George Griffith - The Outlaws Of The Air

GEORGE GRIFFITH

THE OUTLAWS OF THE AIR

First published by Tower Publishing Co., London, 1895

TABLE OF CONTENTS

* Prologue
* Chapter I
* Chapter II
* Chapter III
* Chapter IV
* Chapter V
* Chapter VI
* Chapter VII
* Chapter VIII
* Chapter IX
* Chapter X
* Chapter XI
* Chapter XII
* Chapter XIII
* Chapter XIV
* Chapter XV
* Chapter XVI
* Chapter XVII
* Chapter XVIII
* Chapter XIX
* Chapter XX
* Chapter XXI
* Chapter XXII
* Chapter XXIII
* Chapter XXIV
* Chapter XXV
* Chapter XXVI
* Chapter XXVII
* Chapter XXVIII
* Chapter XXIX
* Chapter XXX
* Chapter XXXI
* Chapter XXXII
* Chapter XXXIII
* Chapter XXXIV
* Chapter XXXV
* Chapter XXXVI
* Chapter XXXVII
* Chapter XXXVIII
* Chapter XXXIX
* Chapter XL
* Chapter XLI
* Chapter XLII
* Chapter XLIII


THE OUTLAWS OF THE AIR

PROLOGUE—IN THE CAMP OF ISHMAEL

A few minutes before one A.M. on Sunday, the 1st of July 1894, a man was
walking with quick if somewhat irregular strides, as some men do walk when
deeply absorbed in thought, up the Caledonian Road from King's Cross Station.
By his dress he might either have belonged to the aristocracy of the craftsman
class, or he might have been one of the poorer members of that class which is
popularly considered to be above it.

But, whatever doubt there might have been as to his station in life, there
could have been none as to the character of the face on which his slightly back-
tilted black felt hat allowed the light of the gas-lamps to fall, as he walked
with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, and his head thrown back just a shade
from the perpendicular. It was a dark, clear-cut, clean-shaven face, with
bright blue eyes, contrasting strongly with the black straight brows above
them; a slightly aquiline nose, with thin, sensitive nostrils; short upper lip,
firm, resolute mouth, square chin, and strong though not heavy lower jaw.

A single glance would have been enough to show that it was the face of a man
in whom strong convictions were united with the will and the courage to
translate them into action, no matter what difficulties or dangers might lie in
the path marked out for him by what he considered to be his duty.

In stature, he was over the average, and but for a slight stoop of the
shoulders which gave a suggestion of the student, borne out by the broad,
square forehead and two little perpendicular lines between the eyes, he would
have stood very nearly six feet in the low-heeled walking shoes which he wore.

To the casual glance of the passer-by, there was nothing to differentiate him
from any other young fellow of his apparent age and station; and, therefore, it
was quite out of the question that the policeman who was beginning his night's
work by flashing his bull's-eye into the doorways, and trying door handles and
shop shutters, should bestow more than a passing glance, quite devoid of
interest, upon him as he strode by. He was sober and respectable, and seemingly
making his way quietly home after a decently spent Saturday evening.

There was nothing to tell the guardian of the peace that the most dangerous
man in Europe was passing within a few feet of him, or that if only he could
have arrested him on some valid pretext that would have enabled him to lock him
up for the rest of the night, and then handed him over to the Criminal
Investigation Department at New Scotland Yard, the officers of which had been
hunting for just such a man as he for the last twelve months, he would have
prevented the commission of a crime which, within twenty-four hours, was to
plunge a whole nation into panic and mourning, and send a thrill of horror
through Europe.

But he would have done far more than this, for by laying Max Renault,
electrician and anarchist, by the heels just that moment, he would have ensured
the discovery of documentary evidence which would have procured his extradition
to France, and subsequent proceedings which would have saved the world from a
reign of terror and an epoch of carnage and destruction in comparison with
which the worst that society had so far learned to fear from anarchy would
prove to be the merest trifle.

But how was that most unimaginative and matter-of-fact of mortals, a British
policeman, to know that in his waistcoat pocket he carried a foreign telegram,
which, properly interpreted, conveyed the intelligence that Caserio Santo was
on his way to Lyons, to await there the order, in obedience to which he would
with one stroke of his knife send a shudder through the civilised world; or how
was he to divine that in the brain behind that open, honest- looking brow there
were thoughts working which ere long might set the world in a blaze?

In St. Petersburg, or even in Paris, such a man would have been shadowed, his
every movement would have been watched, all his comings and goings noticed, and
at any moment—such a one as this, for instance—he might have been pounced upon
and searched as a suspicious person; and assuredly, if he had been, the toils
of the law would have closed about him in such fashion that little but a
miracle could have set him free again.

But here in London, the asylum of anarchy, and the focus of the most dangerous
forces in the world, he went on his way unquestioned and unsuspected, for,
although the police were morally certain that such a man existed, they had no
idea as to his personality, no notion that this smart, good-looking young
fellow, whose name had never been heard in connection even with such anarchist
clubs as were known to have their quarters in London, and much less, therefore,
with any of the crimes that had been laid to the charge of anarchy, was in
reality even a greater criminal than Vaillant or Henry, or even the infamous
Ravachol himself

These were only the blind if willing tools, the instruments of political
murder, the visible hands that obeyed the unseen brain, those who did the work
and paid the penalty. But Max Renault was the brain itself, the intellect which
conceived the plans for the execution of which the meaner and cheaper disciples
of the sanguinary brotherhood of the knife and the bomb died on the scaffold,
or wore out their lives in penal prisons or the mines of Siberia.

In a word, he was the moving spirit and directing intellect of what was soon
to become the most dreaded body of men and women in the world, but which was
now only known to the initiated as "Autonomie Group Number 7."

But the stroke which, if his true character bad been known, would have cut
short his career, whether by rope or axe, would have done more than paralyse
the brain which had plotted half the crimes that had been committed in the name
of anarchy during the previous five years, and others in which the red hand had
never been seen. It would have stopped his career at the most important moment
of his life, and prevented him acting as the connecting link between two sets
of circumstances which, though naturally of the utmost antagonism to each
other, would, when united in such a personality as his, produce an explosion
which might shake the world.

A few hundred yards past the top of the hill, Max turned sharply to the left,
walked along a side street, turned to the right at the end of this, and went
into another. Three minutes' quick walking brought him to the side door of a
house which had a small timber yard on one side of it, and on the other a
deserted beer-house, which had lost its licence, and remained unoccupied
because the premises were fit for no other kind of business.

The house itself had a low shop front, with the lower half of its windows
painted a dull green, and on the upper part was an arc of white letters making
the legend: "Social Club and Eclectic Institute." A lamp over the shop door
bore the same inscription in white letters on blue glass, but the lamp was out
now, for it was one of the rules of the club that all members should leave the
premises not later than twelve o'clock at night on week-days and half-past
eleven on Sundays.

This rule, however, seemed only to apply to a certain section of the members.
After Max had opened the side door with his latch-key, and ascended the stairs
at the end of the passage, with a familiarity that enabled him to dispense with
a light in the absolute darkness, he knocked at the door of an upstairs room
which he found without the slightest hesitation. It was opened, and he found
himself in the presence of four men and three women sitting round a table on
which were the remains of what had evidently been a substantial and even
luxurious supper.

Renault's action on entering the room was one which more than bore out what
has been said of his character and the desperate work that he was engaged in.
He acknowledged with a brief, curt nod the salutations of the company, then,
putting his back against the door, he pulled his right hand out of his trouser
pocket, and said, in a quiet, almost well-bred voice, which had just the
faintest trace of foreign accent-

"Victor Berthauld, sit still!

There was a small slender-barrelled, six-chambered Colt in his hand, and the
muzzle was pointed at a little lean, wiry, black-muzzled, close-cropped
Frenchman, who had begun to wriggle uneasily in his seat the moment Max had
made his appearance. His black eyes rolling in their deep sockets took one
frightened glance from face to face, and then he said, in a voice to which he
in vain tried to impart a tone of bravado-

"Well, Comrade Renault, what do you want with me, and what is that revolver
drawn for?"

"Don't `comrade' me, you little rat," said Max, with a short, savage laugh.
"Tell me who tried to warn the Paris police that Carnot's life was in danger.
Tell me who would have had Santo arrested at Marseilles if his telegram had
only got into the hands it was intended for.

"Tell me who means to repeat the message to-morrow morning to Paris and Lyons,
and who means to have this place raided by the English police at an
inconvenient hour within the next week, on the ground of unlawful gambling
being permitted here. Tell me that, you dirty hound, and then I'll tell you, if
you don't know, what we usually do with traitors."

Berthauld sat for a moment speechless with fear. Then, with an imprecation on
his lips, he leapt to his feet. Not a hand was moved to restrain him, but as he
rose to his full height, Renault's arm straightened out, there was a crack and
a flash, and a little puff of plaster reduced to dust leapt out of the angle of
the wall behind him; but before the bullet struck the wall, it had passed
through his forehead and out at the back of his head, his body shrank together
and collapsed in a huddled heap in his chair, and Max, putting his pistol back
into his pocket, said, just as quietly as before-

"It's a curious thing that even among eight of us we must have a traitor. I
hope there aren't any more about. Take that thing down to the cellar, and then
let us get to business; I've something important to tell you."

So saying, he walked round the table to a vacant armchair that stood at the
end opposite the door, threw himself back in it, took out a cigar and lit it,
and, with the same unshaken hand that a moment before had taken a fellow-
creature's life, poured out a tumblerful of champagne from a bottle that stood
half empty beside him.

Meanwhile, two of the men had risen from their seats. One of them tied a red
handkerchief tightly round the dead man's skull, to stop what little bleeding
there was from the two clean-cut wounds, and then the two picked him up, and,
without a word, carried him out of the room.

"I hope I haven't shocked you by such a rough-and-ready administration of
justice," said Max, half turning in his chair and addressing a girl who sat
next to him on his right hand.

"No," said the girl. "It was obviously necessary. If half you charged him with
is true, he ought to have been crucified, let alone shot. I can't think what
such vermin are made for."

And as she spoke, she flicked the ash off a cigarette that she held between
her fingers, put it between as dainty a pair of lips as ever were made for
kissing, and sent a delicate little blue wreathing cloud up to mingle with the
haze that filled the upper part of the room.

"And now, What is this interesting something that you have got to tell us,
Monsieur Max?"

"All in good time, Ma'm'selle. I must ask you to wait until Casano and Rolland
have come back; but meanwhile I will whet your curiosity by telling you I am
thinking seriously of exiling myself for a couple of years or so."

As he said this he looked keenly from under his half lowered eyelashes into
the girl's eyes, as if expecting, or, perhaps, only half hoping for, some sign
of emotion.

Two dark-fringed lids lifted suddenly for an instant, and then dropped again,
and in that instant two liquid deep grey eyes, which before now he had seen
grow almost black with passion, looked at him inquiringly. And that was all.

"That is news indeed," she said. "It must be something very important that
takes Monsieur Max away from the scene of action at such a critical time as
this."

"Yes," said Renault coldly, and with an almost imperceptible contraction of
the brows, "it is important; so important, in fact, that I don't think I am
exaggerating when I say that if I had not come back to-night, instead of to-
morrow, and had given that fellow twelve hours more grace, the fate of the
whole world would have been changed."

"What! the fate of the world?" said she half incredulously, while the others
ceased their conversation and turned to listen to this strange passage of words.

"Yes," said Max, slightly raising his tone till it had a note of triumph in
it, and at the same time bringing his hand down on hers, which was resting on
the arm of her chair. The quick blood came to her cheeks and a flash of anger
to her eyes, and she made an effort to withdraw it, but he held it fast, and,
before she could speak, went on-

"Yes, Lea, if the venture that I am going to undertake turns out a success, I
shall hold the fate of human society in my hand, just as I hold this pretty
little hand of yours, only in a somewhat rougher grip, and then-"

"And then, Monsieur Max," interrupted the girl, snatching her hand away as the
pressure of his relaxed for a moment. "I suppose you will have what you have
not got now, the right to take what you want by the universal law of might."

"Yes," he said, with another laugh, a somewhat more pleasant one this time.
"And as I have the power; so will I use it, whether in love or war. Are you
agreed?"

Lea looked at him steadily for a moment, and then, with a swift flush
overspreading as fair a face as ever man's eyes rested upon with love and
longing, said in a low voice that had just a perceptible tremor in it-

"Yes, I suppose might is right after all, in love as well as war and
nineteenth century society. He who can take can have; but, if you please, we
will wait until you can take."

"Agreed!" he said. "That's a bargain. And now we'll get to business. Have you
found Comrade Berthauld a quiet resting-place?" he continued, addressing the
two men, who had just returned to the room.

"Yes," said Casano in his pleasant Italian tenor. "Ve haf gifen him a bath. I
don't sink zere vill be very mooch left of him or his clothes by ze morning."

"Very well," said Max, taking some papers out of the breast pocket of his
jacket. "Now, sit down and listen."

They obeyed in silence, Casano first bolting the door.

"First," said Max, looking up from his papers and giving a quick glance at the
expectant faces round the table, "Comrade Caserio Santo of the Cette Group has
been chosen by lot to execute the sentence passed by this group on the 6th of
February on Sadi Carnot in return for the lives which he refused to spare.
Santo will be at Lyons soon after daybreak. If that rat Berthauld had got out
of this room alive, Santo would have been arrested, and Carnot would have
escaped. I have the proofs of his treachery here, if you wish to see them. As
it is, is it agreed that I shall direct him to offer our congratulations to M.
le President on his visit to Lyons?"

He stopped and looked round the table again. The others nodded in silence, but
Lea looked up with something like softness in her eyes, and said-

"What a pity! Poor Carnot is an excellent fellow in his bourgeois way, isn't
he? Quite a model husband and father, incorruptible in politics, and all that
sort of thing. Wouldn't some one else do as well, say, Casimir-Perier or Dupuy?
Incorruptible politicians are not so plentiful in France just now."

"The better the man the better the effect," said Max drily. "It is just as
easy to strike high as a little lower. There are plenty of politicians in
France, but only one President."

"Ja! dass is so," said a bright-faced, square-headed little German sitting
opposite to Lea. "Strike high and hit hart. Dat is de vay to make dese
sheepsheads open deir moufs and stare ven dey reads de papers on Monday. Let
Carnot go first, and den—veil, den someone else. Dere are plenty of dem to
spare."

A laugh followed this speech of Franz Hartog, who may as well be introduced
here as elsewhere as the cleverest engineer in Europe, and an anarchist heart
and soul-if he had a soul, which some of his nearest acquaintances were very
much inclined to doubt.

"Very well," said Lea; "I withdraw my objection, if, indeed, I ever had one."

The veto of one member, by the rules of the Group, would have been fatal to
the execution of the proposal. As Lea withdrew hers, she flicked some more ash
off the end of her cigarette, and with it virtually fell the man whose death
all Europe would be mourning within forty-eight hours.

"Then that is settled," said Max. " I will wire to Lyons the first thing in
the morning. Now, Hartog, have you anything to tell us about this gunboat of
yours?"

"Ja, dot is all arranged. Her keel vill be laid on de slips next mont. I have
designed de engines mineself, and de speed contracted for by de firm mit de
Russian Government vill be thirty-five knots, and you can bet dat my engines
vill make her do it. She vill make her private trial, mit all her coal and arms
and ammunition on board according to de contract, mitin eighteen monzs from
now, and you can depend upon me to be on board her at de time, mit a suitable
majority of de firemens and crew to do vat ve vants snit her.

"You can be sure, too, dat de oders vill have got someting inside dem dat vill
not make dem mooch good if ve have to have a small scrimmage after all to get
possession of de boat. Den ve vill rendezvous at de proper place, and den dere
vill be some vild time on de Atlantic and de Cape routes ver dey bring de
specie and de diamonds.

"Ja, you believe me, Monsieur Max and comrades, Franz Hartog vill make you de
masters ov de sea, and you shall laugh at all de fleets of Europe ven dey try
to catch you. Dat vill be anarchy vot vill be worth calling somdings. Ja, it is
a great scheme, and ve shall do it, you believe me."

The little German stopped and looked round the table, rubbing his hands, and
amidst the murmurs of approval that followed his speech, Max nodded laughingly
to him and said-

"Yes, my friend, you are quite right. That, is a great scheme, and if you can
capture that little greyhound for us when she is built and armed, you will have
done more for anarchy, and driven a bigger nail into the coffin of the tyranny
of commercialism, than ever any man did yet. And now I am going to tell you of
a greater scheme than that."

"Greater as dot!" exclaimed the German, his steely blue eyes glittering
through his spectacles with excitement. "How can any scheme be greater as dot?"

"Listen and you shall hear," said Max, "and I won't take very many words to
tell you."

"Some years ago now, when I was little more than a lad, and before I came to
believe that there is no remedy for the present state of affairs except force
and terrorism, I joined a society of amiable idiots who meet at each other's
houses in different parts of London, and who call themselves the Brotherhood of
the Better Life.

"I have kept up my membership, partly because it amused and interested me, and
partly because I had a sort of idea that some day something might come of it.
For a long time they have had a scheme on foot to emigrate to some out- of-the-
way part of the world, and start one of those social colonies which of course
always come to grief in some way or another, as the Freeland one has just done;
but, up to a few weeks ago, they never had a chance of making a start, for lack
of money.

"Then, about a month ago, we had a regular romance, and something occurred
that I would never have credited if it hadn't happened under my own eyes.
Nearly six months ago, one of our members who pretended to be a craftsman—but
who was really nothing of the sort, for he was what they call a gentleman from
head to foot-disappeared.

"For five months we heard nothing of him, and then, one night, after a lecture
by a sort of latter-day prophet of ours, a very clever but misguided fellow
called Edward Adams, a stranger came out from the audience and asked to be
allowed to say a few words.

"Of course, we allowed him to, and then he started out and told us that he was
the father of the young fellow who disappeared from amongst us, that his son
was dead, and that on his death-bed he had converted his father to his own
social views; and not only this, but he had made him promise to give what would
have been his inheritance to the society to carry out the scheme of the social
colony. Then he told us that he had come to fulfil this promise, and, if we
would allow him, to take part in the venture himself.

"Well, we consented, on condition that he accepted the Constitution which we
had been, as I always thought, playing at drawing up, and this he agreed to do,
and then staggered us by saying how much he was prepared to devote to the
carrying out of the scheme. We expected a few hundreds at most, perhaps just
enough to give us a start with what we could get together of ourselves, so you
can imagine what we felt like—and I in particular—when the figure came out at
over a hundred thousand pounds."

"Ein hundert tousand pound!" cried Hartog, unable to restrain his enthusiasm.
"Vy, I could build nearly tree ships of tirty-five knots mit so mooch! Can you
get hold of it, Monsieur Max?"

"I'm not going to get hold of that, friend Franz, but of something a good deal
more important than money. It turned out that our fairy godfather was no other
than Frederick Austen, the head of the big engineering firm of Austen and Son,
of Queen Victoria Street and Woolwich. The death of his son has made it
impossible for an Austen to succeed him in the business, and that, combined
with his change of social views, has decided him to give up the business
altogether.

"Of course, I needn't tell you that we accepted him and his money with thanks.
But there was something stranger to come yet. Last night, at a meeting of the
committee, of which I have the honour to be a member, he confided to us a
secret which, as he said, would enable the colony not only to hold its own
against any who might wish to interfere with it in case it prospered, but which
will enable the colonists to enforce an object-lesson in peace, goodwill on
earth, and all that sort of thing, on the first nations that go to war with
each other, after they are in a position to wield the power that it will give
them.

"Then"—and here Max Renault leant forward on the table and instinctively
lowered his voice while the others leant forward also to catch what was
coming—"he told us that just before his last illness his son had completed a
series of experiments which enabled him to say with truth that the problem of
aerial navigation had at last been solved, and that he had solved it.

"He told the secret to his father, and he at once placed all the resources of
his business at his disposal, and, comrades, believe me or believe me not, as
you like, but I tell you that less than twenty-four hours ago I saw in action a
working model of a flying ship which Frederick Austen is going to build with my
assistance in the Brotherhood's New Utopia."

A murmur half of amazement and half of incredulity ran from lip to lip as
Renault uttered these momentous words, and Lea suddenly straightened herself up
in her chair, stretched her shapely arms upward, and then, folding her hands
behind her head, looked at Max with undisguised admiration in her eyes, and
said, with a ring of exultation in her voice-

"Ah, now I understand you, after wondering all this time what your parable was
going to lead up to. Excellent, Monsieur Max, excellent! You have not been
playing the anarchist wolf in the socialist sheepskin for nothing. You will
emigrate with these good folks to their New Utopia, wherever they may find it,
absorb such ideas as may be useful, appoint yourself aerial engineer to that
excellent converted capitalist, and then-"

"Yes, and then," said Max, with a significant movement of his hand towards the
pocket that contained his revolver, "when the Cruiser of the Air is built and
equipped, and I have satisfied myself of her working power, she will be found
missing some fine morning, and so shall I.

"I'm not going to exile myself with a lot of people like that for nothing, I
can tell you. If I'm the man I take myself for, within three years from now
that air-ship shall carry the red flag through the clouds, and terrorise the
whole earth from east to west and pole to pole.

"And now," he continued, rising to his feet, under the stimulus of his own
words, "if you've any more champagne, fill up. I've a toast for you. For
another year or two you must carry on the work without me, or stop it
altogether, as seems best to you; and meanwhile you, Hartog, shall get your
thirty-five knot sea-devil afloat and to business till you've levied ocean
tolls enough to give us funds to build an aerial fleet on the model of the ship
that I'll bring you, and then we'll have no more hole-and-corner assassinations
and no more pettifogging bomb-throwing. We'll declare war—war to the knife—on
the world that we hate, and that hates and fears us, and then- "

"Here's your glass, my Lord of the Air that is to be," said Lea, rising and
handing him a full tumbler of champagne with a gesture of deference that was
not altogether assumed. "And so let us have your toast."

"You shall have it, short and sweet," said Max, taking the glass and lifting
it above his head. "Here's life to those we love, and death to those we
hate—Vive L'Anarchie and the Outlaws of the Air!"

"Mein Gott, but dat is a great scheme! He vill set de vorld on fire if he only
comes properly to bass," said Franz Hartog, as he drained his glass at a gulp,
and then stood gazing at Max Renault with a look that was almost one of worship
in his little twinkling eyes.

I. UTOPIA IN THE SOUTH

ON the 21st of November 1898, the Calypso, a team yacht, rigged as a three-
masted schooner, and measuring between four and five hundred tons, met with a
rather serious accident to her engines in one of those brief but deadly
hurricanes which are known to navigators of the South Seas as " southerly
busters."

They are the white squalls of the South, and woe betide the unhappy ship that
they strike unawares. Over the smooth, sunlit waters there drifts with
paralysing rapidity a mass of hissing, seething billows, churned into foam and
then beaten down again by the terrific force of the wind that is roaring above
then. Often there is not a breath or a puff of air felt by the ship until the
squall strikes her, and then the blow falls like the united stroke of a hundred
battering-rams.

If the ship is stripped and ready for the blow, she heels over till the water
spurts in through the lee scupper holes and half the deck is awash. If there is
a rag of sail on stay or yard, there is a bang like the report of a duck-gun,
and, if yon have quick eyes, you may see it flying away to leeward like a bit
of tissue paper before the gale, and if it has not yielded with sufficient
readiness to the shock of the storm, a sprung topmast or a snapped yard will
pay the penalty of resistance.

Meanwhile, what was a few minutes ago a smoothly-shining sea, scarcely ruffled
by a ripple, is now a white, boiling mass of swiftly rising billows, amidst
which the straining, struggling vessel fights for her life like some stricken
animal.

It had been thus with the Calypso. A stout new forestaysail that had been
hoisted in the hope of getting her head before the squall had been struck
square, and had resisted just a moment too long, at the cost of a sprung
foretopmast. Then, an effort to bring her round with the screw had resulted in
the disaster that practically crippled her.

A big sea came rolling up astern, her nose went down and her stern went up,
her propeller whirling in the air, and, before the engine could be stopped,
there came a grinding, thrashing noise in the engine-room, and, a moment later,
the yacht was drifting helplessly away before the storm with a broken
crankshaft.

When this happened, the Calypso was on a voyage from New Zealand to the
Marquesas Islands, between four and five hundred miles to the north-east of
Auckland. The screw had been hoisted out of the water and a spare foretopmast
fitted; but only five days after this had been done she was caught in a heavy
gale from the south-westward, and got so badly knocked about that when every
spare spar on board had been used in refitting her, she could only carry sail
enough to take her at four or five knots an hour before a good topsail breeze.

