heat of the battle, with every gun in action, and
raining a hail of shot and shell upon her adversary, a great
battleship would receive an unseen blow, struck in the dark upon her
most vulnerable part, a huge column of water would rise up from under
her side, and a few minutes later the splendid fabric would heel over
and go down like a floating volcano, to be quenched by the waves that
closed over her.

But as if it were not enough that the defending fleet should be
attacked from the surface of the water and the depths of the sea, the
war-balloons, winging their way out from the scene of ruin that they
had wrought on shore, soon began to take their part in the work of
death and destruction.

Each of them was provided with a mirror set a little in front of the
bow of the car, at an angle which could be varied according to the
elevation. A little forward of the centre of the car was a tube fixed
on a level with the centre of the mirror. The ship selected for
destruction was brought under the car, and the speed of the balloon
was regulated so that the ship was relatively stationary to it.

As soon as the glare from one of the funnels could be seen through
the tube reflected in the centre of the mirror, a trap was sprung in
the floor of the car, and a shell charged with dynamite, which, it
will be remembered, explodes vertically downwards, was released, and,
where the calculations were accurately made, passed down the funnel
and exploded in the interior of the vessel, bursting her boilers and
reducing her to a helpless wreck at a single stroke.

Every time this horribly ingenious contrivance was successfully
brought into play a battleship or a cruiser was either sunk or
reduced to impotence. In order to make their aim the surer, the
aerostats descended to within three hundred yards of their prey, and
where the missile failed to pass through the funnel it invariably
struck the deck close to it, tearing up the armour sheathing, and
wrecking the funnel itself so completely that the steaming-power of
the vessel was very seriously reduced.

All night long the battle raged incessantly along a semicircle some
twelve miles long, the centre of which was Dover. Crowds of anxious
watchers on the shore watched the continuous flashes of the guns
through the darkness, varied ever and anon by some tremendous
explosion which told the fate of a warship that had fired her last

All night long the incessant thunder of the battle rolled to and fro
along the echoing coast, and when morning broke the light dawned upon
a scene of desolation and destruction on sea and shore such as had
never been witnessed before in the history of warfare. On land were
the smoking ruins of houses, still smouldering in the remains of the
fires which had consumed them; forts which twenty-four hours before
had grinned defiance at the enemy were shapeless heaps of earth and
stone, and armour-plating torn into great jagged fragments; and on
sea were a few half-crippled wrecks, the remains of the British
fleet, with their flags still flying, and such guns as were not
disabled firing their last rounds at the victorious foe.

To the eastward of these about half the fleet of the League, in but
little better condition, was advancing in now overwhelming force upon
them, and behind these again a swarm of troopships and transports
were heading out from the French shore. About an hour after dawn the
_Centurion_, the last of the British battleships, was struck by one
of the submarine torpedoes, broke in two, and went down with her flag
flying and her guns blazing away to the last moment. So ended the
battle of Dover, the most disastrous sea-fight in the history of the
world, and the death-struggle of the Mistress of the Seas.

The last news of the tremendous tragedy reached the now
panic-stricken capital half an hour before the receipt of similar
tidings from Harwich, announcing the destruction of the defending
fleet and forts, and the capture of the town by exactly the same
means as those employed against Dover. Nothing now lay between London
and the invading forces but the utterly inadequate army and the lines
of fortifications, which could not be expected to offer any more
effective resistance to the assault of the war-balloons than had
those of the three towns on the Kentish coast.

[Footnote 1: _The Naval Annual_ for 1893 mentions two types of
submarine boats, the _Zédé_ and the _Goubet_, both belonging to the
French navy, which had then been tried with success. The same work
mentions no such vessels belonging to Britain, nor yet any prospect
of her possessing one. The effects described here as produced by
these terrible machines are little, if at all, exaggerated. Granted
ten years of progress, and they will be reproduced to a

[Illustration: "The _Centurion_, the last of the British battleships,
was struck by one of the submarine torpedoes."

_See page 300._]



A month had passed since the battle of Dover. It had been a month of
incessant fighting, of battles by day and night, of heroic defences
and dearly-bought victories, but still of constant triumphs and
irresistible progress for the ever-increasing legions of the League.
From sunrise to sunrise the roar of artillery, the rattle of
musketry, and the clash of steel had never ceased to sound to the
north and south of London as, over battlefield after battlefield, the
two hosts which had poured in constant streams through Harwich and
Dover had fought their way, literally mile by mile, towards the
capital of the modern world.

Day and night the fighting never stopped. As soon as two hostile
divisions had fought each other to a standstill, and from sheer
weariness of the flesh the battle died down in one part of the huge
arena, the flame sprang up in another, and raged on with ever renewed
fury. Outnumbered four and five to one in every engagement, and with
the terrible war-balloons raining death on them from the clouds, the
British armies had eclipsed all the triumphs of the long array of
their former victories by the magnificent devotion that they showed
in the hour of what seemed to be the death-struggle of the Empire.

The glories of Inkermann and Balaclava, of Albuera and Waterloo,
paled before the achievements of the whole-souled heroism displayed
by the British soldiery standing, as it were, with its back to the
wall, and fighting, not so much with any hope of victory, for that
was soon seen to be a physical impossibility, but with the invincible
determination not to permit the invader to advance on London save
over the dead bodies of its defenders.

Such a gallant defence had never been made before in the face of such
irresistible odds. When the soldiers of the League first set foot on
British soil the defending armies of the North and South had, with
the greatest exertions, been brought up to a fighting strength of
about twelve hundred thousand men. So stubborn had been the heroism
with which they had disputed the progress of their enemies that by
the time that the guns of the League were planted on the heights that
commanded the Metropolis, more than a million and a half of men had
gone down under the hail of British bullets and the rush of British

Of all the battlefields of this the bloodiest war in the history of
human strife, none had been so deeply dyed with blood as had been the
fair and fertile English gardens and meadows over which the hosts of
the League had fought their way to the confines of London. Only the
weight of overwhelming numbers, reinforced by engines of destruction
which could strike without the possibility of effective retaliation,
had made their progress possible.

Had they met their heroic foes as they had met them in the days of
the old warfare, their superiority of numbers would have availed them
but little. They would have been hurled back and driven into the sea,
and not a man of them all would have left British soil alive had it
been but a question of military attack and defence.

But this was not a war of men. It was a war of machines, and those
who wielded the most effective machinery for the destruction of life
won battle after battle as a matter of course, just as a man armed
with a repeating rifle would overcome a better man armed with a bow
and arrow.

Natas had formed an entirely accurate estimate of the policy of the
leaders of the League when he told Tremayne, in the library at
Alanmere, that they would concentrate all their efforts on the
reduction of London. The rest of the kingdom had been for the present
entirely ignored.

London was the heart of the British Empire and of the
English-speaking world, for the matter of that, and therefore it had
been determined to strike one deadly blow at the vital centre of the
whole huge organism. That paralysed, the rest must fall to pieces of
necessity. The fleet was destroyed, and every soldier that Britain
could put into the field had been mustered for the defence of London.
Therefore the fall of London meant the conquest of Britain.

After the battles of Dover and Harwich the invading forces advanced
upon London in the following order: The Army of the South had landed
at Deal, Dover, and Folkestone in three divisions, and after a series
of terrific conflicts had fought its way _viâ_ Chatham, Maidstone,
and Tunbridge to the banks of the Thames, and occupied all the
commanding positions from Shooter's Hill to Richmond. These three
forces were composed entirely of French and Italian army corps, and
numbered from first to last nearly four million men.

On the north the invading force was almost wholly Russian, and was
under the command of the Tzar in person, in whom the supreme command
of the armies of the League had by common consent been now vested. A
constant service of transports, plying day and night between Antwerp
and Harwich, had placed at his disposal a force about equal to that
of the Army of the South, although he had lost over seven hundred
thousand men before he was able to occupy the line of heights from
Hornsey to Hampstead, with flanking positions at Brondesbury and
Harlesden to the west, and at Tottenham, Stratford, and Barking to
the east.

By the 29th of November all the railways were in the hands of the
invaders. A chain of war-balloons between Barking and Shooter's Hill
closed the Thames. The forts at Tilbury had been destroyed by an
aërial bombardment. A flotilla of submarine torpedo-vessels had blown
up the defences of the estuary of the Thames and Medway, and led to
the fall of Sheerness and Chatham, and had then been docked at
Sheerness, there being no further present use for them.

The other half of the squadron, supported by a few battleships and
cruisers which had survived the battle of Dover, had proceeded to
Portsmouth, destroyed the booms and submarine defences, while a
detachment of aerostats shelled the land defences, and then in a
moment of wanton revenge had blown up the venerable hulk of the
_Victory_, which had gone down at her moorings with her flag still
flying as it had done a hundred years before at the fight of
Trafalgar. After this inglorious achievement they had been laid up in
dock to wait for their next opportunity of destruction, should it
ever occur.

London was thus cut off from all communication, not only with the
outside world, but even from the rest of England. The remnants of the
armies of defence had been gradually driven in upon the vast
wilderness of bricks and mortar which now held more than eight
millions of men, women, and children, hemmed in by long lines of
batteries and entrenched camps, from which thousands of guns hurled
their projectiles far and wide into the crowded masses of the houses,
shattering them with bursting shells, and laying the whole streets in
ruins, while overhead the war-balloons slowly circled hither and
thither, dropping their fire-shells and completing the ruin and havoc
wrought by the artillery of the siege-trains.

Under such circumstances surrender was really only a matter of time,
and that time had very nearly come. The London and North-Western
Railway, which had been the last to fall into the hands of the
invaders, had been closed for over a week, and food was running very
short. Eight millions of people massed together in a space of thirty
or forty square miles' area can only be fed and kept healthy under
the most favourable conditions. Hemmed in as London now was, from
being the best ordered great city in the world, it had degenerated
with frightful rapidity into a vast abode of plague and famine, a
mass of human suffering and misery beyond all conception or
possibility of description.

Defence there was now practically none; but still the invaders did
not leave their vantage ground on the hills, and not a soldier of the
League had so far set foot in London proper. Either the besiegers
preferred to starve the great city into surrender at discretion, and
then extort ruinous terms, or else they hesitated to plunge into that
tremendous gulf of human misery, maddened by hunger and made
desperate by despair. If they did so hesitate they were wise, for
London was too vast to be carried by assault or by any series of

No army could have lived in its wilderness of streets swarming with
enemies, who would have fought them from house to house and street to
street. Once they had entered that mighty maze of streets and squares
both their artillery and their war-balloons would have been useless,
for they would only have buried friend and foe in common destruction.
There were plenty of ways into London, but the way out was a very
different matter.

Had a general assault been attempted, not a man would ever have got
out of London alive. The commanders of the League saw this clearly,
and so they kept their position on the heights, wasted the city with
an almost constant bombardment, and, while they drew their supplies
from the fertile lands in their rear, lay on their arms and waited
for the inevitable.

Within the besieged area martial law prevailed universally. Riots
were of daily, almost hourly, occurrence, but they were repressed
with an iron hand, and the rioters were shot down in the streets
without mercy; for, though siege and famine were bad enough, anarchy
breaking out amidst that vast sweltering mass of human beings would
have been a thousand times worse, and so the King, who, assisted by
the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Council, had assumed the control
of the whole city, had directed that order was to be maintained at
any price.

The remains of the army were quartered in the parks under canvas, and
billeted in houses throughout the various districts, in order to
support the police in repressing disorder and protecting property.
Still, in spite of all that could be done, matters were rapidly
coming to a terrible pass. In a week, at the latest, the horses of
the cavalry would be eaten. For a fortnight London had almost lived
upon horse-flesh. In the poorer quarters there was not a dog to be
seen, and a sewer rat was considered a delicacy.

Eight million mouths had made short work of even the vast supplies
that had been hurriedly poured into the city as soon as the invasion
had become a certainty, and absolute starvation was now a matter of a
few days at the outside. There were millions of money lying idle, but
very soon a five-pound note would not buy even a little loaf of

But famine was by no means the only horror that afflicted London
during those awful days and nights. All round the heights the booming
of cannon sounded incessantly. Huge shells went screaming through the
air overhead to fall and burst amidst some swarming hive of humanity,
scattering death and mutilation where they fell; and high up in the
air the fleet of aerostats perpetually circled, dropping their
fire-shells and blasting cartridges on the dense masses of houses,
until a hundred conflagrations were raging at once in different parts
of the city.

No help had come from outside. Indeed none was to be expected. There
was only one Power in the world that was now capable of coping with
the forces of the victorious League, but its overtures had been
rejected, and neither the King nor any of his advisers had now the
slightest idea as to how those who controlled it would now use it. No
one knew the real strength of the Terrorists, or the Federation which
they professed to control.

All that was known was that, if they choose, they could with their
aërial fleet sweep the war-balloons from the air in a few moments and
destroy the batteries of the besiegers; but they had made no sign
after the rejection of their President's offer to prevent the landing
of the forces of the League on condition that the British Government
accepted the Federation, and resigned its powers in favour of its

The refusal of those terms had now cost more than a million British
lives, and an incalculable amount of human suffering and destruction
of property. Until the news of the disaster of Dover had actually
reached London, no one had really believed that it was possible for
an invading force to land on British soil and exist for twenty-four
hours. Now the impossible had been made possible, and the last
crushing blow must fall within the next few days. After that who knew
what might befall?

So far as could be seen, Britain lay helpless at the mercy of her
foes. Her allies had ceased to exist as independent Powers, and the
Russian and the Gaul were thundering at her gates as, fifteen hundred
years before, the Goth had thundered at the gates of the Eternal City
in the last days of the Roman Empire.

If the terms of the Federation could have been offered again, it is
probable that the King of England would have been the first man to
own his mistake and that of his advisers and accept them, for now the
choice lay between utter and humiliating defeat and the breaking up
of the Empire, and the recognition of the Federation. After all, the
kinship of a race was a greater fact in the supreme hour of national
disaster than the maintenance of a dynasty or the perpetuation of a
particular form of government.

It was not now a question of nation against nation, but of race
against race. The fierce flood of war had swept away all smaller
distinctions. It was necessary to rise to the altitude of the problem
of the Government, not of nations, but of the world. Was the genius
of the East or of the West to shape the future destinies of the human
race? That was the mighty problem of which the events of the next few
weeks were to work out the solution, for when the sun set on the
Field of Armageddon the fate of Humanity would be fixed for centuries
to come.



From the time that the Tsar had received the conditional declaration
of war from the President of the Anglo-Saxon Federation in America to
nightfall on the 29th of November, when the surrender of the capital
of the British Empire was considered to be a matter of a few days
only, the Commander-in-Chief of the forces of the League was
absolutely in the dark, not only as to the actual intentions of the
Terrorists, if they had any, but also as to the doings of his allies
in America.

According to the stipulations arranged between himself and the
confidential agent of the American Government, the blockading
flotilla of dynamite cruisers ought to have sailed from America as
soon as the cypher message containing the news of the battle of Dover
reached New York. The message had been duly sent _viâ_ Queenstown and
New York, and had been acknowledged in the usual way, but no definite
reply had come to it, and a month had elapsed without the appearance
of the promised squadron. The explanation of this will be readily
guessed. The American end of the Queenstown cable had been
reconnected with Washington, but it was under the absolute control of
Tremayne, who permitted no one to use it save himself.

Other messages had been sent to which no reply had been received, and
a swift French cruiser, which had been launched at Brest since the
battle of Dover, had been dispatched across the Atlantic to discover
the reason of this strange silence. She had gone, but she had never
returned. The Atlantic highway appeared to be barred by some
invisible force. No vessels came from the westward, and those which
started from the east were never heard of again.

His Majesty had treated the summons of the President of the
Federation with silent contempt, just as such a victorious autocrat
might have been expected to do. True, he knew the terrific power
wielded by the Terrorists through their aërial fleet, and he had an
uncomfortable conviction, which refused to be entirely stifled, that
in the days to come he would have to reckon with them and it.

But that a member of the Terrorist Brotherhood could by any possible
means have placed himself at the head of any body of men sufficiently
numerous or well-disciplined to make them a force to be seriously
reckoned with in military warfare, his Majesty had never for a moment

And, more than this, however disquieting might be the uncertainty due
to the ominous silence on the other side of the Atlantic, and the
non-arrival of the expected fleet, there stood the great and
significant fact that the army of the League had been permitted,
without molestation either from the Terrorists or the Federation in
whose name they had presumed to declare war upon him, not only to
destroy what remained of the British fleet, but to completely invest
the very capital of Anglo-Saxondom itself.

All this had been done; the sacred soil of Britain itself had been
violated by the invading hosts; the army of defence had been slowly,
and at a tremendous sacrifice of life on both sides, forced back from
line after line, and position after position, into the city itself;
his batteries were raining their hail of shot and shell from the
heights round London, and his aerostats were hurling ruin from the
sky upon the crowded millions locked up in the beleaguered space; and
yet the man who had presumed to tell him that the hour in which he
set foot on British soil would be the last of his Empire, had done
absolutely nothing to interrupt the march of conquest.

From this it will be seen that Alexander Romanoff was at least as
completely in the dark as to the possible course of the events of the
near future as was the King of England himself, shut up in his
capital, and cut off from all communication from the rest of the

On the morning of the 29th of November there was held at the Prime
Minister's rooms in Downing Street a Cabinet Council, presided over
by the King in person. After the Council had remained for about an
hour in earnest consultation, a stranger was admitted to the room in
which they were sitting.

The reader would have recognised him in a moment as Maurice Colston,
otherwise Alexis Mazanoff, for he was dressed almost exactly as he
had been on that memorable night, just thirteen months before, when
he made the acquaintance of Richard Arnold on the Thames Embankment.

Well-dressed, well-fed, and perfectly at ease, he entered the Council
Chamber without any aggressive assumption, but still with the quiet
confidence of a man who knows that he is practically master of the
situation. How he had even got into London, beleaguered as it was on
every side in such fashion that no one could get out of it without
being seen and shot by the besiegers, was a mystery; but how he could
have in his possession, as he had, a despatch dated thirty-six hours
previously in New York was a still deeper mystery; and upon neither
of these points did he make the slightest attempt to enlighten the
members of the British Cabinet.

All that he said was that he was the bearer of a message from the
President of the Anglo-Saxon Federation in America, and that he was
instructed to return that night to New York with such answer as the
British Government might think fit to make to it. It was this message
that had been the subject of the deliberations of the Council before
his admission, and its net effect was as follows.

It was now practically certain, indeed proved to demonstration, that
the forces at the command of the British Government were not capable
of coping with those brought against them by the commanders of the
League, and that therefore Britain, if left to her own resources,
must inevitably succumb, and submit to such terms as her conquerors
might think fit to impose upon her. The choice before the British
Government thus lay between surrender to her foreign enemies, whose
objects were well known to be dismemberment of the Empire and the
reduction of Great Britain to the rank of a third-class Power,--to
say nothing of the payment of a war indemnity which could not fail to
be paralysing,--and the consent of those who controlled the destinies
of the mother country to accept a Federation of the whole Anglo-Saxon
race, to waive the merely national idea in favour of the racial one,
and to permit the Executive Council of the Federation to assume those
governmental functions which were exercised at present by the King
and the British Houses of Parliament.

