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Artillery at War with Napoleon

Woman of the Revolution

Third Leonaur Book of Ghost and Horror Stories

John Hawkwood

Sikhs, Russians & Sepoys

Hew Ross of the Chestnut Troop

Sir Howard Douglas

Supernatural Theo Gift

Supernatural James Platt

Australians in Action: New Guinea

British Hussar on the Western Front

Campaign of a French Infantry Officer (WW1)

Experiences of a French Dragoon (WW1)

Billy the Kid

Battle of Jutland

Congreves Rockets

Hew Dalrymple

Marshal Ney's Military Studies

Harriet Tubman

A Flying Soldier

The Novik

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The Empire of the Air: 1

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The Empire of the Air: 1
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Author(s): George Griffiths
Date Published: 2009/05
Page Count: 352
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-687-8
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-688-5

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries George Griffiths was as well known and, according to some experts, as popular as that other exemplar of the early British scientific romance, H. G. Wells. ‘The Angel of the Revolution,’ is a rich brew that calls to mind Verne’s tales of futuristic wars while being original, visionary, exciting and technologically prescient. This is the story of a group of idealists, 'The Brotherhood of Freedom,' led by Natas, a crippled but brilliant Russian Jew and his daughter Natasha, who conquer the world through airship warfare after a young British inventor masters the technology of flight. Our inventor falls in love with Natasha and joins her in a crusade against political corruption and warmongering that leads to a world in which war is outlawed. The sequel to this book, ‘Olga Romanoff,’ is also available from Leonaur, both in hardcover and softcover editions.