The result of this double misfortune was, that a month later she was still on
the southern verge of the tropics, beating about in light, baffling winds,
unable to make her way into the region of the south-east trades.

The Calypso was owned and sailed by Sir Harry Milton, Of Seaton Abbey,
Northumberland, landowner and ironmaster, who rather less than three years
before had come of age and entered upon his inheritance of broad acres, mines,
and ironworks, which yielded him an income not far short of thirty thousand a
year, and in addition to these a comfortable nest-egg of nearly half a million
in hard cash and good securities.

For the last year and a half, he had been seeing the world in the pleasantest
of all fashions—cruising about from port to port, and ocean to ocean, in his
yacht, in company with his sister Violet, a pretty, healthy, high- bred
brunette between eighteen and nineteen.

Sir Harry himself was a good specimen of the typical English gentleman,
standing about five feet ten in his deck shoes, well built, broad-shouldered,
ruddy-skinned, and clear-eyed, with features that were frank and pleasing in
their open manliness, rather than strictly handsome, and yet saved from
mediocrity by that undefinable, yet unmistakable, stamp of good breeding which
distinguishes, as was once wittily if somewhat cynically said, the man who has
a grandfather from the man who only had progenitors.

Apart from the officers and crew of the Calypso, there was only one member of
the yacht's company who needs introduction in special terms. This was Herbert
Wyndham, second lieutenant of Her Majesty's gunboat Sandfly, an old
schoolfellow and bosom friend of Sir Harry's, and just now on a year's invalid
leave in consequence of a nasty bullet wound received in storming a stronghold
of a West African slaver chieftain, at the head of his blue-jackets. Sir Harry
had picked him up at Cape Town, when he was beginning to get about again after
the fever that had followed on his wound, and, with his sister's assistance, he
succeeded without much difficulty in persuading him to spend the rest of his
leave on a cruise to the South Seas in the Calypso.

In person, Lieutenant Wyndham was a well set-up, clean-limbed young fellow of
twenty-six, with a good-humoured face and bright hazel eyes, which looked
alertly out from under a square, strong forehead that matched the firm chin,
which, according to the modern fashion of naval officers, was clothed with a
close-clipped, neatly-trimmed beard a shade or so lighter than the close, curly
chestnut hair that formed not the least of his personal attractions.

k As week after week passed, and neither land nor sail appeared in sight from
the decks of the half-crippled yacht, Sir Harry began to feel a little natural
anxiety for the ultimate safety of his beautiful craft and of those near and
dear to him on board her. Another such a squall or a gale as she had already
suffered from would almost infallibly wreck her in her present state, and both
he and his sailing-master would have been glad to reach even the shelter of a
coral lagoon, within which she could take refuge until she could be thoroughly
overhauled in a fashion that was not possible out in the open sea.

But most things have an end,—even calms in the South Pacific,—and by Christmas
Eve the Calypso had at last crept out of the zone of calms and had begun to
feel the first fitful puffs of the trade winds. Then, about an hour before
sunrise on Christmas morning, the unexpected, but none the less welcome, cry of
"Land, ho!" brought everyone, from Sir Harry himself to his sister's maid, or
the "Lady-in-Waiting," as Lieutenant Wyndham was wont to call her, tumbling out
of their berths and up on deck.

No one who has not seen the sun rise over an island in the South Pacific can
form any adequate idea of the scene that greeted the eyes of the crew of the
Calypso, as the light broadened and brightened to the eastward in front of
them. The island paradises of the South Sea are like no other part of the
earth. Their beauty is entirely their own. No word-painting can ever do full
justice to it, and the reader must therefore fain be content with the purely
geographical description, which will follow in its proper place, of the island
that was seen rising out of the smooth sapphire sea to the poop-deck of the
Calypso on Christmas morning, 1898

In less than half an hour after the welcome hail had run along the deck, Sir
Harry and the sailing-master were eagerly scanning the land, now about ten
miles distant, through their glasses.

"What do you make it, Mr. Topline?" asked Sir Harry, after a good long stare
at the mysterious land, taking his binoculars from his eyes and looking at the
old salt with a puzzled expression.

"I can't say, Sir Harry. I've never seen the island before, and I don't
believe it's down in the chart. You see, we've got clean out of the track of
the trading vessels and mail steamers, and this part of the South Sea is even
now very little known. I'd no idea there was land within three hundred miles of
us," replied the sailing-master.

"No, it's not on the chart, for I was following Mr. Martin yesterday when he
was pricking off the course, and there was nothing near us. Confound the wind!
There it goes to a dead calm again. Hullo, what the deuce is that?"

As he spoke, Sir Harry jumped, glass in hand, on to the rail that ran round
the flush deck of the yacht, climbed half a dozen rounds into the main shrouds,
and again levelled his glasses in the direction of the island. A moment later
he sang out to the sailing-master-

"Topline, what do you say to a steam launch coming off from your unknown
island?"

"A steam launch! Well, I'll be kicked if it isn't!" said the other, mounting
the opposite rail and focusing the approaching craft. It must be the steam
tender of some man-o'-war surveying the island or getting fruit and water, only
she's got no funnel, and I don't—Why, she's going twenty knots an hour through
the water if she's going a yard! She's no man-o'-war tender, not she!"

All eyes on board the Calypso were now turned on the strange craft, which, by
this time, had cleared the reef and was coming speeding towards them over the
smooth, windless sea, at a pace which proved that, whatever her motive power
was, it lacked nothing on the score of efficiency. In less than half an hour,
she was describing a wide curve round the stern of the yacht, preparatory to
running up alongside.

It was at once evident that the sailing-master had been quite wrong in his
first guess that she was the steam tender of a man-of-war. She was a ten or
twelve tonner, long, narrow, and low-lying, white painted, with a bright gold
stripe from stem to stern, and covered, fore and aft, with a snowy-white
curtained awning, bordered with a fringe of brilliant colours. In fact, as far
as appearances went, she might have been spirited from the Upper Thames on a
Henley Regatta day to the distant and lonely region of the South Sea, out of
which were now rising the high bluffs and green slopes of the unknown island
whence she had come.

As she came up alongside the Calypso, a youth of about eighteen, who was
standing at the wheel amidships, hailed the yacht in English, and wished the
new-comers "A Merry Christmas!" in a tone which left not the slightest doubt as
to his nationality. Sir Harry returned the greeting as heartily as it was
given, wondering not a little, like the rest of his shipmates, not only at the
presence of such a dainty little craft in such out-of-the-way waters, but also
at the strange contrast between the manner and language of the youth who had
hailed him, and his entirely uncivilised appearance—uncivilised, that is to
say, from the standpoint of modern fashion.

His bearing and speech were those of a well-educated and cultured young
gentleman at the latter end of the nineteenth century, but his dress was more
like that of a Phoenician mariner of a thousand years ago. His long brown hair
fell in curls on his broad shoulders and clustered thickly about his smooth
forehead, held back from his bronzed, handsome face by a narrow fillet of metal
that looked like polished aluminium.

His dress consisted of a long over-tunic of soft grey woollen cloth, bordered
with cunningly-worked embroidery blue silk, open at the neck, where it showed a
white linen close-fitting under vest, and confined at the waist by a red silk
sash, wound two or three times round, and hanging in heavily fringed ends over
his left hip. A pair of soft yellow leather moccasins, beautifully worked in
many-coloured beads and bead embroidery, covered his feet, and came half way up
the calves of his bare, muscular legs.

"What craft is that, and where do you hail from?" asked Sir Harry, some dim
notion of pirates associating itself in his mind with the somewhat fantastic
attire of the youth at the helm.

"This is the electric launch Mermaid, and yonder island is Utopia," he
replied. "We came out to see if we could be of any assistance to you. You seem
to have had rather a bad time of it somewhere, by the look of your spars."

On hearing this queer, though kindly expressed reply, Sir Harry began to think
that the Calypso must have drifted out of the realms of reality and into the
regions of romance, for the only Utopia he had ever heard of had been Sir
Thomas More's Nowhere. But good manners forbade any expression of surprise or
incredulity, and so he answered laughingly-

"I had no idea that a Utopia existed on earth in these degenerate days, but I
am delighted to learn that I am wrong, and I'm also much obliged to you for
coming out to us. We've disabled our engines and got our spars badly knocked
about. But won't you come on board and let us introduce ourselves?"

"Thank you, if you'll throw me a rope, I will. Never mind the gangway ladder.
Here, Tom, take the wheel, and don't let those girls run away with you."

"That's just what he'd like us to do," came in the laughing tones of a girl's
voice from under the forward awning as the young fellow caught the rope and
swung himself lightly over the Calypso's rail.

"I didn't know you bad ladies on board," said Sir Harry, meeting him at the
gangway and holding out his hand; "if I had known, I would not have hailed you
so unceremoniously."

"There are no ladies in Utopia, and the Utopians dislike ceremony very much,
so it's just as well you didn't," replied the youth, with a laugh, as he took
Sir Harry's hand.

"But surely that was a young lady's voice I heard just now, and a very sweet
one too, if I heard aright."

"Well, it was a girl's voice, certainly. There are three of them on board the
Mermaid, but they wouldn't like to be called young ladies. There are only women
and girls in Utopia. We left the ladies behind in England."

He checked himself rather abruptly as his eyes met Violet's gazing in frankly
undisguised astonishment at him. Then, with a slight flush on his cheeks, he
went on-

" But pardon me, I had better introduce myself instead of talking about our
manners and customs, which I daresay you will learn before long. I am Frank
Markham, skipper of the Mermaid, and her crew is at present composed of Tom
Harris, Ralf Smith, Lucy Summers, Annie Hilton, and Dora Merton, the girl who
made a very true remark about Master Tom as I came on board."

As young Markham said this, he went to the side and sang out-

"Come now, Mermaids, show yourselves! I want to introduce you to our visitors.
By the way, you have not told me your names yet," he continued, turning to Sir
Harry.

"My name is Harry Milton; I am owner and skipper of the Calypso. This is my
sister Violet, this is Lieutenant Wyndham, of Her Majesty's ship Sandfly, and
this is Mr. Topline, my sailing-master."

As Sir Harry made the introductions in turn, the curtains which ran round the
fore-deck of the launch were drawn aside, disclosing three pretty long- haired
girls, picturesquely, if somewhat lightly, attired in gay tunics and cloaks and
long moccasins, profusely ornamented with many-coloured silken embroidery,
fringes, and curiously worked clasps and armlets of lustrous white and yellow
metal. Instinctively every man who was looking over the bulwarks of the Calypso
raised his hat or his cap as the three girls, half gravely, half shyly,
returned the salutes from the deck of the yacht.

"And now, what can we do for you?" asked Markham when this little ceremony was
over. "I suppose you want to get into port and refit as soon as possible?"

"That's just what I do want to do very badly," replied Sir Harry. "But where
am I to find a port and a dockyard in this part of the Pacific?"

"Both are within less than half a dozen miles of us, and the Mermaid shall tow
you in in an hour if you will first oblige me with five minutes' conversation
in private."

"Certainly; come into my cabin," said Sir Harry, leading the way to the
companion.

In less than ten minutes they returned, Sir Harry looking just a trifle
mystified, and without loss of time a light hawser was got out and made fast to
the Mermaid, and the two vessels began to move smoothly towards the white reef
in the distance, fringing the hitherto unknown island of Utopia.

II. GOING INTO PORT

IT took a little over an hour for the Mermaid to tow the Calypso from where
she had lain becalmed, into the lagoon of Utopia. As the yacht approached the
island, it rapidly became manifest that, whether chance or design had guided
the Utopians in the selection of their far-away home, they had had the good
fortune to choose a spot that well deserved to be called beautiful, even in
that part of the world where land and sea and sky seem to conspire to wear
their brightest and most beautiful aspects.

They were approaching it from the west, and before they reached it, the sun
had risen above the horizon, and against the flood of light that blazed along
the eastern horizon they saw, standing out clear and sharp, the truncated cone
of an extinct volcano, which raised itself in lonely grandeur between four and
five thousand feet above the sea. From the middle slopes to north and south two
curving ranges of hills, sparsely timbered at their summits, but with their
sides clothed with ever denser and more luxuriant vegetation, ran out to the
south-east and north-west, gradually decreasing in height until they terminated
abruptly in cliff's of naked rock which rose eight or nine hundred feet sheer
up from the water.

Between these two headlands lay a wide, irregular bay, fronted by the broad
expanse of brilliant emerald-green water and backed by verdant slopes which,
clothed with all the wonderful vegetation of the southern tropics, rose and
fell, valley behind valley and hill behind hill, until they merged in the
distance with the heights of the volcano and its attendant chains.

"That is Mount Plato," said Markham, who at Sir Harry's invitation had
remained on board the yacht to act as cicerone to the visitors to Utopia. "We
call it that because under its shadow we hope to found our New Republic."

"But isn't the Republic founded yet?" asked Violet. "If you'll allow me to say
so, I should have thought it was not only founded, but had reached a
considerable height of prosperity."

"Yes," chimed in Wyndham, with a movement of his hand towards the Mermaid. "If
twenty-knot electric launches are not a sign of a fairly prosperous
civilisation, I can hardly see what would be."

"Twenty knots!" laughed Markham. "Why, the Mermaid can run thirty when we're
in a hurry, and we've got a three-thousand tonner on the slips now in the
dockyard that we are building on a new principle, and which we expect to make
forty."

"Whew!" whistled Wyndham, lifting his eyebrows in undisguised astonishment.
"Forty knots? If you can build vessels like that, you Utopians ought to be
millionaires to a man. Why, there isn't a European Government that wouldn't
willingly give you half a million apiece for as many of them as you could turn
out.

"Our own Admiralty is perhaps the most thick-headed institution of its kind
under the sun; but I believe even it would give me a good deal for the secret
of a ship like that, if you would let me take it home with me."

Instead of replying directly, Markham looked at Sir Harry, who at once took
the hint, and said, with a shake of his head-

"No, Wyndham, I'm afraid there's no chance of that, or anything of the kind.
In fact," he said, "I may as well tell you, and you gentlemen also," he
continued, with a glance at the sailing-master and his chief mate, "that I have
accepted the invitation to put into Utopia on the sole condition on which it
was given, and I have pledged my word of honour for myself and everyone on
board the yacht that no attempt will be made to learn anything that is not
freely told to us, and even that if we learn anything by accident, we will
behave both here and at home as though we had never known it.

"You see, we have not the slightest right to pry into the secrets or
discoveries of our hosts, and I'm sure you will agree with me that in giving
such a pledge I was making the least return I could for the kindness and
assistance that I'm sure we shall receive on shore."

"Oh, quite so, quite so!" said the lieutenant. "Of course I was only joking. A
man would deserve to be shot who did a caddish thing like that. Still, just
now, you know, a forty-knot ship properly armed would be simply invaluable, not
only to an individual nation like ourselves, but to the civilised world at
large. You know what I mean."

"Ah, yes!" replied Sir Harry, his face becoming grave in an instant. "You
mean, to chase that brute with the red flag and hunt him down to wherever his
lair is. Yes, a ship that could do that would be cheap at a couple of millions,
and I believe Europe would subscribe the money to buy it in a week, even if the
Governments couldn't find it. I'd give ten thousand myself with pleasure."

"Pardon me," said Markham, turning round from the rail where he had been
standing, pointing out the different features of the island to Violet, while
Sir Harry was speaking. "But that sounds almost like a modern edition of one of
the old pirate stories. Surely you don't mean to say that there are any pirates
nowadays, either with black or red flags?"

"I am sorry to say that there is at least one," said Sir Harry; "and he can do
more damage an a month than all the old pirates put together could have done in
a year."

"What a villainous shame!" said Markham, looking for the moment graver and
sterner than they would have thought possible. "That will be news for them
ashore if you care to tell them the story. In fact, I'm afraid we shall put a
considerable tax on your generosity in that way, for we haven't had any news
from the outer world for quite twelve months now.

"But here we are at the entrance to the lagoon. What do you think of it? Don't
you think our Utopia is a lovely land?"

"Lovely, indeed!" said Violet, who, during the conversation, had been looking
about her with all her eyes, as though she could never get enough of the beauty
of the scene. "I've heard and read all sorts of stories about the Pacific
Islands, but I couldn't have believed that anything earthly could have been so
beautiful as this."

And truly the scene that was visible from the bridge of the Calypso on which
they were now standing was worthy of the enthusiasm of her words. Every colour
that nature uses in painting her incomparable landscapes was here, either
blended or contrasted to produce the most exquisite effects.

On land were mingled a hundred tints of green and gold, from the sombre hues
of the banyan leaves to the golden ears of the patches of corn that were
ripening on the upper hill slopes; trees and shrubs of every shape and height
succeeded each other, from the lowly bananas to the towering palms and the
splendid pines that crowned the higher summits of the mountain ranges; and,
high above all, the bare, blue-grey cone of the volcano rose to crown a picture
which no words could adequately describe.

But when, to the medley of hill and vale, mountain rock and ravine, presented
by the island itself, were added the snowy white of the billows breaking on the
long reef—which, save for one narrow opening, stretched from point to point
across the bay—the emerald-green of the lagoon inside it, and, outside, the
deep blue of the open ocean reflecting the sapphire of the cloudless sky, the
picture became almost unearthly in its strange and varied loveliness.

The roar of the tumbling billows upon the reef sounded louder and louder in
the ears of the Calypso's company as the Mermaid and her charge ran in towards
the opening.

"I think I had better take your wheel now," said Markham to Sir Harry when
they were within about five hundred yards of the reef. "This is rather a
ticklish piece of steering for anyone who doesn't know the currents."

"I should think so," said Wyndham, looking ahead, as Markham went and took the
wheel from the sailor who was steering. "I know I wouldn't care about the job
of bringing a torpedo-boat in here in the dark. Why, there doesn't seem to be
much more than sixty feet of clear water to get through. If this place were
properly defended, it could be held against all the navies of Europe as long as
they chose to stop here."

"Yes," laughed Sir Harry; "especially with one or two forty-knot cruisers
dodging about outside and making a judicious distribution of torpedoes. What do
you think, Topline?"

"I think, Sir Harry," growled the old salt, "that I'll believe in forty- knot
cruisers when I sees 'em. If a speed like that's possible, why can't all the
Governments of Europe, with all their money, build a cruiser that'll catch that
craft, whatever she is, that's been playing up old Scratch among the Atlantic
liners, according to the news we got at Sydney?"

"Because they don't know how," said Markham, without turning his head, "and
because there are some secrets that money won't buy."

As he spoke, he gave the yacht's wheel a turn and swung her about four points
to port, in imitation of a similar manoeuvre of the Mermaid, which was
apparently running dead on to the reef. Within fifty yards of the white water
the Mermaid shot across into the seething foam, doubled sharply, and ran to
starboard at right angles to the yacht. This brought a strain upon the hawser,
and as it came up dripping out of the water and tightened, Wyndham could not
repress an exclamation of surprise.

"That's queer towing; what on earth is she doing that for?"

"You'll see in a moment," said Markham, giving a spin to the wheel and
swinging the yacht round after the launch. By the tenseness of the rope, it was
evident that the Mermaid was pulling very hard upon it. The Calypso came round,
and then her stern swung with a rush into the swirling white water that was
boiling about the narrow entrance.

Then, while the party on the bridge watched with barely concealed anxiety the
breakers which every moment brought nearer, until they were roaring only a
stone's throw away, the line slackened slightly, and just as the sailing-
master, unable to contain himself any longer, sang out, "She'll be on the reef
in a minute! Tell the launch to tow harder, man; can't you see she's going?"
the foaming, tossing mass of breakers suddenly seemed to slide away ahead, and
a minute later the Calypso had drifted through the opening stern first, and was
floating motionless on the smooth, glittering water of the lagoon, with the
Mermaid lying a few yards ahead of her.

"There's a twelve-knot current coming round the corner of that reef," said
Markham, leaving the wheel and turning to the sailing-master. "You could no
more tow a disabled ship through there than you could tow her over the reef
itself. The only way to get the yacht in was to let her drift in—with a proper
check on her, of course."

"I beg your pardon, young gentlemen," said Topline, 1ooking just a bit
crestfallen. "I was wrong, and you were right. You know the place, and I don't;
and I'll be hanged if I could have got her in myself."

The Mermaid now got under way again, and began to tow the Calypso across the
lagoon towards the high bluffs at the southern arm of the bay. The bright,
smooth water of the bay was already dotted by dozens of pretty little craft,
canoes with outriggers, some double-hulled catamarans with great white sails
that swept them along at a famous pace, others, canoes of the shape seen on the
Canadian lakes and rivers, and others again just such craft as you may see any
summer's day on the Thames between Putney and Richmond, large, roomy row-boats,
slim outriggers, and broad, flat centre-boards, with their wide spread of snowy
canvas.

All came racing away with the land breeze from the head of the bay, where half
a dozen jetties ran out into the water, and where, behind the snowy coral
beach, the verdant shore was dotted with white houses, peeping out from shady
groves of lime and orange trees and spreading tree-ferns, above which the
stately palms lifted their gently-waving crests a hundred feet into the air.

The Calypso was soon surrounded by the light-heeled craft, and many a greeting
of welcome was waved to the newcomers by their gaily-dressed crews, and, thus
escorted, the yacht was towed to the bluffs. It looked as though the Mermaid
was going to run her nose up against the huge frowning wall of rock that rose
hundreds of feet above her, but within a couple of hundred yards of their base
Markham went to the wheel again.

The launch swerved to port, and as he sent the Calypso after her, those on her
bridge saw the wall of rock open into a vast arch, the apex of which was over
two hundred feet from the water. They glided through this for a distance of
about fifty yards, and then the half light of the tunnel gave place to the
bright sunlight again, and they found themselves floating in a perfectly land-
locked oval basin about a mile long by about three-quarters of a mile broad,
and closed in on all sides by perpendicular cliffs rising sheer from the water
to heights varying from eighty to a hundred and fifty feet.

"Here we are at last!" said Markham. "This is the dockyard of Utopia, and in a
couple of hours your yacht shall be on the slips in the dry dock. Meanwhile, if
you will come on board the Mermaid with me, we will go ashore."

III. OLD FRIENDS AND NEW

AS the Mermaid came alongside in obedience to a hail from Markham, the gangway
steps were lowered, and Violet, Sir Harry, Lieutenant Wyndham, and the young
Utopian went on board the launch, leaving the sailing-master to see the Calypso
into dock.

Under the forward awning the introductions were repeated in more formal
fashion, and as Violet shook hands with the Utopian girls, which she did with
mingled feelings of slightly strained propriety and irrepressible admiration,
she said, with a laugh-

"I see that in Utopia, at any rate, the vexed question of rational dress has
been satisfactorily settled."

She spoke almost in an undertone, but her brother caught her words, and
exclaimed, with more enthusiasm than discretion—

"Settled? I should think so! It's a perfect triumph of art and convenience
over Mrs. Grundy and conventionalism. I hope you will take some patterns home
with you, Violet."

His sister stole a sidelong glance, not at him, it must be confessed, but at
Lieutenant Wyndham, and said, with just the faintest possible flush on her
pretty cheeks-

"Oh, of course, it would be delightful, but—I am afraid you are forgetting the
difference in climate. Miss Dora, here, for instance, looks entirely
irresistible in Utopia at Christmas, but for her own sake, I should be very
sorry to see her shivering in the Park in the severity of the British June."

"I should think so," said Dora also, with the faintest suspicion of a blush
and a smile, that made Sir Harry wonder why he had never seen as pretty a girl
as this in England. "Why, quite apart from the shivers, which would be
uncomfortable enough, the people would think that I was one of the girls out of
'Utopia Limited,' trying a new sort of advertisement, and then, I suppose, some
one would call a policeman, and give me in charge for outraging public decency."

"Very probably," chimed in Wyndham drily; "and the first to do it would be one
of the women who go to a dance or a theatre, well—"

"Thanks, Lieutenant Wyndham," almost snapped Violet, this time blushing in
real earnest. "You seem to forget the last time that you and Harry took me to
the theatre. Suppose we change the subject. 1 ought to have known better than
raise such a purely feminine question in the presence of unregenerate males.
No, don't apologise; I deserve what I got. If you say another word, I won't
speak to you for the rest of the day."