In a word, the choice lay between conquest by a league of foreign
powers and the merging of Britain into the Federation of the
English-speaking peoples of the world.

If the former choice were taken, the only prospect possible under the
condition of things was a possibly enormous sacrifice of human life
on the side of both Britain and its enemies, a gigantic loss in
money, the crippling of British trade and commerce, and then a
possible, nay probable, social revolution to which the message
distinctly pointed.

If the latter choice were taken, the forces of the Federation would
be at once brought into the field against those of the League, the
siege of London would be raised, the power of the invaders would be
effectually broken for ever, and the stigma of conquest finally wiped

It is only just to record the fact that in this supreme crisis of
British history the man who most strongly insisted upon the
acceptance of the terms which he had previously, as he now confessed
in the most manly and outspoken fashion, rejected in ignorance of the
true situation of affairs, was the man who believed that he would
lose a crown by accepting them.

When the Ambassador of the Federation had been presented to the
Council, the King rose in his place and handed to him with his own
hands a sealed letter, saying as he did so--

"Mr. Mazanoff, I am still to a great extent in ignorance as to the
inexplicable combination of events which has made it necessary for me
to return this affirmative answer to the message of which you are the
bearer. I am, however, fully aware that the Earl of Alanmere, whose
name I have seen at the foot of this document with the most profound
astonishment, is in a position to do what he says.

"The course of events has been exactly that which he predicted. I
know, too, that whatever causes may have led him to unite himself to
those known as the Terrorists, he is an English nobleman, and a man
to whom falsehood or bad faith is absolutely impossible. In your
marvellous aërial fleet I know also that he wields the only power
capable of being successfully opposed to those terrible machines
which had wrought such havoc upon the fleets and armies, not only of
Britain, but of Europe.

"To a certain extent this is a surrender, but I feel that it will be
better to surrender the destinies of Britain into the hands of her
own blood and kindred than to the tender mercies of her alien
enemies. My own personal feelings must weigh as nothing in the
balance where the fate, not only of this country, but perhaps of the
whole world, is now poised.

"After all, the first duty of a Constitutional King is not to himself
and his dynasty, but to his country and his people, and therefore I
feel that it will be better for me and mine to be citizens of a free
Federation of the English-speaking peoples, and of the nations to
which Britain has given birth, than the titular sovereign and Royal
family of a conquered country, holding the mockery of royalty on the
sufferance of their conquerors.

"Tell Lord Alanmere from me that I now accept the terms he has
offered as President of the Anglo-Saxon Federation, first, because at
all hazards I would see Britain delivered from her enemies; and,
secondly, because I have chosen rather to be an English gentleman
without a crown, than to wear a crown which after all would only be
gift from my conquerors."

Edward VII. spoke with visible emotion, but with a dignity which even
Mazanoff, little and all as he respected the name of king, felt
himself compelled to recognise and respect. He took the letter with a
bow that was more one of reverence than of courtesy, and as he put it
into his breast-pocket of his coat he said--

"The President will receive your Majesty's reply with as genuine
pleasure and satisfaction as I shall give it to him. Though I am a
Russian without a drop of English blood in my veins, I have always
looked upon the British race as the real bulwark of freedom, and I
rejoice that the King of England has not permitted either tradition
or personal feeling to stand in the way of the last triumph of the
Anglo-Saxon race.

"As long as the English language is spoken your Majesty's name will
be held in greater honour for this sacrifice which you make to-day,
than will that of any other English king for the greatest triumph of
arms ever achieved in the history of your country.

"I must now take my leave, for I must be in New York to-morrow night.
I have your word that I shall not be watched or followed after I
leave here. Hold the city for six days more at all costs, and on the
seventh at the latest the siege shall be raised and the enemies of
Britain destroyed in their own entrenchments."

So saying, the envoy of the Federation bowed once more to the King
and the astonished members of his Council, and was escorted to the

Once in the street he strode away rapidly through Parliament Street
and the Strand, then up Drury Lane, until he reached the door of a
mean-looking house in a squalid court, and entering this with a
latch-key, disappeared.

Three hours later a Russian soldier of the line, wearing an almost
imperceptible knot of red ribbon in one of the button-holes of his
tunic, passed through the Russian lines on Hampstead Heath
unchallenged by the sentries, and made his way northward to Northaw
Wood, which he reached soon after nightfall.

Within half an hour the _Ithuriel_ rose from the midst of a thick
clump of trees like a grey shadow rising into the night, and darted
southward and upward at such a speed that the keenest eyes must soon
have lost sight of her from the earth.

She passed over the beleaguered city at a height of nearly ten
thousand feet, and then swept sharply round to the eastward. She
stopped immediately over the lights of Sheerness, and descended to
within a thousand feet of the dock, in which could be seen the
detachment of the French submarine vessels lying waiting to be sent
on their next errand of destruction.

As soon as those on board her had made out the dock clearly she
ascended a thousand feet and went about half a mile to the southward.
From that position she poured a rapid hail of shells into the dock,
which was instantly transformed into a cavity vomiting green flame
and fragments of iron and human bodies. In five minutes nothing was
left of the dock or its contents but a churned-up swamp of muddy
water and shattered stonework.

Then, her errand so far accomplished, the air-ship sped away to the
south-westward, and within an hour she had destroyed in like fashion
the submarine squadron in the Government dock at Portsmouth, and was
winging her way westward to New York with the reply of the King of
England to the President of the Federation.



When the news of the destruction of the two divisions of the
submarine squadron reached the headquarters of the League on the
night of the 29th, it would have been difficult to say whether anger
or consternation most prevailed among the leaders. A council of war
was hurriedly summoned to discuss an event which it was impossible to
look upon as anything less than a calamity.

The destruction which had been wrought was of itself disastrous
enough, for it deprived the League of the chief means by which it had
destroyed the British fleet and kept command of the sea. But even
more terrible than the actual destruction was the unexpected
suddenness with which the blow had been delivered.

For five months, that is to say, from the recapture of the _Lucifer_
at Aberdeen, the Tsar and his coadjutors had seen nothing of the
operations of the Terrorists; and now, without a moment's warning,
this apparently omnipresent and yet almost invisible force had struck
once more with irresistible effect, and instantly vanished back into
the mystery out of which it had come.

Who could tell when the next blow would fall, or in what shape the
next assault would be delivered? In the presence of such enemies,
invisible and unreachable, the commanders of the League, to their
rage and disgust, felt themselves, on the eve of their supreme
victory, as impotent as a man armed with a sword would have felt in
front of a Gatling gun.

Consternation naturally led to divided councils. The French and
Italian commanders were for an immediate general assault on London at
all hazards, and the enforcement of terms of surrender at the point
of the sword. The Tsar, on the other hand, insisted on the pursuance
of the original policy of reduction by starvation, as he rightly
considered that, great as the attacking force was, it would be
practically swamped amidst the infuriated millions of the besieged,
and that, even if the assault were successful, the loss of life would
be so enormous that the conquest of the rest of Britain--which in
such a case would almost certainly rise to a man--would be next door
to impossible.

He, however, so far yielded as to agree to send a message to the King
of England to arrange terms of surrender, if possible at once, in
order to save further bloodshed, and then, if these terms were
rejected, to prepare for a general assault on the seventh day from

These terms were accepted as a compromise, and the next morning the
bombardment ceased both from the land batteries and the air. At
daybreak on the 30th an envoy left the Tsar's headquarters in one of
the war-balloons, flying a flag of truce, and descended in Hyde Park.
He was received by the King in Council at Buckingham Palace, and,
after a lengthy deliberation, an answer was returned to the effect
that on condition the bombardment ceased for the time being, London
would be surrendered at noon on the 6th of December if no help had by
that time arrived from the other cities of Britain. These terms,
after considerable opposition from General le Gallifet and General
Cosensz, the Italian Commander-in-Chief, were adopted and ratified at
noon that day, almost at the very moment that Alexis Mazanoff was
presenting the reply of the King of England to the President of the
Federation in New York.

As the relief expedition had been fully decided upon, whether the
British Government recognised the Federation or not, everything was
in readiness for an immediate start as soon as the _Ithuriel_ brought
definite news as to the acceptation or rejection of the President's
second offer. For the last seven weeks the ten dockyards of the east
coast of America, and at Halifax in Nova Scotia, had been thronged
with shipping, and swarming with workmen and sailors.

All the vessels which had been swept off the Atlantic by the
war-storm, and which were of sufficient size and speed to take part
in the expedition, had been collected at these eleven ports. Whole
fleets of liners of half a dozen different nationalities, which had
been laid up since the establishment of the blockade, were now lying
alongside the quays, taking in vast quantities of wheat and
miscellaneous food-stuffs, which were being poured into their holds
from the glutted markets of America and Canada. Every one of these
vessels was fitted up as a troopship, and by the time all
arrangements were complete, more than a thousand vessels, carrying on
an average twelve hundred men each, were ready to take the sea.

In addition to these there was a fleet of warships as yet unscathed
by shot or shell, consisting of thirty battleships, a hundred and ten
cruisers, and the flotilla of dynamite cruisers which had been
constructed by the late Government at the expense of the capitalist
Ring. There were no less than two hundred of these strange but
terribly destructive craft, the lineal descendants of the _Vesuvius_,
which, as the naval reader will remember, was commissioned in 1890.

They were double-hulled vessels built on the whale-back plan, and the
compartments between the inner and outer hull could be wholly or
partially filled with water. When they were entirely filled the hull
sank below the surface, leaving nothing as a mark to an enemy save a
platform standing ten feet above the water. This platform,
constructed throughout of 6-inch nickel-steel, was of oval shape, a
hundred feet long and thirty broad in its greatest diameter, and
carried the heavily armoured wheel-house and conning-tower, two
funnels, six ventilators, and two huge pneumatic guns, each
seventy-five feet long, working on pivots nearly amidships. These
weapons, with an air-charge of three hundred atmospheres, would throw
four hundred pounds of dynamite to a distance of three miles with
such accuracy that the projectile would invariably fall within a
space of twenty feet square. The guns could be discharged once a
minute, and could thus hurl 48,000 lbs. of dynamite an hour upon a
hostile fleet or fortifications.

Each cruiser also carried two under-water torpedo tubes ahead and two
astern. The funnels emitted no smoke, but merely supplied draught to
the petroleum furnaces, which burned with practically no waste, and
developed a head of steam which drove the long submerged hulls
through the water at a rate of thirty-two knots, or more than
thirty-six miles an hour.

Such was the enormous naval armament, manned by nearly a hundred
thousand men, which hoisted the Federation flag at one o'clock on the
afternoon of the 30th of November, when orders were telegraphed north
and south from Washington to get ready for sea. Two hours later the
vast flotilla of warships and transports had cleared American waters,
and was converging towards a point indicated by the intersection of
the 41st parallel of latitude with the 40th meridian of longitude.

At this ocean rendezvous the divisions of the fleet and its convoys
met and shaped their course for the mouth of the English Channel.
They proceeded in column of line abreast three deep, headed by the
dynamite cruisers, after which came the other warships which had
formed the American Navy, and after these again came the troopships
and transports properly protected by cruisers on their flanks and in
their rear.

The commander of every warship and transport had the most minute
instructions as to how he was to act on reaching British waters, and
what these were will become apparent in due course. The weather was
fairly good for the time of year, and, as there was but little danger
of collision on the now deserted waters of the Atlantic, the whole
flotilla kept at full speed all the way. As, however, its speed was
necessarily limited by that of its slowest steamer until the scene of
action was reached, it was after midnight on the 5th of December when
its various detachments had reached their appointed stations on the
English coast.

At the entrance of the English Channel and St. George's Channel a few
scouting cruisers, flying French, Russian, and Italian colours, had
been run down and sunk by the dynamite cruisers. Strict orders had
been given by Tremayne to destroy everything flying a hostile flag,
and not to permit any news to be taken to England of the approach of
the flotilla. The Federation was waging a war, not merely of conquest
and revenge, but of extermination, and no more mercy was to be shown
to its enemies than they had shown in their march of victory from one
end of Europe to the other.

While the Federation fleet had been crossing the Atlantic, other
events no less important had been taking place in England and
Scotland. The hitherto apparently inert mass of the population had
suddenly awakened out of its lethargy. In town and country alike men
forsook their daily avocations as if by one consent. As in America,
artisans, pitmen, clerks, and tradesmen were suddenly transformed
into soldiers, who drilled, first in squads of ten, and then in
hundreds and thousands, and finally in tens of thousands, all
uniformed alike in rough grey breeches and tunics, with a knot of red
ribbon in the button-hole, and all armed with rifle, bayonet, and
revolver, which they seemed to handle with a strange and ominous

All the railway traffic over the island was stopped, and the
rolling-stock collected at the great stations along the lines to
London, and at the same time all the telegraph wires communicating
with the south and east were cut. As day after day passed, signs of
an intense but strongly suppressed excitement became more and more
visible all over the provinces, and especially in the great towns and

In London very much the same thing had happened. Hundreds of
thousands of civilians vanished during that seven days of anxious
waiting for the hour of deliverance, and in their place sprang up
orderly regiments of grey-clad soldiers, who saw the red knot in each
other's button-holes, and welcomed each other as comrades unknown

To the surprise of the commanders of the regular army, orders had
been issued by the King that all possible assistance was to be
rendered to these strange legions, which had thus so suddenly sprang
into existence; and the result was that when the sun set on the 5th
of December, the twenty-first day of the total blockade of London,
the beleaguered space contained over two millions of armed men,
hungering both for food and vengeance, who, like the five millions of
their fellow-countrymen outside London, were waiting for a sign from
the sky to fling themselves upon the entrapped and unsuspecting

That night countless eyes were upturned throughout the length and
breadth of Britain to the dun pall of wintry cloud that overspread
the land. Yet so far, so perfect was the discipline of this gigantic
host, not a sign of overt hostile movement had been made, and the
commanders of the armies of the League looked forward with exulting
confidence to the moment, now only a few hours distant, when the
capital of the British Empire, cut off from all help, should be
surrendered into their hands in accordance with the terms agreed

When night fell the _Ithuriel_ was floating four thousand feet above
Aberdeen. Arnold and Natasha, wrapped in warm furs, were standing on
deck impatiently watching the sun sinking down over the sea of clouds
which lay between them and the earth.

"There it goes at last!" exclaimed Natasha, as the last of the level
beams shot across the cloud-sea and the rim of the pale disc sank
below the surface of the vapoury ocean. "The time that we have waited
and worked for so long has come at last. This is the eve of
Armageddon! Who would think it, floating up here above the clouds and
beneath those cold, calmly shining stars! And yet the fate of the
whole world is trembling in the balance, and the doings of the next
twenty-four hours will settle the destiny of mankind for generations
to come. The hour of the Revolution has struck at last"--

"And therefore it is time that the Angel of the Revolution should
give the last signal with her own hand!" said Arnold, seized with a
sudden fancy, "Come, you shall start the dynamo yourself."

"Yes I will, and, I hope, kindle a flame that shall purge the earth
of tyranny and oppression for ever. Richard, what must my father be
thinking of just now down yonder in the cabin?"

"I dare not even guess. To-morrow or the next day will be the day of
reckoning, and then God help those of whom he demands payment, for
they will need it. The vials of wrath are full, and before long the
oppressors of the earth will have drained them to the dregs. Come, it
is time we went down."

They descended together to the engine-room, and meanwhile the
air-ship sank through the clouds until the lights of Aberdeen lay
about a thousand feet below. A lens of red glass had been fitted to
the searchlight of the _Ithuriel_, and all that was necessary was to
connect the forward engine with the dynamo.

Arnold put Natasha's hand on a little lever. As she took hold of it
she thought with a shudder of the mighty forces of destruction which
her next movement would let loose. Then she thought of all that those
nearest and dearest to her had suffered at the hands of Russian
despotism, and of all the nameless horrors of the rule whose
death-signal she was about to give.

As she did so her grip tightened on the lever, and when Arnold,
having given his orders to the head engineer as to speed and course,
put his hand on her shoulder and said, "Now!" she pulled it back with
a sharp, determined motion, and the next instant a broad fan of
blood-red light shot over the _Ithuriel's_ bows.

At the same moment the air-ship's propellers began to spin round, and
then with the flood of red light streaming in front of her, she
headed southward at full speed towards Edinburgh. The signal flashed
over the Scottish capital, and then the _Ithuriel_ swerved round to
the westward.

Half an hour later Glasgow saw it, and then away she sped southward
across the Border to Carlisle; and so through the long December night
she flew hither and thither, eastward and westward, flashing the red
battle-signal over field and village and town; and wherever it shone
armed men sprang up like the fruit of the fabled dragon's teeth,
companies were mustered in streets and squares and fields and marched
to railway stations; and soon long trains, one after another in
endless succession, got into motion, all moving towards the south and
east, all converging upon London.

Last of all, after it had made a swift circuit of northern and
central and western England, the red light swept along the south
coast, and then swerved northward again till it flashed thrice over
London, and then it vanished into the darkness of the hour before the
dawn of Armageddon.

Since the ever-memorable night of Thursday the 29th of July 1588,
three hundred and sixteen years before, when "The beacon blazed upon
the roof of Edgcumbe's lofty Hall," and the answering fires sprang up
"From Eddystone to Berwick bounds, from Lynn to Milford Bay," to tell
that the Spanish Armada was in sight, there had been no such night in
England, nor had men ever dreamed that there should be.

But great as had been the deeds done by the heroes of the sixteenth
century with the pigmy means at their command, they were but the
merest child's play to the awful storm of devastation which, in a few
hours, was to burst over southern England. Then it was England
against Spain; now it was Anglo-Saxondom against the world; and the
conquering race of earth, armed with the most terrific powers of
destruction that human wit had ever devised, was rising in its wrath,
millions strong, to wipe out the stain of invasion from the sacred
soil of the motherland of the Anglo-Saxon nations.



The morning of the 6th of December dawned grey and cold over London
and the hosts that were waiting for its surrender. Scarcely any smoke
rose from the myriad chimneys of the vast city, for the coal was
almost all burnt, and what was left was selling at £12 a ton. Wood
was so scarce that people were tearing up the woodwork of their
houses to keep a little fire going.

So the steel-grey sky remained clear, for towards daybreak the clouds
had been condensed by a cold north-easter into a sharp fall of fine,
icy snow, and as the sun gained power it shone chilly over the
whitened landscape, the innumerable roofs of London, and the miles of
tents lining the hills to the north and south of the Thames valley.