The eastern mountains were still casting their long shadows over the dawns and fields, the vineyards and the gardens of Aeria on the morning of the eleventh of May in the year 2037 of the Christian Era and the hundred and thirty-third year of the Peace, but the whole population of the lovely valley were already afoot and abroad, for this was the most momentous day that had been in the history of the colony since Richard Arnold had first crossed the Northern Ridge with Natasha beside him in the conning-tower of the little Ariel, in those days the only airship that existed in the world, to lay the foundations of that throne from which their descendants had ruled the nations of the earth for a century and a quarter. <br>
Today the year of probation imposed by the Council upon Alan Arnoldson and his companion in misfortune, in exile, and in victory, was to expire, and the long-lost wanderers were to return to their home and kindred.<br>
Very soon after it became light hundreds of aerial boats and yachts of every variety of design and ornamentation that the taste and skill of the most highly-cultivated race of people the world had ever seen could devise, came floating in towards the vast city of Aeria from the marble palaces and villas which were scattered throughout the length and breadth of the central African Paradise.<br>
Along the broad, smooth white roads, too, which led from the southern portions of the valley, round the lake to the northern shore on which the city stood, groups of people, with here and there husbands and wives and pairs of yet unwedded lovers, were gliding in long, swift, easy curves on noiseless wheel-skates over the polished marble of the pavements.<br>
Bright with the gayest and yet most perfectly-harmonised colours, blazing with jewels and precious metals, from their gold or crystal-winged coronets to the burnished silver framework of their skates, splendid in stature, and glowing with perfect health—if some man of the present day could have beheld these dwellers in Aeria on their way to hold high festival in their capital, he would have thought that he had strayed into some other and higher sphere, inhabited by some glorified race of beings who had left the toils and cares and pollutions of earth far behind them on some lower plane of existence.<br>
Doubtless, indeed, from some such sphere the reincarnated spirits of those who, a hundred and thirty-three years before, had passed through the tremendous ordeal of the Terror, and in their hour of well-won triumph had made such a splendid future possible for their descendants, looked down with approving eyes, not undarkened by a shade of sorrow for woes to come, upon this glorious scene of the fruition of the harvest that they had sown, this realisation of the long-sought ideal of human brotherhood, where there was no evil because men had learnt at last that good was better than evil.<br>
Vast as was the stately city, which was at once the capital and the only town of Aeria, it was soon comfortably filled by the brilliant throngs of visitors that came pouring into it by road and through the air. The broad white streets, lined with their double groves of palms and tree-ferns, soon blazed with colour, and became vocal with greetings and laughter, and all the houses which lined them were thrown open to all visitors who chose to come and claim hospitality for the day of rejoicing.<br>
On the terrace in front of her father's villa, on the slopes that rose to the west of the city, Alma stood with Isma watching the brilliant scene below and around them, and speculating on the coming events of the day which for them had a supreme interest, such as no other inhabitant of the valley could feel.<br>
"It will be a right royal home-coming for our two heroes, won't it, Alma?" said Isma, slipping her little hand through her friend's arm; "almost worthy of the great deeds that they have done to regain what will be given back to them today—and yet, alas! there is to be a spot on the sun of happiness for all that. Alma, are you still quite sure that poor Alan will have to come back and not find that which above all other things he comes to seek?"<br>
A faint flush rose to Alma's cheeks as she replied, in a low, steady tone—
"Yes, Isma, alas! as you say, I am still sure of that, supposing always that he really does come to seek what you mean. I know that no man ever lived more worthy the love of woman than he is. Yet, God help me, I cannot give mine.<br>
"I know, too, that he will come back today crowned with more honour than any Aerian, save Alexis, ever won before him since the days of our ancestors—and yet whenever I permit myself even to dream of him as a lover, a dark, beautiful, cruel face looks with black, burning eyes into mine, and two sweet, scornfully-smiling lips say in a whisper that sounds almost like a serpent's hiss—'You may take him now, for I have done with him. Take him and ask him to tell you how well he and I loved when my spell was strong upon him and he forgot both you and all his kindred for sake of me.'<br>
"It is horrible, horrible beyond all thought or speech, but it is so, Isma, and I, of all the thousands of Aeria who will make merry today, shall be sad at heart and praying for the night to come."<br>
"I don't believe it, Alma, however sincerely you may do so—as, of course, you do," replied Isma impatiently. "It is not your true and loving self that is speaking. It is the woman who has been brooding over a shattered idol that never really was a man of flesh and blood.<br>
"I tell you again—and before that sun has set you will confess in your own heart that I am right—that you have never known the Alan who is coming home today any more than I have known the Alexis who is coming home with him. Neither you nor I have ever seen two such men as they will be—men who have passed through such experiences as no other Aerians ever had, who have suffered and conquered, dared and done, like them.<br>
"You must put away those morbid fancies of yours, dearest; they are not worthy of you any more than Olga Romanoff is worthy to cause you an hour's unhappiness. Never mind thinking about Alan as a lover now. I tell you you have never seen him, therefore it will be time enough for you to begin to do that when you do see him.<br>
"For my own part, I don't mind telling you—of course strictly between ourselves—that though I can hardly say that I love Alexis as he is now, since I do not know what he is like, I am quite prepared to fall in love with him all over again on the slightest provocation. And now, after that confession, I think we had better close the discussion and get ready to go over to the city."<br>
This frank avowal, uttered as it was with a delightful candour quite irresistible in its charm, brought a smile to Alma's lips in spite of her own sombre thoughts. She slipped her arm round Isma's waist, and led her towards one of the long windows which opened out on to the terrace under the pillared portico which ran the whole length of the front of the villa.<br>
"I quite agree with you," she said. "If that tell-tale face of yours is no better masked than it is now, when you meet your Alexis I don't think you will have long to wait for the provocation. Ah, well, I suppose—in fact, I am sure—that you take by far the wiser view, and I would give anything to be able to look upon Alan as you are ready to do on Alexis.<br>
"But no, it's no use; do what I will I cannot think of him apart from that Siren who has held him in the bondage of her spells all these years. I know it is unreasonable, and yet he seems, even now that he has regained his freedom, to belong to her more than he ever did to me."<br>
"That, my dear Alma," replied Isma, half seriously and half in jest, "is as nearly absurd as anything that such a serious and cultivated person as yourself could say. If I could give you a share of my more trivial temperament you would just say that you are still so desperately jealous of Olga Romanoff that you cannot bring yourself to think of Alan as a possible lover until you feel quite sure that he hates her as intensely as you do. That may not be a very heroic way of putting it, but I think we shall find it pretty near the truth before you have known the new Alan very long."<br>
Alma laughed more musically than mirthfully at this sally, but made no reply to it in words. There was, perhaps, more truth in the half-bantering, half-reproachful words than she would have cared to admit, even to her best-beloved and most confidential friend, and so she took a wise refuge in silence, from which Isma, in the gladness of her own heart, drew her own conclusions.<br>
It might have been that there were depths in Alma's nature which not even their life-long friendship and their common sorrow had enabled her to fathom, but for the present she was quite satisfied that jealousy of Olga and anger at the advantage which Alma believed her to have taken of her power were the sole reasons that prevented her from regarding Alan as she had confessed herself ready and willing to regard Alexis.<br>
When they left the terrace the two girls had breakfast together in Alma's own room in a privacy which the other members of the family tacitly respected, knowing as they did that the events of the day would bear a totally different significance for them to that which they would have for all the other inhabitants of the valley.