Anywhere else a certain amount of awkwardness might have followed this little
scene, but Dora promptly came to the rescue by saying very demurely—

"Well, it's only about three years since we left England, and I have not
forgotten the weather yet. I don't think there can be any more comparison
between your dress and ours than between the British climate and this one. At
any rate, I can promise that when you have succeeded in reforming your climate,
we girls of Utopia will form a mission and go and try and reform your dress."

By the time the laugh that followed this sally had died away, the Mermaid had
run alongside a jetty which ran out from a platform of rock at the head of the
basin, and was made fast.

"Why, bless my soul! surely that can't be Mr. Austen—and yet I'll be hanged if
it isn't either him or his double! How do you do, sir? Who on earth would have
dreamed of finding you in Utopia?"

By the time he had uttered the last words of his somewhat disjointed
exclamation, Sir Harry had cleared the gangway between the Mermaid and the
jetty with a couple of strides, and was shaking hands with a man of spare
figure and medium height, with a keen, intellectual, clean-shaven face and
close-cropped grey hair, who was standing on the jetty, forming a somewhat
commonplace contrast in his easy, fitting brown holland Norfolk jacket and
trousers and grey solar topee to the picturesquely-clad little group about him.

"And equally who in Utopia would have dreamed of having the pleasure of
wishing a merry Christmas in the Southern tropics to Sir Harry Milton and his
charming sister?" said the old gentleman, returning the Baronet's grip with
equal heartiness, and then letting go his hand to hold his own out to Violet,
whom Lieutenant Wyndham had just handed ashore.

"For such pleasure as there is in that, Mr. Austen, you must thank a
combination of good and bad fortune, which has brought us out of the matter-of-
fact world that we sailed from into—well, into some realm of romance which
really doesn't seem as though it were on the surface of the same planet," said
Violet in response to his greeting.

"This has really been a morning of wonders for us, and, finding you here after
your mysterious disappearance from London, is certainly the greatest wonder of
all. I can tell you I feel even more than the usual feminine curiosity to know
how it has all come about. For my own part, I feel something like Alice in
Wonderland, only the Wonderland is a very much nicer one."

"And all the wonders shall be explained in due course as far as I can explain
them, I can assure you," said Mr. Austen; "but our first duty is to make you
feel a little bit at home in Wonderland, so you must come and be introduced to
some of its inhabitants. Me you know already, and you seem to have made friends
with the Mermaids too. This is Edward Adams, who would be first President of
Utopia if we had any Government or politics, which I thank Heaven we have not.
He is the man who conceived the ideal of which Utopia is the realisation."

As he said this, he presented her, with a gesture which included her brother
in the introduction, to a tall, well-built, grave-faced man of about thirty-
five, with crisp, curling brown hair and a blond close-clipped beard and
drooping moustache, which was not quite thick enough to conceal the gravely
pleasant smile with which he bade them welcome to Utopia.

"And this is Max Renault, our chief engineer and electrician, to whose genius
the existence of the Mermaid is due," continued Mr. Austen, presenting the man
whose acquaintance the reader has already made under such different
circumstances. Like Adams, he was dressed in the Utopian costume; but
distinguished and even handsome as he looked in it, Violet somehow found
herself unable to return his readily offered hand-clasp as heartily as she had
returned those of Adams and Mr. Austen. The man seemed to her to have a
reserved or rather a concealed power about him, which, to her woman's swift
intuition, seemed to strike her with a vague sense of deceit. When Lieutenant
Wyndham was presented to him, after being introduced to Mr. Austen, he looked
at him keenly for a moment, and then said—

"I'm afraid I can't claim the pleasure of your previous acquaintance, Mr.
Renault, but somehow your face seems familiar to me."

"It is quite possible that it is sufficiently commonplace for you to mistake
me for some one else," replied Renault, with a smiling politeness that
contrasted but ill with the vision of recollection that flitted before his
mind's eye as he shook Wyndham's hand.

"And now," said Mr. Austen, when the introductions had been completed, "if you
like, we'll have a turn round the dockyard while they are getting your yacht on
the slips, and then we can go on board the Mermaid again and run round to the
settlement, and get some lunch and find you quarters."

During the inspection of the dockyard, which occupied the next hour or two,
both Sir Harry and Lieutenant Wyndham were amazed to see how much had been done
in the three years that they were told the Utopians had spent upon the island.

There were three basins, partly natural and partly artificial, which had been
fitted with sluice-gates moved by hydraulic power, the largest of which, the
one the Calypso was being put into, would have taken a vessel twice her size,
while the other two would amply have accommodated a craft of three hundred tons.

On the opposite side of the main basin, on a rocky plateau about thirty feet
above the water, there were two blast furnaces of the newest design in full
operation, and water-power engines, actuated by penstocks and turbines under a
five hundred-foot head of water, were running a plant of machinery capable of
performing all the processes of steel ship-building, and were also operating a
powerful installation for the extraction of aluminium from earths and clay by
what seemed to be a highly improved and very economical process of electrolysis.

From the interior of a large oblong wooden shed, that stood on a plain of rock
sloping at an angle of about fifteen degrees down to the water's edge, came the
sound of hammering, drilling, and rolling, which told the lieutenant's
practised ear that some vessel, probably the three thousand ton forty-knot
cruiser of which Markham had spoken, was being constructed within it.

He would dearly have liked to have been admitted within the enclosure, to see
what manner of naval marvel it concealed, but good manners and his recollection
of the pledge Sir Harry had given compelled him to possess his soul with
patience and hope for a future invitation. None was given, however; for Mr.
Austen, on passing the shed, merely nodded towards it, and said—

"We are trying an experiment in ship-building in there. Perhaps Markham may
have told you of it, but as it isn't in a fit state for criticism yet, and as
we're not quite sure about its ultimate success, I'm afraid I can't ask you to
go and look at it."

After that, of course, nothing could be said on the subject by any of the
visitors. By the time they had seen what they were shown at the dockyard, the
Calypso was safely shored up in the dry dock, and the hydraulic pumps were
throwing the water in tons into the outer basin; and then, after Sir Harry had
told the sailing-master not to allow any of the crew to leave her until he
received word from him, the party went on board the Mermaid again, and were
soon speeding across the green waters of the lagoon to the settlement.

Then more introductions were gone through, everyone according a simply- worded
and yet hearty welcome to the voyagers, and then Mr. Austen, insisting on the
privilege on the ground of old acquaintance, carried off Violet, Sir Harry, and
Lieutenant Wyndham to his house to lunch. Adams and Renault excused themselves
from joining the party, saying that they would have plenty to talk about at
first without them, but promised to come and smoke a pipe on the verandah after
lunch, and hear all the news from the outer world.

During the meal, the host did nearly all the talking in satisfying the
curiosity of his guests as to the origin of Utopia, and the reason for his own
presence in the colony. He told them, in a simple, circumstantial narrative,
how the death of his son had led him to become a member of the "Brotherhood of
the Better Life," and of the change in his social views, together with his
determination to retire from the business that had brought him into commercial
relations which ended in friendship with Sir Harry's father, and devote the
whole of his fortune, amounting to over half a million, to the practical
development of the scheme which he had heard Edward Adams propound at one of
the meetings; how they had bought a steamer, loaded her with everything that
could be of use in the new colony, from a spade to the elaborate machinery they
had seen working at the dockyard, and had brought out the first party of five
hundred colonists to this island, which had been discovered twenty years before
by one of the members of the Brotherhood, named Ambrose Miller, an old salt who
had been captain of a South Sea whaler.

Then he went on to tell how the colonists prospered exceedingly during their
first year in their island paradise, how they had escaped the fate of all
similar ventures by rigorously excluding everything that savoured of politics
and political economy from the primitive and purely domestic system which alone
existed on the island, and how at the end of a year they had sent the steamer
back to England with invitations to the best of their friends and kindred to
come and join them, at any rate for a year's visit on trial; and, lastly, how,
at the end of that year, every man, woman, and child of the six hundred souls
who had accepted the invitation elected to renounce for ever the world that
they had left, and become citizens of Utopia.

"So far," said Mr. Austen, bringing his story to an end, "the experiment has
been a distinct and undeniable success, and that, I think, is chiefly due to
the fact that we have only tried to make ourselves comfortable, and have not
played the fool with constitutions or theories of government. We are simply a
collection of about two hundred families, each perfectly independent of all the
others, and only acting with them where common interest prompts them. As a
matter of fact, we get on very well together, and the one law that we have all
solemnly agreed to effectually prevents any unpleasantness arising from
personal ill-nature."

"For pity's sake, tell us what it is—we want a law like that so badly in
London!" broke in Violet, in a tone of eloquent mock entreaty.

"With pleasure," smiled Mr. Austen in reply, "though I'm afraid English
society is too hopelessly complicated to allow of its application. It is simply
this: If any Utopian of responsible years meddles with the personal or domestic
concerns of any other in word or deed, he or she is to be at once turned out of
the colony, and banished for a year to a small islet about four miles off the
eastern coast. A second offence would mean being set adrift in a boat with a
month's provisions outside the reef, and being forbidden to return on pain of
death."

"Capital!" exclaimed Sir Harry. "What havoc a law like that would make with
some of our most cherished institutions. Has it ever been put in force?"

"No," said Mr. Austen, smiling, and slowly shaking his bead; "and I don't
think it ever will be. We are too busy in Utopia to be busybodies. But here are
Adams and Renault, and you must get your news ready."

"And especially the news of this mysterious nineteenth-century pirate with no
name and a red flag that Markham has been telling us about," said Renault,
stepping in from the verandah as he spoke.

IV. THE STORY OF THE RED PIRATE

LIEUTENANT WYNDHAM is the freshest of the party as far as news is concerned,"
said Sir Harry, when they had settled themselves in their easy lean- back
chairs on the verandah, and had lighted their pipes, charged with fragrant
Utopian-grown tobacco; "and, added to that, there's just a chance he may let
some naval state secret out in the course of his yarn, and that will make it
all the more interesting."

"I don't know any naval state secrets," laughed Wyndham, in reply, "and
therefore I can't tell any. The British Admiralty doesn't communicate its
official secrets to lieutenants of British gun-boats. Of course, if you happen
to be an officer in the German Navy with a handle to your name, and the favour
of the Kaiser behind you, it is a very different matter. However, that's not
the story.

"The story itself," he continued, settling himself in his chair and blowing a
long contemplative whiff of smoke up towards the verandah roof, with all the
air of a man who knows how not to spoil an interesting story by an undue plunge
in medias res, "is something so strange and unheard-of, that when the news was
first published from some unknown source of information in the Pall Malt
Gazette, it was received with about as much incredulity as you'll remember the
Pall Mall's story about the retirement of Mr. Gladstone was, but I'm sorry to
say it proved every bit as true as the other.

"To begin at the beginning. You remember that about five years ago the British
Admiralty, in some queer freak of common sense and patriotism, gave orders for
the construction of a flotilla of forty-two torpedo-boat destroyers, and
bargained for a speed of twenty-seven knots.

"The first of these boats was the Havock, and the second was the Hornet, both
built by Yarrow. The Havock did a trifle over twenty-seven knots, and the
Hornet a bit over twenty-eight. This put the Russian Government on their
mettle, and, as it is considered good business and correct commercial
patriotism for loyal British firms to sell the deadliest possible weapons to
our likeliest enemy, there was no objection to the builders of the Havock and
the Hornet undertaking to build a twenty-nine knot boat for the Tsar.

"Then, no sooner had the order been given, than Thornycroft of Chiswick, who,
by the way, has said that if the money was forthcoming, he could build a boat
that would do forty knots, went one better, and, in June '94, turned out the
Daring, which astounded everybody by doing twenty-nine and a quarter knots over
the measured mile at Maplin. This, of course, woke Yarrow's people up like a
shot, and they turned out the Tsar's boat, and rushed her over the measured
mile three times running in a shade under two minutes, and that of course meant
a speed of nearly thirty-one knots an hour.

"We all thought the limit had been reached, at any rate for some time, but six
months later, that is to say, towards the middle of '90, Thornycroft turned out
the still celebrated Ariel, which knocked all the other records into a cocked
hat by running the mile twice each way in less than a minute and fifty seconds.
The average speed worked out at thirty-three knots an hour, and common consent
seemed to take this as the maximum.

"The Ariel remained unbeaten until the Pall Mall Gazette startled the world in
the beginning of April last by publishing the news that Schichau, the crack
torpedo-boat builder of the Continent, had built a destroyer for the Tsar, with
a guaranteed speed of thirty-six knots an hour, engined on quite a new
principle by a German engineering genius called Franz Hartog, and that she had
gone out for a trial run on the Baltic, and had just vanished into space,
taking Hartog among others with her.

"All sorts of speculations of course began to fly about as soon as it became
impossible to keep the affair secret, and the Pall Mall's story was confirmed
by the German press. Some people said that she must have run full tilt into a
rock or a sandbank, and gone down with all hands; some said that they had tried
to over-drive her and had blown her up, and this certainly seemed the most
feasible explanation. Some again said that she must have been stolen by the
Nihilists, but this was laughed at as impossible.

"For all that, however, it turned out to be very much nearer the truth than
any of the other guesses. Four nights after she disappeared, the lieutenant in
command of a Danish torpedo-boat coming through the Sound from Copenhagen to
Kronborg went ashore as soon as he got into port, and stated that a grey-
painted boat about the size of the missing destroyer, that's to say, about two
hundred feet long, had passed him during the night at a tremendous speed, with
no flame or sparks coming from her funnels.

"He said that his own boat was travelling over twenty knots at the time, and
yet the unknown vessel ran away from it as though he had been standing still.
This, combined with the fact that she showed no lights, certainly made it look
as though she had really been the runaway. The lieutenant's story leaked out,
and of course the papers jumped at it, and then they seemed to plunge into a
contest of invention to see which could get the wildest and most ridiculous
answer to the problem: What had become of the lost destroyer?

"I don't know whether any of you remember it, but there was a highly
imaginative book published, I think, in the early part of '94, the author of
which put a most curious combination of buccaneer and sentimentalist on board
an equally curious cruiser worked by gas engines, which stopped at the most
critical moment for want of oil, and brought her piratical raidings on the
Atlantic to a timely but ignominious end.

"Well, the general belief was that those who had stolen the lost destroyer had
done so with the intention of emulating this gentleman's exploits in a really
practical fashion, for I ought to have told you that the boat, with that excess
of technical detail which the Germans sometimes indulge in, had been sent to
sea for her trial fully equipped in fuel, stores, arms, and ammunition, just
exactly as though she'd been going straight into a fight.

"Affairs were rather strained just then between Russia and England, in
consequence of the old row about Korea, and there was a rumour that the Russian
Government had requested this to be done in case of emergencies.

"A little over a month passed, and nothing more was heard of her. The rumours
were beginning to die away and give place to fresh sensations, when, like a
thunderbolt out of a clear sky, came the news that the Alberta, one of the new
fast Canadian line from Halifax to Liverpool had been stopped in mid- Atlantic
by a long, wicked-looking grey-painted vessel, with a turtle-back deck for'ard,
three funnels and one mast, and flying a plain blood-red flag from a flagstaff
astern, and plundered of every ounce of specie, and all the portable valuables
that she carried. The Alberta brought the news herself, and so there was no
doubt about its truth. Not a bad morning's work, I must confess, even for a
quite up-to-date pirate," added Wyndham, noticing with some curiosity a faint
flush that deepened the bronze of Renault's cheek as he spoke.

"I suppose an outrage like that produced a tremendous excitement as soon as
the news was known?" said Adams, who had been following the story with the most
intense interest.

"Sensation? I should think it did," said Wyndham, with a short laugh. "The
newspapers raised a howl that you might have heard almost here. Politics and
divorce were discounted to nothing in the way of interest, while broadsides of
questions were fired into the First Lord of the Admiralty. Standing Orders were
suspended to discuss the pirate, and even the Admiralty itself began to wake up
and rub its eyes, and wonder what the deuce it was all about, when, five days
later, a much more terrible story was brought to Plymouth.

"The American liner New York had been stopped in mid-Atlantic, just as the
Alberta had been, and while the usual looting was going on, an American gun-
boat, the Albany, appeared on the scene, and the New York signalled for
assistance. The pirates that had boarded her opened fire with their magazine
carbines, and cleared the decks; then they got into their launch as fast as the
Lord would let them, and ran for the Destroyer, which, by the way, really
turned out to be the proper name of the pirate.

"They were no sooner on board than they opened fire with half a dozen quick-
firing guns and a lot of machine guns, and riddled the New York like a sieve;
then they sent a torpedo into her, and blew her up just as the gun-boat came
within range. She opened fire right away, but she might just as well have shot
at an express train a couple of miles away, for the pirate spun round on his
heel, clapped on full speed, and went away, as one of the officers of the
Albany put it, like a locomotive on the loose.

"The gunboat saved about half of the New York's people, and brought them into
Plymouth. Then the row began in good earnest. The pirate had outraged the
British lion, and, as it were, fired point-blank in the face of the American
Eagle. In less than a week British and American cruisers, gun-boats, and
torpedo-destroyers were swarming on the Atlantic looking for him.

"Of course, the Ariel was foremost in the hunt, and as luck would have it,
she, in company with the cruiser Medea and the Firefly, the best of the Yarrow
boats, was the first to sight him. This was about 150 miles north-west of the
Azores, and, would you believe it, there was a North German liner, the Lahn,
just on the point of sinking less than a mile away from him.

"He was only about five miles ahead of our boats, and so the Ariel and the
Firefly cracked on all steam and went at him like a couple of greyhounds just
slipped from the leash. The brute actually bad the cheek to wait for them until
they were almost in range.

"Just as the Ariel fired the first shot with her forward quick-firing twelve-
pounder, he slewed round, slipped like a streak of greased lightning through
the water for about five hundred yards, stopped, and returned the shot. The
Ariel's shell dropped about six hundred yards astern of him, and his burst
squarely between her and the Firefly. Then he rushed away again on a wide curve
trending round to the old Medea, who might as well have been motionless as
doing the sixteen knots that was all they could grind out of her.

"My cousin, Charlie Curzon, who was on board the Ariel, and who told me the
story, said the excitement for the next half hour or so was something
indescribable. The two boats dashed at him to head him off, the Ariel doing all
her thirty-three knots and the Firefly a good thirty-two, but they were just
too late.

"The fellow tore through the water—incredible as you may think it—at a speed
that must have been very nearly forty knots an hour. In fact, Charlie told me
they could see nothing but a cloud of spray, with the boat's nose in front of
it and her red flag showing through the after part of it. Do what they could,
they couldn't stop him getting the Medea between them and him.

"This forced them to separate. As they did so, the Medea opened fire and
blazed away like a floating volcano, but it wasn't a bit of good, they no
sooner got the range than they lost it again, the brute was moving at such a
frightful speed. He ran up to within a mile of her, stopped dead, spun round on
his heel, fired his two stern torpedoes at her, and away he went again, sending
the spray flying thirty feet into the air on each side of him.

"One torpedo missed, but I'm sorry to say the other took the old Medea under
the quarter, and literally blew her stern off. The Firefly stood by to give
what assistance she could, and the Ariel took up the chase again, with every
ounce of steam her boilers would stand. From what Charlie said, she might just
as well have tried to chase the Flying Dutchman.

"She stuck to it the whole afternoon, and in six hours travelled over two
hundred miles to the north-west—but all that her crew ever saw was that cloud
of foam away ahead of them, always getting smaller and smaller; and at last
night and a fog came on together, and it faded away into the darkness and the
mist, and they lost sight of it.

"That," said the lieutenant, knocking the ashes out of his second pipe, "is
the last that I heard at first hand of the pirate with the red flag, for the
day after Charlie told me the story, I was ordered out to the West Coast. That
was nearly nine months ago, and, from the accounts we saw in the Australian
papers, which you will be able to read at your leisure, he is still at large,
looting a liner every now and then, as the fancy takes him, and laughing at
every attempt to catch him."

"Then, if no one else can catch him, we will!" said Mr. Austen, almost
passionately, rising from his chair with a flush of anger on his thin cheeks.
"It is an outrage on humanity and civilisation that such things should be! I'm
afraid we must give him three months' more licence, but, after that, we'll hunt
him down and sink him, if we have to chase him round the world to do it!
Renault, we must have the Nautilus afloat in three weeks!"

V. ANARCHY AFTER DINNER

A BRIEF and somewhat uncomfortable silence followed Mr. Austen's outburst of
righteous indignation. Adams looked at him with an expression of surprise not
unmingled with regret, and a dark flush and a most unmistakable scowl passed
over Renault's swarthy features. Only for an instant, however, did he suffer
his feelings to betray themselves. Even before Mr, Austen had time to notice
it, the scowl had passed, and he turned to him and said in a tone that seemed
intended to convey more meaning than the words he used-

"Three weeks? I'm afraid it will hardly be possible to have the Nautilus ready
for sea by that time, and, of course, you can't refer to anything but her."

"Oh, no, of course not," replied Mr. Austen hastily, and, as Wyndham thought,
rather confusedly. "Of course I referred to her, and," he continued, turning to
Adams, as if for corroboration of what he said, "I certainly should have
thought that she was sufficiently far advanced for us to have had her ready for
sea within a month from now, and then, allowing two months for the voyage and
the search for this miscreant, we surely ought to be able to run him down
within three months."

"I really don't see why we shouldn't, Renault," said Adams in reply to this.
"And I don't see why I shouldn't tell you gentlemen," he went on, turning to
Sir Harry and Wyndham, "now that Mr. Austen has partly let the cat out of the
bag, that the naval experiment which was mentioned down at the dockyard is a
new type of sea-going warship which we are constructing, not, I can assure you,
for offensive purposes, but purely for defence, should it ever be necessary,
and for swift transit in the meantime.

"She is a sort of combined submarine ram and torpedo-boat, designed and
engined on a new principle by our friend Max here. She is not submarine in the
sense that she will be able to plunge entirely under the water, but if she
turns out a success, and ever goes into action, there will be nothing of her to
be seen but a small oval platform carrying her machine guns and the conning-
tower.

" Everything else will be from ten to twenty feet under water, and therefore
beyond the reach of shot, and even if the platform got knocked to pieces, she
could still get away, for the engineers and crew will not be dependent on
ventilation for fresh air, and she can be steered by compass, though, of
course, not by sight, from the interior of the hull ten feet below the surface
of the water. But when I say that we expect her speed to be quite forty knots
an hour, you will see that there will not be very much chance of her getting
knocked about."

"Forty knots an hour?" exclaimed Wyndham, sitting bolt upright in his chair
and bringing his hand down on his knee with a sounding slap. "Why, if I only
had command of any boat that really would do forty knots an hour, I'd stake my
life on running the Destroyer and her red flag off the sea within ten days of
the time I got fairly on to the Atlantic; and, with a cruiser such as you have
just described, I'd fight the fleets of the world, and sink them ship by ship,
if there was any necessity for me to do so. Thank Heaven, she doesn't belong to
any of the possible enemies of England!"

"There's no telling," said Max, laughing, but not, it struck Wyndham, in a
very pleasant fashion. "You know, although we have not published any
declaration of independence or any theatricals of that sort, we Utopians owe no
allegiance to any of the Governments of the world, and I suppose we should
resent interference from the British Foreign Office just as readily and as
forcibly as if it came from any other quarter."

"Very possible," retorted Wyndham, a trifle nettled, more at the tone than the
words; "but that, if you will pardon my saying so, is hardly the question at
present. Of course, I have not the slightest right even to suggest, much less
to dictate in any way, to you gentlemen who have given us hospitality and are
helping us out of a very considerable hole. But if you will allow me to express
my candid opinion, as a man whose business it is to know something about such
things as these, I should like to say that, granted that this wonderful cruiser
of yours does what you expect her to do, you alone of all the people of the
earth will have in your hands the means of tackling this enemy of Society—part
of whose story I have been able to tell you—on equal terms, or even at some
advantage; and if that is so, surely it will be your duty to Society"-

"Stop there for a moment, please," interrupted Adams a trifle warmly. "To
Humanity perhaps—to Society, as you call it, no. We owe no duty to Society, and
we will pay none. Society made use of us and our labour as it suited its
convenience, caring less for us personally than it did for its horses, and when
it had no further use for us, would have left us to starve in the gutter or the
garret as the Fates Might have willed it.

"That is why we are here; that is why Utopia exists. If the Brotherhood of Man
which is preached about in your churches and prattled about in your parliaments
were a fact instead of the mockery that it is, we should never have come out
here to the ends of the world to seek the possibility of living a healthy human
life without the necessity of being somebody's slave or somebody's tyrant."