The havoc wrought by the bombardment on the public buildings of the
great city had been terrible. Of the Houses of Parliament only a
shapeless heap of broken stones remained, the Law Courts were in
ruins, what had been the Albert Hall was now a roofless ring of
blackened walls, Nelson's Column lay shattered across Trafalgar
Square, and the Royal Exchange, the Bank of England, and the Mansion
House mingled their fragments in the heart of the almost deserted

Only three of the great buildings of London had suffered no damage.
These were the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, and St Paul's,
which had been spared in accordance with special orders issued by the
commanders of the League. The two former were spared for the same
reason that the Germans had spared Strasburg Cathedral in
1870--because their destruction would have been a loss, not to
Britain alone, but to the world.

The great church of the metropolis had been left untouched chiefly
because it had been arranged that, on the fall of London, the Tsar
was to be proclaimed Emperor of Asia under its dome, and at the same
time General le Gallifet was to assume the Dictatorship of France and
abolish the Republic, which for more than ten years had been the
plaything of unprincipled financiers, and the laughing-stock of
Europe. As the sun rose the great golden cross, rising high out of
the wilderness of houses, shone more and more brightly under the
brightening sky, and millions of eyes looked upon it from within the
city and from without with feelings far asunder as triumph and

At daybreak the last meal had been eaten by the defenders of the
city. To supply it almost every animal left in London had been
sacrificed, and the last drop of liquor was drunk, even to the last
bottle of wine in the Royal cellars, which the King shared with his
two commanders-in-chief, Lord Roberts and Lord Wolseley, in the
presence of the troops on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. At nine
o'clock the King and Queen attended service in St. Paul's, and when
they left the Cathedral half an hour later the besiegers on the
heights were astounded to hear the bells of all the steeples left
standing in London ring out in a triumphant series of peals which
rippled away eastward and westward from St. Paul's and Westminster
Abbey, caught up and carried on by steeple after steeple, until from
Highgate to Dulwich, and from Hammersmith to Canning Town, the
beleaguered and starving city might have been celebrating some great
triumph or deliverance.

The astonished besiegers could only put the extraordinary
manifestation down to joy on the part of the citizens at the near
approaching end of the siege; but before the bells of London had been
ringing for half an hour this fallacious idea was dispelled from
their minds in a very stern and summary fashion.

Since nightfall there had been no communication with the secret
agents of the League in the various towns of England and Scotland. At
ten o'clock a small company of Cossacks spurred and flogged their
jaded horses up the northern slope of Muswell Hill, on which the Tsar
had fixed his headquarters. Nearly every man was wounded, and the
horses were in the last stages of exhaustion. Their captain was at
once admitted to the presence of the Tsar, and, flinging himself on
the ground before the enraged Autocrat, gasped out the dreadful
tidings that his little company were the sole survivors of the army
of occupation that had been left at Harwich, and which, twelve hours
before, had been thirty thousand strong.

A huge fleet of strange-looking vessels, flying a plain blood-red
flag, had just before four A.M. forced the approaches to the harbour,
sunk every transport and warship with guns that were fired without
flame, or smoke, or report, and whose projectiles shattered
everything that they struck. Immediately afterwards an immense
flotilla of transports had steamed in, and, under the protection of
those terrible guns, had landed a hundred thousand men, all dressed
in the same plain grey uniform, with no facings or ornaments save a
knot of red ribbon at the button-hole, and armed with magazine rifle
and a bayonet and a brace of revolvers. All were English by their
speech, and every man appeared to know exactly what to do with very
few orders from his officers.

This invading force had hunted the Russians out of Harwich like
rabbits out of a warren, while the ships in the harbour had hurled
their shells up into the air so that they fell back to earth on the
retreating army and exploded with frightful effect. The general in
command had at once telegraphed to London for a detachment of
war-balloons and reinforcements, but no response had been received.

After four hours' fighting the Russian army was in full retreat,
while the attacking force was constantly increasing as transport
after transport steamed into the harbour and landed her men. At
Colchester the Russians had been met by another vast army which had
apparently sprung from the earth, dressed and armed exactly as the
invading force was. What its numbers were there was no possibility of

By this time, too, treachery began to show itself in the Russian
ranks, and whole companies suddenly appeared with the red knot of
ribbon in their tunics, and instantly turned their weapons against
their comrades, shooting them down without warning or mercy. No
quarter had been given to those who did not show the ribbon. Most of
them died fighting, but those who had thrown away their arms were
shot down all the same.

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 moment,
and had allied herself with Britain.

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 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--

Ha! there goes the flag at last. A little ball of white bunting
creeps up from the gallery above the dark dome. It clears the railing
under the pedestal, and climbs to the apex of the shining cross. As
it does so the wild chorus of the bells suddenly ceases, and out of
the silence that follows come the deep booming strokes of the great
bell of St. Paul's sounding the hour of twelve.

As the last stroke dies away the ball bursts, and the White Ensign of
Britain crossed by the Red Cross of St. George, and with the Jack in
the corner, floats out defiantly on the breeze, greeted by the
reawakening clamour of the bells, and a deep hoarse cry from millions
of throats, that rolls like a vast sea of sound up the slopes to the
encampments of the League.

With an irrepressible cry of rage, Alexander dashed his field-glass
to the ground, and shouted, in a voice broken with passion--

"So! They have tricked us. Let the bombardment begin at once, and
bring that flag down with the first shots!"

But before the words were out of his mouth, the bombardment had
already commenced in a very different fashion to that in which he had
intended that it should begin. So intense had been the interest with
which all eyes had been turned on the Cross of St. Paul's that no one
had noticed twelve little points of shining light hanging high in air
over the batteries of the besiegers, six to the north and six to the

But the moment that the Ensign of St. George floated from the summit
of St. Paul's a rapid series of explosions roared out like a
succession of thunder-claps along the lines of the batteries. The
hills of Surrey, and Kent, and Middlesex were suddenly transformed
into volcanoes spouting flame and thick black smoke, and flinging
clouds of dust and fragments of darker objects high into the air.

The order of the Tsar was obeyed in part only, for by the time that
the word to recommence the bombardment had been flashed round the
circuit of the entrenchments, more than half the batteries had been
put out of action. The twelve air-ships stationed at equal intervals
round the vast ellipse, and discharging their No. 3 shell from their
four guns ahead and astern, from an elevation of four thousand feet,
had simultaneously wrecked half the batteries of the besiegers before
their occupants had any clear idea of what was really happening.

Wherever one of those shells fell and exploded, earth and stone and
iron melted into dust under the terrific force of the exploding
gases, and the air-ships, moving with a velocity compared with which
the utmost speed of the aerostats was as a snail's pace, flitted
hither and thither wherever a battery got into action, and destroyed
it before the second round had been fired.

There were still twenty-five aerostats at the command of the Tsar
which had not been sent against the relieving forces, and as soon as
it was realised that the aërial bombardment of the batteries came
from the air-ships of the Terrorist fleet, they were sent into the
air to engage them at all hazards. They outnumbered them two to one,
but there was no comparison between the manœuvring powers of the two
aërial squadrons.

As soon as the aerostats rose into the air, the Terrorist fleet
receded northward and southward from the batteries. Their guns had a
six-mile range, and it did not matter to them which side of the
assailed area they lay. They could still hurl their explosives with
the same deadly precision on the appointed mark. But with the
aerostats it was a very different matter. They could only drop their
shells vertically, and where they were not exactly above the object
of attack their shells exploded with comparative harmlessness.

As a natural consequence they had to follow the air-ships, not only
away from London, but over their own encampments, in order to bring
them to anything like close quarters. The aerostats possessed one
advantage, and one only, over the air-ships. They were able to rise
to a much greater height. But this advantage the air-ships very soon
turned into a disadvantage by reason of their immensely superior
speed and ease of handling. They darted about at such a speed over
the heads of the massed forces of the League on either side of
London, that it was impossible to drop shells upon them without
running the inevitable risk of missing the small and swiftly-moving
air-ship, and so causing the shell to burst amidst friends instead of

Thus the Terrorist fleet, sweeping hither and thither, in wide and
ever changing curves, lured the most dangerous assailants of the
beleaguered city farther and farther away from the real scene of
action, at the very time when they were most urgently needed to
support the attacking forces which at that moment were being poured
into London.

To destroy the air-ships seemed an impossibility, since they could
move at five times the speed of the swiftest aerostat, and yet to
return to the bombardment of the city was to leave them free to
commit what havoc they pleased upon the encampments of the armies of
the League. So they were drawn farther and farther away from the
beleaguered city, while their agile enemies, still keeping within
their six-mile range, evaded their shells, and yet kept up a constant
discharge of their own projectiles upon the salient points of the
attack on London.

By four o'clock in the afternoon all the batteries of the besiegers
had been put out of action by the aërial bombardment. It was now a
matter of man to man and steel to steel, and so the gage of final
battle was accepted, and as dusk began to fall over the beleaguered
city, the Russian, French and Italian hosts left their lines, and
descended from their vantage ground to the assault on London, where
the old Lion at bay was waiting for them with claws bared and teeth
grinning defiance.



The force which the Tsar had detached to operate against the
Federation Army of the North left the headquarters at eleven o'clock,
and proceeded in four main divisions by Edmonton, Chingford,
Chigwell, and Romford. The aerostats, regulating their speed so as to
keep touch with the land force, maintained a position two miles ahead
of it at three thousand feet elevation.

Strict orders had been given to press on at the utmost speed, and to
use every means to discover the Federationists, and bring them to an
engagement with as little delay as possible; but they marched on hour
after hour into the dusk of the early winter evening, with the sounds
of battle growing fainter in their rear, without meeting with a sign
of the enemy.

As it would have been the height of imprudence to have advanced in
the dark into a hostile country occupied by an enemy of great but
unknown strength, General Pralitzin, the Commander of the Russian
force, decided to bring his men to a halt at nightfall, and therefore
took up a series of positions between Cheshunt, Epping, Chipping
Ongar, and Ingatestone. From these points squadrons of Cossacks
scoured the country in all directions, north, east, and west, in
search of the so far invisible army; and at the same time he sent
mounted messengers back to headquarters to report that no enemy had
been found, and to ask for further orders.

The aerostats slowed down their engines until their propellers just
counteracted the force of the wind and they hung motionless at a
height of a thousand feet, ranged in a semicircle about fifteen miles
long over the heads of the columns.

All this time the motions of the Russian army had been watched by the
captain of the _Ithuriel_ from an elevation of eight thousand feet,
five miles to the rear. As soon as he saw them making preparations
for a halt, and had noticed the disposition of the aerostats, he left
the conning-tower which he had occupied nearly all day, and went into
the after saloon, where he found Natas and Natasha examining a large
plan of London and its environs.

"They have come to a halt at last," he said. "And if they only remain
where they are for three hours longer, we have the whole army like
rats in a trap, war-balloons and all. They have not seen us so far,
for if they had they would certainly have sent an aerostat aloft to
reconnoitre, and, of course, I must have destroyed it. The whole
forty are arranged in a semicircle over the heads of the four main
columns in divisions of ten."

"And what do you propose to do with them now you have got them?" said
Natasha, looking up with a welcoming smile.

"Give me a cup of coffee first, for I am cold to the marrow, and then
I'll tell you," replied Arnold, seating himself at the table, on
which stood a coffee-urn with a spirit lamp beneath it, something
after the style of a Russian samovar.

Natasha filled a cup and passed it to him, and he went on--

"You remember what I said to Tremayne in the Princess's sitting-room
at Petersburg about the eagle and the crows just before the trial of
the Tsar's first war-balloon. Well, if you like to spend a couple of
hours with me in the conning-tower as soon as it is dark enough for
us to descend, I will show you what I meant then. I suppose the
original general orders stand good?" he said, turning to Natas.

"Yes," replied the Master gravely. "They must all be destroyed. This
is the day of vengeance and not of mercy. If my orders have been
obeyed, all the men belonging to the International in this force will
have managed to get to the rear by nightfall. They can be left to
take care of themselves. Mazanoff assured me that all the members in
the armies of the League fully understood what they are to do. Some
of the war-balloons have been taken possession of by our men, but we
don't know how many. As soon as you destroy the first of the fleet,
these will rise and commence operations on the army, and they will
also fly the red flag, so there will be no fear of your mistaking

"Very well," said Arnold, who had been quietly sipping his coffee
while he listened to the utterance of this death sentence on more
than a quarter of a million of men. "If our fellows to the northward
only obey orders promptly, there will not be many of the Russians
left by sunrise. Now, Natasha, you had better put on your furs and
come to the conning-tower; it's about time to begin."

It did not take her many moments to wrap up, and within five minutes
she and Arnold were standing in the conning-tower watching the camp
fires of the Russian host coming nearer and nearer as the _Ithuriel_
sank down through the rapidly increasing darkness towards the long
dotted line which marked the position of the aerostats, whose great
gas-holders stood out black and distinct against the whitened earth
beneath them.

By means of electric signals to the engineers the captain of the
_Ithuriel_ was able to regulate both the speed and the elevation of
the air-ship as readily as though he had himself been in charge of
the engine-room. Giving Natasha a pair of night-glasses, and telling
her to keep a bright look-out ahead, he brought the _Ithuriel_ round
by the westward to a position about five miles west of the extremity
of the line of war-balloons, and as soon as he got on a level with it
he advanced comparatively slowly, until Natasha was able to make it
out distinctly with the night-glass.

Then he signalled to the wheel-house aft to disconnect the
after-wheel, and at the same moment he took hold of the spokes of the
forward-wheel in the conning-tower. The next signal was "Full speed
ahead," and as the _Ithuriel_ gathered way and rushed forward on her
errand of destruction he said hurriedly to Natasha--

"Now, don't speak till it's over. I want all my wits for this work,
and you'll want all your eyes."

Without speaking, Natasha glanced up at his face, and saw on it
somewhat of the same expression that she had seen at the moment when
he put the _Ariel_ at the rock-wall which barred the entrance to
Aeria. His face was pale, and his lips were set, and his eyes looked
straight out from under his frowning brows with an angry gleam in
them that boded ill for the fate of those against whom he was about
to use the irresistible engine of destruction under his command.

Twenty feet in front of them stretched out the long keen ram of the
air-ship, edged and pointed like a knife. This was the sole weapon
that he intended to use. It was impossible to train the guns at the
tremendous speed at which the _Ithuriel_ was travelling, but under
the circumstance the ram was the deadliest weapon that could have
been employed.

In four minutes from the time the _Ithuriel_ started on her eastward
course the nearest war-balloon was only fifty yards away. The
air-ship, travelling at a speed of nearly two hundred miles an hour,
leapt out of the dusk like a flash of white light. In ten seconds
more her ram had passed completely through the gas-holder without so
much as a shock being felt. The next one was only five hundred yards
away. Obedient to her rudder the _Ithuriel_ swerved, ripped her
gas-holder from end to end, and then darted upon the next one even
before a terrific explosion in their rear told that the car of the
first one had struck the earth.

So she sped along the whole line, darting hither and thither in
obedience to the guiding hand that controlled her, with such
inconceivable rapidity that before any of the unwieldy machines,
saving only those whose occupants had been prepared for the assault,
had time to get out of the way of the destroying ram, she had rent
her way through the gas-holders of twenty-eight out of the forty
balloons, and flung them to the earth to explode and spread
consternation and destruction all along the van of the army encamped

From beginning to end the attack had not lasted ten minutes. When the
last of the aerostats had gone down under his terrible ram, Arnold
signalled "Stop, and ascend," to the engine-room. A second signal
turned on the searchlight in the bow, and from this a rapid series of
flashes were sent up to the sky to the northward and eastward.

[Illustration: "Her ram had passed completely through the gasholder."

_See page 334._]

The effect was as fearful as it was instantaneous. The twelve
war-balloons which had escaped by flying the red flag took up their
positions above the Russian lines, and began to drop their fire-shell
and cyanogen bombs upon the masses of men below. The air-ship,
swerving round again to the westward, with her fan-wheels aloft,
moved slowly across the wide area over which men and horses were
wildly rushing hither and thither in vain attempts to escape the rain
of death that was falling upon them from the sky.

Her searchlight, turned downwards to the earth, sought out the spots
where they were crowded most thickly together, and then the
air-ship's guns came into play also. Arnold had given orders to use
the new fire-shell exclusively, and its effects proved to be
frightful beyond description. Wherever one fell a blaze of intense
light shone for an instant upon the earth. Then this burst into a
thousand fragments, which leapt into the air and spread themselves
far and wide in all directions, burning with inextinguishable fury
for several minutes, and driving men and horses mad with agony and

No human fortitude or discipline could withstand the fearful rain of
fire, in comparison with which even the deadly hail from the
aerostats seemed insignificant. For half an hour the eight guns of
the _Ithuriel_ hurled these awful projectiles in all directions,
scattering death and hopeless confusion wherever they alighted, until
the whole field of carnage seemed ablaze with them.

At the end of this time three rockets soared up from her deck into
the dark sky, and burst into myriads of brilliant white stars, which
for a few moments shed an unearthly light upon the scene of
indescribable confusion and destruction below. But they made more
than this visible, for by their momentary light could be seen
seemingly interminable lines of grey-clad figures swiftly closing in
from all sides, chasing the Cossack scouts before them in upon the
completely disorganised Russian host.

A few minutes later a continuous roll of musketry burst out on front,
and flank, and rear, and a ceaseless hail of rifle bullets began to
plough its way through the helpless masses of the soldiers of the
Tsar. They formed as well as they could to confront these new
enemies, but the moment that the searchlight of the air-ship,
constantly sweeping the field, fell upon a company in anything like
order, a shell descended in the midst of it and broke it up again.

All night long the work of death and vengeance went on; the grey
lines ever closing in nearer and nearer upon the dwindling remnants
of the Russian army. Hour after hour the hail of bullets never
slackened. There was no random firing on the part of the Federation
soldiers. Every man had been trained to use his rifle rapidly but
deliberately, and never to fire until he had found his mark; and the
consequence was that the long nickel-tipped bullets, fired
point-blank into the dense masses of men, rent their way through half
a dozen bodies before they were spent.

At last the grey light began to break over an indescribably hideous
scene of slaughter. Scarcely ten thousand men remained of the three
hundred thousand who had started the day before in obedience to the
order of the Tsar; and these were split up into formless squads and
ragged companies fighting desperately amidst heaps of corpses for
dear life, without any pretence at order or formation.

The cannonade from the air had ceased, and the last scene in the
drama of death had come. With bayonets fixed and rifles lowered to
the charge, the long grey lines closed up, and, as the bugles rang
out the long-awaited order, they swept forward at the double, horses
and men went down like a field of standing corn under the
irresistible rush of a million bayonets, and in twenty minutes all
was over. Not a man of the whole Russian army was left alive, save
those whose knot of red ribbon at the button-hole proclaimed them
members of the International.

As soon as it was light enough for Arnold to see clearly that the
fate of the Russians was finally decided, he descended to the earth,
and, after complimenting the commander and officers of the Federation
troops on the splendid effectiveness of their force, and their
admirable discipline and coolness, he gave orders for a two hours'
rest and then a march on the Russian headquarters at Muswell Hill
with every available man. The Tsar and his Staff were to be taken
alive at all hazards; every other Russian who did not wear the
International ribbon was to be shot down without mercy.