"Look here," said Sir Harry, "we've something a lot better to do than fire
syllogisms at each other while we've got Utopia to explore and the Calypso to
look after. Wouldn't it be more to the purpose if, instead of talking here, you
were to place your professional skill and experience at the service of these
gentlemen in getting the Nautilus ready for sea?"

"Of course it would, if they'll only accept them," replied the lieutenant,
getting up with an air of relief, as though he had had quite enough of
polemics. "I'm theirs to command if they think I can be of any use."

"Of course you will," said Adams, rising with the rest of the party. "Frankly,
we didn't intend to tell you anything about the existence of the Nautilus, for
fear our intentions might have been misunderstood; but what you have told us
about this pirate and his doings makes it quite a different matter. We shall be
glad of all the help we can get. Will you come down to the dockyard now and
have a look at the Nautilus?"

Both the lieutenant and Sir Harry jumped at the invitation to see the
mysterious craft from which such great things were hoped, but on the way down
to the jetty, where the launch was waiting for them, Violet was captured by
Dora Merton and another "Mermaid," and carried off, by no means unwillingly, to
afternoon tea and to chat on more congenial subjects than ship-building and
machinery.

When the male portion of the party once more landed at the dockyard, and had
gained admission to the shed, which before had been closed to them, they found
themselves alongside the hull of a vessel which Wyndham's practised eye saw at
a glance formed a very considerable advance on the ideas in vogue in the naval
arsenals of Europe and America. A long, narrow hull, shaped as nearly as
possible on the model of a mackerel's body, carried, supported by a sharply
oval structure on the back, a larger and still more elongated oval platform,
with a low, heavily armoured conning-tower situated at the forward end.

Three four-bladed propellers projected from the stern and quarters, one in the
line of the keel, and the others from the quarters, diverging slightly outwards
from the middle line.

"Now," said Renault, after the two visitors bad taken a bird's-eye view of the
whole exterior, "if you'll allow me, I'll act as showman and explain her points
to you. This hull is 250 feet long, 30 feet deep, and 25 feet wide in its
largest dimensions, which you see are not amidships, but rather towards the
head.

"It is made of mild steel throughout, with the exception of the ram, which is
faced with Harveyised nickel steel hard enough to pierce or tear ordinary iron
or steel plates as if they were no tougher than brown paper. When you get
inside, you'll see that, in addition to her twenty-four water-tight
compartments, she's very much strengthened towards the bow, so as to give her
the greatest possible resisting power when she is striking her blow.

"These slides that you see cover the apertures for the underwater torpedo
tubes. There are eight of them, two forward, two aft, and two in each
broadside. The gun deck there is the only part of her that will be visible when
she's in deep water fighting trim. It stands ten feet above the hull, so that
when the bull is entirely submerged—as it will be—there will only be a
freeboard of about seven feet; and as the deck itself is only forty feet long
by fifteen in its greatest breadth, there won't be much to shoot at."

"No," said Wyndham; "she'll be a very ugly customer in anything like smooth
water; but I don't see how you are going to fight your guns in anything like a
sea, for the deck would be swept fore and aft by almost every wave."

"So it would," said Renault, "and we should let it be. The guns will all be
mounted on disappearing carriages, and, as you will see when you get on
deck,—where we may as well go right away now,—can be brought completely under
cover, so that in heavy weather the craft would simply be a torpedo ram, with
nothing to shoot at but the bare platform and the conning-tower."

So saying, he led the way up a ladder on to the deck, which Wyndham found
already fitted ready for the reception of what when mounted would be a
formidable armament of quick-firing cannon and machine guns, all of which, when
in position, would, as Renault explained, be capable of being lowered out of
sight and under shelter by means of the disappearing carriages working through
sections of the deck, covered with steel slides.

"We haven't got our guns yet," said Adams, in reply to a query from Sir Harry.
"They, and the torpedo armament, are being made at Elswick, but we expect them
to be ready by the time we get the Nautilus home to receive them."

"Oh, then you are going to take her home?" said Wyndham.

"Yes," replied Adams, "I think so. We were intending to have them brought out
in the steamer that you see lying on the opposite side of the basin," he
continued, pointing to a trim-looking craft of about two thousand tons; "but in
view of the urgency of this business, and the high speed that we hope the
Nautilus will show, I think there will be a great saving, especially in time,
if we take the ship to her guns, instead of bringing them out here to her.
Don't you think so, Mr. Austen?"

"Oh, by all means! It'll mean a saving of quite two months, if not more, and
we haven't a day to lose while that scoundrel is at large. As soon as ever we
can get her into the water and put her through her paces, we must start for
England, and get her to work as soon as possible."

"Bravo!" said Wyndham; "and when she goes, may I go with her, if I only go as
cabin-boy or stoker's mate."

"You certainly won't go as the latter," said Renault, "simply because our
engines don't want stoking."

"What!" exclaimed the lieutenant. "Then they are not steam engines? No, of
course. What a fool I am! I ought to have seen that you have no funnels. What
are they—gas, electric or what?"

"Neither," said Renault, moving towards an open slide, from which a companion-
way led down into the interior of the vessel. "But come along, you shall see
them for yourself."

VI. A VISION IN THE SKY

THE engine-room of the Nautilus was situated in the after-section of the hull,
about halfway between the stern and the midships line of the vessel. It was a
long, narrow compartment, forty feet long by fifteen broad, and divided into
three longitudinal sections, each of which contained what looked to Wyndham
like a vertical engine of the quadruple-expansion type. A second glance,
however, convinced him that they must be something essentially different, for
there were no steampipes and no indications of the presence of either boilers
or furnaces. As far as could be seen, steam was not the motive power at all. To
set this question at rest, the lieutenant turned to Max and said-

"This is certainly no steam-engine. But where do you generate your motive
power?"

"The day of steam is already past for the engineer who stands at the high-
water mark of his craft," replied Max, with just a suspicion of superiority in
his tone. "This is a gas-motor, not worked by ignition of inflammable gas as in
the old-fashioned engines, but by the deflagration of a solid salt by means of
the electric spark.

"You see this steel box at the side of the high-pressure cylinder. That is the
explosion chamber. From there the products of the explosion pass through the
cylinders in turn, doing their maximum of work in each, and in that chamber at
the end they are collected and condensed, and then, with the addition of other
chemicals, they can be used to manufacture new supplies of what I may call our
motor-fuel."

"Why, that's precious like the old idea of perpetual motion!" exclaimed
Wyndham, looking almost incredulously at the engineer. "You get your energy
from your chemical at one end of the engine, and at the other you collect it
again and use it over and over almost indefinitely, I suppose."

"Not quite indefinitely," chimed in Mr. Austen. "You see, we can't use all the
products of combustion for recombination, and we have to add new materials each
time. Still, I think we effect a net saving of about fifty per cent.; that is,
we can use our fuel one and a half times over, and as our engines give ninety-
five per cent. of the explosive energy in actual work, you will understand that
we shall be able to travel enormous distances with a very small expenditure of
fuel—that is, of course, in comparison with a steamer's expenditure of coal or
petroleum."

"Oh, quite so," said the lieutenant; "it will make a perfect revolution in
marine engineering if it ever gets known, as I suppose it must do some day."

"Unless Max and I die with the secret of the explosive in our possession,"
replied Mr. Austen, with a meaning smile, which warned Wyndham not to ask the
question that was on his lips. So, instead of doing that, he said-

"Of course, I have neither the right nor the desire to pry into secrets that
don't concern me, and so I will just say that this motor-fuel of yours would be
worth a good many pounds a ton for driving torpedo-boats and high- speed
cruisers; but I suppose there is no harm in my asking the amount of horse-
power you expect to get out of these three engines?"

"None at all," said Renault. "You see they are of rather peculiar
construction, and the cylinders are a good deal stronger than the ordinary
steam-cylinder. That is because they have to bear a very much greater pressure.
Each of the engines is calculated to work up to a maximum efficiency of fifteen
thousand horse-power."

"Fifteen thousand each!" exclaimed Wyndham. "Forty-five thousand gross! Why,
it seems incredible that such a tremendous power should be locked up in such a
small space as this."

"Nevertheless it is true," replied Renault. "You see that is the difference
between waste and economy. I needn't tell you how much power you would get from
the modern steam-engine if you could only make ninety-five per cent. of the
thermo-dynamic energy of the coal effective."

"This is a very marvellous craft. of yours," said Sir Harry to the three
Utopians generally; "but what I find more marvellous even than the vessel
itself, is the fact of finding her here in Utopia, where one would naturally
expect to find nothing but the arts of peace in vogue."

He spoke in a half joking tone, but Adams, who answered him, did so much more
seriously.

"Yes," he said, "that is so; but it is just because we believe in the arts of
peace, and mean them to flourish here, that we are creating the means of
protecting ourselves."

"But, my dear sir," exclaimed Wyndham, looking at him with an incredulous
smile, "what on earth have you got to protect yourselves against? Really, I
can't see that you stand in much danger of being attacked by anyone in an out-
of-the-way part of the world like this."

"In the first place," replied Adams, "Utopia is beautiful, and will some day
be very rich. You know, as well as I do, the fatal attraction that beauty and
wealth have for those Powers which indulge in a mission for protecting just
such out-of-the-way parts of the world as this. Then, again, now that the
Panama Canal is at last completed, a few months will see the establishment of
the Southampton and Panama route from England to New Zealand and Australia.

"Utopia is not known now, except to us and you, but then it will be almost in
the track of the Panama and Auckland steamers, and will practically command the
route. Now, when you have seen a little more of this island, you will agree
with me that, with a very little trouble and expense, it could be converted
into a perfect ocean fortress, absolutely impregnable to any assault from the
sea, and, at the same time, containing accommodation enough to shelter, and
even to refit, a very considerable fleet. In short, it might easily be made the
Malta of the South Seas."

"So it might, of course, and a magnificent position it would be, too!"
exclaimed Wyndham. "Why, it would command all the east to west routes to
Australasia, and a strong squadron stationed here in time of war would
practically command the South Pacific."

"Just so," replied Adams; "and that is just what we don't want. We were here
first, and we propose to stop here. We have no more desire to be protected than
we have to be annexed. As Mr. Austen has told you this afternoon, we have no
politics at home and no policy abroad, and we don't want any.

"Hence, if a French or German, yes, or even a British warship were to turn up
here some fine morning, and send a boat ashore to discover the island, and
hoist the Tricolour, the black, white, and red, or the Union Jack, on the
bluffs yonder, we should say 'no,' and we want to have the power of saying 'no'
in such a way as would overcome any objections that might be raised to the
refusal."

"But you are Englishmen yourselves," said Wyndham, his patriotism a trifle
nettled by the dry, uncompromising tone in which the last few sentences were
spoken. "Surely you don't mean to say that, if a British cruiser on the Pacific
station were to put in here, and the captain came ashore to hoist the Union
Jack in the name of the Queen, you would offer forcible resistance?"

"Most decidedly we should," replied Adams, almost sternly. "We should
entertain him hospitably, supply him with anything that he wanted and we could
give him, and then we should politely ask him to go about his business, and
leave us to ours. This is no part of the British or any other Empire, and it
isn't going to be, if we can help it."

"But suppose," objected Sir Harry, "that he did what would be his plain duty
to do, under the circumstances, and took possession of the island by force? You
could hardly expect him to recognise you as an independent State. I haven't the
slightest desire to speak offensively, you know, and I'm simply asking for
information. He would be infringing no national rights, and if the possession
of the island were necessary to the protection of a line of British connections
with the British colonies, it would be his duty to take it, if only to prevent
it falling into hostile hands."

"He might not be infringing national rights," said Adams warmly, " but he
would be infringing personal rights, and that we should not allow him to do. Of
course, I am aware it may sound to you rather like idle boasting, but I can
assure you that if he didn't take the twenty-four hours' notice to quit, that
we should give him, neither he nor his cruiser would ever be heard of again."

"Possibly so," said Wyndham, "if that terrible Nautilus of yours does what you
expect her to do, and had all her armament on board; because I am quite aware
that she could sink any warship that floats inside half an hour. But how if the
cruiser turned up before she is ready for work, or while she was absent, how
then?"

"It would still be done," said Adams, in a tone that warned Wyndham that the
controversy had gone as far as his courtesy could permit it to go under the
circumstances. "But you must pardon me if I beg you not to ask how we should do
it."

This, of course, brought the conversation to a sudden stop, so far as that
topic was concerned; and, as it happened, just at that moment the Mermaid ran
in alongside the jetty, and Violet—her trim, conventional European costume
looking quaintly conspicuous in the midst of a little group of picturesquely
clad Utopian damsels—came down to welcome them ashore.

"Harry," she said, as her brother and Wyndham stepped on to the jetty, "this
is quite a fairyland, and I think I shall stop here. 'Dora here has promised to
take me for a sister, and-"

"I wish to goodness she would!" blurted out Sir Harry, with an unexpected
abruptness that brought a sudden startled look into Miss Dora's soft brown
eyes, and a bright flush to her pretty cheeks; "because, in that case, you know-
"

"Oh, don't talk nonsense, you silly fellow!" interrupted Violet, in time to
save him from further and possibly fatal indiscretion. "Of course I didn't mean
that. Surely, you can't be presumptuous enough to think that one of the
princesses of this enchanted realm is going to look with favour upon such a
commonplace person as yourself. I always thought you were a modest sort of
creature, but I suppose the air of this paradise has intoxicated you."

"As it apparently has you, my dear Violet," retorted Sir Harry, "or else you
wouldn't talk such arrant nonsense."

"We came to tell you that dinner is ready," said Dora, in such a primly demure
tone that the conversation ended in a general laugh, and after that they set
out for the settlement, abjuring dangerous topics for the rest of the way.

A good deal later on in the evening, about half-past ten or eleven, Sir Harry
and the lieutenant, after a long chat with Adams and Mr. Austen, who had seen
them home to the door of the bungalow which had been placed at their service,
started out for a stroll up towards the hills, instead of going to bed, so that
they might indulge in a quiet smoke together and an uninterrupted chat over the
strange adventures that had befallen them, and the still stranger things which
they had seen and learned since sunrise.

The night was so deliciously cool, the landscape was softened down to such an
alluring dimness by the dusk of the tropic night, and the scent of the fruits
and flowers had such an inviting charm, that they wandered on, smoking and
chatting, without any thought of how time was passing, until the path which
they had been following opened out on a clearing that formed the summit of a
low spur of the foothills branching out from the chain running from Mount Plato
to the northern bluffs.

There they stopped, and threw themselves down on the short, soft turf, to
admire in leisurely fashion the beauties of the dimly starlit picture of sea
and land, mountain, vale, and plain that lay spread out before them.

"Yes, truly," said Wyndham, "it is a lovely land, and much to be desired, even
if it is somewhat of a land of mystery. I can't say that I blame friend Adams
for wanting to keep it out of the hands of empire-makers and land- grabbers
with patriotic designs, even if they happen to be British. Hullo, what's that?
Look, Milton, look!—over yonder, above that line of hills!"

The last words were uttered in a half-whispered tone of intense astonishment
and almost of awe, and, as he spoke them, Wyndham grasped Sir Harry by the arm,
and pointed to where the ridge of the opposite line of hills, about two miles
away, was sharply defined against the starlit sky. Sir Harry's eyes followed
the direction of his finger, and soon saw a sight that made him catch his
breath and hold it in dumb amazement.

Something was moving swiftly along the ridge of hills, about five hundred feet
from its summit. The night was too dark and the distance was too, great for
them to make it out very distinctly, but, as it swept along, apparently at an
almost incredible speed, they could see the stars behind it blotted out and
reappear.

With straining eyes, and without a word spoken between them, they watched the
strange, swiftly-moving thing. Suddenly it doubled on its track. It had been
moving towards the sea, and now it turned in a wide, graceful sweep. It
followed the curve of the mountain, crossed the valley, as it seemed, in a
single majestic leap, and then turned again and swept down out of the dusky
distance, so close to where they were lying that they could hear a soft
whirring, whistling sound as it clove the air. It passed within three hundred
yards of them, turned again, and then, making a magnificent upward curve,
soared over the ridge of hills, and vanished into space beyond them.

"Great heavens!" almost gasped Wyndham. "I was right in calling this a land of
mystery, and Adams was right when he said that they could hold the island
against all comers. Good God! they might terrorise the whole world, if they
liked. That was an air-ship. The great problem is solved at last!

"Look here, Milton, if they find out that we've seen that thing, they'll never
let us out of this island alive, good fellows and all as they seem, so we'd
better keep our mouths shut until we can see what's to be done. Poor old
England! She won't be mistress of the seas much longer, if a colony of
irresponsible Socialists can raise a fleet of ships like that thing."

"I'm afraid not," said Sir Harry in a tone of unwonted seriousness. "I wonder
how the deuce they got hold of a secret that all the world has been hunting
after for centuries. Let's go home and sleep on it, for, as the Russians say,
the morning is wiser than the evening."

But, as may well be imagined, there was very little sleep that night for
either Sir Harry or the lieutenant. They were abroad again before sunrise the
next morning, and at once fell to discussing the startling and terrible
discovery which, as it were, had been forced upon them during their stroll the
previous evening.

After a long and earnest conversation, in which the question was viewed in all
its aspects, Wyndham ended up by saying-

11 I'll tell you, Sir Harry, what I'm going to do, with your permission. I'm
going to stop here until the Nautilus is ready for sea, and keep my eyes open
in the meanwhile on things in general, and Mr. Max Renault in particular. I've
seen that fellow somewhere before, and not under very creditable circumstances,
but for the life of me I can't tell where it was. It was some time before I had
that touch of fever in Africa, and I suppose that's wiped it out. However, that
doesn't matter now. If the Calypso sails before the Nautilus, and you go
straight home to England, as I suppose you will, you shall take a letter from
me to the Admiralty, containing my resignation of my commission."

"What!" exclaimed Sir Harry; "surely you don't mean that?"

"Yes, I do," said Wyndham ; "my mind is quite made up on that point. I must
have a free hand in what I am going to do. I am going to join the Utopians, if
they'll have me, and accept the berth they offered me on board the Nautilus. I
couldn't do that if I remained in the navy. There's no reason why I shouldn't
be, at any rate, navigating lieutenant of her, then I'll take her borne, get
her armament on board, and hunt these piratical Anarchists off the face of the
sea to begin with.

"By that time, I shall hope to be sufficiently deserving of the confidence of
my fellow Utopians to be let into the secret of the air-ship, and then"-

"Hush!" whispered Sir Harry; "you are talking too loud. I believe I heard
something move behind those bushes."

"Good morning, gentlemen! You are early abroad. I hope it isn't because you
have slept badly. I presume you haven't breakfasted yet."

It was Renault who spoke. Turning round the corner of a clump of acacias,
about twenty yards in. front of them, he sauntered towards them, his hands in
his pockets and a cigar between his teeth. Whether he had heard Wyndham's words
or not it was impossible to guess; so far as any outward sign went, he had not.
His manner was as frank and cordial as possible, and his greeting betrayed not
the slightest sign of suspicion.

"I was just going down to the lagoon for a swim," he continued, "and I daresay
you are looking for the same thing, so if you like to come with me, I'll show
you where the male Utopians take their morning dip. This way; the girls'
bathing-place is on the other side of that bluff."

So saying, he led the way round an abrupt turn in the pathway down towards the
shore, followed by Sir Harry and Wyndham, who accepted his invitation as the
best and readiest thing to do under the circumstances.

VII. A PICNIC ON MOUNT PLATO

A WEEK had passed since the conversation just narrated, and during that time
the repairing and refitting of the Calypso had made good progress, and the work
on the Nautilus had been prosecuted with such enthusiastic vigour—relays of
those who were destined to be her crew literally working day and night at their
tasks—that there was every prospect of its being possible to launch her within
another fortnight.

In addition to this, the visitors to Utopia had been made so completely at
home by the members of the colony, and had so rapidly and so insensibly got on
terms of the closest friendship with them, that they already began to look
forward with undisguised regret to the time when circumstances would make it
necessary for them to say good-bye. Guests and hosts mingled in the most
unreserved intercourse, and the more the former saw of the latter and their
delightfully simple and natural institutions and mode of life, the more firmly
they became convinced that they had by no means done an unwise thing in
forsaking the complications and multifarious worries of what is, more in
courtesy than in truth, called civilisation, for a life which seemed to give
all the good that the world had to offer, with none of the discount of over or
under-living taken oft.

Nothing more had been seen of the mysterious air-ship, and, of course, Sir
Harry and the lieutenant had kept their own counsel strictly. Night after night
they had taken their stroll from their bungalow, which lay nearly a mile from
the centre of the settlement up towards the foot-hills, but their expectations,
if they had any, were disappointed. Wherever the wonderful cruiser of the air
was, she was carefully hidden from sight, and as not the slightest restraint
was put upon their movements about the island, they were forced to conclude
that those who were in the secret had every confidence in the security of the
hiding-place.

Day after day came and went all too swiftly for the liking of the visitors, in
a round of busy work and healthy, innocent enjoyment. By the time the week had
passed, such good progress had been made with the work, that, in accordance
with the custom of Utopia, it was decided to spend New Year's Day, 1899, as a
general holiday.

The dockyard was closed for twenty-four hours; Markham and half a dozen of his
friends undertook to provide for the entertainment of the crew of the yacht,
under the ordering eye of Mr. Topline; and Adams and Mr. Austen, acting on a
suggestion which originated with Dora, who appeared to have, in one sense,
quite carried out her promise of making Violet a sister for the period of her
visit, organised a picnic of exploration to the slopes of Mount Plato.

There were about a score of sturdy Shetland ponies and as many sleek, well-fed
donkeys on the island, which were both useful and properly-respected members of
the community, and half a dozen of each of them were pressed into the service
of the expedition to carry the eatables and drinkables, and to be ready, if
necessary, for the use of any of the ladies—as Wyndham and Sir Harry felt bound
to persist in calling them, in defiance of Utopian custom—in case, as was not
very likely, they were overtaken by fatigue on the way.

A start was made just as the cone of Mount Plato was beginning to glow in the
first beams of the rising sun, and the spot selected for the camping-ground- a
lovely, wooded plateau 2,000 feet above the sea and some seven miles from the
settlement—was reached in less than a couple of hours. Here they sat down to a
second breakfast, in which some choice champagne from the stores of the Calypso
played a pleasantly conspicuous part, and then the party split up automatically
into groups in accordance with individual choices and varying projects.

Sir Harry and the lieutenant had come out with the intention of climbing the
cone of Mount Plato as the principal object of the day's excursion, and as this
would take nearly the whole day, allowing for dinner and the necessary siesta
after it, a separate party was formed for the expedition, consisting of the
visitors, Dora Merton, Lucy Summers, and Adams, who had volunteered to act as
guide and general cicerone. A panniered donkey carried the wherewithal for
dinner in the crater, and a pony was laden with a small tent and the necessary
fittings to provide shelter in case the mountain was visited by one of the
sudden storms which sometimes swept across its upper heights.

It was not very long before the party, small as it was, split up into three
divisions, which made their way in somewhat extended order along the steep,
narrow hill-paths which led to the summits. Adams and Lucy, for reasons best
known to themselves, formed the first of these, and Sir Harry and Dora the last.

It may also be recorded that there was an interval of nearly a hundred yards
between each division, an arrangement which seemed perfectly satisfactory to
everybody, though, if the truth must be told, Adams would fain have changed
places with Sir Harry, for, in the depths of his serious, practical soul, there
lurked a not very well-based hope that some day this brown-eyed beauty, who so
far had contented herself with setting hearts aflame with the carelessness of a
delightful unconsciousness, might accept the homage of the man whom everyone
tacitly accepted as the moving spirit and virtual leader of the Utopians.

Interesting as the conversation en route undoubtedly was to the young baronet,
it would have been even more so had it been possible for him to have asked Dora
point-blank, as he would dearly have liked to have done, whether or not she
knew of the existence of the air-ship, and, if yes, how much she knew or would
tell about it.

He could hardly bring himself to believe that this lovely, innocent, light-
hearted girl—for in just such terms did his thought describe her to him during
that momentous walk—could be burdened with the possession of a secret on which
the peace and security of the world might well one day depend; and yet that
such actually was the case he was destined to learn before many minutes had
passed. A sharp turn in the path brought them suddenly in view of a second
truncated cone, about five hundred feet lower than that of Mount Plato, and
lying, as nearly as he could guess, some two miles to the eastward of it,
separated from it by a valley so deep as to give it the appearance of a
distinct mountain.