These orders given, the _Ithuriel_ mounted into the air again, and
disappeared in the direction of London. She passed over the now
shattered and silent entrenchments of the Russians at a speed which
made it possible to remain on deck without discomfort or danger, and
at an elevation of two thousand feet. Natas was below in the saloon,
alone with his own thoughts, the thoughts of twenty years of waiting
and working and gradual approach to the hour of vengeance which was
now so near. Andrew Smith was steering in the wheel-house, Lieutenant
Marston was taking his watch below, after being on deck nearly the
whole of the previous night, and Arnold and Natasha, wrapped in their
warm furs, were pacing up and down the deck engaged in conversation
which had not altogether to do with war.

The sun had risen before the _Ithuriel_ passed over London, and
through the clear, cold air they could see with their field-glasses
signs of carnage and destruction which made Natasha's soul sicken
within her to gaze upon them, and even shook Arnold's now hardened
nerves. All the main thoroughfares leading into London from the north
and south were choked with heaps of dead bodies in Russian, French,
and Italian uniforms, in the midst of which those who still survived
were being forced forward by the pressure of those behind. Every
house that remained standing was spouting flames upon them from its
windows; and where the streets opened into squares and wider streets
there were barricades manned with British and Federation troops, and
from their summits and loopholes the quick-firing guns were raining
an incessant hail of shot and shell upon the struggling masses pent
up in the streets.

A horrible chorus of the rattle of small arms, the harsh, grinding
roar of the machine guns, the hurrahs of the defenders, and the cries
of rage and agony from the baffled and decimated assailants, rose
unceasingly to their ears as they passed over the last battlefield of
the Western nations, where the Anglo-Saxon, the Russ, and the Gaul
were locked in the death struggle.

"There is some awful work going on down there," said Arnold, as they
headed away towards the south, where, from behind the Surrey hills,
soon came the sound of some tremendous conflict. "For the present we
must leave them to fight it out. They don't seem to have had such
easy work of it to the south as we have had to the north; but I
didn't expect they would, for they have probably detached a very much
larger force of French and Italians to attack the Army of the South
than the Russian lot we had to deal with."

"Is all this frightful slaughter really necessary?" asked Natasha,
slipping her arm through his, and looking up at him with eyes which
for the first time were moistened by the tears of pity for her

"Necessary or not," replied Arnold, "it is the Master's orders, and I
have only to obey them. This is the day of vengeance for which he has
waited so long, and you can hardly expect him to show much mercy. It
lies between him and Tremayne. For my part I will stay my hand only
when I am ordered to do so.

"Still, if any one can influence Natas to mercy, you can. Nothing can
now stop the slaughter on the north, I'm afraid, for the Russians are
caught in a hopeless trap. The Londoners are enraged beyond control,
and if the men spared them I believe the women would tear them to
pieces. But there are two or three millions of lives or so to be
saved at the south, and perhaps there is still time to do it. It
would be a task worthy of the Angel of the Revolution; why should you
not try it?"

"I will do so," said Natasha, and without another word she turned
away and walked quickly towards the entrance to the saloon.



On the southern side of London the struggle between the
Franco-Italian armies and the troops of the Federation had been
raging all night with unabated fury along a curved line extending
from Bexley to Richmond.

The railways communicating with the ports of the south and east had,
for their own purposes, been left intact by the commanders of the
League; and so sudden and utterly unexpected had been the invasion of
the force from America, and the simultaneous uprising of the British
Section of the Brotherhood, that they had fallen into the hands of
the Federationists almost without a struggle. This had enabled the
invaders and their allies to concentrate themselves rapidly along the
line of action which had been carefully predetermined upon.

Landing almost simultaneously at Southampton, Portsmouth, Shoreham,
Newhaven, Hastings, Folkestone, Dover, Deal, Ramsgate, and Margate,
they had been joined everywhere by their comrades of the British
Section, whose first action, on receiving the signal from the sky,
had been to seize the railways and shoot down, without warning or
mercy, every soldier of the League who opposed them.

What had happened at Harwich had at the same time and in the same
fashion happened at Dover and Chatham. The troops in occupation had
been caught and crushed at a blow between overwhelming forces in
front and rear. Added to this, the International was immensely
stronger in France and Italy than in Russia, and therefore the
defections from the ranks of the League had been far greater than
they had been in the north.

Tens of thousands had donned the red ribbon as the Signal flashed
over their encampments, and when the moment came to repel the assault
of the mysterious grey legions that had sprung from no one knew
where, the bewildered French and Italian officers found their
regiments automatically splitting up into squads of tens and
companies of hundreds, obeying other orders, and joining in the
slaughter of their former comrades with the most perfect _sang
froid_. By daybreak on the 6th the various divisions of the
Federationists were well on their way to the French and Italian
positions to the south of London. The utmost precautions had been
taken to prevent any news reaching headquarters, and these, as has
been seen, were almost entirely successful.

The three army corps sent southward by General le Gallifet met with a
ruinous disaster long before they came face to face with the enemy.
Ten of the fleet of thirty war-balloons which had been sent to
co-operate with them, had been manned and commanded by men of the
International. They were of the newest type and the swiftest in the
fleet, and their crews were armed with the strangest weapons that had
yet been used in the war. These were bows and arrows, a curious
anachronism amidst the elaborate machinery of destruction evolved by
the science of the twentieth century, but none the less effective on
that account. The arrows, instead of being headed in the usual way,
carried on the end of the shaft two little glass tubes full of
liquid, bound together, and tipped with fulminate.

When the fleet had been in the air about an hour these ten aerostats
had so distributed themselves that each of them, with a little
manœuvring, could get within bowshot of two others. They also rose a
little higher than the rest. The flutter of a white handkerchief was
the signal agreed upon, and when this was given by the man in command
of the ten, each of them suddenly put on speed, and ran up close to
her nearest neighbour. A flight of arrows was discharged at the
gas-holder, and then she headed away for the next nearest, and
discharged a flight at her.

Considering the apparent insignificance of the means employed, the
effects were absolutely miraculous. The explosion of the fulminate on
striking either the hard cordage of the net or one of the steel ribs
used to give the gas-holder rigidity, broke the two tubes full of
liquid. Then came another far more violent explosion, which tore
great rents in the envelope. The imprisoned gas rushed out in
torrents, and the crippled balloons began to sink, at first slowly,
and then more and more rapidly, till the cars, weighted with crews,
machinery, and explosives, struck the earth with a crash, and
exploded, like so many huge shells, amidst the dense columns of the
advancing army corps. In fifteen minutes each of the ten captured
aerostats had sent two others to the earth, and then, completely
masters of the position, those in charge of them began their assault
on the helpless masses below them. This was kept up until the
Federation troops appeared. Then they retired to the rear of the
French and Italian columns, and devoted themselves to burning their
stores and blowing up their ammunition trains with fire-shell.

Assailed thus in front and rear, and demoralised by the defection of
the thousands who, as soon as the battle became general, showed the
red ribbon and echoed the fierce battle-cry of the Federation, the
splendid force sent out by General le Gallifet was practically
annihilated by midnight, and by daybreak the Federationists, after
fifteen hours of almost continuous fighting, had stormed all the
outer positions held by the French and Italians to the south of
London, the batteries of which had already been destroyed by the

Thus, when the _Ithuriel_ passed over London on the morning of the
7th the position of affairs was as follows: The two armies which had
been detached by the Tsar and General le Gallifet to stop the advance
of the Federationists had been destroyed almost to a man. Of the two
fleets of war-balloons there remained twenty-two aerostats in the
hands of the Terrorists, while the twenty-five sent by the Tsar
against the air-ships had retired at nightfall to the depot at
Muswell Hill to replenish their stock of fuel and explosives. Their
ammunition-tenders, slow and unwieldy machines, adapted only for
carrying large cargoes of shells, had been rammed and destroyed with
ease by the air-ships during the running, or rather flying, fight of
the previous afternoon.

At sunset on the 6th the whole available forces of the League which
could be spared from the defence of the positions, numbering more
than three million men, had descended to the assault on London at
nearly fifty different points.

No human words could convey any adequate conception of that night of
carnage and terror. The assailants were allowed to advance far into
the mighty maze of streets and byways with so little resistance, that
they began to think that the great city would fall an easy prey to
them after all. But as they approached the main arteries of central
London they came suddenly upon barricades so skilfully disposed that
it was impossible to advance without storming them, and from which,
as they approached them, burst out tempests of rifle and machine
gunfire, under which the heads of their columns melted away faster
than they advanced.

Light, quick-firing guns, posted on the roofs of lofty buildings,
rained death and mutilation upon them. The air-ships, flying hither
and thither a few hundred feet above the house-tops, like spirits of
destruction, sent their shells into their crowded masses and wrought
the most awful havoc of all with their frightful explosives, blowing
hundreds of men to indistinguishable fragments at every shot, while
from the windows of every house that was not in ruins came a
ceaseless hail of missiles from every kind of firearm, from a
magazine rifle to a shot-gun.

When morning came the Great Eastern Railway and the Thames had been
cleared and opened, and the hearts of the starving citizens were
gladdened by the welcome spectacle of train after train pouring in
laden with provisions from Harwich, and of a fleet of steamers,
flying the Federation flag, which filled the Thames below London
Bridge, and was rapidly discharging its cargoes of food at the
wharves and into lighters.

As fast as the food could be unloaded it was distributed first to the
troops manning the barricades, and then to the markets and shops,
whence it was supplied free in the poorer districts, and at the usual
prices in the richer ones. All that day London feasted and made
merry, for now the Thames was open there seemed to be no end to the
food that was being poured into the city which twelve hours before
had eaten its last scanty provisions. As soon as one vessel was
discharged another took its place, and opened its hold filled with
the necessaries and some of the luxuries of life.

The frightful butcheries at the barricades had stopped for the time
being from sheer exhaustion on both sides. One cannot fight without
food, and the defenders were half-starved when they began. Rage and
the longing for revenge had lent them strength for the moment, but
twelve hours of incessant street fighting, the most wearing of all
forms of battle, had exhausted them, and they were heartily glad of
the tacit truce which gave them time to eat and drink.

As for the assailants, as soon as they saw conclusive proof that the
blockade had been broken and the city victualled, they found
themselves deserted by the ally on whose aid they had most counted.
While the grip of famine remained on London they knew that its fall
was only a matter of time; but now--if food could get in so could
reinforcements, and they had not the remotest idea as to the number
of the mysterious forces which had so suddenly sprung into existence
outside their own lines.

Added to this their losses during the night had been something
appalling. The streets were choked with their dead, and the houses
into which they had retired were filled with their wounded. So they,
too, were glad of a rest, and many spoke openly of returning to their
lines and abandoning the assault. If they did so it might be possible
to fight their way to the coast, and escape out of this huge
death-trap into which they had fallen on the very eve of their
confidently-anticipated victory.

So, during the whole of the 7th there was little or no hard fighting
in London, but to the north and south the grey legions of the
Federation fought their way mile by mile over the field of
Armageddon, gradually driving in the two halves of the Russian and
the Franco-Italian armies which had been faced about to oppose their
progress while the other halves were making their assault on London.

As soon as news reached the Tsar that the blockade of the river had
been broken, he had ordered twelve of his remaining war-balloons to
destroy the ships that were swarming below London Bridge. Their fuel
and cargoes of explosives had been renewed, and they rose into the
air to execute the Autocrat's command just as Natasha had taken leave
of Arnold on her errand of mercy. He fathomed their design at once,
swung the _Ithuriel_ rapidly round to the northward, and said to his
lieutenant, who had just come on deck--

"Mr. Marston, those fellows mean mischief. Put a three-minute time
fuze on a couple of No. 3 fire-shell, and load the bow guns."

The order was at once executed. He trained one of the guns himself,
giving it an elevation sufficient to throw the shell over the rising
balloons. As the sixtieth second of the first minute passed, he
released the projectile. It soared away through the air, and burst
with a terrific explosion about fifty feet over the ascending

The rain of fire spread out far and wide, and showered down upon the
gas-holders. Then came a concussion that shook the air like a
thunder-clap as the escaping gas mixed with the air, took fire, and
exploded. Seven of the twelve aerostats instantly collapsed and
plunged back again to the earth, spending the collective force of
their explosives on the slopes of Muswell Hill. Meanwhile the second
gun had been loaded and fired with the same effect on the remaining

Arnold then ran the _Ithuriel_ up to within a mile of Muswell Hill,
and found the remaining thirteen war-balloons in the act of making
off to the northward.

"Two more time-shells, quick!" he cried. "They are off to take part
in the battle to the north, and must be stopped at once. Look lively,
or they'll see us and rise out of range!"

Almost before the words were out of his mouth one of the guns was
ready. A moment later the messenger of destruction was speeding on
its way, and they saw it explode fairly in the midst of the squadron.
The second followed before the glare of the first explosion had
passed, and this was the last shot fired in the aërial warfare
between the air-ships and the war-balloons.

[Illustration: "The rain of fire spread out far and wide."

_See page 344._]

The effects of these two shots were most extraordinary. The
accurately-timed shells burst, not over, but amidst the aerostats,
enveloping their cars in a momentary mist of fire. The intense heat
evolved must have suffocated their crews instantaneously. Even if it
had not done so their fate would have been scarcely less sudden or
terrible, for the fire falling in the cars exploded their own shells
even before it burst their gas-envelopes. With a roar and a shock as
though heaven and earth were coming together, a vast dazzling mass of
flame blazed out, darkening the daylight by contrast, and when it
vanished again there was not a fragment of the thirteen aerostats to
be seen.

"So ends the Tsar's brief empire of the air!" said Arnold, as the
smoke of the explosion drifted away. "And twenty-four hours more
should see the end of his earthly Empire as well."

"I hope so," said Natasha's voice at his elbow. "This awful
destruction is sickening me. I knew war was horrible, but this is
more like the work of fiends than of men. There is something
monstrous, something superhumanly impious, in blasting your
fellow-creatures with irresistible lightnings like this, as though
you were a god instead of a man. Will you not be glad when it is
over, Richard?"

"Glad beyond all expression," replied her lover, the angry light of
battle instantly dying out of his eyes as he looked upon her sweetly
pitiful face. "But tell me, what success has my angel of mercy had in
pleading for the lives of her enemies?" he continued, slipping his
arm through hers, and leading her aft.

"I don't know yet, but my father told me to ask you to go to him as
soon as you could leave the deck. Go now, and, Richard, remember what
I said to you when you offered me the empire of the world as we were
going to Aeria. No one has such influence with the Master as you
have, for you have given him the victory and delivered his enemies
into his hands. For my sake, and for Humanity's, let your voice be
for mercy and peace--surely we have shed blood enough now!"

"It shall, angel mine! For your sweet sake I would spare even
Alexander Romanoff himself and all his Staff."

"You will never be asked to do that," said Natasha quietly, as Arnold
disappeared down the companion-way.

It was nearly an hour before he came on deck again, and by this time
the _Ithuriel_, constantly moving to and fro over London, so that any
change in the course of events could be at once reported to Natas,
had shifted her position to the southward, and was hanging in the air
over Sydenham Hill, the headquarters of General le Gallifet, whence
could be plainly heard the roar of the tide of battle as it rolled
ever northward over the hills of Surrey.

An air-ship came speeding up from the southward as he reached the
deck. He signalled to it to come alongside. It proved to be the
_Mercury_ taking a message from Tremayne, who was personally
commanding the Army of the South in the _Ariel_, to the air-ships
operating with the Army of the North.

"What is the message?" asked Arnold.

"To engage and destroy the remaining Russian war-balloons, and then
come south at once," replied the captain of the _Mercury_. "I am
sorry to say both the _Lucifer_ and the _Azrael_ have been disabled
by chance shots striking their propellers. The _Lucifer_ was so badly
injured that she fell to the earth, and blew up with a perfectly
awful explosion; but the _Azrael_ can still use her fan-wheels and
stern propeller, though her air-planes are badly broken and twisted."

Arnold frowned at the bad news, but took no further notice of it
beyond saying--

"That is unfortunate; but, I suppose, some casualties were inevitable
under the circumstances." Then he added: "I have already destroyed
all that were left of the Tsar's war-balloons, but you can take the
other part of the message. Where is the _Ariel_ to be found?"

The captain of the _Mercury_ gave him the necessary directions, and
the two air-ships parted. Within an hour a council of war, consisting
of Natas, Arnold, and Tremayne, was being held in the saloon of the
_Ithuriel_, on the issue of which the lives of more than two millions
of men depended.



It was a little after three o'clock in the afternoon when Natas,
Tremayne, and Arnold ended their deliberations in the saloon of the
_Ithuriel_. At the same hour a council of war was being held by
Generals le Gallifet and Cosensz at the Crystal Palace Hotel,
Sydenham, where the two commanders had taken up their quarters.

Since daybreak matters had assumed a very serious, if not desperate
aspect for the troops of the League to the south of London.
Communication had entirely ceased with the Tsar since the night
before, and this could only mean that his Majesty had lost the
command of the air, through the destruction or disablement of his
fleet of aerostats. News from the force which had descended upon
London told only of a fearful expenditure of life that had not
purchased the slightest advantage.

The blockade had been broken on the east, and, therefore, all hope of
reducing the city by famine was at an end. Their own war-balloons had
been either captured or destroyed, thousands of their men had
deserted to the enemy, and multitudes more had been slain. Every
position was dominated by the captured aerostats and the air-ships of
the Terrorists. Even the building in which the council was being held
might be shattered to fragments at any moment by a discharge of their
irresistible artillery.

Finally, it was practically certain that within the next few hours
their headquarters must be surrounded, and then their only choice
would lie between unconditional surrender and swift and inevitable
destruction by an aërial bombardment. Manifestly the time had come to
make terms if possible, and purchase their own safety and that of
their remaining troops. Both the generals and every member of their
respective staffs saw clearly that victory was now a physical
impossibility, and so the immediate issue of the council was that
orders were given to hoist the white flag over the tricolour and the
Italian standard on the summits of the two towers of the Crystal
Palace, and on the flagstaffs over the headquarters.

These were at once seen by a squadron of air-ships coming from the
north in obedience to Tremayne's summons, and within half an hour the
same squadron was seen returning from the south headed by the
flagship, also flying, to the satisfaction of the two generals, the
signal of truce. The air-ships stopped over Sydenham and ranged
themselves in a circle with their guns pointing down upon the
headquarters, and the _Ariel_, with Tremayne on board, descended to
within twenty feet of the ground in front of the hotel.

As she did so an officer wearing the uniform of a French General of
Division came forward, saluted, and said that he had a message for
the Commander-in-Chief of the Federation forces. Tremayne returned
the salute, and said briefly--

"I am here. What is the message?"

"I am commissioned by General Gallifet, Commander-in-Chief of the
Southern Division, to request on his behalf the honour of an
audience. He awaits you with General Cosensz in the hotel," replied
the Frenchman, gazing in undisguised admiration at the wonderful
craft which he now for the first time saw at close quarters.

"With pleasure. I will be with you in a moment," said Tremayne, and
as he spoke the _Ariel_ settled gently down to the earth, and the
gangway steps dropped from her bow.

As he entered the room in which the two generals were awaiting him,
surrounded by their brilliantly-uniformed staffs, he presented a
strange contrast to the men whose lives he held in the hollow of his
hand. He was dressed in a dark tweed suit, with Norfolk jacket and
knickerbockers, met by long shooting boots, just as though he was
fresh from the moors, instead of from the battlefield on which the
fate of the world was being decided. General le Gallifet advanced to
meet him with a puzzled look of half-recognition on his face, which
was at once banished by Tremayne holding out his hand without the
slightest ceremony, and saying--

"Ah, I see you recognise me, General!"

"I do, my Lord Alanmere, and, you will permit me to add, with the
most profound astonishment," replied the General, taking the
proffered hand with a hearty grasp. "May I venture to hope that with
an old acquaintance our negotiations may prove all the easier?"

Tremayne bowed and said--

"Rest assured, General, that they shall be as easy as my instructions
will permit me to make them."

"Your instructions! But I thought"--

"That I was in supreme command. So I am in a sense, but I am the
lieutenant of Natas for all that, and in a case like this his word is
law. But come, what terms do you propose?"

"That truce shall be proclaimed for twenty-four hours; that the
commanders of the forces of the League shall meet this mysterious
Natas, yourself, and the King of England, and arrange terms by which
the armies of France, Russia, and Italy shall be permitted to
evacuate the country with the honours of war."

"Then, General, I may as well tell you at once that those terms are
impossible," replied the Chief of the Federation quietly, but with a
note of inflexible determination in his voice. "In the first place,
'the honours of war' is a phrase which already belongs to the past.
We see no honour in war, and if we can have our way this shall be the
last war that shall ever be waged on earth.

"Indeed, I may tell you that we began this war as one of absolute
extermination. Had it not been for the intercession of Natasha, the
daughter of Natas, you would not even have been given the opportunity
of making terms of peace, or even of unconditional surrender. Our
orders were simply to slay, and spare not, as long as a man remained
in arms on British soil. You are, of course, aware that we have taken
no prisoners"--

"But, my lord, this is not war, it is murder on the most colossal
scale!" exclaimed the General, utterly unable to control the
agitation that these terrible words evoked, not only in his own
breast, but in that of every man who heard them.

"To us war and murder are synonymous terms, differing only as
wholesale and retail," replied Tremayne drily; "for the mere names we
care nothing. This world-war is none of our seeking; but if war can
be cured by nothing but war, then we will wage it to the point of
extermination. Now here are my terms. All the troops of the League on
this side of the river Thames, on laying down their arms, shall be
permitted to return to their homes, not as soldiers, but as peaceful
citizens of the world, to go about their natural business as men who
have sworn never to draw the sword again save in defence of their own

"And his Majesty the Tsar?"

"You cannot make terms for the Tsar, General, and let me beg of you
not to attempt to do so. No power under heaven can save him and his
advisers from the fate that awaits them."

"And if we refuse your terms, the alternative is what?"

"Annihilation to the last man!"

A dead silence followed these fearful words so calmly and yet so
inflexibly spoken. General le Gallifet and the Italian
Commander-in-Chief looked at one another and at the officers standing
about them. A murmur of horror and indignation passed from lip to
lip. Then Tremayne spoke again quickly but impressively--

"Gentlemen, don't think that I am saying what I cannot do. We are
inflexibly determined to stamp the curse of war out here and now, if
it cost millions of lives to do so. Your forces are surrounded, your
aerostats are captured or destroyed. It is no use mincing matters at
a moment like this. It is life or death with you. If you do not
believe me, General le Gallifet, come with me and take a flight round
London in my air-ship yonder, and your own eyes shall see how
hopeless all further struggle is. I pledge my word of honour as an
English gentleman that you shall return in safety. Will you come?"

"I will," said the French commander. "Gentlemen, you will await my
return"; and with a bow to his companions, he followed the Chief out
of the room, and embarked on the air-ship without further ado.

[Illustration: "Do you understand now why you could not make terms
for Russia?"

_See page 351._]

The _Ariel_ at once rose into the air. Tremayne reported to Natas
what had been done, and then took the General into the deck saloon,
and gave orders to proceed at full speed to Richmond, which was
reached in what seemed to the Frenchman an inconceivably short space
of time. Then the _Ariel_ swung round to the eastward, and at half
speed traversed the whole line of battle over hill and vale, at an
elevation of eight hundred feet, from Richmond to Shooter's Hill.

What General le Gallifet saw more than convinced him that Tremayne
had spoken without exaggeration when he said that annihilation was
the only alternative to evacuation on his terms. The grey legions of
the League seemed innumerable. Their long lines lapped round the
broken squadrons of the League, mowing them down with incessant
hailstorms of magazine fire, and overhead the air-ships and aerostats
were hurling shells on them which made great dark gaps in their
formations wherever they attempted anything like order. Every
position of importance was either occupied or surrounded by the
Federationists. There was no way open save towards London, and that
way, as the General knew only too well, lay destruction.

To the east of Shooter's Hill the air-ship swerved round to the
northward. The Thames was alive with steamers flying the red flag,
and carrying food and men into London. To the north of the river the
battle had completely ceased as far as Muswell Hill.

There the Black Eagle of Russia still floated from the roof of the
Palace, and a furious battle was raging round the slopes of the hill.
But the Russians were already surrounded, and manifestly outnumbered
five to one, while six aerostats were circling to and fro, doing
their work of death upon them with fearful effectiveness.

"You see, General, that the aerostats do not destroy the Palace and
bury the Tsar in its ruins, nor do I stop and do the same, as I could
do in a few minutes. Do you understand now why you could not make
terms for Russia?"

"What your designs are Heaven and yourselves only know," replied the
General, with quivering lips. "But I see that all is hopelessly lost.
For God's sake let this carnage stop! It is not war, it is butchery,
and we have deserved this retribution for employing those infernal
contrivances in the first place. I always said it was not fair
fighting. It is murder to drop death on defenceless men from the
clouds. We will accept your terms. Let us get back to the south and
save the lives of what remain of our brave fellows. If this is
scientific warfare, I, for one, will fight no more!"

"Well spoken, General!" said Tremayne, laying his hand upon his
shoulder. "Those words of yours have saved two millions of human
lives, and by this time to-morrow war will have ceased, I hope for
ever, among the nations of the West."

The _Ariel_ now swerved southward again, crossed London at full
speed, and within half an hour General le Gallifet was once more
standing in front of the Crystal Palace Hotel. As it was now getting
dusk the searchlights of the air-ships were turned on, and they swept
along the southern line of battle flashing the signal, "Victory!
Cease firing!" to the triumphant hosts of the Federation, while at
the same time the French and Italian commanders set the field
telegraph to work and despatched messengers into London with the news
of the terms of peace. By nightfall all fighting south of the Thames
had ceased, and victors and vanquished were fraternising as though
they had never struck a blow at each other, for war is a matter of
diplomacy and Court intrigue, and not of personal animosity. The
peoples of the world would be good enough friends if their rulers and
politicians would let them.

Meanwhile the battle raged with unabated fury round the headquarters
of the Tsar. Here despotism was making its last stand, and making it
bravely, in spite of the tremendous odds against it. But as twilight
deepened into night the numbers of the assailants of the last of the
Russian positions seemed to multiply miraculously.

A never-ceasing flood of grey-clad soldiery surged up from the south,
overflowed the barricades to the north, and swept the last of the
Russians out of the streets like so much chaff. All the hundred
streams converged upon Muswell Hill, and joined the ranks of the
attacking force, and so the night fell upon the last struggle of the
world-war. Even the Tsar himself now saw that the gigantic game was
virtually over, and that the stake of world-empire had been played
for--and lost.

[Illustration: "A vision which no one who saw it forgot to the day of
his death."

_See page 353._]

A powerful field searchlight had been fixed on the roof of the
Palace, and, as it flashed hither and thither round the area of the
battle, he saw fresh hosts of the British and Federation soldiers
pouring in upon the scene of action, while his own men were being
mown down by thousands under the concentrated fire of millions of
rifles, and his regiments torn to fragments by the incessant storm of
explosives from the sky.

Hour after hour the savage fight went on, and the grey and red lines
fought their way up and up the slopes, drawing the ring of flame and
steel closer and closer round the summit of the hill on which the
Autocrat of the North stood waiting for the hour of his fate to

The last line of the defenders of the position was reached at length.
For an hour it held firm in spite of the fearful odds. Then it
wavered and bent, and swayed to and fro in a last agony of
desperation. The encircling lines seemed to surge backwards for a
space. Then came a wild chorus of hurrahs, a swift forward rush of
levelled bayonets, the clash of steel upon steel--and then butchery,
vengeful and pitiless.

The red tide of slaughter surged up to the very walls of the Palace.
Only a few yards separated the foremost ranks of the victorious
assailants from the little group of officers, in the midst of which
towered the majestic figure of the White Tsar--an emperor without an
empire, a leader without an army. He strode forward towards the line
of bayonets fringing the crest of the hill, drew his sword, snapped
the blade as a man would break a dry stick, and threw the two pieces
to the ground, saying in English as he did so--

"It is enough, I surrender!"

Then he turned on his heel, and with bowed head walked back again to
his Staff.

Almost at the same moment a blaze of white light appeared in the sky,
a hundred feet above the heads of the vast throng that encircled the
Palace. Millions of eyes were turned up at once, and beheld a vision
which no one who saw it forgot to the day of his death.

The ten air-ships of the Terrorist fleet were ranged in two curves on
either side of the _Ithuriel_, which floated about twenty feet below
them, her silvery hull bathed in a flood of light from their electric
lamps. In her bow, robed in glistening white fur, stood Natasha,
transfigured in the full blaze of the concentrated searchlights. A
silence of wonder and expectation fell upon the millions at her feet,
and in the midst of it she began to sing the Hymn of Freedom. It was
like the voice of an angel singing in the night of peace after

Men of every nation in Europe listened to her entranced, as she
changed from language to language; and when at last the triumphant
strains of the Song of the Revolution came floating down from her
lips through the still night air, an irresistible impulse ran through
the listening millions, and with one accord they took up the refrain
in all the languages of Europe, and a mighty flood of exultant song
rolled up in wave after wave from earth to heaven,--a song at once of
victory and thanksgiving, for the last battle of the world-war had
been lost and won, and the valour and genius of Anglo-Saxondom had
triumphed over the last of the despotisms of Europe.



The myriad-voiced chorus of the Song of the Revolution ended in a
mighty shout of jubilant hurrahs, in the midst of which the _Ariel_
dropped lightly to the earth, and Tremayne, dressed now in the grey
uniform of the Federation, with a small red rosette on the left
breast of his tunic, descended from her deck to the ground with a
drawn sword in his hand.

He was at once recognised by several of the leaders, and as the
words, "The Chief, the Chief," ran from lip to lip, those in the
front ranks brought their rifles to the present, while the captains
saluted with their swords. The British regulars and volunteers
followed suit as if by instinct, and the chorus of cheers broke out
again. Tremayne acknowledged the salute, and raised his hand to
command silence. A hush at once fell upon the assembled multitude,
and in the deep silence of anticipation which followed, he said in
clear, ringing tones--

"Soldiers of the Federation and the Empire! that which I hope will be
the last battle of the Western nations has been fought and won. The
Anglo-Saxon race has rallied to the defence of its motherland, and in
the blood of its invaders has wiped out the stain of conquest. It has
met the conquerors of Europe in arms, and on the field of battle it
has vindicated its right to the empire of the world.

"Henceforth the destinies of the human race are in its keeping, and
it will worthily discharge the responsibility. It may yet be
necessary for you to fight other battles with other races; but the
victory that has attended you here will wait upon your arms
elsewhere, and then the curse and the shame of war will be removed
from the earth, let us hope for ever. European despotism has fought
its last battle and lost, and those who have appealed to the sword
shall be judged by the sword."

As he said this, he pointed with his weapon towards the Tsar and his
Staff, and continued, with an added sternness in his voice--

"In the Master's name, take those men prisoners! Their fate will be
decided to-morrow. Forward a company of the First Division; your
lives will answer for theirs!"

As the Chief ended his brief address to the victorious troops ten
men, armed with revolver and sword, stepped forward, each followed by
ten others armed with rifle and fixed bayonet, and immediately formed
in a hollow square round the Tsar and his Staff. This summary
proceeding proved too much for the outraged dignity of the fallen
Autocrat, and he stepped forward and cried out passionately--

"What is this? Is not my surrender enough? Have we not fought with
civilised enemies, that we are to be treated like felons in the hour
of defeat?"

Tremayne raised his sword and cried sharply, "To the ready!" and
instantly the prisoners were encircled by a hedge of levelled
bayonets and rifle-barrels charged with death. Then he went on, in
stern commanding tones--

"Silence there! We do not recognise what you call the usages of
civilised warfare. You are criminals against humanity, assassins by
wholesale, and as such you shall be treated."

There was nothing for it but to submit to the indignity, and within a
few minutes the Tsar and those who with him had essayed the
enslavement of the world were lodged in separate rooms in the
building under a strong guard to await the fateful issue of the

The rest of the night was occupied in digging huge trenches for the
burial of the almost innumerable dead, a task which, gigantic as it
was, was made light by the work of hundreds of thousands of willing
hands. Those of the invaders who had fallen in London itself were
taken down the Thames on the ebb tide in fleets of lighters, towed by
steamers, and were buried at sea. Happily it was midwinter, and the
temperature remained some degrees below freezing point, and so the
great city was saved from what in summer would infallibly have
brought pestilence in the track of war.

At twelve o'clock on the following day the vast interior of St.
Paul's Cathedral was thronged with the anxious spectators of the last
scene in the tremendous tragedy which had commenced with the
destruction of Kronstadt by the _Ariel_, and which had culminated in
the triumph of Anglo-Saxondom over the leagued despotism and
militarism of Europe.

At a long table draped with red cloth, and placed under the dome in
front of the chancel steps, sat Natas, with Tremayne and Natasha on
his right hand, and Arnold and Alexis Mazanoff on his left. Radna,
Anna Ornovski, and the other members of the Inner Circle of the
Terrorists, including the President, Nicholas Roburoff, who had been
pardoned and restored to his office at the intercession of Natasha,
occupied the other seats, and behind them stood a throng of the
leaders of the Federation forces.

Neither the King of England nor any of his Ministers or military
officers were present, as they had no voice in the proceedings which
were about to take place. It had been decided, at a consultation with
them earlier in the day, that it would be better that they should be

That which was to be done was unparalleled in the history of the
world, and outside the recognised laws of nations; and so their
prejudices were respected, and they were spared what they might have
looked upon as an outrage on international policy, and the ancient
but mistaken traditions of so-called civilised warfare.

In front of the table two double lines of Federation soldiers, with
rifles and fixed bayonets, kept a broad clear passage down to the
western doors of the Cathedral. The murmur of thousands of voices
suddenly hushed as the Cathedral clock struck the first stroke of
twelve. It was the knell of an empire and a despotism. At the last
stroke Natas raised his hand and said--

"Bring up the prisoners!"

There was a quick rustling sound, mingled with the clink of steel, as
the two grey lines stiffened up to attention. Twelve commanders of
divisions marched with drawn swords down to the end of the nave, a
few rapid orders were given, and then they returned heading two
double files of Federation guards, between which, handcuffed like
common felons, walked the once mighty Tsar and the ministers of his
now departed tyranny.

The footsteps of the soldiers and their captives rang clearly upon
the stones in the ominous breathless silence which greeted their
appearance. The fallen Autocrat and his servants walked with downcast
heads, like men in a dream, for to them it was a dream, this sudden
and incomprehensible catastrophe which had overwhelmed them in the
very hour of victory and on the threshold of the conquest of the
world. Three days ago they had believed themselves conquerors, with
the world at their feet; now they were being marched, guarded and in
shackles, to a tribunal which acknowledged no law but its own, and
from whose decision there was no appeal. Truly it was a dream, such a
dream of disaster and calamity as no earthly despot had ever dreamt

Four paces from the table they were halted, the Tsar in the centre,
facing his unknown judge, and his servants on either side of him. He
recognised Natasha, Anna Ornovski, Arnold, and Tremayne, but the
recognition only added to his bewilderment.

There was a slight flush on the face of Natas, and an angry gleam in
his dark magnetic eyes, as he watched his captives approach; but when
he spoke his tones were calm and passionless, the tones of the
conqueror and the judge, rather than of the deeply injured man and a
personal enemy. As the prisoners were halted in front of the table,
and the rifle-butts of the guards rang sharply on the stone pavement,
so deep a hush fell upon the vast throng in the Cathedral, that men
seemed to hold their breath rather than break it until the Master of
the Terror began to speak.

"Alexander Romanoff, late Tsar of the Russias, and now prisoner of
the Executive of the Brotherhood of Freedom, otherwise known to you
as the Terrorists--you have been brought here with your advisers and
the ministers of your tyranny that your crimes may be recounted in
the presence of this congregation, and to receive sentence of such
punishment as it is possible for human justice to mete out to you"--

[Illustration: "Two bayonets crossed in front of him with a sharp

_See page 359._]

"I deny both your justice and your right to judge. It is you who are
the criminals, conspirators, and enemies of Society. I am a crowned
King, and above all earthly laws"--

Before he could say any more two bayonets crossed in front of him
with a sharp clash, and he was instantly thrust back into his place.

"Silence!" said Natas, in a tone of such stern command that even he
instinctively obeyed. "As for our justice, let that be decided
between you and me when we stand before a more awful tribunal than
this. My right to judge even a crowned king who has no longer a
crown, rests, as your own authority and that of all earthly rulers
has ever done, upon the power to enforce my sentence, and I can and
will enforce it upon you, you heir of a usurping murderess, whose
throne was founded in blood and supported by the bayonets of her
hired assassins. You have appealed to the arbitration of battle, and
it has decided against you; you must therefore abide by its decision.

"You have waged a war of merciless conquest at the bidding of
insatiable ambition. You have posed as the peace-keeper of Europe
until the train of war was laid, as you and your allies thought, in
secret, and then you let loose the forces of havoc upon your
fellow-men without ruth or scruple. Your path of victory has been
traced in blood and flames from one end of Europe to the other; you
have sacrificed the lives of millions, and the happiness of millions
more, to a dream of world-wide empire, which, if realised, would have
been a universal despotism.

"The blood of the uncounted slain cries out from earth to heaven
against you for vengeance. The days are past when those who made war
upon their kind could claim the indulgence of their conquerors. You
have been conquered by those who hold that the crime of aggressive
war cannot be atoned for by the transfer of territory or the payment
of money.

"If this were your only crime we would have blood for blood, and life
for life, as far as yours could pay the penalty. But there is more
than this to be laid to our charge, and the swift and easy punishment
of death would be too light an atonement for Justice to accept.