"I didn't know Utopia boasted two volcanoes," he said, stopping and looking
round over the magnificent panorama which now lay at their feet. "What do you
call that second one yonder?"

"That," said Dora, glancing half shyly up at him with a quick flush. that
seemed in curious contrast with the simplicity of the question he had asked,-
that is what I believe they call a secondary crater to Mount Plato, and—well,
I'm afraid that's all I am at liberty to tell you about it. If I invent a
suitable name for it, and call it, for present purposes, Mount Mystery, you
will understand me, won't you?"

"Of course I shall," replied Sir Harry, flushing in his turn, and slightly
inclining his head as though in apology; "and I hope that you will understand
that I trenched upon the forbidden ground quite unintentionally."

"There can be no question of that," she said, with a smile, that awoke in him
an unreasoning, and yet not altogether unnatural, desire to embrace the
principles of the Utopians on the spot, if he could only embrace her with them,
and abjure home, country, and capitalism thenceforth and for ever, for the sake
of the only pair of bright eyes that had ever taught him what the magic and
mystery of sex really meant.

They were walking on again now, for somehow Sir Harry had no desire that his
sister and Wyndham should overtake them too closely, and by way of shifting the
conversation from dangerous ground, he said, after a little interval of silence-

"Do you know, Miss Dora, I am rapidly coming to the belief that you Utopians
have really chosen the better part of life, by leaving the world and all its
bothers, and coming out to this paradise of yours to live, as I suppose men and
women really were intended to live and would have lived, if the curse of Eden
had never been laid upon them."

" Of course we have," she replied, in a tone which showed that, to her at
least, there could be no question about it. "I believe the curse of Eden, in
its modern form, at any rate, is simply the spirit of greediness and vain-glory
which makes every man want to have more and be something grander than his
neighbour. Of course, Nature did not make all men and women equal. We are not
by any means equal here even. Naturally, some of us are cleverer, stronger, or
more-more-

"Beautiful, for instance."

There was no mistaking the look that accompanied Sir Harry's completion of her
speech, and she didn't pretend to do so. She looked him frankly in the eyes,
and only a deepening of the colour on her pretty cheeks told him that she had
taken his interruption as literally as he had intended it to be taken.

"Yes, Sir Harry, more beautiful, if you like to put it so. It would be absurd
to expect it, and that is why we haven't attempted to bring any of the silly
theories of what they call Socialism in England, out here with us. We simply
believe it to be possible for people to live healthy, natural lives, and
develop themselves physically and mentally as far as their powers go, without
troubling their heads about all the foolish complications of society, with its
different ranks and degrees of wealth and poverty.

"Still, I must say I am rather surprised at you, finding our life here better
than the one at home. I always thought that for a man like yourself, rich,
titled, young, and—well, yes—good-looking—there's your compliment back for
you—the social life of England made earth as nearly a paradise as possible."

"Not always," replied Sir Harry, laughing outright at the direct frankness of
her unconventional speech. "Of course, fellows like myself have a very good
time of it—better, I daresay, than most of us deserve; but still I must say
that I have found something in Utopia that I not only never found anywhere
else, but never even thought of before. I can't exactly say what it is, because
it's so strange to me, and yet it seems something better than anything that
either money or position could buy at home."

"Perhaps it's just a healthy atmosphere, social as well as physical," she
suggested. "You know we can breathe freely here; and we live, we don't play at
it, or pretend to be something else than we really are, as I used to think
people did when I lived in England."

"I daresay that's it," replied Sir Harry, looking at her with admiring
conviction as he spoke, "only you put it more concretely than I thought it. I
verily believe you will end by persuading us all to become Utopians before the
Calypso is ready for sea again. As for Violet, you seem to have put her quite
out of conceit with the old order of things already. I shouldn't be at all
surprised to see her turn out, some fine morning, in that delightfully
picturesque costume of yours."

"Ah, wouldn't she look nice in it?" said Dora, with an added sparkle in her
eyes at the very thought of such a conversion. "That's all that's wanted to
make her quite the prettiest girl on the island."

"Save one," retorted Sir Harry; "but then, of course, you speak unselfishly."

"I'm afraid you've brought at least one of the bad habits of fashionable
society with you," replied Dora demurely, but yet flushing rosy red again, not
altogether with displeasure. "But suppose we walk a little faster. There is Mr.
Adams beckoning to us. They're waiting to show you the way into the crater."

It will not be difficult to surmise, from the tone of this conversation that
the young lord of Seaton Abbey was in a fair way of meeting his fate in the far-
away spot to which the Fates and his disabled yacht had brought him. What the
course of his future fortune might have been, if what, on his part at least,
was something more than a chance flirtation had been allowed to pursue its
course in peace, can never be known, for only a few hours after they were
walking, laughing and chatting thus, up the mountain side, there fell, like a
bolt from the blue, a swift and sudden calamity upon the little community of
Utopia, which woke it with awful suddenness and violence from its dream of
paradise on earth.

The party dined together in the crater of Mount Plato, and then, as before,
separated into pairs which seemed to prefer the amusement of independent
exploration. Shortly before five, Adams hailed Sir Harry, and said that it was
high time for them to set about returning to the plateau, if they didn't want
to be left behind. Sir Harry agreed, and promptly sent forth a lusty "Halloo!"
which echoed round the walls of the crater, as a signal to Wyndham and Violet
to join them.

There was no answer. They hallooed again, this time in chorus, and only the
echoes replied. Then on consultation, they learnt that none of them had seen
the missing pair all the afternoon. Fearing that they might have strayed away
and got lost, they made a rapid exploration of the crater, and then, not
finding them there, went out on to the mountain side, and continued their
search, Adams and Sir Harry still hallooing as they went.

They searched for an hour without success, and then, when the four met once
more at the entrance to the crater, as the sun was beginning to sink behind the
opposite western wall, Adams said, "It's no use. They must have gone back to
the others for some reason, and yet—I can't understand why they should have
done so. Why, what's the matter, Sir Harry? Are you ill?"

"Look! look!" cried Sir Harry, whose ruddy, bronzed face had suddenly turned
to an almost ashen colour. He grasped him by the arm as he spoke, and turned
him half round, pointing with his other hand to the secondary cone which Dora
had rightly named the Mount Mystery. Instantly all eyes were fixed in a silent
stare of amazement and horror on the round ragged hole that marked the smaller
crater.

Out of the black depths, they saw, soaring swiftly and vertically upwards, the
strange shape of the mysterious airship which Sir Harry and the lieutenant had
seen crossing the hills a week before. They thought they made out something
white moving to and fro on its deck. It seemed to sway violently about for a
moment or two, and then pitch headlong out of sight into the black gulf
beneath. The next moment the air-ship leapt several hundred feet up into the
air, and then, in a long, sweeping, upward curve, darted away out over the sea
to the north-westward.

VIII. A DOUBLE TRAGEDY

IN breathless silence, a silence in which wonder, fear, and horror were
blended, the four spectators on the crater of Mount Plato watched the rapidly-
played-out drama in the air that could scarcely fail to prove a tragedy which
should cast a gloom over the lives, not only of the visitors to Utopia, but
also over those of everyone on the island.

Adams was the first to recover his self-command. Like the others, he had
followed the swiftly-moving air-ship on her seaward course until she became a
speck in the distance. Then he turned to Sir Harry and said in a tone that he
vainly tried to keep steady-

"Our secret is out-and lost, I'm afraid! I can't understand it yet, but we can
talk about that afterwards. There has been foul play over yonder, and something
terrible has happened, I am sure. Come along, we'll go over to the other
crater. It's no use wasting time talking. Come along—I'll show you the way! You
girls had better go back and tell the others, and ask them to send up what help
they can. We shall probably want it. You will know where to find us afterwards."

Dora and Lucy saw at once that this was the thing to do, and they were just
starting back to the party on the plateau when Lucy stopped, and without a word
ran back into the crater. Hardly four minutes had passed before the others
heard a clatter of hoofs, and saw her come tearing at full gallop up the steep
path that led out of the crater, seated astride the back of the Shetland pony
after the fashion of the ladies of Mexico. She waved her hand to them as she
swerved past, and then went away at headlong speed down, the mountain path
towards the plateau.

A narrow, barely-defined path led down the eastern side of Mount Plato into
the valley which separated it from the smaller mountain, and along this the
three walked rapidly, Adams leading, Sir Harry in the middle, and Dora being at
the rear. As soon as they had cleared the rougher ground of the crater, they
broke into a trot, which soon brought them to the ascent leading up to the gap,
which was now plainly visible in the wall of the second crater. Here their
speed was reduced to a walk again, and, as they were climbing the steep ascent,
Sir Harry told Adams how the secret of the existence of the air- ship had been
accidentally revealed to him and Wyndham a week before.

"I'm afraid that may do something towards explaining the mystery," said Adams
in reply. "I wish to Heaven you had told me about it at once, and then we might
have taken some precautions."

"What do you mean?" asked Sir Harry.

"I can't explain now," said Adams; "and even if I could, I don't suppose it
would do much good. Whatever harm is done is done. Here we are. That is where
the air-ship was built, and where it ought to have been in hiding since you
came. None of us, as far as I know, knew anything about the trip that she took
on the night you speak of. She has only just been completed, after numberless
experiments, in her present form, and her trial trip was not to have taken
place until you had left the island. That means treachery on someone's part."

"And that someone is your engineer, Renault," said Sir Harry between his
teeth, as he followed Adams down the steep zigzag path that led to the interior
of the crater.

Half-way, Dora, who was still bringing up the rear, stopped, and, pointing
with one hand, said-

"Look yonder, just by the clearing! Don't you see something white up in the
trees there, where that big palm is, just by the crater wall?"

They stopped and looked, and there, sure enough, in the rapidly fading light,
they made out a patch of something white showing against the dark green of the
foliage.

"Come along, for God's sake!" almost gasped Sir Harry. "Heaven only knows what
that white thing may be."

And before the words were well out of his mouth, Adams had sprung forward and
plunged into a hidden path that ran along the floor of the crater under the
trees. Sir Harry and Dora followed hard on his heels, and a few minutes' run
brought them out into a little oval clearing, in the midst of which stood a
palisading of palm trunks, interlaced with wattles and creepers to a height of
about twenty feet.

A door leading into it stood open, and as Adams ran through this, he paused
for a moment, uttered a half stifled cry, and then ran on, followed by the
others. In the centre of the enclosure stood a raised platform, some two
hundred feet long by a hundred broad, flanked on one side by a row of huts,
which evidently served as workshops. The platform was vacant save for a light
frame-work of scaffolding which ran across its greater length, and the body of
a man which lay beside it, face downwards, with the arms spread out.

One glance was enough to tell them that it was that of the lieutenant. Adams
and Sir Harry leapt on to the platform at the same moment and raised him very
gently from the planks. His limbs were limp and inert, and as they lifted him,
his head fell forward on his breast.

"This looks like murder," said Adams, as they raised him. "Good heavens!- to
think that we must have had a murder even in Utopia. Look there under his
shoulder-blade. He's been stabbed in the back!"

"Yes," said Sir Harry thickly. "It must have been that, but perhaps he's not
quite dead yet. Poor Bertie! I'm afraid that scoundrel overheard us after all,
and this is the result."

"Run and get some water, Dora, quick!" cried Adams. "Have a look in the
storeroom and see if there is any brandy or anything of the sort there. Look
sharp, there's a good girl!"

They had just finished bandaging the wound when Dora appeared, with the bottle
in one hand and a water-jug in the other. Sir Harry half emptied the brandy
into the water and bathed Wyndham's cold, pallid face with it. To his
unspeakable relief, his eyes half opened, and a faint sigh escaped from his
lips.

In a moment, Dora had poured some brandy on her handkerchief and squeezed a
few drops into his mouth. His eyes opened wider, and another sigh, this time
stronger, carne, accompanied by a slight convulsive movement of his chest. Then
Sir Harry raised him to a half-sitting position, kneeling beside him, and
letting his body rest against his knees.

He opened his eyes fully, and looked about him with the dazed expression of a
man waking from an evil dream. A faint inarticulate sound carne from his lips
as Adams held the jug to them. He drank a little almost mechanically, and as he
swallowed it, a faint shudder ran through his body. He looked at them with
reason dawning in his eyes, and with a painful effort whispered-

"Where's Violet—and the air-ship—Renault?" and then his head fell back against
Sir Harry's arm and he fainted.

The two men looked at each other blankly for a moment, and Dora, suddenly
clasping her hands together, exclaimed in a low, broken voice-

"Oh, poor Violet! I see it now—I see what happened! Renault must have taken
her up in the air-ship with him, and she threw herself out. It was her white
dress that we saw falling, and that must be her up in the trees. Carry him to
the living-shed and put him in one of the berths. I'll nurse him till the
others come, and you go and see if you can find poor Violet. It was an awful
fall, but perhaps it hasn't killed her."

It took them nearly twenty minutes to hack and push their way through the
thick undergrowth that lay between the enclosure and the tall palm by the wall
of the crater which Dora had pointed out. When they got under it, a single
glance upwards showed them that Dora's guess had been right. Lying on the
broad, umbrella-like expanse of the great radiating leaves of the palm crest,
more than a hundred feet from the ground, lay in a huddled heap a form which
could be no other than Violet's.

The palm trunk leant outwards at a considerable angle from the crater wall,
and Adams, slinging the bag of spikes (which, with other necessities for tree-
climbing, he had thoughtfully provided himself with) round his neck, and
fastening one end of a long rope round his waist, took out a spike and drove it
into the sloping side of the trunk as high as he could reach. Then, telling Sir
Harry to keep the rope clear, he swarmed up, got his foot upon it, and drove
another one in about five feet above it. Then he mounted on to this one and
drove in another, and so on up the tree.

Sir Harry stood below and watched him in the dusk with straining eyes,
scarcely daring to breathe in his anxiety lest the swaying of the trunk, which
perceptibly increased as he got higher and higher, should dislodge Violet from
the top and destroy their last hope by flinging her to the ground. Adams' last
spike only carried him to within about ten feet of the top. Sir Harry could
just see him stop, and saw in an instant what was the matter.

"Can't you get any higher?" he shouted. "Shall I get some more spikes and
bring them up to you?"

"No," said Adams, "there is no need for that. I can almost reach the top. Can
you climb?"

"Yes. I can climb up there, at any rate."

"Very well, then, come up. Does the rope reach to the ground?"

"Yes, and plenty to spare."

"All right, then; come along, and be careful."

Before the words were out of his mouth, Sir Harry had got his foot on the
first spike, and was climbing quickly, but cautiously, up the trunk. When he
reached the last, Adams, putting his arms and legs round the trunk, swarmed up
until he got a hold of the root of one of the leaves.

"Now," he said, "get your foot on to the last spike, hold tight, and let me
get my foot on your shoulder."

Sir Harry did as he was bidden with a steadiness that spoke volumes for his
muscles and his nerves, and in another minute Adams had crawled up through the
leaves and on to the crest of the tree. Sir Harry waited for a moment in
agonised suspense, until he heard him say-

"She's here, insensible and badly injured, I'm afraid, but I don't believe
she's dead. At any rate, we'll have her down in a few minutes. You stop there
and get ready to take her."

Then he hauled up the rope, passed the other end round her body, and made it
fast in a loop under her arms. Then slowly, and with infinite care, he raised
her from where she was lying, and worked her towards the side, where her
brother was waiting to take hold of her. The great leaves of the palm swayed
horribly, and Sir Harry expected every moment to see them both go crashing
through to the ground, a hundred feet below. But Adams knew what he was about,
and the expected never came.

He managed to get himself firmly planted in the crown of the tree, with his
legs wedged between the leaves, and then, holding the slack of the rope in his
teeth, he gradually pushed the body of the unconscious girl forward and
downwards until her brother got his one free arm round her waist. Then, bracing
himself in his seat, he took the rope in one hand, steadying her with the
other, and said-

"Now, if you've got her, slide down to the next spike. I'll keep her weight on
the rope. Don't be afraid of her falling."

"All right," said Sir Harry. "Lower away."

And then with a rustle Violet disappeared through the leaves. Tearing his
clothes and his skin against the rough rind of the tree, Sir Harry slid and
climbed with his burden down from spike to spike, Adams always keeping the rope
sufficiently taut to relieve him of the greater part of her weight, until at
length, bleeding and breathless, he passed the last spike, and laid her on the
ground.

"It's all right, Adams," he shouted in a hoarse, gasping voice. "Thank God she
is safe so far, if she is only alive!"

"Good!" replied Adams, at once lowering himself out of the top. "I'll be down
in a minute, and then we'll carry her to the shed."

By the time they got Violet back to the shed and laid in one of the berths,
Lucy had returned on her pony from the camping-ground, with the news that Mr.
Austen, with Mark Edwards, a young physician who had joined the colony with the
second party of emigrants, and Dr. Roberts, the surgeon of the Calypso, a
bluff, good-natured man of considerable talent and more experience, whom it has
not been necessary to introduce to the reader before, were coming after her on
ponies, and that her own mother and Dora's would also be there before long, to
take charge of either of the missing guests if any nursing was necessary.

Lucy was, of course, terribly shocked to learn the nature and the extent of
the misfortunes that had brought the day's enjoyment to such a terrible end,
but, with the same promptness that she had displayed in going for help, she
settled down at once to help Dora in doing what could be done for Violet before
the doctors came, while Sir Harry and Adams looked after the wounded
lieutenant. In less than half an hour later, the anxiously awaited assistance
came, and Doctor Roberts at once took charge of Violet, who was still alive,
although all efforts to restore her to consciousness had failed, while Doctor
Edwards attended to the lieutenant.

Some twenty minutes afterwards, the doctor came out of the hut, looking very
serious, and asked Mrs. Merton to go again with him for a few moments. Then,
leaving her with Violet, he went to Sir Harry, who greeted him with-

"Well, Roberts, is there any hope for her? Tell me the worst at once, because
it can't be worse than what I have been dreading for her."

"My dear fellow," said the doctor, putting his arm through his and leading him
away from the others, "I'm not going to attempt to disguise from you the fact
that the poor girl is very badly injured. Of course I've not been able to make
a very complete examination yet, and I can't until I have the necessary
instruments from the ship, but as far as I have been able to go, I have found
that the right leg is broken both above and below the knee, the collar-bone is
broken, and the right shoulder badly dislocated. So far, there is nothing in
that that a strong young girl couldn't get better from, but I'm sadly afraid
that there's serious injury to the spine as well, and concussion of the brain
on the top of that."

The doctor felt the muscles of Sir Harry's arm quiver as he spoke, but as he
didn't speak for a moment, he went on-

"So far, I don't know whether or not there are any internal injuries, but of
course there may be. She has evidently had an awful fall, and only being caught
in the top of that palm tree saved her from being smashed out of all human
shape. As it is, we can only be thankful that she is alive, and do our best to
pull her through."

"And what about Wyndham?" asked Sir Harry.

"Oh, he'll do, I think. That wound's nothing to the one he had in Africa. If
the knife had gone under instead of over the rib that it struck, it would have
touched the heart and finished him. As it is, there is nothing to stop him
being about again in three months, especially in a magnificent climate like
this.

"I don't think we shall have either of them moved from here, at any rate for
the present. This mountain air is splendid, and the valley is perfectly
sheltered. Couldn't have a more perfect place for a sanatorium, so we must turn
a couple of these huts into hospitals for the time being, and Edwards and I
will take turns in constant attendance as long as it's necessary. You can rest
assured that everything that can be done will be done."

No one left the crater of Mount Orient that night. Messengers had been
despatched by Mr. Austen to the settlement and the yacht, to bring up
everything that was necessary, from the doctor's instruments to provisions and
tents for those for whom there would be no room in the huts. Fires were
lighted, and the electric lights by which the constructors of the air-ship had
worked by night were turned on. Like the other machinery used in building, the
dynamos were driven by water power, so the current was always ready for use.

It was a little before midnight, when Wyndham had dropped off to sleep, and
Violet still remained invisible by the doctor's orders, that Sir Harry, Mr.
Austen, and Adams were taking a turn in the clearing before going to bed, and
Sir Harry was speaking quietly, but in a voice that bespoke a resolution of no
small moment.

"I have seen enough to-day and to-night," he said, "to convince me that in
allying myself with you, if you will have me, I shall be doing the best thing
that I can do, not only for myself and poor Violet, if she survives what she
has to go through, but also for the world at large. I didn't tell you before,
but I may tell you now, that when Wyndham and I first discovered that you
possessed an air-ship, he decided to throw up his commission in the British
Navy, and offer his services to you as navigating lieutenant of the Nautilus.

"If you can see your way to making him that when he gets well, I think you
will do well, for I know that he is a very skilful sailor, as well as being as
brave as a lion, and that he is really thought a great deal of by the
authorities at home, especially after that last affair of his on the West
Coast."

"Yes," said Mr. Austen, "I am quite sure of that; and I can tell you that he
won't even need to ask for the command of the Nautilus if he is willing to take
it."

"I am glad to hear it," continued Sir Harry. "Now, as regards myself, of
course you know I am one of those somewhat useless creatures called gentlemen
of fortune, and so I have been trained to nothing useful, and know nothing
useful. But I have one thing that's useful, and that's money. Happily I have
plenty of that, and with your help I'm ready to devote every penny that I have
got to the work of hunting down that scoundrel Renault, and punishing him for
what he has done to-day.

"If you call teach me to do anything else, you'll find me willing to learn,
but that I'm ready to do now. I can raise half a million, if necessary, as soon
as I get back to England, and another million after that if it is wanted to
build cruisers and air-ships and find the best material and talent for the work
that money can buy. You can think over what I have said to-night, and give me
your answer in the morning."

"There's no need for that," said Adams. "If you like to join your fortunes
with ours, either for good or until your object is accomplished, there is no
one in Utopia who will not welcome you; and as for the help that you offer us
in repairing our loss, that, too, we will accept in the same spirit in which it
is made; so that is a bargain between us, either as friends for the time being
or comrades for good."

"Lieutenant Wyndham has just woke up. He is much better, and wants to speak to
Sir Harry at once," said Dora, who had joined them unperceived while they were
talking.

Sir Harry went at once, and found his friend sitting in his berth propped up
by pillows.

"How's Violet?" he asked, almost in a whisper.

Sir Harry shook his head.

"I don't know yet, old man," he said. "Roberts won't let me see her yet, but
he tells me there is no immediate danger. What do you want me for? You mustn't
talk too much, you know."

"I know," replied Wyndham. "But I've just remembered where I saw that fellow
Renault, and I want to tell you before I forget again. It was nearly four years
ago, when I was on leave in London. The police had raided an anarchist club
somewhere up near the Caledonian Road, and a friend of mine, a barrister, was
retained to prosecute the fellows who were caught. Renault was one of them, but
he called himself Louis Rolland then.

"They found him with explosives in the house, just the things that the
anarchists use in making their bombs, and they also found correspondence which
made it plain enough to my mind that he and the others had something to do with
the murder of President Carnot. The case was as plain as daylight against them,
but they had a very smart man for them, and because it couldn't be actually
proved that they were using the explosives to manufacture bombs, the whole lot
got off.

"Take my word for it, Renault's an anarchist, pure and simple, and he has
stolen the air-ship to go and join those fellows in the Destroyer. The Lord
only knows what will happen if he succeeds."

"And Heaven only can prevent it," added Sir Harry, "for no earthly power can."

IX. A SOLILOQUY IN MID-AIR

MONARCH of all I survey.' Ah! I wonder what poor old Cowper would have made
Robinson Crusoe say if he could have imagined him in such a position as this.
'Free as air' is not the word for it, for the air isn't free, because I am its
master. No, riding on the wings of the wind—that is more like it, and yet even
that doesn't do, for my wings are my own by right of—well, we'll say conquest,
though I suppose respectable society would find another name for it, and the
wind—the tamed, subjugated wind—only holds them up like the passive, conquered
slave that I have made it

"No, there are no words to describe it. It is too glorious, too transcendent
for words, this conquest of the air really achieved at last, the realisation of
all the dreams of flight from the days of Daedalus until now. Look, look, my
eyes, for you have never beheld such a scene as this before, nor have the eyes
of any mortal man before me—moi, Max-Renault, veritable roi des airs! For what
is mere commonplace ballooning to this when you know that your balloon is but
the slave, the plaything, of every breath of air that blows, a mere helpless
straw floating about without will hither and thither in the currents of the
ocean of atmosphere?

"Bah! what is that compared with this? A touch on one lever or another, and I
fly to right or left, dive to the surface of the sea or soar beyond the clouds,
just as my turn of fancy may suggest. And look at those islands down yonder,
those snow-ringed gems of emerald set on the sapphire shield of the sea—look
how they rise in front of me and go dropping away behind me, and how those few
fleecy clouds that I could leap over with a single bound come flying towards me
as if to greet their new comrade of the air!

"Ah! a hundred miles an hour, with another twenty or thirty in hand for a
pinch, and an ocean of which I am the only navigator stretching above me and
below me, in front and behind and on either hand, wider than the wide world
itself, open and free, and all mine, mine alone among all the sons of men. I,
the Magellan, the Columbus of the new world, the realm of air that I have
conquered; I, to whom land and sea and air are open; to whom the most secret
places of the world, where no human foot has trodden, must be open as the
daylight; whose gaze, if I but will it, may explore even the unseen solitudes
of the poles; I, who can outsoar the vultures and outrace the storm.

"Glorious! glorious! and yet, alas! not quite so glorious as it might have
been. Ah, ma belle Violette, why were you such a misguided little fool as to go
and break that pretty neck of yours on those pitiless rocks, instead of being
sensible, and coming to share this empire of the air with me—with me who loved
you, for the time being at any rate, better than anarchy itself, or even Lea,
the proud and fair, herself—fairest of the Daughters of Destruction?

"Peste! what a fool the girl was to lose her life, and a share of the empire
of the world, for a silly superstition called honour, and because she thought
she loved someone else, as I suppose she did. And that lieutenant, qui le
diable l'emporte—as he possibly has done by this time.

"I think I struck home, for he went over like a stuck sheep,—better, in fact,
for he never gave a kick,—and he deserved it, for if it hadn't been for him, I
could have worked that beautiful scheme of mine out to the end, and shouldn't
have been forced to come away in a hurry like this, without a bomb or a gun or
an ounce of ammunition on board, except a rifle and a couple of revolvers, and
a few hundred cartridges.

"I wonder what evil twist of fate brought him to Utopia, just him—one man out
of the few dozens that were in the police-court that day and saw me in the dock
from which British justice so kindly released me. He must have remembered
sooner or later, and then I suppose he would have denounced me as an anarchist
and member of Autonomie Group No. 7, and then—malediction!—he might have
spoiled everything, for those virtuous socialists might have believed him, and
requested me to leave -without the air-ship—or, anyhow, they'd have watched me
so that I couldn't have got her.

"No, I think I was right to take Fortune by the forelock when I did. At any
rate, I have got the ship, and that's the main thing, and as soon as I can get
her armed, with the able assistance of Franz and the others, I'll go back to
Utopia and make a wilderness of it. I wish I'd had a chance of killing old
Austen before I left. I wonder whether he has told the secret to Adams or
anyone else; but if he hasn't, he's bound to do so now, and I'll have to wipe
the lot out before they can build another air-ship.

"I don't expect they'll get the Nautilus launched for some time if that
battery that I connected with the fuel reservoir only works properly. I think
the clock work was all right, and would make the connection at the proper time.
If it does, it will blow half of her into the basin, and not leave much of the
other half together. Pity I bad to do the work in the dark, but if I'd showed a
light, some prying fool would have been sure to see it, and then—phew! they'd
have hung me like a dog, and I suppose in one sense I should have deserved it!

"Ah, well, I must look for the best, and be thankful I got away as I did. What
a scare there must have been in Utopia last night. By the way, what shall I
call my pretty cruiser of the air? They were going to call her the Volante, but
I think I must have something a bit more appropriate than that.

"Yes, that will do; I'll call her the Vengeur, since she is to be the first
instrument of my revenge upon the accursed society that guillotined my French
father for strangling a thief of a lawyer who had ruined him, and drove my
English mother to—bah! there is no use in troubling about that now. The day of
vengeance will soon come now, and when it comes, sacre! what fun there will be
when Franz has made me some guns and some of those pretty little projectiles
that he used to talk about " Imagine my beautiful Vengeur being sighted some
fine morning circling over Trafalgar Square, or the Place de la Concorde, or
Broadway, or the Nevski Prospekt. Ah! I can fancy how the crowds will collect
under me, how the people would rush out of the houses and the shops, crawling
about, like the earth-worms that they are, and pointing up at me, and wondering
what I am going to do.

"And then think of the fun of a little aerial artillery practice at their
expense! The bombs bursting in the middle of the crowds and scattering them,
mostly in pieces, in every direction! Think how they'll run shrieking and
raising their arms aloft for mercy, until they are knocked over, just as
helpless as a flock of sheep would be in front of a machine gun.

"But there will be better fun than that at Westminster and over the Chamber of
Deputies on the Quai d'Orsay. Think of the effects of a nicely planted
projectile through the windows of what those English call their Gilded Chamber!
A charge of gun-cotton will make a nice mixture with the contents of the
Woolsack, and the fragments of M. le President flying about the Chamber of
Deputies will be a sight for all the oppressed of the earth to laugh at.

"And it is possible now, all possible! The Queen of England in Windsor Castle,
or the Tsar surrounded by all his slavish millions, will be no safer from me
than the man who is walking along the street. What will the trifling, though
meritorious, work of Vaillant and Henri, of Ravachol and Santo, be to what I
shall do, flinging my thunderbolts from my aerial throne? Yes, it is splendid,
this realisation of the long-dreamt-of ideal of human flight! Splendid,
splendid!"

Thus mused Max Renault, now no longer a mere conspirator against society,
lurking in slums and by-streets, and passing under false guises among his
fellow men, but master of an engine of destruction which, if the remainder of
his plans only succeeded as his first venture had done, would enable him to bid
defiance to the world from the unattainable altitudes of the air; and, more
than that, to hurl death and destruction, to which no effective reply could be
made, wherever his fancy bade him strike his blows.

Somewhat bombastic as his soliloquy would no doubt have sounded had there been
other ears than his own to listen to it, yet, when stripped of the rhetoric
with which his French blood endowed it, it was nothing but sober fact. He had
boasted of nothing that he could not accomplish. For the time being he was
master of the air, and therefore an enemy that the mightiest State on earth
would have good reason to fear, since he alone of all its enemies would strike
straight at its heart, paralyse its directing will, and reduce its organisation
to chaos in a few days or weeks of terrorism, as the case might be.

The craft that was bearing him through the air at a speed of a hundred miles
an hour, two thousand feet above the sunlit bosom of the broad Pacific, was a
very elongated cigar-shaped cylinder constructed of papier mache, rolled and
compressed to the hardness of steel. It was a hundred and fifty feet long from
point to point, with a diameter of twenty-five feet, one-third of the distance
from its forward point, and from thence tapering away astern to four feet.

Five horizontal helices, or six-bladed screws, ranging from twenty to ten feet
in diameter, worked on five short strong vertical masts above the hull, and
three propellers, each seven feet in diameter, revolved on shafts, one
projecting from each quarter and one from the stern in the middle line of the
vessel. Through the cross-diameter of the hull ran four hollow shafts of
aluminium steel, and each of these carried a somewhat wing-shaped aeroplane of
lattice-work, the slats of which could be opened and shut like those of a
venetian blind.

The upper part of the hull was fitted with long windows of toughened glass,
covered with external blinds, to moderate the light in the interior or to keep
off the too intense heat of the sun when necessary. In the sides and bow there
were other windows which, on emergency, could be protected by slides of
aluminium steel, which gave an uninterrupted view ahead and on either side of
the air-ship.

Forward of the foremost mast was a conning-tower of oval shape, seven feet by
five, and projecting three feet above the hull. This contained the steering-
wheel, the lever which controlled the slats of the air-planes, and the switches
which regulated the speed of the engines, together with a compass, barometer,
and a speed-gauge, which indicated at the same time the velocity of the ship
and the pressure of the wind on her air-planes.

It was in this conning-tower that Renault was sitting, with windows on every
side of him, commanding an uninterrupted view in every direction, as he
indulged, as men are wont to do when they are as absolutely alone as he was, in
his soliloquy on the prospects that were visible from the extraordinary
situation in which he found himself. He had locked the steering wheel and the
levers, and the air-ship was speeding along through the uninterrupted ocean of
air independently of his attention, needing no further control until it should
be necessary to increase her elevation in order to rise out of sight from the
sea or to pass over mountains on land.

It was a couple of hours after sunrise, on the 2nd of January. He had been in
the air for a little more than twelve hours, and in that time had traversed
over a thousand miles on his way from the Pacific to the Atlantic, across the
Isthmus of Panama, towards which he was now steering. He had brought away
provisions that would last him for a month, and there was sufficient supply of
motor-fuel on board the air-ship to carry him a distance of twenty thousand
miles, or nearly double the distance that he expected to travel before getting
into communication with his friends in the Destroyer.

Always flying at the uniform rate of a hundred miles an hour, the Vengeur
passed north-eastward over the Pacific, across the Isthmus of Panama, at an
elevation of six thousand feet, sped unseen over the West Indian archipelago,
and then, swinging slightly to the northward, ran up the Atlantic, until, on
the morning of the fifth day, Renault saw the harbour and city of New York
through the breaks in the sunlit ocean of rolling, billowy clouds which lay
between earth and sea in the serene and cloudless atmosphere in which the
Vengeur was floating.

X. ON THE SCENE OF ACTION

IN reaching New York in command of the airship, Renault had carried out the
first and most important part of his scheme, but from this point his plans were
necessarily rather vague.

Before he could do anything definite, it was absolutely necessary that he
should put himself into communication with Franz Hartog, on whom he would now
be obliged to look as his right band in carrying out the designs on the peace
and safety of society at large which had been shaping themselves in his brain
for the past three years.

He had accomplished the first and greatest achievement of the war which had
already been definitely declared against the established Powers of the world.
He had assisted Mr. Austen to work out and put into material form the ideas
which his son had conceived, but which he had been destined never to see
realised. He had improved upon these, and he bad assisted in the working out of
every detail with an anxious care which the Utopians had taken as pure zeal for
the welfare of the colony.

With his own hands he had worked at the building of the air-ship and the
construction of her engines and equipment, and then, when everything was
complete, he had made the bold and successful stroke which had deprived those
who had trusted in him of the fruit of their joint labours, and placed him in
possession of the only machine in existence that was capable of navigating the
air.

This was much, very much, but more had to be done before the Vengeur could
become the irresistible engine of destruction that he intended her to be. He
knew that, skilful and far in advance of his age as he was himself in
mechanical genius, he was but as a child in comparison with the eccentric
little German, who was all brain and no heart, and who, before his departure to
Utopia, had furnished him with the plans and designs which had enabled him to
pose before his late fellow-colonists as a mechanical inventor of the first
order.

He knew that to Franz Hartog, and to him alone, he would have to look for the
guns and projectiles which would form the offensive armament of the Vengeur.
Without his aid she was merely an aerial pleasure cruiser; with it she could be
transformed into a war-ship of such terrible power, that neither fleets nor
fortresses could offer her any resistance worth the mentioning.

Beyond all question Hartog was absolutely necessary to him. So, too, would be
a crew of at least eight men to work the ship and man the guns in time of
action if the Vengeur was to be brought up to the highest possible point of
efficiency. There was no doubt about this; but with the conviction of this
necessity came an uncomfortable doubt about the possibility of trusting to
anyone save himself—yes, even to Franz Hartog, faithful and all as he believed
him to be.

As commander of the Vengeur, he would occupy an absolutely unique position, a
position never before paralleled in the history of the world. He would be above
and beyond the reach of all human laws, the wielder of such a power as the
earth had never trembled at before, a power which would offer the most dazzling
and perhaps irresistible temptation to the usurper who might aspire to reign in
his stead.

The buccaneers and pirates of past ages had, with more or less success, held
control over their lawless crews, partly by force of personal influence, but
chiefly because in their case failure meant capture, and capture meant either
death on the high seas or a dance on nothing at Execution Dock. Hence, as a
rule, the rank and file had preferred to trust themselves to the guidance of
the master spirit, lest worse might befall them; but there would be no fear of
this sort before the eyes of the crew of the Vengeur.

To be in possession of the only air-ship in existence meant at once the
impossibility of failure and the certainty of escape. There could be no
pursuit, and so no capture. The most inaccessible parts of the world would be
open to them, and they could take their choice of refuges in a thousand places
where no man could follow them.

To command a crew and to keep them disciplined and faithful under such
circumstances would mean the exercise of qualities which he might or might not
be proved to possess when the hour of trial came. To possess them meant the
command of an empire such as no man had ever ruled over before; to be found
wanting would mean death by assassination and the ignominious failure of all
his splendid and far-reaching plans. That was the alternative, and in the long
hours of leisure that the flight of the almost automatic Vengeur had afforded
him, he had deliberately faced the contingencies in theory and made himself
ready to meet them in practice.

And now all there was to be done was to pick up the Destroyer, in whatever
part of the ocean she might be cruising, accompany her to the secret stronghold
which by this time her crew must have discovered, and there elaborate the plans
for future action. There was only one course which made it at all possible to
arrive at this result, and that course he took.

"This is Saturday morning," he said to himself, "and therefore the very day of
all days in the week that I ought to be here, except perhaps Wednesday. Most of
the big boats will be leaving New York for England to-day, and if Hartog is
still playing the same game, I ought to stand a good chance of falling in with
him if I pick up one of the big ones as she passes Sandy Hook and follow her
across.

"It'll be rather slow work for a craft like this, but still I can amuse myself
running about a bit and seeing if there's any other game in sight. I don't
suppose concealment matters very much now, and I may as well go down and see
what there is to be seen."

With the suspensory fans revolving at half speed, and the midship propeller
working just fast enough to give steering way to the vessel, Max dropped her
gently through the clouds, and in half an hour was hanging close under them,
and about fifteen hundred feet over New York Harbour. Every part of the Vengeur
was painted a dull, neutral grey, and he felt pretty well satisfied that at
that altitude it would be quite impossible for any one on land or water to make
him out against the grey background of the clouds.

The wharves of Hoboken, Jersey City, and Brooklyn were already busy in
preparation for the departure of the out-bound liners, and Renault, with a pair
of powerful fieldglasses, watched them carefully for the first signs of the big
ships putting to sea. The morning, though cloudy, was a good one for seeing,
and he could easily make out the distinguishing funnels of the different liners
as they lay alongside their wharves.

He saw the red funnels with black tops and two black lines under them of a big
Cunarder; the black funnels with the horizontal white stripe of a ship of the
American line; the plain yellow funnels of a North German Lloyd boat over on
the Hoboken side; and the black-topped yellow funnels of a huge White Star
liner on the New York side.

All these had the Blue Peter flying, showing that they were ready to put to
sea as soon as the tide suited. Nine o'clock came, after he had waited nearly
an hour and a half, and then one by one they began to cast off and work out
into the stream. They steamed away slowly at first, but with ever- increasing
speed, past the Battery, between Brooklyn and the Statue of Liberty, through
the Narrows, and so on round Sandy Hook. Huge as they were, they looked little
more than toy steamboats floating on the surface of a lake at the altitude from
which Renault watched them.

Gradually one of them, a great three-funnelled White Star liner, began to draw
ahead of the other, fast as they were now going.

"Ah, I suppose that's the White Star boat Gigantic that they were building
when I left England to beat the Campania and Lucania," said Renault, as he put
the Vengeur after them, keeping her close up under the clouds. It doesn't
matter which the others are, she's my game for the present. I can't go very far
wrong in keeping her in sight, but I daresay they will keep pretty much
together for the rest of the day. They are travelling very fast, considering
the great, lumbering, floating hotels that they are.

"Hullo, what the deuce are those things out there? A couple of cruisers, as
sure as I'm lord of the air! Yes, and a brace of torpedo-boats in attendance on
each of them. That means a convoy. Bravo, Franz! You must have made it pretty
hot for them on the Atlantic to make anything like that necessary, and it also
means that you're expected, so I suppose we shall see some fun before we get
across.

"Oh that I only had my guns and ammunition on board, and then I wouldn't mind
if they had a fleet waiting for you!"

Renault had drawn his conclusions correctly. The terrorism exercised by the
anarchists afloat on the Atlantic bad reached such a pitch that the American
and British Governments had been compelled to enter into an agreement, in
virtue of which an American squadron of fast cruisers and torpedo-boats
convoyed each flotilla of liners from New York to a midway station on the
Atlantic, where they were met by a similar British squadron, which convoyed the
liners into English waters. In addition to this precaution, all the liners had
themselves been converted into cruisers and fitted with quick-firing and
machine guns, so as to be able to take care of themselves in an emergency.

As soon as they were picked up by the liners, the cruisers stationed
themselves one on each side of the line which they formed at a distance of
about four miles. Two of the torpedoboats ran out a couple of miles ahead as
scouts, and the other two brought up the rear about the same distance astern,
and so, apparently secure from any attack save by an overwhelming force, which,
under the circumstances, could not possibly be brought against them, the
flotilla proceeded on its way.

There was only one weak point in the arrangement, and that was due to the
inevitable rivalry of the competing lines. The Blue Ribbon of the Atlantic was
still as jealously coveted and as eagerly striven for as ever, pirate or no
pirate. The Gigantic—for such the White Star liner really was—had been built to
cross the ocean in five days, and she was expected to do it, so she took up the
running, and gradually forged ahead.

When the second morning dawned, Renault, looking down from the clouds, saw her
over fifteen miles ahead of the other liners, and about ten miles ahead of the
foremost cruiser, with the two torpedo-boats some four miles off either
quarter. Behind the cruiser came the Cunarder, and far away astern he could
just make out the smoke of the Lloyd and American liners and the two torpedo-
boats that were bringing up the rear of the long procession. Another twenty-
four hours' run would bring the White Star boat within touch of the British
squadron, and two or three hours after her the others would come up.

Every now and then other liners, with here and there a cruiser and a torpedo-
boat or two, were met coming in the other direction. In fact, as Renault said
to himself, the Atlantic looked more as though half the nations of Europe were
at war rather than an ocean highway in time of perfect international peace.

The second night came down dark and misty, but on a moderately smooth sea, and
Renault, showing no lights, ran down to within eight hundred feet of the mast-
heads of the Gigantic. She was now nearly twenty miles ahead of the rest of the
flotilla. He could make her out easily by the lights that were gleaming from
her decks and portholes, and he recognised that if Franz was on the war-path on
the Atlantic track, and had any designs upon her, as he probably would have,
seeing that she was the fastest, biggest, and richest prize of the lot, he
would have to act before morning, for by daybreak the British squadron would
probably be in sight, and he would also have to run the gauntlet of the more
numerous convoys and other warships that might possibly be cruising in the more
crowded waters of the Eastern Atlantic.

Considering the force that was within such a short distance, Max, in spite of
his anxiety to fall in with his comrades, half hoped that they would keep out
of the way. Perhaps they were not on that part of the Atlantic at all. They
might be on the African coast in the track of the Cape steamers, or down South
waiting for some of the South American liners bound to Colon or Monte Video, or
even away in the Indian Ocean playing havoc among the East-bound steamers.

Thus, turning over the chances in his mind, he kept in touch of the Gigantic
until close on midnight. The two torpedo-boats were now about eight miles
astern of her and the cruiser five miles behind them. Suddenly a beam of light
shot up out of the ocean astern, then vanished, and was repeated again three
times in quick succession. Renault didn't understand it, but those on board the
Gigantic recognised it as a danger signal which meant "stop and close up."

"Ah, that means something," said Perrault, "I'll go back and see what it's all
about."

He had taken what sleep he needed during the day, so that he could spend the
night on watch in the conning-tower, for he felt sure that if anything
happened, it would be under cover of the darkness. He swung the Vengeur round,
and, quickening her up to sixty miles an hour, darted back towards the cruiser
which had shown the signal. Less than fifteen minutes brought him over the war-
ship, which was now flashing her electric lays rapidly in all directions over
the water. He stopped and watched for a few minutes, circling slowly overhead,
and soon their light revealed a strange spectacle to him.

The two torpedo-boats, evidently badly rammed, were fast settling down, and
the cruiser was rushing up to them at full speed, still flashing her search-
lights ahead and to both sides of her. Just as she came up with them, one of
the long beams fell upon a grey, low-lying, swiftly-moving object in the dark
water to the south-east. Instantly a storm of thunder and flame burst from her
decks, and a tempest of projectiles swept over the waves in the direction of
the fast-flying assailant that had done her work so silently and with such
terrible effect.

XI. THE "DESTROYER" AT WORK

IT was of course impossible for Renault to see whether or not the broadside
fired from the cruiser had taken any effect on the flying Destroyer, given that
the assailant who had so mysteriously disabled the two torpedo-boats was, as
was most probable, the now famous pirate craft. Moving, as she would do, at a
speed of some twelve hundred yards a minute, the searchlights had no sooner
picked her up than they lost her again, and as the night, although calm and
cold, was now rather thick, the electric rays had only a short range, and a
very few moments would take her beyond their radius.

For nearly half an hour he watched with interest that fast intensified into
anxiety as nothing further happened. The Gigantic had slowed down, and he could
see from the moving lights on her deck that she was getting her own guns ready
for action. The cruiser, after picking up the crews of the sinking torpedo-
boats, had overtaken her and exchanged signals with her, and the other members
of the flotilla were rapidly coming up astern.

Still cursing the lack of weapons which made him a helpless spectator of the
drama which had already become a tragedy, he was just beginning to fear that
the war-ship's broadside had blown the Destroyer out of the water, when he saw
a quick pale flash to the northward, followed by the outburst of a sphere of
brilliant flame on the cruiser's deck. By the momentary blaze of light he saw
human forms hurled in all directions prone on her upper deck. Then came, almost
immediately afterwards, the short, sharp bang of the explosion. Then long
streams of flame burst out from her side and the roar of a second broadside
mounted to his ears. Hardly had it died away than another pale flash gleamed
out from the northward, fully a thousand yards from where the first had shown,
and a moment later a second shell burst on the cruiser's deck, this time square
between her funnels.

"Bravo, friend Franz!" cried Max in his conning-tower; "they haven't hit you
yet, and you've hit them twice. That's something like shooting! There goes
another broadside. Missed him again, of course. Who could hit a thing they
can't see and which doesn't stop in the same place two seconds together? Fancy
the little Destroyer tackling a big cruiser and a couple of torpedo-boats like
that. It's just the sort of daring that commands success.

"Ha! there's the other fellow coming into action. They'll try to head him off
between them, I suppose. I wonder what the other two torpedo-boats are up to.
Ah, there they are, running out to the northward full speed, with the flames
showing a yard above their funnels. Good to shoot at, that, I should think; and
Franz hasn't shown a light or a spark of flame yet except from his guns.

"Ah, there he is again! That second cruiser's searchlight just got him for an
instant. Cæsar, what a speed he's going at! Forty knots if it's a yard. Another
broadside—blaze away, mes amis, you're only firing into the sea. Hullo, what's
that? One of the torpedo-boats gone. He's rammed her, I suppose. Only one lot
of flames now. Bang—there goes the other one. Blown her clean out of the water.

"I wonder what those shells of Franz's are. He doesn't need to strike twice
with them, anyhow. I'd give something for a handy gun and a few of them up
here. Wouldn't I give those two cruisers fits, firing down on their deck
without their being able to send a shot back! Yes, that'll be something like
business when we can do that. I wonder what he's up to now. Vanished again.
He's picked his night well with this haze; those searchlights don't show
anything half a mile off; and that gun of his carries a good two miles.

"Ha! there he is again, south of them now. He's sailed half round them while
they've been wondering where he was. That was a nasty one for cruiser number
two. Smashed up her forward funnel, as far as I can see. That'll knock a knot
or two off her speed. I'll be hanged if I don't think he'll smash the pair of
them up before daylight.

"There goes a torpedo home at last," cried Max in a tone of savage exultation,
as a dull roar came up from the surface of the water, and the few remaining
lights of the first cruiser swerved slowly to one side, and then one by one
disappeared. That was all he saw, but it meant a tragedy in which five hundred
gallant fellows lost their lives in the space of a few minutes, most of them
drowned like rats in a trap, as the great ship went down nearly broken in two
by the explosion of the terrible missile which had come out of the darkness to
strike its irresistible blow.