"Since you ascended your throne you have been as the visible shape of
God in the eyes of a hundred million subjects. Your hands have held
the power of life and death, of freedom and slavery, of happiness and
misery. How have you used it, you who have arrogated to yourself the
attributes of a vicegerent of God on earth? As the power is, so too
is the responsibility, and it will not avail you now to shelter
yourself from it behind the false traditions of diplomacy and

"Your subjects have starved, while you and yours have feasted. You
have lavished millions in vain display upon your palaces, while they
have died in their hovels for lack of bread; and when men have asked
you for freedom and justice, you have given them the knout, the
chain, and the prison.

"You have parted the wife from her husband"--

Here for the moment the voice of Natas trembled with irrepressible
passion, which, before he could proceed, broke from his heaving
breast in a deep sob that thrilled the vast assembly like an electric
shock, and made men clench their hands and grit their teeth, and
wrung an answering sob from the breast of many a woman who knew but
too well the meaning of those simple yet terrible words. Then Natas
recovered his outward composure and went on; but now there was an
angrier gleam in his eyes, and a fiercer ring in his voice.

"You have parted the wife from her husband, the maid from her lover,
the child from its parents. You have made desolate countless homes
that once were happy, and broken hearts that had no thought of evil
towards you--and you have done all this, and more, to maintain as
vile a despotism as ever insulted the justice of man, or mocked at
the mercy of God.

"In the inscrutable workings of Eternal Justice it has come to pass
that your sentence shall be uttered by the lips of one of your
victims. For no offence known to the laws of earth or Heaven my flesh
has been galled by your chains and torn by your whips. I have toiled
to win your ill-gotten wealth in your mines, and by the hands of your
brutal servants the iron has entered into my soul. Yet I am but one
of thousands whose undeserved agony cries out against you in this
hour of judgment.

"Can you give us back what you have taken from us--the years of life
and health and happiness, our wives and our children, our lovers and
our kindred? You have ravished, but you cannot restore. You have
smitten, but you cannot heal. You have killed, but you cannot make
alive again. If you had ten thousand lives they could not atone,
though each were dragged out to the bitter end in the misery that you
have meted out to others.

"But so far as you and yours can pay the debt it shall be paid to the
uttermost farthing. Every pang that you have inflicted you shall
endure. You shall drag your chains over Siberian snows, and when you
faint by the wayside the lash shall revive you, as in the hands of
your brutal Cossacks it has goaded on your fainting victims. You
shall sweat in the mine and shiver in the cell, and your wives and
your children shall look upon your misery and be helpless to help
you, even as have been the fond ones who have followed your victims
to exile and death.

"They have seen your crimes without protest, and shared in your
wantonness. They have toyed with the gold and jewels which they knew
were bought with the price of misery and death, and so it is just
that they should see your sufferings and share in your doom.

"To the mines for life! And when the last summons comes to you and
me, may Eternal Justice judge between us, and in its equal scales
weigh your crimes against your punishment! Begone! for you have
looked your last on freedom. You are no longer men; you are outcasts
from the pale of the brotherhood of the humanity you have outraged!

"Alexis Mazanoff, you will hold yourself responsible for the lives of
the prisoners, and the execution of their sentence. You will see them
in safe keeping for the present, and on the thirtieth day from now
you will set out for Siberia."

The sentence of Natas, the most terrible one which human lips could
have uttered under the circumstances, was received with a breathless
silence of awe and horror. Then Mazanoff rose from his seat, drew his
sword, and saluted. As he passed round the end of the table the
guards closed up round the prisoners, who were staring about them in
stupefied bewilderment at the incredible horror of the fate which in
a moment had hurled them from the highest pinnacle of earthly power
and splendour down to the degradation and misery of the most wretched
of their own Siberian convicts. No time was given for protest or
appeal, for Mazanoff instantly gave the word "Forward!" and,
surrounded by a hedge of bayonets, the doomed men were marched
rapidly down between the two grey lines.

As they reached the bottom of the nave the great central doors swung
open, and through them came a mighty roar of execration from the
multitude outside as they appeared on the top of the Cathedral steps.

From St. Paul's Churchyard, down through Ludgate Hill and up the Old
Bailey to the black frowning walls of Newgate, they were led through
triple lines of Federation soldiers amidst a storm of angry cries
from the crowd on either side,--cries which changed to a wild
outburst of savage, pitiless exultation as the news of their dreadful
sentence spread rapidly from lip to lip. They had shed blood like
water, and had known no pity in the hour of their brief triumph, and
so none was shown for them in the hour of their fall and retribution.

The hour following their disappearance from the Cathedral was spent
in a brief and simple service of thanksgiving for the victory which
had wiped the stain of foreign invasion from the soil of Britain in
the blood of the invader, and given the control of the destinies of
the Western world finally into the hands of the dominant race of

The service began with a short but eloquent address from Natas, in
which he pointed out the consequences of the victory and the
tremendous responsibilities to the generations of men in the present
and the future which it entailed upon the victors. He concluded with
the following words--

"My own part in this world-revolution is played out. For more than
twenty years I have lived solely for the attainment of one object,
the removal of the blot of Russian tyranny upon European
civilisation, and the necessary punishment of those who were guilty
of the unspeakable crime of maintaining it at such a fearful expense
of human life and suffering.

"That object has now been accomplished; the soldiers of freedom have
met the hirelings of despotism on the field of the world's
Armageddon, and the God of Battles has decided between them. Our
motives may have been mistaken by those who only saw the bare outward
appearance without knowing their inward intention, and our ends have
naturally been misjudged by those who fancied that their
accomplishment meant their own ruin.

"Yet, as the events have proved, and will prove in the ages to come,
we have been but as intelligent instruments in the hands of that
eternal wisdom and justice which, though it may seem to sleep for a
season, and permit the evildoer to pursue his wickedness for a space,
never closes the eye of watchfulness or sheathes the sword of
judgment. The empire of the earth has been given into the hands of
the Anglo-Saxon race, and therefore it is fitting that the supreme
control of affairs should rest in the hands of one of Anglo-Saxon
blood and lineage.

"For that reason I now surrender the power which I have so far
exercised as the Master of the Brotherhood of Freedom into the hands
of Alan Tremayne, known in Britain as Earl of Alanmere and Baron
Tremayne, and from this moment the Brotherhood of Freedom ceases to
exist as such, for its ends are attained, and the objects for which
it was founded have been accomplished.

"With the confidence born of intimate knowledge, I give this power
into his keeping, and those who have shared his counsels and executed
his commands in the past will in the future assist him as the Supreme
Council, which will form the ultimate tribunal to which the disputes
of nations will henceforth be submitted, instead of to the barbarous
and bloody arbitration of battle.

"No such power has ever been delivered into the hands of a single
body of men before; but those who will hold it have been well tried,
and they may be trusted to wield it without pride and without
selfishness, the twin curses that have hitherto afflicted the divided
nations of the earth, because, with the fate of humanity in their
hands and the wealth of earth at their disposal, it will be
impossible to tempt them with bribes, either of riches or of power,
from the plain course of duty which will lie before them."

As Natas finished speaking, he signed with his hand to Tremayne, who
rose in his place and briefly addressed the assembly--

"I and those who will share it with me accept alike the power and the
responsibility--not of choice, but rather because we are convinced
that the interests of humanity demand that we should do so. Those
interests have too long been the sport of kings and their courtiers,
and of those who have seen in selfish profit and aggrandisement the
only ends of life worth living for.

"Under the pretences of furthering civilisation and progress, and
maintaining what they have been pleased to call law and order, they
have perpetrated countless crimes of oppression, cruelty, and
extortion, and we are determined that this shall have an end.

"Henceforth, so far as we can insure it, the world shall be ruled,
not by the selfishness of individuals, or the ambitions of nations,
but in accordance with the everlasting and immutable principles of
truth and justice, which have hitherto been burlesqued alike by
despots on their thrones and by political partisans in the senates of
so-called democratic countries.

"To-morrow, at mid-day in this place, the chief rulers of Europe will
meet us, and our intentions will be further explained. And now before
we separate to go about the rest of the business of the day let us,
as is fitting, give due thanks to Him who has given us the victory."

He ceased speaking, but remained standing; the same instant the organ
of the Cathedral pealed out the opening notes of the familiar
Normanton Chant, and all those at the table, saving Natas, rose to
their feet. Then Natasha's voice soared up clear and strong above the
organ notes, singing the first line of the old well-known chant--

  The strain upraise of joy and praise.

And as she ceased the swell of the organ rolled out, and a mighty
chorus of hallelujahs burst by one consent from the lips of the vast
congregation, filling the huge Cathedral, and flowing out from its
now wide-open doors until it was caught up and echoed by the
thousands who thronged the churchyard and the streets leading into

As this died away Radna sang the second line, and so the Psalm of
Praise was sung through, as it were in strophe and anti-strophe,
interspersed with the jubilant hallelujahs of the multitude who were
celebrating the greatest victory that had ever been won on earth.

That night the inhabitants of the delivered city gave themselves up
to such revelry and rejoicing as had never been seen or heard in
London since its foundation. The streets and squares blazed with
lights and resounded with the songs and cheerings of a people
delivered from an impending catastrophe which had bidden fair to
overwhelm it in ruin, and bring upon it calamities which would have
been felt for generations.



While these events had been in progress three squadrons of air-ships
had been speeding to St. Petersburg, Vienna, and Rome. Three vessels
had been despatched to each city, and the instructions of those in
command of the squadrons were to bring the German Emperor, the
Emperor of Austria, and the King of Italy to London.

The news of the defeat of the League had preceded them by telegraph,
and all three monarchs willingly obeyed the summons which they
carried to attend a Conference for the ordering of affairs of Europe.

The German Emperor was at once released from his captivity, although
only under a threat of the destruction of the city by the air-ships,
for the Grand Duke Vladimir, who ruled at St. Petersburg as deputy of
the Tsar, had first refused to believe the astounding story of the
defeat of his brother and the destruction of his army. The terrible
achievements of the air-ships were, however, too well and too
certainly known to permit of resistance by force, and so the Kaiser
was released, and made his first aërial voyage from St. Petersburg to
London, arriving there at ten o'clock on the evening of the 8th, in
the midst of the jubilations of the rejoicing city.

The King of England had sent a despatch to the Emperor of Austria
inviting him to the Conference, and General Cosensz had sent a
similar one to the King of Italy, and so there had been no difficulty
about their coming. At mid-day on the 9th the Conference was opened
in St. Paul's, which was the only public building left intact in
London capable of containing the vast audience that was present, an
audience composed of men of every race and language in Europe.

Natas was absent, and Tremayne occupied his seat in the centre of the
table; the other members of the Inner Circle, now composing the
Supreme Council of the Federation, were present, with the exception
of Natasha, Radna, and Anna Ornovski, and the other seats at the
table were occupied by the monarchs to whom the purposes of the
Conference had been explained earlier in the day. France was
represented in the person of General le Gallifet.

The body of the Cathedral was filled to overflowing, with the
exception of an open space kept round the table by the Federation

The proceedings commenced with a brief but impressive religious
service conducted by the Primate of England, who ended it with a
short but earnest appeal, delivered from the altar steps, to those
composing the Conference, calling upon them to conduct their
deliberations with justice and moderation, and reminding them of the
millions who were waiting in other parts of Europe for the blessings
of peace and prosperity which it was now in their power to confer
upon them. As the Archbishop concluded the prayer for the blessing of
Heaven upon their deliberation, with which he ended his address,
Tremayne, after a few moments of silence, rose in his place and,
speaking in clear deliberate tones, began as follows:--

"Your Majesties have been called together to hear the statement of
the practical issues of the conflict which has been decided between
the armies of the Federation of the Anglo-Saxon peoples and those of
the late Franco-Slavonian League.

"Into the motives which led myself and those who have acted with me
to take the part which we have done in this tremendous struggle,
there is now no need for me to enter. It is rather with results than
with motives that we have to deal, and those results may be very
briefly stated.

"We have demonstrated on the field of battle that we hold in our
hands means of destruction against which it is absolutely impossible
for any army fortress or fleet to compete with the slightest hope of
victory; and more than this, we are in command of the only organised
army and fleet now on land or sea. We have been compelled by the
necessities of the case to use our powers unsparingly up to a certain
point. That we have not used them beyond that point, as we might have
done, to enslave the world, is the best proof that I can give of the
honesty of our purposes with regard to the future.

"But it must never be forgotten that these powers remain with us, and
can be evoked afresh should necessity ever arise.

"It is not our purpose to enter upon a war of conquest, or upon a
series of internal revolutions in the different countries of Europe,
the issue of which might be the subversion of all order, and the
necessity for universal conquest on our part in order to restore it.

"With two exceptions the internal affairs of all the nations of
Europe, saving only Russia, which for the present we shall govern
directly, will be left undisturbed. The present tenure of land will
be abolished, and the only rights to the possession of it that will
be recognised will be occupation and cultivation. Experience has
shown that the holding of land for mere purposes of luxury or
speculative profit leads to untold injustices to the general
population of a country. The land on which cities and towns are built
will henceforth belong to the municipalities, and the rents of the
buildings will be paid in lieu of taxation.

"The other exception is even more important than this. We have waged
war in order that it may be waged no more, and we are determined that
it shall now cease for ever. The peoples of the various nations have
no interest in warfare. It has been nothing but an affliction and a
curse to them, and we are convinced that if one generation grows up
without drawing the sword, it will never be drawn again as long as
men remain upon the earth. All existing fortifications will therefore
be at once destroyed, standing armies will be disbanded, and all the
warships in the world, which cannot be used for peaceful purposes,
will be sent to the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean.

"For the maintenance of peace and order each nation will maintain a
body of police, in which all citizens between the ages of twenty and
forty will serve in rotation, and this police will be under the
control, first of the Sovereign and Parliament of the country, and
ultimately of an International Board, which will sit once a year in
each of the capitals of Europe in turn, and from whose decision there
will be no appeal.

"The possession of weapons of warfare, save by the members of this
force, will be forbidden under penalty of death, as we shall
presuppose that no man can possess such weapons save with intent to
kill, and all killing, save execution for murder, will henceforth be
treated as murder. Declaration of war by one country upon another
will be held to be a national crime, and, should such an event ever
occur, the forces of the Anglo-Saxon Federation will be at once armed
by authority of the Supreme Council, and the guilty nation will be
crushed and its territories will be divided among its neighbours.

"Such are the broad outlines of the course which we intend to pursue,
and all I have now to do is to commend them to your earnest
consideration in the name of those over whom you are the constituted

As the President of the Federation sat down the German Emperor rose
and said in a tone which showed that he had heard the speech with but
little satisfaction--

"From what we have heard it would seem that the Federation of the
Anglo-Saxon peoples considers itself as having conquered the world,
and as being, therefore, in a position to dictate terms to all the
peoples of the earth. Am I correct in this supposition?"

Tremayne bowed in silence, and he continued--

"But this amounts to the destruction of the liberties of all peoples
who are not of the Anglo-Saxon race. It seems impossible to me to
believe that free-born men who have won their liberty upon the
battlefield will ever consent to submit to a despotism such as this.
What if they refuse to do so?"

Tremayne was on his feet in an instant. He turned half round and
faced the Kaiser, with a frown on his brow and an ominous gleam in
his eyes--

"Your Majesty of Germany may call it a despotism if you choose, but
remember that it is a despotism of peace and not of war, and that it
affects only those who would be peace-breakers and drawers of the
sword upon their fellow-creatures. I regret that you have made it
necessary for me to remind you that we have conquered your
conquerors, and that the despotism from which we have delivered the
nations of Europe would infallibly have been ten thousand times worse
than that which you are pleased to miscall by the name.

"You deplore the loss of the right and the power to draw the sword
one upon another. Well, now, take that right back again for the last
time! Say here, and now, that you will not acknowledge the supremacy
of the Council of the Federation, and take the consequences!

"Our soldiers are still in the field, our aërial fleet is still in
the air, and our sea-navy is under steam. But, remember, if you
appeal to the sword it shall be with you as it was with Alexander
Romanoff and the Russian force which invaded England. We have
annihilated the army to a man, and exiled the Autocrat for life.
Choose now, peace or war, and let those who would choose war with you
take their stand beside you, and we will fight another Armageddon!"

The pregnant and pitiless words brought the Kaiser to his senses in
an instant. He remembered that his army was destroyed, his strongest
fortresses dismantled, his treasury empty, and the manhood of his
country decimated. He turned white to the lips and sank back into his
chair, covered his face with his hands, and sobbed aloud. And so
ended the last and only protest made by the spirit of militarism
against the new despotism of peace.

One by one the monarchs now rose in their places, bowed to the
inevitable, and gave their formal adherence to the new order of
things. General le Gallifet came last. When he had affixed his
signature to the written undertaking of allegiance which they had all
signed, he said, speaking in French--

"I was born and bred a soldier, and my life has been passed either in
warfare or the study of it. I have now drawn the sword for the last
time, save to defend France from invasion. I have seen enough of
modern war, or, as I should rather call it, murder by machinery, for
such it only is now. They spoke truly who prophesied that the
solution of the problem of aërial navigation would make war
impossible. It has made it impossible, because it has made it too
unspeakably horrible for humanity to tolerate it.

"In token of the honesty of my belief I ask now that France and
Germany shall bury their long blood-feud on their last battlefield,
and in the persons of his German Majesty and myself shake hands in
the presence of this company as a pledge of national forgiveness and
perpetual peace."

As he ceased speaking, he turned and held out his hand to the Kaiser.
All eyes were turned on William II, to see how he would receive this
appeal. For a moment he hesitated, then his manhood and chivalry
conquered his pride and national prejudice, and amidst the cheers of
the great assembly, he grasped the outstretched hand of his
hereditary enemy, saying in a voice broken by emotion--

"So be it. Since the sword is broken for ever, let us forget that we
have been enemies, and remember only that we are neighbours."

This ended the public portion of the Conference. From St. Paul's
those who had composed it went to Buckingham Palace, in the grounds
of which the aërial fleet was reposing on the lawns under a strong
guard of Federation soldiers. Here they embarked, and were borne
swiftly through the air to Windsor Castle, where they dined together
as friends and guests of the King of England, and after dinner
discussed far on into the night the details of the new European
Constitution which was to be drawn up and formally ratified within
the next few days.

Shortly after noon on the following day the _Ithuriel_, with Natas,
Natasha, Arnold, and Tremayne on board, rose into the air from the
grounds of Buckingham Palace and headed away to the northward. The
control of affairs was left for the time being to a committee of the
members of what had once been the Inner Circle of the Terrorists, and
which was now the Supreme Council of the Federation.