The second cruiser was now near enough to see the catastrophe that had
overwhelmed her unhappy consort. Her searchlights were instantly concentrated
in a broad fan of light which overspread the area of swirling eddies sprinkled
with life-buoys, hen-coops, overturned boats, and odds and ends of flotsam and
scores of struggling forms of men making a last struggle for life.

In two minutes her boats were in the water and pulling hard on their errand of
mercy. But here they had reckoned without the pitiless ferocity of their
invisible assailant. This was just the opportunity that the pirates had counted
on to enable them to complete their triumph in the strangely unequal battle in
which speed, cunning, and dexterity had so hopelessly outmatched a force
apparently so vastly superior.

No sooner did the searchlights betray the position of the second cruiser, than
shell after shell came up out of the darkness, never twice from the same point
of the compass, and burst in her upper works, shattering her projectors, and
spreading death and ruin about her decks. So rapidly did they come, and so
widely distant were the points of fire, that it seemed as though the pirates
numbered three or four instead of only one vessel. Before the work of rescue
was nearly accomplished, the cruiser had been put into total darkness, and was
unable to show a single ray of light that would have enabled her crew to guard
against the last deadly assault that was now inevitable.

Rashly enough, the American liner began to use her projector, in the hope of
picking up the pirate and making it possible to pour the united fire of the
five vessels on her, but, the moment the electric ray gleamed out, a shell,
fired almost at right angles to the beam, pierced her thin plates and exploded,
as ill-luck would have it, in her engine-room, and burst the steam-pipe of her
starboard engine. A moment later a hail of six-ounce shot from a machine gun
crumpled up her projector, and the other boats, taking the hint, abstained from
showing their lights.

It was hard, but it was necessary. Armed and all as they were, it was quite
impossible for the liners to fight under the circumstances. The captain of each
of them was responsible for more than a thousand lives, and the unseen enemy
had by this time conclusively proved that he could sink them one by one without
giving them a chance to retaliate. All they could do was to wait, and hope that
the morning would bring help that would compel the retreat of the pirate before
he had accomplished the work of plunder that would begin as soon as the last
cruiser was disposed of.

To run for it was out of the question. The first one that attempted that would
be crippled before she had steamed a mile. What was the good of twenty- five
knots against thirty-five or perhaps forty?

As soon as she had administered her warning to the American boat, the
Destroyer took a wide circuit round the now almost disabled cruiser, which she
was able to locate by the light of the lanterns that she was obliged to show
for the guidance of her boats, and then, stealing up to within half a mile of
her on the opposite side, turned round, backed slowly up for another hundred
yards or so, and deliberately discharged her two stern torpedoes at her.

The aim was carefully taken, and both the missiles took effect, one under the
quarter and the other under the side. The roar of the combined explosions told
those in the boats and on board the liners that the last fatal blow had been
struck, and that the four big ships, with all the lives and treasure on board
of them, now lay practically at the mercy of the pirates.

"Splendidly fought, mon brave Franz!" exclaimed Max, as the sorely- stricken
war-ship literally doubled up and went down like a mass of iron plunged into
the water. "That ends the fighting part of the business, I should think. Now I
fancy I can do something for you. A little timely bravado will make those four
liners deliver themselves into our hands as tamely as though they hadn't a gun
on board."

Five minutes after he had said this to himself, the officers and crew of the
Gigantic—all the passengers had of course been sent below long ago—were almost
paralysed with amazement, not altogether unmixed with fear, by the apparition
of a huge floating shape which suddenly dropped from the clouds and darkness
over their heads and flashed a blinding, dazzling ray of light down on her
deck. It moved to and fro for a moment or two, and then stopped over the bridge
on which the bewildered captain was standing, staring upwards, in the midst of
a group of his equally bewildered officers.

"Steam to the northward, and signal to your consorts to do the same at ten
knots. Quick, or I'll sink you where you lie. Do as I tell, and every life
shall be spared, and when we've done with you, you shall go in peace."

"Who in Heaven's name are you, and what do you want with us?" almost gasped
the captain.

"This is the aerial cruiser Vengeur," replied Max, "consort to the vessel
which has just disposed of your cruisers and torpedo-boats. What we want is
your specie and any odd valuables your passengers can spare, and the sooner you
give them up, the sooner you can go on your journey.

"Now which is it—surrender or fight?"

"Fight?" exclaimed the captain of the Gigantic, in a tone in which wonder and
disgust were about equally blended; "how can we fight? Make the course north,
Mr. Thomson," he continued to his chief officer. "It's no good. We must think
of the lives of the passengers first. That fellow could blow us to bits at his
ease, and we couldn't touch him with a shot. A whole fleet couldn't fight an
airship, and that's one, there's no doubt about it. It's horrible, but there's
nothing else to do. We're helpless. Put the helm over."

"I'm glad to see you take such a sensible view of the situation, captain,"
said Renault, as he saw the great liner swing round to the northward in
obedience to his order. "You have saved a needless slaughter that I should have
regretted very much. Can you signal to the others to follow you, as I asked you
to do?"

"No," shortly replied the captain, "I can't; and if I could, they mightn't
obey me."

"Very well," said Max; "then I'll go and tell them what to do myself. Keep due
north, and mind, if you fire a gun or attempt to make a signal, I'll blow you
out of the water."

While this conversation was going on, the Destroyer had prudently kept out of
sight. Franz Hartog, who was in command of her, startled as he at first was by
the sudden and unexpected appearance of the air-ship, was not long in coming to
the conclusion, from what he saw, that she could only be the long- expected
craft which Max had promised to bring from Utopia nearly four years before. Why
he had taken no part in the battle until now he could not understand, but he
was quite content to wait for an explanation, and that he very soon got. He
exhibited a flash light for an instant, and Max, divining his intention,
swooped down to where he was lying, a couple of miles astern of the Gigantic.

"Destroyer, ahoy!" he sang out, as the Vengeur sank gently down to the surface
of the water alongside the dim grey shape of the pirate craft. "Is Franz Hartog
on board?"

"Ja, mein lieber Max, he is here," replied a familiar voice. "And is dot you
at last mit der air-ship? I alvays said you vould come some time, but you haf
been der teufel's own time coming, and vy der donnerwetter didn't you help us
to smash up dem cruisers, ven you haf a beautiful air-ship like dot?—and, mein
Gott, she's a beauty, vot I can see of her!"

"Because I couldn't, Franz," laughed Max in reply. "I haven't a gun or a shell
on board. I had to come away in a hurry with this thing, or I shouldn't have
got her at all. I've nothing better than a rifle and a revolver with me, and
they wouldn't be much good, but those fellows don't know that, so I've told the
big one to steer off due north at ten knots, and not fire a shot or make a
signal, or I'll blow him to bits. He believed me, and he's doing as I told him.
Now I'm going to tell the others the same thing. Can you spare me a few shells,
just to convince them with in case they don't see the force of the argument?"

"Ja, mein friendt, you can haf as many as you like," replied the little
German, delighted at the idea of Renault's ruse.

Max brought the Vengeur down lower still, until a sliding door in her hull
amidships was level with the bridge of the Destroyer, and through this a couple
of dozen twelve-pounder percussion shells were rapidly passed to him.

A few moments later the crews of the three liners were thrown into a condition
bordering on panic by the astounding vision of the air-ship coming towards
them, with her single brilliant ray of light projected almost vertically
downwards.

The first on whose decks it fell was the Cunarder Horania, a big boat built on
the model of the Lucania and Campania, but with triple screws and a speed of
twenty-four knots, or rather more than half a knot less than that of her huge
rival, the Gigantic. The same orders were given to her as had been given to the
White Star boat, and perforce obeyed under similar compulsion.

Then the Vengeur visited in turn the American and North German boats, and
within twenty minutes the four captured liners were on their way northward at
ten knots, the highest speed that the crippled American boat could make, with
the Vengeur flying to and fro in a zigzag course over their mastheads, and the
Destroyer bringing up the rear, about half a mile astern. No lights were
permitted, and, of course, none were shown by the captors.

It was now a few minutes after one in the morning, and therefore, as the sun
would not rise till ten minutes past eight, they had seven hours' steaming
before daylight, enough to carry them well northward of the winter tracks of
all the transatlantic lines, excepting that of Halifax to Liverpool. Twenty
miles south of this track the flotilla was halted, and the American boat was
ordered to tranship her specie and valuables to the North German liner Bremen,
the smallest of the four, but a fast, handy boat, which the pirates had decided
to take as their transport for the time being.

The Destroyer put a dozen men, armed to the teeth, on board the American boat,
to watch the transhipment of the specie and to collect the money and valuables
which the passengers were compelled to surrender. The fate of the New York was
still too fresh in their memories for anyone to dream of resistance. The
transfer was rapidly and quietly effected, and then the half-disabled boat was
dismissed to make the best of her way to port. The other three were then
ordered to resume the northward course at the highest speed of which the Bremen
was capable—that is to say, about twenty-two and a half knots.

Morning at length broke, grey and dull and cold, over a sea on which not a
sail or a smoke-cloud was visible. By mid-day on the 6th they had reached a
region which is totally unfrequented from the beginning of winter to the end,
and which is only traversed even in summer by the Greenland whalers and a few
adventurous yachts.

Here the liners were halted and ordered to bank their fires, so that as little
smoke as possible might show from their funnels. The specie and everything that
was worth taking was transhipped from the Gigantic and the Morania to the
Bremen, and the passengers and officers of the North German boat were divided
between the Cunarder and the White Star liner, and these two, after their guns
had been rendered useless, and their ammunition taken out of them, were allowed
to depart in peace, which they promptly did at full speed to the eastward.

Thus was accomplished, as the newspapers put it, when the amazing story was
made public, the greatest, the most daring, and the most successful act of
piracy ever perpetrated on the high seas.

While in Europe and America the exploits of the Destroyer and the Vengeur were
being anxiously discussed, the chief actors in the ocean tragedy were securing
their enormous booty, and laughing over the discomfiture of their plundered
foes.

In a deep rock-bound creek on the north-west coast of Africa, between Cape
Bojador and Cape Garnett, protected seaward by reefs and shoals, and landward
by the illimitable wastes of burning sand, which none but a few wandering Arabs
ever thought it worth while to cross, lay the Destroyer and the Vengeur with
their treasure-laden prize.

The sailors and firemen and engineers of the Bremen had been compelled, under
pain of immediate shooting, to work the vessel to within two hundred miles of
the coast. Then they bad been given her boats, with sails, provisions, weapons,
and ammunition, and £150 a man for their services, and told to make the best of
their way to the Canaries. This had been done just before nightfall, and the
next morning there was not a trace of the pirates or their prize to be seen.

The inlet was one of a dozen equally well-chosen refuges which Hartog had
picked out in different parts of the Atlantic, and he had so far followed the
traditions of his predecessors in piracy, that in every one of them he had
concealed treasure to a very large amount. He had been very careful never to
visit the same hiding-place twice in succession, so that, in case of his being
seen entering one of them, and information being given to the war-ships on the
look-out for him, it would be no use for them to go and lie in wait for him
there.

In half a dozen secret depots on each side of the Atlantic he had laid up
stores of ammunition and the condensed petroleum fuel, treated according to a
secret process known only to himself, which was burned in the smokeless
furnaces of the Destroyer, and the positions of these had been so skilfully
chosen that he was never more than a couple of thousand miles from a refuge
that was at once a hiding-place and a depot.

As the Destroyer could steam four thousand miles at full speed, and over seven
thousand at half speed, without refilling her fuel bunkers, his capture was to
all intents and purposes an impossibility, unless a collapse of the machinery
or some very improbable accident put him at the mercy of his enemies.

Heartless and soulless as the little engineer was with regard to all other
subjects, he was something more than an enthusiast where machinery was
concerned. He was wont to say that his heart only beat properly while his
engines were working. He loved them with an affection surpassing the love of
man for man, or even for woman, and it is probable that if he had been
confronted with a really perfect machine, he would have fallen down and
worshipped it as the best possible substitute for the Deity, in whose existence
he did not believe.

To attempt to describe his raptures when Max, on their trip to the inlet, took
him for his first flight above the clouds in the Vengeur, would be to attempt
the impossible. He himself totally failed to give it utterance. The new
sensation of skimming hither and thither at will through the yielding air, of
soaring or sinking as the fancy took them, and of travelling at a speed that
reduced even the forty knots of the Destroyer to the merest crawl, filled him
with emotion, which for the time being struck him dumb with sheer rapture.

He went from end to end of the craft, examining everything, stroking and
caressing the framework of the vessel and the metal of her engines as though
they had been the sentient frame of some adored human mystery, muttering
incoherently to himself, and every now and then breaking out into exclamations
of irrepressible delight.

He was all eagerness to get the Vengeur into commission, as he put it; and
before even the brief voyage was ended, he had designed an armament for her
which, if it did anything like what he promised for it, would render her
terrible to her enemies beyond Renault's wildest dreams of destruction.

"I tell you, friendt Max," he said, as they were sitting together in the air-
ship's saloon, a thousand feet above the inlet, on the evening of their
arrival, "dat ven I haf done mit dis craft she vill be a holy terror to all der
vorld, both on land and sea, and ven ve haf built a score or so like her, as ve
vill do pretty soon, you shall do vat you like mit der earth and der fulness
thereof.

"And now, I suppose, you vant to hear vat ve and der comrades haf been doing
all dese times you haf been avay. Ve vill haf some more drinks and smokes, and
den I vill tell you about it."

XII. ANARCHY UP TO DATE

IN de first place," said Franz, settling himself to his narrative after he had
lit a long black cigar, through the smoke of which his little eyes twinkled
almost merrily at Max, "you must understand dat after dat unpleasant affair
vich dat scoundrel Berthauld must haf brought on us before you found him out
and stopped his tongue, de Group broke up for de time being.

"Ve thought it vas safer to do dat and go back to de old plan of individual
action until it vas time to do someting big, as ve haf done. Lea Cassilis
settled down quietly to her artistic dressmaking business in London, till she
got a chance to go to New York, and vent, partly for de dollars, and partly to
begin a little scheme dat I vill tell you more about afterwards. Sophie Vronsky
and Marie Rolland stopped in London mit Marie's husband, and I vent back to
Elbing to make out my engagement mit Schichau.

"Dere were several delays before ve could get properly to work on de Tsar's
boat, and de consequence vas dat she vas not launched until nearly two years
later. Improvements in engines and guns kept cropping up, de English kept on
building faster and faster boats, and as de strict contract vas dat she should
beat everyding dat floated, ve had to keep on doing thugs over again, even
after ve had got dem finished.

"Dis vas goot for me, because it gave me more time to get fellows into de
works dat I could depend on, and ven she at last vent on her trial trip, I had
dirty of dem on board her, stokers, firemen, engineers, and sailors. As dere
vas only forty on board altogether, and as ve had took care to get de cook who
prepared de luncheon dat de svells had on board between de runs on our side,
dere vas not very much difficulty in settling mit dose who tought dat de boat
should go back to Elbing ven ve vanted to take her someveres else.

"As goot luck vould haf it, one of de Baltic fogs came down like vet blankets,
so dat you could not see from de nose of de boat to de stern. Dot vas our
opportunity, so ve took it; and some of de highest officials of Schichau's yard
and de two Russian officers vat had come to watch the trial met mit some
serious accidents with completely prevented dem from swimming home."

"Ah," said Max quietly, "I was afraid you would have to do something of that
sort. Had you much of a row?"

"No," replied Hartog, with an expressive gesture. "Dere vas no row at all. Ve
got dem all into de yard-room, shut dem up dere, put a strong guard ofer dem,
and wen ve had run far enough out to sea drough de fog, ve vent in and fetched
zem out won by won, tied deir hands behind deir backs, fixed a pig of iron
ballast to deir feet, and dropped dem oferboard.

"Ve tought dat vas de most convenient way of disposing of dem. If ve had shot
dem, somevon might haf heard de shots, and if ve had cut deir throats, it would
haf made an unpleasant mess dat ve did not want in our nice new ship.

"Ven ve had sent dem to de fishes, ve ran quietly along to de westward until
nightfall, and den ve cracked on all speed and made a rush for de Sound. Ve had
won or two narrow shaves of being found out, but ve got drough all right, and
den ve ran up de Nord Sea and round Scotland. Den, wen ve were well out of de
way, ve drilled ourselves and practised mit de guns and torpedoes, and made our
plans and vent on de varpath.

"De Alberta, about vich de lieutenant told you, vas our first prize. Ve got
more dan von hundred and fifty tousand pound in cash from her, and mit dat ve
set up in business. Ve found dis nice little hiding-place, vere ve planted
fifty tousand of de money as a sort of reserve fund. Den ve ran across de
Atlantic, and I landed Leo Marcel, my first officer, who is a very smart young
fellow and quite a gentleman to look at ven he is properly dressed. In fact, I
suppose he vould be a gentleman now if he had not quarrelled mit his rich uncle
in Lyons in such a vay dat de old man never recovered, and Leo had to leave
France suddenly for de goot of his health.

"Vell, I land Leo mit plenty of money, and he goes to New York, meets Lea, and
gives her ten tousand pounds. Mit dat she goes first to London to make
arrangements mit Rolland and some oders dat you know, and den she takes Sophie
Vronsky mit her as lady companion and goes and cuts de teufel's own dash in
Paris as de youthful vidow of a deceased Yankee vat made large piles in pork.

"Meanvile, Leo, who speaks Spanish so perfect as I speak English, gifs himself
out as de agent of de Paraguayan Government, and buys a smart steam yacht as a
despatch-boat; loads her up mit de best sort of ammunition he can buy,
torpedoes and different sorts of stores and explosives vich I have told him
about, and puts to sea in her, so dat ve can meet by arrangement vere nobody
vill see us, and dere I captures his ship, and ve drop his crew overboard and
bring de stores and dings over here.

"On de vay ve catches de Norham Castle, von of de Cape boats, and clean her
out. She vas coming home mit gold and diamonds, and dot catch vas vort more as
two hundred tousand pound to us. Den off goes Leo again in his yacht, dis time
to Europe, and after he has given de diamonds to Lea and Rolland to put into
circulation, he organises agencies of comrades in London, Paris, and Brussels,
Liverpool, Southampton, and Newcastle—all as most respectable people in de
shipping business and export trade.

"Of course dese gentlemen are alvays ready to supply us mit anyting ve vant in
de vay of stores or fighting material, and tell no tales about it. Dey find dat
much better dan de old style of anarchy. Dey haf plenty of money, and are quite
respectable, and know dat dey are doing efer so much more harm to our enemies
dan dey could do in de old-fashioned style."

"But if you've got that yacht, what did you want to take possession of the
Bremenfor? I should have thought a great big lump of a ship like that would be
more in the way than anything else."

"Don't you see dat dis is a business in vich ve can have no accidents. If ve
build dose ships anyvere on shore, it is just possible dat de place may be
found by some of de good people dat are looking for us so carefully, and if dat
vas so, ve should not be able to take our vorks avay mit us, to say noding of
perhaps letting some air-ship, almost finished, fall into de hands of de enemy.
Do you see dat?"

"See it?" cried Max, rubbing his hands together with delight. "I should think
I do! That's another stroke of genius to your credit, Franz. You are going to
make the Bremena floating workshop, and put the air-ships together aboard of
her. Bravo, that's a capital idea!"

"Ja, de idea is goot," replied the engineer complacently, "and I have tought
him out very carefully. You see de Bremen is ofer five hundred feet long, and
dat is plenty big enough to build air-ships, two hundred feet long, on. Ve can
take her down south and keep her alvays in fine veather, so dat de vork can be
done on deck.

"Dose in charge of her can alvays be on de look-out for ships, and move her
off venever anyting heaves in sight. In dis vay, you see, ve shall be able to
dodge all de ships of all de navies for ever, and no von vill ever be able to
guess how de teufel ve get our air-ships built. I tink dat vill be a much
better plan dan having dese hiding-places on shore."

"Yes, much better," said Max; "but, all the same, I think it would be wise, as
soon as we have got the Vengeur armed, to go to Utopia and make a clean sweep
of the colony. We shan't be safe if any of them get away, because, you know, it
is quite certain that Austen and Adams will take Milton into their confidence
now about the air-ship, and as Milton has any amount of money, it will be just
as easy for them to build another Vengeur as for us; in fact, it will be
easier, because they'll simply have to give their orders and pay the money.

"There's no telling how soon Milton may get away in his yacht or the other
steamer, and be off to England, most likely with Austen on board; and once let
them do that, and the next thing we shall see will be an aerial privateer out
on the Atlantic, looking for the Destroyer—and precious warm she'd make it for
you, too, I can tell you. Now, how long will it take, do you think, to get the
guns made and the Vengeur properly supplied with ammunition?"

Hartog was silent for a few moments, as if he were making a calculation, then
he looked up and said-

"You can haf shells and gun-cotton, and melinite, and blasting gelatine, and a
nice business-like explosive of my own, vich I have tought of christening
anarchite, by vay of a little choke, as soon as ever you like; but de guns
cannot possibly be made and brought out to be fitted in less dan tree monts."

"H'm!" said Max, after a pause. "That would be a lot too late. The secret
would be out long before then. Look here!" he went on, jumping suddenly out of
his chair and beginning to walk up and down the saloon; "how long would it take
you to get the Destroyer from here to Utopia?"

"Ah!" said Hartog slowly. "Dat is rader a large order, as de Yankees say. From
vat you haf told me, Utopia cannot be very much less as ten tousand miles from
here by sea, veder ve go round de Horn or round de Cape and by Australia. Ve
cannot steam at full speed, because ve cannot carry fuel enough. Ve could not
make more dan tventy or tventy-five knots, say six hundred miles a day mit fine
veather, and it vould take us quite sixteen or eightteen days to get dere. Dat
vould burn up nearly all our fuel, and den how should ve get back? It vould be
a nice ting to be chased by a cruiser just ven our fuel vas giving out,
vouldn't it?"

"Then why not take the Bremenwith you with a reserve supply of fuel? You could
steam her down as far as the Horn, load up from her again, and go ahead to
Utopia, leaving her to follow on, couldn't you?"

"Ja, dat might be done if ve had men enough to vork her, vich ve haven't,"
replied Franz, with a shake of his head. "Ve should vant at least fifty more,
and I can tell you goot loyal anarchists who are able to vork a steamboat are
not very easy to find. It is de teufel's own pity dat dis island is so far
away."

"Yes, confound it!" said Max, looking rather blank at this unexpected
difficulty. "What the deuce are we to do? Of course, it will never do to run
the Destroyer short of fuel, and you can't take the Bremen round the Horn
without a lot of men, I can quite see that, and getting men only means more
delay -delay which might ruin the whole thing."

"Dere is only von ting to do," said Hartog, leaning back in his chair and
crossing his stumpy little legs. "And dat is vot ve must do."

"Well, what is that?" asked Max impatiently.

"It is dis," said Hartog deliberately. "I expect Leo back from Europe in de
Pilgrim -a nice innocent name dot for an Anarchist gentleman's yacht, isn't
it?—to-morrow, mit odds and ends and some chemicals dat I vant to prepare my
fuel. Now, de Pilgrim should haf mit her four nice little Maxim guns dat vill
do dere eight hundred shots a minute, and give people fits at tree tousand
yards.

"Dey only veigh two or tree hundredveight each, so you can carry dem easy. Ve
vill fit dem on board de Vengeur, den ve vill get plenty of empty bottles from
de Bremento make into hand-bombs for melinite and anarchite, and a new patent
fire-mixture dat I have invented, and den ve can put half a dozen of our best
men from de Destroyer on board here mit us and take a little trip right avay to
Utopia and clear de place out. Ve can be ready to start in tree days, and ve
can get dere in five days, and as you have been five or six days avay now, you
vill be back again inside de fortnight. And dot vill be quick enough, for you
told me dat dey could not get de yacht ready in less dan tree weeks. Now, I
think ve had better go down and have a look trough de Destroyer and de Bremen,
and see if ve can find anyting useful for de Vengeur."

XIII. TO UTOPIA

THE examination resulted in the selection of two light Maxim guns from the
armament of the Destroyer, and a three-barrelled Nordenfeldt, carrying twelve-
ounce shells, from the Bremen, and these were fitted on board the Vengeur
provisionally and in case any accident should happen.

The shells of the Nordenfeldt had been charged with Hartog's secret explosive,
to which, in his grimly jesting way, he had given the suggestive name of
anarchite.

He reckoned that, given an elevation of two thousand feet, the Nordenfeldt,
which was mounted aft, while the Maxims were pointed downwards through the
foremost ports in the hull of the air-ship, would have an effective range of
quite two miles, while at this distance and elevation the Vengeur would be
almost invisible, and absolutely beyond the effective range of any gun mounted
on land or sea.