This was under the joint presidency of Alexis Mazanoff and Nicholas
Roburoff, who was exerting his great and well-proved administrative
abilities to the utmost in order to atone for the fault which had led
to the desertion of the _Lucifer_, and to amply justify the
intercession of Natasha which had made it possible for him to be
present at the last triumph of the Federation and the accomplishment
of the long and patient work of the Brotherhood. There was an immense
amount of work to be got through in the interval between the
pronouncement of the judgment of Natas on the Tsar and his Ministers
and the execution of the sentence. After twenty-four hours in Newgate
they were transferred to Wormwood Scrubs Prison, and there, under a
guard of Federation soldiers, who never left them for a moment day or
night, they awaited the hour of their departure to Siberia.

Communication with all parts of the Continent and America was rapidly
restored. The garrisons of the League were withdrawn from the
conquered cities, gave up their arms at the depots of their
respective regiments, and returned to their homes. The French and
Italian troops round London were disarmed and taken to France in the
Federation fleet of transports. Meanwhile three air-ships were placed
temporarily at the disposal of the Emperor of Austria, the Kaiser,
and the King of Italy, to convey them to their capitals, and furnish
them with the means of speedy transit about their dominions, and to
and from London during the drawing up of the new European

A fleet of four air-ships and fifteen aerostats was also despatched
to the Russian capital, and compelled the immediate surrender of the
members of the Imperial family and the Ministers of the Government,
and the instant disarmament of all troops on Russian soil, under pain
of immediate destruction of St. Petersburg and Moscow, and invasion
and conquest of the country by the Federation armies. The Council of
State and the Ruling Senate were then dissolved, and the Executive
passed automatically into the hands of the controllers of the
Federation. Resistance was, of course, out of the question, and as
soon as it was once known for certain that the Tsar had been taken
prisoner and his army annihilated, no one thought seriously of it, as
it would have been utterly impossible to have defended even Russia
against the overwhelming forces of the Federation and the British
Empire, assisted by the two aërial fleets.

The _Ithuriel_, after a flight of a little more than an hour, stopped
and descended to the earth on the broad, sloping, and now
snow-covered lawn in front of Alanmere Castle. Lord Marazion and his
daughter, who, as it is almost needless to say, had been kept well
informed of the course of events since the Federation forces landed
in England, had also been warned by telegraph of the coming of their
aërial visitors, and before the _Ithuriel_ had touched the earth, the
new mistress of Alanmere had descended the steps of the terrace that
ran the whole length of the Castle front to welcome its lord and hers
back to his own again.

Then there were greetings of lovers and friends, well known to each
other by public report and familiar description, yet never seen in
the flesh till now, and of others long parted by distance and by
misconception of aims and motives. But however pleasing it might be
to dwell at length upon the details of such a meeting, and its
delightful contrast to the horrors of unsparing war and merciless
destruction, there is now no space to do so, for the original limits
of this history of the near future have already been reached and
overpassed, and it is time to make ready for the curtain to descend
upon the last scenes of the world-drama of the Year of Wonders--1904.

Tremayne was the first to alight, and he was followed by Natasha and
Arnold at a respectful distance, which they kept until the first
greeting between the two long and strangely-parted lovers was over.
When at length Lady Muriel got out of the arms of her future lord,
she at once ran to Natasha with both her hands outstretched, a very
picture of grace and health and blushing loveliness.

She was Natasha's other self, saving only for the incomparable
brilliance of colouring and contrast which the daughter of Natas
derived from her union of Eastern and Western blood. Yet no fairer
type of purely English beauty than Muriel Penarth could have been
found between the Border and the Land's End, and what she lacked of
Natasha's half Oriental brilliance and fire she atoned for by an
added measure of that indescribable blend of dignity and gentleness
which makes the English gentlewoman perhaps the most truly lovable of
all women on earth.

"I could not have believed that the world held two such lovely
women," said Arnold to Tremayne, as the two girls met and embraced.
"How marvellously alike they are, too! They might be sisters. Surely
they must be some relation."

"Yes, I am sure they are," replied Tremayne; "such a resemblance
cannot be accidental. I remember in that queer double life of mine,
when I was your unconscious rival, I used to interchange them until
they almost seemed to be the same identity to me. There is some
little mystery behind the likeness which we shall have cleared up
before very long now. Natas told me to take Lord Marazion to him in
the saloon, and said he would not enter the Castle till he had spoken
with him alone. There he is at the door! You go and make Muriel's
acquaintance, and I will take him on board at once."

So saying, Tremayne ran up the terrace steps, shook hands heartily
with the old nobleman, and then came down with him towards the
air-ship. As they met Lady Muriel coming up with Arnold on one side
of her and Natasha on the other, Lord Marazion stopped suddenly with
an exclamation of wonder. He took his arm out of Tremayne's, strode
rapidly to Natasha, and, before his daughter could say a word of
introduction, put his hands on her shoulders, and looked into her
lovely upturned face through a sudden mist of tears that rose
unbidden to his eyes.

"It is a miracle!" he said, in a low voice that trembled with
emotion. "If you are the daughter of Natas, there is no need to tell
me who he is, for you are Sylvia Penarth's daughter too. Is not that
so, Sylvia di Murska--for I know you bear your mother's name?"

"Yes, I bear her name--and my father's. He is waiting for you in the
air-ship, and he has much to say to you. You will bring him back to
the Castle with you, will you not?"

Natasha spoke with a seriousness that had more weight than her words,
but Lord Marazion understood her meaning. He stooped down and kissed
her on the brow, saying--

"Yes, yes; the past is the past. I will go to him, and you shall see
us come back together."

"And so we are cousins!" exclaimed Lady Muriel, slipping her arm
round Natasha's waist as she spoke. "I was sure we must be some
relation to each other; for, though I am not so beautiful"--

"Don't talk nonsense, or I shall call you 'Your Ladyship' for the
rest of the day. Yes, of course we are alike, since our mothers were
twin-sisters, and the very image of each other, according to their

While the girls were talking of their new-found relationship, Arnold
had dropped behind to wait for Tremayne, who, after he had taken Lord
Marazion into the saloon of the _Ithuriel_, had left him with Natas
and returned to the Castle alone.



That evening, when the lamps were lit and the curtains drawn in the
library at Alanmere, in the same room in which Tremayne had seen the
Vision of Armageddon, Natas told the story of Israel di Murska, the
Jewish Hungarian merchant, and of Sylvia Penarth, the beautiful
English wife whom he had loved better than his own faith and people,
and how she had been taken from him to suffer a fate which had now
been avenged as no human wrongs had ever been before.

"Twenty-five years ago," he began, gazing dreamily into the great
fire of pine-logs, round the hearth of which he and his listeners
were sitting, "I, who am now an almost helpless, half-mutilated
cripple, was a strong, active man, in the early vigour of manhood,
rich, respected, happy, and prosperous even beyond the average of
earthly good fortune.

"I was a merchant in London, and I had inherited a large fortune from
my father, which I had more than doubled by successful trading. I was
married to an English wife, a woman whose grace and beauty are
faithfully reflected in her daughter"--

As Natas said this, the fierce light that had begun to shine in his
eyes softened, and the hard ring left his voice, and for a little
space he spoke in gentler tones, until sterner memories came and
hardened them again.

"I will not deny that I bought her with my gold and fair promises of
a life of ease and luxury. But that is done every day in the world in
which I then lived, and I only did as my Christian neighbours about
me did. Yet I loved my beautiful Christian wife very dearly,--more
dearly even than my people and my ancient faith,--or I should not
have married her.

"When Natasha was two years old the black pall of desolation fell
suddenly on our lives, and blasted our great happiness with a misery
so utter and complete that we, who were wont to count ourselves among
the fortunate ones of the earth, were cast down so low that the
beggar at our doors might have looked down upon us.

"It was through no fault of mine or hers, nor through any
circumstance over which either of us had any control, that we fell
from our serene estate. On the contrary, it was through a work of
pure mercy, intended for the relief of those of our people who were
groaning under the pitiless despotism of Russian officialism and
superstition, that I fell, as so many thousands of my race have
fallen, into that abyss of nameless misery and degradation that
Russian hands have dug for the innocent in the ghastly solitudes of
Siberia, and, without knowing it, dragged my sweet and loving wife
into it after me.

"It came about in this wise.

"I had a large business connection in Russia, and at a time when all
Europe was ringing with the story of the persecution of the Russian
Jews, I, at the earnest request of a committee of the leading Jews in
London, undertook a mission to St. Petersburg, to bring their
sufferings, if possible, under the direct notice of the Tsar, and to
obtain his consent to a scheme for the payment of a general
indemnity, subscribed to by all the wealthy Jews of the world, which
should secure them against persecution and official tyranny until
they could be gradually and completely removed from Russia.

"I, of course, found myself thwarted at every turn by the heartless
and corrupt officialism that stands between the Russian people and
the man whom they still regard as the vicegerent of God upon earth.

"Upon one pretext and another I was kept from the presence of the
Tsar for weeks, until he left his dominions on a visit to Denmark.

"Meanwhile I travelled about, and used my eyes as well as the
officials would permit me, to see whether the state of things was
really as bad as the accounts that had reached England had made it
out to be.

"I saw enough to convince me that no human words could describe the
awful sufferings of the sons and daughters of Israel in that hateful
land of bondage.

"Neither their lives nor their honour, their homes nor their
property, were safe from the malice and the lust and the rapacity of
the brutal ministers of Russian officialdom.

"I conversed with families from which fathers and mothers, sons and
daughters had been spirited away, either never to return, or to come
back years afterwards broken in health, ruined and dishonoured, to
the poor wrecks of the homes that had once been peaceful, pure, and

"I saw every injury, insult, and degradation heaped upon them that
patient and long-suffering humanity could bear, until my soul
sickened within me, and my spirit rose in revolt against the hateful
and inhuman tyranny that treated my people like vermin and wild
beasts, for no offence save a difference in race and creed.

"At last the shame and horror of it all got the better of my
prudence, and the righteous rage that burned within me spoke out
through my pen and my lips.

"I wrote faithful accounts of all I had seen to the committee in
England. They never reached their destination, for I was already a
marked man, and my letters were stopped and opened by the police.

"At last I one day attended a court of law, and heard one of those
travesties of justice which the Russian officials call a trial for

"There was not one tittle of anything that would have been called
evidence, or that would not have been discredited and laughed out of
court in any other country in Europe; yet two of the five prisoners,
a man and a woman, were sentenced to death, and the other three, two
young students and a girl who was to have been the bride of one of
them in a few weeks' time, were doomed to five years in the mines of
Kara, and after that, if they survived it, to ten years' exile in

"So awful and so hideous did the appalling injustice seem to me,
accustomed as I was to the open fairness of the English criminal
courts, that, overcome with rage and horror, I rose to my feet as the
judge pronounced the frightful sentence, and poured forth a flood of
passionate denunciations and wild appeals to the justice of humanity
to revoke the doom of the innocent.

"Of course I was hustled out of the court and flung into the street
by the police attendants, and I groped my way back to my hotel with
eyes blinded with tears of rage and sorrow.

"That afternoon I was requested by the proprietor of the hotel to
leave before nightfall. I expostulated in vain. He simply told me
that he dared not have in his house a man who had brought himself
into collision with the police, and that I must find other lodgings
at once. This, however, I found to be no easy matter. Wherever I went
I was met with cold looks, and was refused admittance.

"Lower and lower sank my heart within me at each refusal, and the
terrible conviction forced itself upon me that I was a marked man
amidst all-powerful and unscrupulous enemies whom no Russian dare
offend. I was a Jew and an outcast, and there was nothing left for me
but to seek for refuge such as I could get among my own persecuted

"Far on into the night I found one, a modest lodging, in which I
hoped I could remain for a day or two while waiting for my passport,
and making the necessary preparations to return to England and shake
the mire of Russia off my feet for ever. It would have been a
thousand times better for me and my dear ones, and for those whose
sympathy and kindness involved them in my ruin, if, instead of going
to that ill-fated house, I had flung myself into the dark waters of
the Neva, and so ended my sorrows ere they had well begun.

"I applied for my passport the next day, and was informed that it
would not be ready for at least three days. The delay was, of course,
purposely created, and before the time had expired a police visit was
paid to the house in which I was lodging, and papers written in
cypher were found within the lining of one of my hats.

"I was arrested, and a guard was placed over the house. Without any
further ceremony I was thrown into a cell in the fortress of Peter
and Paul to await the translation of the cypher. Three days later I
was taken before the chief of police, and accused of having in my
possession papers proving that I was an emissary from the Nihilist
headquarters in London.

"I was told that my conduct had been so suspicious and of late so
disorderly, that I had been closely watched during my stay in St.
Petersburg, with the result that conclusive evidence of treason had
been found against me.

"As I was known to be wealthy, and to have powerful friends in
England, the formality of a trial was dispensed with, and after
eating my heart out for a month in my cell in the fortress, I was
transferred to Moscow to join the next convict train for Siberia.
Arrived there, I for the first time learned my sentence--ten years in
the mines, and then ten in Sakhalin.

"Thus was I doomed by the trick of some police spy to pass what bade
fair to be the remainder of a life that had been so bright and full
of fair promise in hopeless exile, torment, and degradation--and all
because I protested against injustice and made myself obnoxious to
the Russian police.

"As the chain-gang that I was attached to left Moscow, I found to my
intense grief that the good Jew and his wife who had given me shelter
were also members of it. They had been convicted of 'harbouring a
political conspirator,' and sentenced to five years' hard labour, and
then exile for life, as 'politicals,' which, as you no doubt know,
meant that, if they survived the first part of their sentence, they
would be allowed to settle in an allotted part of Southern Siberia,
free in everything but permission to leave the country.

"Were I to talk till this time to-morrow I could not properly
describe to you all the horrors of that awful journey along the Great
Siberian road, from the Pillar of Farewells that marks the boundary
between Europe and Asia across the frightful snowy wastes to Kara.

"The hideous story has been told again and again without avail to the
Christian nations of Europe, and they have permitted that awful crime
against humanity to be committed year after year without even a
protest, in obedience to the miserable principles that bade them to
place policy before religion and the etiquette of nations before the
everlasting laws of God.

"After two years of heartbreaking toil at the mines my health utterly
broke down. One day I fell fainting under the lash of the brutal
overseer, and as I lay on the ground he ran at me and kicked me twice
with his heavy iron-shod boots, once on the hip, breaking the bone,
and once on the lower part of the spine, crushing the spinal cord,
and paralysing my lower limbs for ever.

"As this did not rouse me from my fainting-fit, the heartless fiend
snatched a torch from the wall of the mine-gallery and thrust the
burning end in my long thick beard, setting it on fire and scorching
my flesh horribly, as you can see. I was carried out of the mine and
taken to the convict hospital, where I lay for weeks between life and
death, and only lived instead of died because of the quenchless
spirit that was within me crying out for vengeance on my tormentors.

"When I came back to consciousness, the first thing I learnt was that
I was free to return to England on condition that I did not stop on
my way through Russia.

"My friends, urged on by the tireless energy of my wife's anxious
love, had at last found out what had befallen me, and proceedings had
been instituted to establish the innocence that had been betrayed by
a common and too well-known device used by the Russian police to
secure the conviction and removal of those who have become obnoxious
to the bureaucracy.

"Whether my friends would ever have accomplished this of themselves
is doubtful, but suddenly the evidence of a pope of the Orthodox
Church, to whom the spy who had put the forged letters in my hat had
confessed the crime on his deathbed, placed the matter in such a
strong clear light that not even the officialism of Russia could
cloud it over. The case got to the ears of the Tsar, and an order was
telegraphed to the Governor of Kara to release me and send me back to
St. Petersburg on the conditions I have named.

"Think of the mockery of such a pardon as that! By the unlawful
brutality of an official, who was not even reprimanded for what he
had done, I was maimed, crippled, and disfigured for life, and now I
was free to return to the land I had left on an errand of mercy,
which tyranny and corruption had wilfully misconstrued into a mission
of crime, and punished with the ruin of a once happy and useful life.
That was bad enough, but worse was to come before the cup of my
miseries should be full."

Natas was silent for a moment, and as he gazed into the fire the
spasm of a great agony passed over his face, and two great tears
welled up in his eyes and overflowed and ran down his cheeks on to
his breast.

"On receiving the order the governor telegraphed back that I was sick
almost to death, and not able to bear the fatigue of the long,
toilsome journey, and asked for further orders. As soon as this news
reached my devoted wife she at once set out, in spite of all the
entreaties of her friends and advisers, to cross the wastes of
Siberia, and take her place at my bedside.

"It was winter time, and from Ekaterinenburg, where the rail ended in
those days, the journey would have to be performed by sledge. She,
therefore, took with her only one servant and a courier, that she
might travel as rapidly as possible.

"She reached Tiumen, and there all trace was lost of her and her
attendants. She vanished into that great white wilderness of ice and
snow as utterly as though the grave had closed upon her. I knew
nothing of her journey until I reached St. Petersburg many months

"All that money could do was done to trace her, but all to no avail.
The only official news that ever came back out of that dark world of
death and misery was that she had started from one of the
post-stations a few hours before a great snow-storm had come on, that
she had never reached the next station--and after that all was

"Five years passed. I had returned to find my little daughter well
and blooming into youthful beauty, and my affairs prospering in
skilful and honest hands. I was richer in wealth than I had ever
been, and in happiness poorer than a beggar, while the shadow of that
awful uncertainty hung over me.

"I could not believe the official story, for the search along the
Siberian road had been too complete not to have revealed evidences of
the catastrophe of which it told when the snows melted, and none such
were ever found.

"At length one night, just as I was going to bed, I was told that a
man who would not give his name insisted on seeing me on business
that he would tell no one but myself. All that he would say was that
he came from Russia. That was enough. I ordered him to be admitted.

"He was a stranger, ragged and careworn, and his face was stamped
with the look of sullen, unspeakable misery that men's faces only
wear in one part of the world.

"'You are from Siberia,' I said, stretching out my hand to him.
'Welcome, fellow-sufferer! Have you news for me?'

"'Yes, I am from Siberia,' he replied, taking my hand; 'an escaped
Nihilist convict from the mines. I have been four years getting from
Kara to London, else you should have had my news sooner. I fear it is
sad enough, but what else could you expect from the Russian
prison-land? Here it is.'

"As he spoke, he gave me an envelope, soiled and stained with long
travel, and my heart stood still as I recognised in the blurred
address the handwriting of my long-lost wife.

"With trembling fingers I opened it, and through my tears I read a
letter that my dear one had written to me on her deathbed four years

"It has lain next my heart ever since, and every word is burnt into
my brain, to stand there against the day of vengeance. But I have
never told their full tale of shame and woe to mortal ears, nor ever

"Let it suffice to say that my wife was beautiful with a beauty that
is rare among the daughters of men; that a woman's honour is held as
cheaply in the wildernesses of Siberia as is the life of a man who is
a convict.

"The official story of her death was false--false as are all the ten
thousand other lies that have come out of that abode of oppression
and misery, and she whom I mourned would have been well-favoured of
heaven if she had died in the snowdrifts, as they said she did,
rather than in the shame and misery to which her brutal destroyer
brought her.

"He was an official of high rank, and he had had the power to cover
his crime from the knowledge of his superiors in St. Petersburg.

"If it was ever known, it was hushed up for fear of the trouble that
it would have brought to his masters; but two years later he visited
Paris, and was found one morning in bed with a dagger in his black
heart, and across his face the mark that told that he had died by
order of the Nihilist Executive.

"When I read those awful tidings from the grave, sorrow became
quenchless rage, and despair was swallowed up in revenge. I joined
the Brotherhood, and thenceforth placed a great portion of my wealth
at their disposal. I rose in their councils till I commanded their
whole organisation. No brain was so subtle as mine in planning
schemes of revenge upon the oppressor, or of relief for the victims
of his tyranny.

"In a word, I became the brain of the Brotherhood which men used to
call Nihilists, and then I organised another Society behind and above
this which the world has known as the Terror, and which the great
ones of the earth have for years dreaded as the most potent force
that ever was arrayed against the enemies of humanity. Of this force
I have been the controlling brain and the directing will. It was my
creature, and it has obeyed me blindly; but ever since that fatal day
in the mine at Kara I have been physically helpless, and therefore
obliged to trust to others the execution of the plans that I

"It was for this reason that I had need of you, Alan Tremayne, and
this is why I chose you after I had watched you for years unseen as
you grew from youth to manhood, the embodiment of all that has made
the Anglo-Saxon the dominant factor in the development of present-day

"I have employed a power which, as I firmly believe, was given to me
when eternal justice made me the instrument of its vengeance upon a
generation that had forgotten alike its God and its brother, to bend
your will unconsciously to mine, and to compel you to do my bidding.
How far I was justified in that let the result show.

"It was once my intention to have bound you still closer to the
Brotherhood by giving Natasha to you in marriage while you were yet
under the spell of my will; but the Master of Destiny willed it
otherwise, and I was saved from doing a great wrong, for the
intention to do which I have done my best to atone."

He paused for a moment and looked across the fireplace at Arnold and
Natasha, who were sitting together on a big, low lounge that had been
drawn up to the fire. Natasha raised her eyes for a moment and then
dropped them. She knew what was coming, and a bright red flush rose
up from her white throat to the roots of her dusky, lustrous hair.

"Richard Arnold, in the first communication I ever had with you, I
told you that if you used the powers you held in your hand well and
wisely, you should, in the fulness of time, attain to your heart's
desire. You have proved your faith and obedience in the hour of
trial, and your strength and discretion in the day of battle. Now it
is yours to ask and to have."

For all answer Arnold put out his hand and took hold of Natasha's,
and said quietly but clearly--

"Give me this!"

"So be it!" said Natas. "What you have worthily won you will worthily
wear. May your days be long and peaceful in the world to which you
have given peace!"

And so it came to pass that three days later, in the little private
chapel of Alanmere Castle, the two men who held the destinies of the
world in their hands, took to wife the two fairest women who ever
gave their loveliness to be the crown of strength and the reward of
loyal love.

For a week the Lord of Alanmere kept open house and royal state, as
his ancestors had done five hundred years before him. The
conventional absurdity of the honeymoon was ignored, as such brides
and bridegrooms might have been expected to ignore it. Arnold and
Natasha took possession of a splendid suite of rooms in the eastern
wing of the Castle, and the two new-wedded couples passed the first
days of their new happiness under one roof without the slightest
constraint; for the Castle was vast enough for solitude when they
desired it, and yet the solitude was not isolation or self-centred

Tremayne's private wire kept them hourly informed of what was going
on in London, and when necessary the _Ithuriel_ was ready to traverse
the space between Alanmere and the capital in an hour, as it did more
than once to the great delight and wonderment of Tremayne's bride, to
whom the marvellous vessel seemed a miracle of something more than
merely human skill and genius.

So the days passed swiftly and happily until the Christmas bells of
1904 rang out over the length and breadth of Christendom, for the
first time proclaiming in very truth and fact, so far as the Western
world was concerned, "Peace on earth, Goodwill to Man."

[Illustration: "Into the vast, white, silent wilderness, out of which
none save the guards were destined ever to emerge again."

_See page 385._]

     *     *     *     *     *

On the 8th of January a swift warship, attended by two dynamite
cruisers, left Portsmouth, bound for Odessa. She had on board the
last of the Tsars of Russia, and those of his generals and Ministers
who had been taken prisoners with him on Muswell Hill. A thousand
feet overhead floated the _Ariel_, under the command of Alexis

From Odessa the prisoners were taken by train to Moscow. There, in
the Central Convict Depot, they met their families and the officials
whose share in their crimes made it necessary to bring them under the
sentence pronounced by Natas. They were chained together in squads,
Tsar and prince, noble and official, exactly as their own countless
victims had been in the past, and so they were taken with their wives
and children by train to Ekaterinenburg.

Although the railway extended as far as Tomsk, Mazanoff made them
disembark here, and marched them by the Great Siberian road to the
Pillar of Farewells on the Asiatic frontier. There, as so many
thousands of heart-broken, despairing men and women had done before
them, they looked their last on Russian soil.

From here they were marched on to the first Siberian _etapé_, one of
a long series of foul and pestilential prisons which were to be the
only halting-places on their long and awful journey. The next
morning, as soon as the chill grey light of the winter's dawn broke
over the snow-covered plains, the men were formed up in line, with
the sleighs carrying the women and children in the rear. When all was
ready Mazanoff gave the word: "Forward!" the whips of the Cossacks
cracked, and the mournful procession moved slowly onward into the
vast, white, silent wilderness, out of which none save the guards
were destined ever to emerge again.



The winter and summer of 1905 passed in unbroken tranquillity all
over Europe and the English-speaking world. The nations, at last
utterly sickened of bloodshed by the brief but awful experience of
the last six months of 1904, earnestly and gladly accepted the new
order of things. From first to last of the war the slaughter had
averaged more than a million of fighting men a month, and fully five
millions of non-combatants, men, women, and children, had fallen
victims to famine and disease, or had been killed during the
wholesale destruction of fortified towns by the war-balloons of the
League. At the lowest calculation the invasion of England had cost
four million lives.

It was an awful butcher's bill, and when the peoples of Europe awoke
from the delirium of war to look back upon the frightful carnival of
death and destruction, and realise that all this desolation and ruin
had come to pass in little more than seven months, so deep a horror
of war and all its abominations possessed them that they hailed with
delight the safeguards provided against it by the new European
Constitution which was made public at the end of March.

It was a singularly short and simple document considering the immense
changes which it introduced. It contained only five clauses. Of these
the first proclaimed the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon Federation in
all matters of international policy, and set forth the penalties to
be incurred by any State that made war upon another.

The second constituted an International Board of Arbitration and
Control, composed of all the Sovereigns of Europe and their Prime
Ministers for the time being, with the new President of the United
States, the Governor-General of Canada, and the President of the now
federated Australasian Colonies. This Board was to meet in sections
every year in the various capitals of Europe, and collectively every
five years in London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, and New York in
rotation. There was no appeal from its decision save to the Supreme
Council of the Federation, and this appeal could only be made with
the consent of the President of that Council, given after the facts
of the matter in dispute had been laid before him in writing.

The third clause dealt with the rearrangement of the European
frontiers. The Rhine from Karlsruhe to Basle was made the political
as well as the natural boundary between France and Germany. The
ancient kingdom of Poland was restored, with the frontiers it had
possessed before the First Partition in 1773, and a descendant of
Kosciusko, elected by the votes of the adult citizens of the
reconstituted kingdom, was placed upon the throne. Turkey in Europe
ceased to exist as a political power. Constantinople was garrisoned
by British and Federation troops, and the country was administered
for the time being by a Provisional Government under the presidency
of Lord Cromer, who was responsible only to the Supreme Council. The
other States were left undisturbed.

The fourth and fifth clauses dealt with land, property, and law. All
tenures of land existing before the war were cancelled at a stroke,
and the soil of each country was declared to be the sole and
inalienable property of the State. No occupiers were disturbed who
were turning the land to profitable account, or who were making use
of a reasonable area as a residential estate; but the great
landowners in the country and the ground landlords in the towns
ceased to exist as such, and all private incomes derived from the
rent of land were declared illegal and so forfeited.

All incomes unearned by productive work of hand or brain were
subjected to a progressive tax, which reached fifty per cent. when
the income amounted to £10,000 a year. It is almost needless to say
that these clauses raised a tremendous outcry among the limited
classes they affected; but the only reply made to it by the President
of the Supreme Council was "that honestly earned incomes paid no tax,
and that the idle and useless classes ought to be thankful to be
permitted to exist at any price. The alternative of the tax would be
compulsory labour paid for at its actual value by the State." Without
one exception the grumblers preferred to pay the tax.

All rents, revised according to the actual value of the produce or
property, were to be paid direct to the State. As long as he paid
this rent-tax no man could be disturbed in the possession of his
holding. If he did not pay it the non-payment was to be held as
presumptive evidence that he was not making a proper use of it, and
he was to receive a year's notice to quit; but if at the end of that
time he had amended his ways the notice was to be revoked.

In all countries the Civil and Criminal Codes of Law were to be
amalgamated and simplified by a committee of judges appointed
directly by the Parliament with the assent of the Sovereign. The
fifth clause of the Constitution plainly stated that no man was to be
expected to obey a law that he could not understand, and that the
Supreme Council would uphold no law which was so complicated that it
needed a legal expert to explain it.

It is almost needless to say that this clause swept away at a blow
that pernicious class of hired advocates who had for ages grown rich
on the weakness and the dishonesty of their fellow-men. In after
years it was found that the abolition of the professional lawyer had
furthered the cause of peace and progress quite as efficiently as the
prohibition of standing armies had done.

On the conclusion of the war the aërial fleet was increased to
twenty-five vessels exclusive of the flagship. The number of
war-balloons was raised to fifty, and three millions of Federation
soldiers were held ready for active service until the conclusion of
the war in the East between the Moslems and Buddhists. By November
the Moslems were victors all along the line, and during the last week
of that month the last battle between Christian and Moslem was fought
on the Southern shore of the Bosphorus.

All communications with the Asiatic and African shores of the
Mediterranean were cut as soon as it became certain that Sultan
Mohammed Reshad, at the head of a million and a half of victorious
Moslems, and supported by Prince Abbas of Egypt at the head of seven
hundred thousand more, was marching to the reconquest of Turkey. The
most elaborate precautions were taken to prevent any detailed
information as to the true state of things in Europe reaching the
Sultan, as Tremayne and Arnold had come to the conclusion that it
would be better, if he persisted in courting inevitable defeat, that
it should fall upon him with crushing force and stupefying
suddenness, so that he might be the more inclined to listen to reason

The Mediterranean was patrolled from end to end by air-ships and
dynamite cruisers, and aërial scouts marked every movement of the
victorious Sultan until it became absolutely certain that his
objective point was Scutari. Meanwhile, two millions of men had been
concentrated between Galata and Constantinople, while another million
occupied the northern shore of the Dardanelles. An immense force of
warships and dynamite cruisers swarmed between Gallipoli and the
Golden Horn. Twenty air-ships and forty-five war-balloons lay outside
Constantinople, ready to take the air at a moment's notice.

The conqueror of Northern Africa and Southern Asia had only a very
general idea as to what had really happened in Europe. His march of
conquest had not been interrupted by any European expedition. The
Moslems of India had exterminated the British garrisons, and there
had been no attempt at retaliation or vengeance, as there had been in
the days of the Mutiny. England, he knew, had been invaded, but
according to the reports which had reached him, none of the invaders
had ever got out of the island alive, and then the English had come
out and conquered Europe. Of the wonderful doings of the aërial
fleets only the vaguest rumours had come to his ears, and these had
been so exaggerated and distorted, that he had but a very confused
idea of the real state of affairs.

The Moslem forces were permitted to advance without the slightest
molestation to Scutari and Lamsaki, and on the evening of the 28th of
November the Sultan took up his quarters in Scutari. That night he
received a letter from the President of the Federation, setting forth
succinctly, and yet very clearly, what had actually taken place in
Europe, and calling upon him to give his allegiance to the Supreme
Council, as the other sovereigns had done, and to accept the
overlordship of Northern Africa and Southern Asia in exchange for
Turkey in Europe. The letter concluded by saying that the immediate
result of refusal to accept these terms would be the destruction of
the Moslem armies on the following day. Before midnight, Tremayne
received the Sultan's reply. It ran thus--

    In the name of the Most Merciful God.

      From MOHAMMED RESHAD, Commander of the Faithful, to ALAN
      TREMAYNE, Leader of the English.

    I have come to retake the throne of my fathers, and I am not to
    be turned back by vain and boastful threats. What I have won with
    the sword I will keep with the sword, and I will own allegiance
    to none save God and His holy Prophet who have given me the
    victory. Give me back Stamboul and my ancient dominions, and we
    will divide the world between us. If not we must fight. Let the
    reply to this come before daybreak.


No reply came back; but during the night the dynamite cruisers were
drawn up within half a mile of the Asiatic shore with their guns
pointing southward over Scutari, while other warships patrolled the
coast to detect and frustrate any attempt to transport guns or troops
across the narrow strip of water. With the first glimmer of light,
the two aërial fleets took the air, the war-balloons in a long line
over the van of the Moslem army, and the air-ships spread out in a
semicircle to the southward. The hour of prayer was allowed to pass
in peace, and then the work of death began. The war-balloons moved
slowly forward in a straight line at an elevation of four thousand
feet, sweeping the Moslem host from van to rear with a ceaseless hail
of melinite and cyanogen bombs. Great projectiles soared silently up
from the water to the north, and where they fell buildings were torn
to fragments, great holes were blasted into the earth, and every
human being within the radius of the explosion was blown to pieces,
or hurled stunned to the ground. But more mysterious and terrible
than all were the effects of the assault delivered by the air-ships,
which divided into squadrons and swept hither and thither in wide
curves, with the sunlight shining on their silvery hulls and their
long slender guns, smokeless and flameless, hurling the most awful
missiles of all far and wide, over a scene of butchery and horror
that beggared all description.

In vain the gallant Moslems looked for enemies in the flesh to
confront them. None appeared save a few sentinels across the
Bosphorus. And still the work of slaughter went on, pitiless and
passionless as the earthquake or the thunderstorm. Millions of shots
were fired into the air without result, and by the time the rain of
death had been falling without intermission for two hours, an
irresistible panic fell upon the Moslem soldiery. They had never met
enemies like these before, and, brave as lions and yet simple as
children, they looked upon them as something more than human, and
with one accord they flung away their weapons and raised their hands
in supplication to the sky. Instantly the aërial bombardment ceased,
and within an hour East and West had shaken hands, Sultan Mohammed
had accepted the terms of the Federation, and the long warfare of
Cross and Crescent had ceased, as men hoped, for ever.

Then the proclamation was issued disbanding the armies of Britain and
the Federation and the forces of the Sultan. The warships steamed
away westward on their last voyage to the South Atlantic, beneath
whose waves they were soon to sink with all their guns and armaments
for ever. The war-balloons were to be kept for purposes of
transportation of heavy articles to Aeria, while the fleet of
air-ships was to remain the sole effective fighting force in the

While these events were taking place in Europe, those who had been
banished as outcasts from the society of civilised men by the
terrible justice of Natas had been plodding their weary way, in the
tracks of the thousands they had themselves sent to a living grave,
along the Great Siberian Road to the hideous wilderness, in the midst
of which lie the mines of Kara. From the Pillar of Farewells to
Tiumen, from thence to Tomsk,--where they met the first of the
released political exiles returning in a joyous band to their beloved
Russia,--and thence to Irkutsk, and then over the ice of Lake Baikal,
and through the awful frozen desert of the Trans-Baikal Provinces,
they had been driven like cattle until the remnant that had survived
the horrors of the awful journey reached the desolate valley of the
Kara and were finally halted at the Lower Diggings.

Of nearly three hundred strong and well-fed men who had said good-bye
to liberty at the Pillar of Farewells, only a hundred and twenty
pallid and emaciated wretches stood shivering in their rags and
chains when the muster was called on the morning after their arrival
at Kara. Mazanoff and his escort had carried out their part of the
sentence of Natas to the letter. The arctic blasts from the Tundras,
the forced march, the chain and the scourge had done their work, and
more than half the exile-convicts had found in nameless graves along
the road respite from the long horrors of the fate which awaited the

The first name called in the last muster was Alexander Romanoff.
"Here," came in a deep hollow tone from the gaunt and ragged wreck of
the giant who twelve months before had been the stateliest figure in
the brilliant galaxy of European Royalty.

"Your sentence is hard labour in the mines for"--The last word was
never spoken, for ere it was uttered the tall and still erect form of
the dethroned Autocrat suddenly shrank together, lurched forward, and
fell with a choking gasp and a clash of chains upon the hard-trampled
snow. A stream of blood rushed from his white, half-open lips, and
when they went to raise him he was dead.

If ever son of woman died of a broken heart it was Alexander
Romanoff, last of the tyrants of Russia. Never had the avenging hand
of Nemesis, though long-delayed, fallen with more precise and
terrible justice. On the very spot on which thousands of his subjects
and fellow-creatures, innocent of all crime save a desire for
progress, had worn out their lives in torturing toil to provide the
gold that had gilded his luxury, he fell as the Idol fell of old in
the temple of Dagon.

He had seen the blasting of his highest hopes in the hour of their
apparent fruition. He had beheld the destruction of his army and the
ruin of his dynasty. He had seen kindred and friends and faithful
servants sink under the nameless horrors of a fate he could do
nothing to alleviate, and with the knowledge that nothing but death
could release them from it, and now at the last moment death had
snatched from him even the poor consolation of sharing the sufferings
of those nearest and dearest to him on earth.

This happened on the 1st of December 1905, at nine o'clock in the
morning. At the same hour Arnold leapt the _Ithuriel_ over the Ridge,
passed down the valley of Aeria like a flash of silver light, and
dropped to earth on the shores of the lake. In the same grove of
palms which had witnessed their despairing betrothal he found Natasha
swinging in a hammock, with a black-eyed six-weeks'-old baby nestling
in her bosom, and her own loveliness softened and etherealised by the
sacred grace of motherhood.

"Welcome, my lord!" she said, with a bright flush of pleasure and the
sweetest smile even he had ever seen transfiguring her beauty, as she
stretched out her hand in welcome at his approach. "Does the King
come in peace?"

"Yes, Angel mine! the empire that you asked for is yours. There is
not a regiment of men under arms in all the civilised world. The last
battle has been fought and won, and so there is peace on earth at



     *     *     *     *     *

Now Ready, Third Edition.

_308 pages, demy 8vo, cloth gilt, 6s._,





With 60 Illustrations by the Chevalier de Martino and Fred. T. Jane.

_A most graphic and enthralling description of the next Naval War
between France and Great Britain._

     *     *     *     *     *


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of the future."--_Manchester Guardian._

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the naval warfare of the future may be."--_Glasgow Herald._

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