Aerial artillery, in spite of its being necessarily very much lighter than
that employed either on land or sea, possessed two enormous advantages. The
first was in facility of aim and relative steadiness of the object fired at;
the second lay in the fact that the aerial gunner had the attraction of
gravitation in his favour, while his opponents had it against them.

The projectile of a gun fired at a great angle from land or sea is subject to
a downward pull which constantly diminishes its velocity, and at last converts
its path into a downward curve. On the other hand, a projectile fired, say,
from a height of two thousand feet, with a muzzle-velocity of fifteen hundred
feet a second, is accelerated every foot it travels, and strikes its mark with
a velocity which is increased in proportion to the acuteness of the angle at
which it is fired. At two miles range and two thousand feet elevation the
Vengeur's projectiles would strike with the enormous velocity of some five
thousand feet per second.

So, too, with the heavier shells that would be dropped vertically. In
accordance with the well-known law of moving bodies, they would travel sixteen
feet in the first second of their fall, forty-eight in the next, eighty in the
next, and so on, increasing in velocity every second they were in the air,
less, of course, the retardation produced by the resistance of the atmosphere.

In addition to the guns and their ammunition, the airship was also furnished
with fifty ten-inch conical shells, half of which were charged with melinite
and the other half with blasting gelatine and compressed oxygen in separate
compartments, and two hundred quart champagne bottles charged with anarchite
and Hartog's fire-mixture, a horrible compound which, in addition to burning
with unquenchable energy on the bursting of the shell, spread dense suffocating
and poisonous fumes over a radius of several yards from the focus of the
explosion.

As might be expected, there was the keenest competition among the Destroyer's
men for berths aboard the airship, and so Max, to whom the engineer had
naturally taken his old subordinate position, save where the tactics of the
Destroyer were concerned, had them put through a stiff competition in gun drill
under his own eye, and chose those who acquitted themselves with the greatest
smartness. One of them, a young fellow of three-and-twenty, named Raoul Taxil,
who had been second engineer of the Destroyer, he made engineer and chief
officer of the Vengeur, and, after he had fully explained the working of the
air-ship's machinery to him, he took his new crew for a cruise into the air
over the desert, to work them into their places.

All this occupied the rest of the day and well into the night, and just before
sunrise the next day Hartog suggested that they should take a flight to the
northward, to see if there were any signs of the Pilgrim. The desert was just
changing from brown to grey under the growing light, when the Vengeur soared
vertically upwards to a height of five hundred feet, and then, with one engined
driving the helices, and the other two the propellers, she shot away upwards
and northwards at sixty miles an hour.

When a height of three thousand feet had been reached, Max told Taxil to
switch the two side engines on to the helices and run the midship screw at
thirty miles an hour. From their present elevation they commanded an enormous
range of vision, which was still further increased as a light haze, which was
lying over the coast to the north, lifted and dispersed under the increasing
heat of the sun.

Standing in the conning-tower, Max and Hartog swept the sea and the coastline
with their glasses, and at last Max turned to his companion and said-

"There she is, I think, down yonder—look, that long trail of smoke to the
northward close in by the land."

It was, indeed, the Pilgrim, some five miles from the shore, running along at
about eighteen knots an hour, with a considerable volume of smoke coming from
the funnel.

When she came up, and her fittings and crew had been inspected, Hartog had a
tete-a-tete with Renault, for the purpose of determining future plans.

"Well, friend Franz, what do you suggest?" said Renault by way of an opening.

"Vell, mein friendt, I haf been doing some tinking, and so far as I can see,
de best dat ve can do is dis. In de first place, everyting is ready to leave de
inlet insides of an hour; secondly, as de Pilgrim has brought out between fifty
and sixty recruits, good smart fellows all of dem, mechanics and engineers and
some sailors, I tink dat, if ve send Marcel home again mit as small a crew as
possible, to get de machines and tings made for de air-ships dat I haf gifen
him de plans and drawings for, ve can find men enough now to man de Bremen and
take her round de Horn. It vill take us quite a month to get to Utopia, but dat
ve cannot help. Ven ve get dere, you can clear dose peoples out."

"Supposing always that they're there still."

"It is not unlikely dat dey vill be dere. Dey know dat you had no weapons and
no ammunition. Dey vill believe dat you vill go somevere and get dem made, and
dey know dat vill take some tree or four monts. Now it vould take dem longer
dan dat to build and arm anoter air-ship for demselves, and I don't tink dey
vill leave before dey have made one, alvays supposing dat you have successfully
destroyed de Nautilus.

"But, at any rate, I suppose you must haf damaged her very much, and she vill
take a long time to repair. You may be sure dat dey vill not go avay mit only
de yacht and deir oder steamer, because dey know it vould be perfectly easy for
us to lie in vait for dem up near de entrance to de Panama Canal and sink dem
bof before dey could say deir prayers. Besides, I do not tink dey vould have
room to take de whole lot in de two ships, and you can bet dey vould not leave
any behind if dey are such civilised, merciful sort of people as you say dey
are. Now, vat do you tink of dat for a scheme?"

Max, who had been thinking hard while Hartog was talking, saw that under the
circumstances there was really no other plan that they could pursue that
promised anything like the same safety and reasonable hope of destroying the
colony of Utopia, so after a few moments' silence he said-

"No, I don't see anything else for it. That's the best thing to be done,
Franz, and we'll do it. Just send Taxil here, and I'll tell him how to lay the
Vengeur on board the Bremen. Then you go and see everything ready to get out."

"Goot! I tought you vould find dat de best scheme."

So saying, he left the saloon, and then Taxil came in to receive Max's
instructions.

So perfectly did he carry them out, and so thoroughly had Franz made all the
arrangements, that within half an hour the air-ship was lying in her place on
the Bremen's deck, properly shored up on dog-leg supports, and yet free to rise
at any moment into the air. Her two Maxims had been replaced at the forward
ports, and a light quick-firing pneumatic shell-gun, which the Pilgrim had
brought out, was mounted aft, so that she was perfectly ready to co-operate
with the Destroyer in case any fighting had to be done.

Twelve men had been left to work the Destroyer, and this, with the recruits,
left nearly eighty free to work the big liner. The Bremen had coals enough in
her bunkers to run some ten thousand miles at half speed. This, of course, was
not enough to take her to Utopia, especially as she might have to do some hard
steaming on the way, but this gave them very little anxiety. There was plenty
of coal on the sea to be had for the taking. Nothing would be easier than to
run down a liner or a cargo boat, or even half a dozen of them, on the route,
empty them of coal, and turn them adrift, and this, as a matter of fact, was
done no less than four times between the African coast and Cape Horn.

Before eight o'clock everything was ready. The Pilgrim went out first and ran
away to the northward, then the Destroyer stole out to see that the coast was
quite clear, and came back to tow the Bremen through the narrow entrance. By
nine o'clock they were well clear of the land, and, with no lights showing,
they steamed away in company to the south-west.

Beyond the holding up and plundering of two South American liners and a couple
of big ocean tramps, the voyage out was marked by no incident worthy of record,
and, on the morning of the fifth of February, the look-outs reported Mount
Plato rising out of the unfrequented sea dead ahead to the north-west.

The Bremen was therefore ordered to go dead slow for the land, and the air-
ship rose from her deck to make a reconnaissance of the island, while the
Destroyer ran ahead to patrol the outside of the reef. The Britannia had, of
course, been taken to pieces and stowed away in the liner's 'tween decks, as it
was not intended to make use of her for the present, except for experimental
purposes.

The Vengeur had not floated for long over the familiar landscape of the island
of Utopia before Max felt certain that his main fears had been realised. The
most searching scrutiny of his glasses failed to reveal a single sign of life.
The settlement was there with its outlying houses, but no smoke rose from the
chimneys of those in which the cooking for the colony was done. He soared over
Mount Plato and Mount Orient and found the craters deserted.

Then, cursing the promptness and skill with which the colonists must have
formed and executed their plans after his departure, he ran the air-ship over
the dockyard, only to find the same silence and the same signs of desertion
there. Worse than all, the shed in which the Nautilus had been built lay in
ruins, the slips were empty, and, with a savage oath breaking from his lips, he
was forced to the conclusion that his attempt to destroy her had failed, that
the colonists had finished her and taken her away to some unknown destination,
and that, therefore, the hitherto incomparable Destroyer was now no longer the
mistress of the seas.

XIV. HOMEWARD BOUND

IT will now be necessary, in order to preserve the continuity of the
narrative, to go back to the evening of the disaster which caused such a dark
and sudden cloud to fall upon the hitherto unclouded brightness of life in
Utopia.

Before daybreak on the morning following the discovery of Lieutenant Wyndham
lying wounded on the platform in the crater of Mount Orient, and the rescue of
Violet from her perilous position on the top of the palm tree, young Markham
came galloping up to the crater on pony-back, and had an interview with Adams
and Mr. Austen, who were roused for the purpose from the brief slumber into
which they had fallen after the distress and excitement of the previous night.
So serious was the news that he brought, that they were not long in seeing that
he was perfectly justified in taking the step that he had done.

It will be remembered that he was entrusted with the amusement of the
Calypso's crew during the holiday, and in the discharge of this duty he had
taken several of them for a run round the reef in the Mermaid, after
entertaining them for the greater part of the day, in order that those of them
who wished might get a good general view of the island that they were so soon
to leave. During this trip, and while the Mermaid was at the eastern extremity
of the reef, and over twenty miles from the landing-stages, he had seen the air-
ship rise from the crater of Mount Orient and leave the island.

Bewildered as he had been by an apparition which, as he well knew, meant the
disclosure of Utopia's most jealously guarded secret, he had not been long in
coming to the conclusion that it could only be explained on the supposition of
treason and desertion. Then, instantly, his thoughts had reverted to the
Nautilus. If there had been anyone on the island capable of disclosing the
secret of the air-ship and stealing her from the colony, was it not also
reasonable to suppose that such a traitor would also try to deprive the
colonists of the formidable sea-weapon which had so nearly approached
completion.

It had taken all his own ingenuity and the authority of Mr. Topline to
restrain or in any way satisfy the wondering curiosity of the Calypso's men
with regard to the apparition of the air-ship. But this was of insignificant
importance in comparison with the undefined, but very certain, fears that he
entertained with regard to the safety of the Nautilus. Consequently, he put the
Mermaid's head about, and astonished the sailors still further by rushing her
back to the entrance to the lagoon in front of the settlement at a good thirty
knots an hour.

It was dark by the time he got back to the dockyard, so, after giving the
Calypso's men in charge of the sailing-master, he took the crew of the launch
ashore, lighted the electric lamps, and set to work to make an examination,
first of the hull of the Nautilus, and then of the dockyard itself.

For between three and four hours they searched in vain, and then, just as they
were about to give up the search and leave the interior of the vessel,
Markham's quick ear had caught a sound like the ticking of a clock, faint but
regular, in the inmost recesses of the after part of the craft. He saw at once
that this was a sound that boded danger, for there was nothing in connection
with the work of building that could explain it, so they set to work again with
redoubled energy, and not a little anxiety, and at last discovered, close
hidden under one of the motor-fuel magazines, a battery and a little clockwork
mechanism arranged like that of an alarum clock, which, as after examination'
proved, would five minutes later have completed the circuit and sent a spark
through the magazine, and produced an explosion which would have blown the
after part of the Nautilus to fragments.

This was of course proof positive of treachery as ruthless as it had been
cunning and secret, and gave ample confirmation of Markham's timely
apprehensions. The battery was immediately disconnected, and then, leaving two
of his companions to explore every other recess of the ship into which a human
being could crawl, Markham took the rest, and, after enlisting the assistance
of Mr. Topline and the Calypso's men, proceeded to make a thorough and
systematic examination of the whole dockyard.

This precaution, very necessary after what had been found in the hull of the
Nautilus, occupied the searchers well through the night, but resulted in no
further discovery, and from this fact it was rightly concluded that the traitor
or traitors had had no time to plan or execute any further damage. As soon as
he was satisfied of this, Markham, without waiting for daylight, had ridden up
to Mount Orient and told his story to Adams and Mr. Austen, so that they might
lose no time in taking any precautions that they might think necessary. The
first thing to be done was to hold a sort of council of war, and to this Sir
Harry was invited, in consideration of the offer he had made the evening before
to devote his life and his fortune to avenging the misery and suffering that
Renault had brought upon his sister and himself.

Naturally the first question that arose was whether Renault had acted entirely
alone, or whether he had had any accomplices on the island. As soon as the
lieutenant woke, which he did soon after sunrise, very weak, but in the full
possession of his faculties, he was able to answer this question in the
negative so far as the carrying off of the airship was concerned.

He told them that on the previous afternoon he and Violet, when wandering
alone, for reasons best known to themselves, in the valley between the two
craters, had been unexpectedly accosted by Renault, who appeared to be in his
pleasantest and politest mood, and he had led the conversation round to the
Nautilus and the lieutenant's offer to take her to sea.

Then he had told them that he had had a conversation on the subject with Adams
and Mr. Austen, and that they had agreed with him that, as the lieutenant had
virtually decided to throw in his lot with the Utopians in their campaign
against the Destroyer, there was no reason why a much greater secret than that
of the existence of the Nautilus should be any longer withheld from him.

Wyndham had seen instantly what he was driving at, and when Renault at length,
without giving any sign that he knew of their knowledge of the air- ship's
existence, told him point blank that there was such a craft on the island, and
offered to show it to them, there and then, in the crater of Mount Orient, his
anxiety to see the wonderful ship at close quarters had got the better of his
prudence, and he had accepted the offer without a thought of any ulterior
design on Renault's part.

They had found the air-ship resting on her platform in the crater, and Renault
bad taken them on board, showed them the machinery, and explained the working.
Then they had gone on deck, Renault having promised to run the ship round the
inside of the crater, to give them an idea of the ease with which she could be
managed. Just as they were waiting for her to rise from the platform, the
lieutenant had felt the stab of Renault's dagger in his back; then came a
violent lurch, the air-ship's deck rose beneath his feet, and he was hurled to
the ground, and remembered nothing more till he opened his eyes and found Adams
and Sir Harry leaning over him.

Later on in the day, when the whole colony had become aware of the loss that
Utopia had sustained through Renault's daring and all too successful crime, a
regular council of war was held in Lieutenant Wyndham's room.

As the Utopians were too sensible to believe that the more talk there is on a
problem the more likelihood there is of arriving at a satisfactory solution,
the council consisted only of Mr. Austen, Adams, Ambrose Miller, the veteran
mariner who had piloted the colonists to Utopia, Sir Harry, and, of course, the
wounded lieutenant, who had sufficiently recovered from the exhaustion
consequent on his wound to be able to listen a good deal and talk a little.

As all had thought the question well out beforehand, and as no one had any
desire save to find out the best course to pursue, there was very little
talking done, and the most of it was done by Adams, who now, as on all
important crises in the fortunes of Utopia, acted as the colonists' spokesman.

"I am afraid there is only one thing to be done," he said, in response to Mr.
Austen's request that he should state his view of the case first. "I am afraid
it will seem a very extreme view of the case, and, of course, if anyone can
suggest another way out of the difficulty that offers the same chance of
safety, I shall be most happy to agree with them.

"So far as I can see, however, this treachery of Renault's has placed
everybody in Utopia in a very serious position indeed.

"The discovery that Markham made in the Nautilus clearly proves that he
intended to destroy the only vessel that could compete with the Destroyer. I am
afraid there can be no doubt now but that Renault was an anarchist in disguise,
and that he came out with us solely for the purpose of getting hold of the
secret that Mr. Austen gave us, and also, as events have proved, of stealing
the air-ship when it was completed.

"No doubt he recognised Lieutenant Wyndham, and saw that he might be exposed
at any moment, and that, to my mind, is why he took the air-ship for a trial
trip that night that the lieutenant and Sir Harry saw her over the hills, and
also why he laid his plans hurriedly, and got away with the air-ship, instead
of waiting, as I daresay he would have done, to try and corrupt enough members
of the colony to help him to steal the Nautilus as well.

"With the personal violence and the dastardly crime that he was guilty of
against Miss Milton and Lieutenant Wyndham, I do not think we have any concern
at present-"

"No," said Sir Henry grimly. "We'll see about that later on when the day of
reckoning comes; but we'll have to get on something like equal terms with the
scoundrel before that."

"Yes," continued Adams. "So we can put that aside for the present. Now,
obviously, Renault, having got possession of the air-ship, must do one of two
things. Either he must content himself with the mischief that he can do after
he has got her armed, and run the risk of our building another vessel swifter
and more powerful than the one he has stolen, or else he will get her armed,
come back here, and exterminate the colony in order to prevent our doing so. To
my mind, there is no choice between the two courses. He will certainly come
back, and that as soon as he possibly can, therefore the only thing that we can
do is to get out of Utopia before he returns."

When Adams ceased, there was silence for two or three minutes. He had
suggested the one course that held out any reasonable chance of safety, but it
was also a course that meant the abandonment of the colony and all the bright
hopes that had grown up round the venture, which had been overwhelmed with such
sudden and unexpected disaster.

They knew that the Utopians had got to love their island paradise so dearly
that it would be a terrible wrench for them to leave it, perhaps for ever, at a
few days' notice; and so it was in a sadly serious tone that Mr. Austen took up
the parable, and said-

"Yes, I'm afraid there's nothing for it but that. The man who could do what
Renault did yesterday is capable of any crime, and I feel certain that he would
not scruple even to come back and slaughter every man, woman, and child in
Utopia, in order to make sure that he alone possessed the secret of the air-
ship's motive power.

"Our duty, both to ourselves and the world, is now perfectly plain. Whatever
sacrifice to our personal feelings, we must leave Utopia at the earliest
possible moment. We must finish the work on the Nautilus, and get her home to
England to receive her equipment. That done, she must take the water in search
of the Destroyer, and not rest until she has found her and sent her to the
bottom. Meanwhile—we must have at least a dozen air-ships."

"Make it a score at least," put in Sir Harry, with a short laugh. "If they
cost £40,000 a-piece, I'll see that the money's found for them."

"Very well," continued Mr. Austen, looking round at him with a smile. "A score
let it be, and I can promise you that they shall be both faster and more
powerful for destruction than the Volante, as we were going to have called her.

"But by the time we have built these,—and with the utmost expedition they will
take at least six months to complete, even if we build them simultaneously,—we
must expect that Renault and his accomplices, with an equal, if not greater,
command of money, will have been able to build a fleet possibly as strong as
this, and therefore, I am afraid, we shall have to prepare ourselves not only
to hunt the anarchists out of the world, but to literally fight such battles as
have never been fought before.

"In short, I am afraid we must take it that, within the scope of the air-
ship's powers, and as soon as she has been properly armed, Renault is virtual
master of the world. It seems an extravagant term to use, and yet it must be
granted that he is so; and we shall have to fight him for that mastery, and
take it away from him, or be destroyed in the attempt. There is nothing else
for it, so far as I can see."

"No, there is nothing else; we must go," said Adams and Ambrose Miller, almost
in a breath.

The result of this brief conference was that, that evening the colonists of
Utopia assembled to the number of about a thousand souls on the beach beside
the landing-stages, and heard from Adams's lips the gist of what had already
been said in private. Everyone, of reasoning years, was compelled to admit
that, mournful as such a step undoubtedly was, there was nothing for it but to
forsake their beautiful southern home.

As long as Max Renault remained at liberty and in command of the air- ship,
there was no chance of safety for anyone in Utopia, and therefore they must
abandon it. Some day, perhaps, when the peace of the world should be restored,
they might return and continue the work that had been so rudely interrupted;
but for the present they must forsake it.

But when Adams had done speaking, Sir Harry jumped upon the block of coral
upon which he had been standing, and, in a few well-chosen, hearty words,
claimed the opportunity of making a return for the hospitality he and the
company of the Calypso had received in Utopia, by placing a little seaside town
in Yorkshire, which he owned from the foundation to the chimney-pots, at the
disposal of all who chose to go and live there as his guests until they found
opportunities of settling down again into English homes of their own.

The invitation was accepted in the same spirit in which it was given, and with
the next sunrise the Utopians set to work, with heavy hearts, but a settled
conviction that they were doing the best possible for themselves and their
children, to make all preparations for leaving the island at the earliest
possible date.

Of course, the work on the Nautilus was pushed on with the utmost speed.
Everyone who could give any assistance was set to work, and relays of workers
wrought night and day on her and the Calypso with such hearty goodwill that on
the tenth day of the new year the Calypso was floated out of the dry dock, and,
in the presence of all the assembled colonists, Miss Dora put her dainty
fingers on the electric button connected with certain mechanism which, set in
motion, sent the Nautilus gliding down the well-greased ways of the slips, and
despatched her with a graceful plunge into the waters of the basin.

By noon the following day everything was ready for the exodus, and the
colonists embarked on the three vessels that were to take them back to England.
The Irene, the two-thousand-ton transport steamer which had originally brought
them out, and the Calypso, which had also been fitted up as a transport, were
to go by way of the Panama Canal, the Irene carrying the Mermaid as a tender.
Ambrose Miller went in command of this portion of the expedition, and the
Nautilus, in charge of Adams and Mr. Austen, and carrying Violet and the
lieutenant, Sir Harry, Doctor Roberts, and Mrs. Merton and Dora, who had
undertaken the care of Violet between them, was to go round the Horn in order
to avoid the undesirable notice she would be bound to receive going through the
Canal.

Though neither knew it, she actually passed the Destroyer, outward bound for
Utopia, within ten miles of her, between the island of Trinidad and the coast
of South America.

Travelling at an average speed of forty knots an hour, the Nautilus covered
the fifteen thousand odd miles between Utopia and the Straits of Dover in the
miraculous time of seventeen days. So far the voyage was eventless. The
strange, low-lying craft, mastless save for a single signal pole, had crossed
the world almost unobserved. The lieutenant's wound had healed, and he was so
much stronger that he took a regular watch every day in the conning-tower, to
familiarise himself with the working of the vessel; while Violet, though, of
course, still almost helpless, had improved wonderfully in both health and
general spirits.

They were running quietly and swiftly along through comparatively smooth grey
sea, almost due east of the Admiralty Pier, at a distance of about eight miles,
in the early night of the 27th, when the first interruption occurred. Without
warning the long white blinding ray of a war-ship's searchlight flashed out of
the gloom towards the land.

It fell for an instant on the platform of the swiftly-moving Nautilus, then
came the short, flat-toned bang of a blank cartridge, conveying an unmistakable
information to stop. The lieutenant happened to be in the conning- tower with
Adams at that moment. Adams, who was at the wheel, looked at him inquiringly
and said-

"What does that mean?"

Wyndham was silent for a moment, and then said very seriously-

"It may mean one of two things, and either of them is bad enough. Either these
scoundrels in the Destroyer have been terrorising the Channel, or England is at
war. However, I'll soon let them know who we are."

So saying, he put his hand on a switch, the forward searchlight of the
Nautilus gleamed up from the water, and flashed the private signal, intimating
that the strange craft was in charge of an officer of the fleet.

XV. NEWS OF WAR

AS the answering signal was flashed from the war-ship's searchlight, the
Nautilus slowed down to ten knots and swung round to port, describing a three-
quarter curve which brought her alongside a large, grey-painted armoured
cruiser, which, with her attendant brace of torpedo-boats, was cruising under
easy steam about six miles from the land.

As the Nautilus, with nothing of her showing above the water except her
platform and conning-tower, and an expanse of plated turtle-back deck fore and
aft of it, and with no funnels, and, consequently, no smoke or steam issuing
from any part of her, ran up alongside the cruiser, all who were on the deck of
the British vessel crowded to the bulwarks and portholes, and up into the
rigging, to get a closer view of the strange craft.

The captain himself was at the gangway as she came alongside, looking with no
less curious eyes than anyone else at this strange visitor, which seemed the
nearest approach to an actual submarine vessel that he had ever heard of. By
the time the gangway steps had been reached, Wyndham had come on deck dressed
in his uniform as a lieutenant of the fleet, and returned the salute with which
Her Majesty's cloth was immediately recognised.

"What craft is that, and where do you come from?" asked the commander of the
cruiser. "And how long have you been in commission? I never heard of a thing
like that in the Navy. Who are you?"

"Well, sir, I'm Herbert Wyndham, late lieutenant of the Sandfly, gunboat on
the West African coast, invalided on sick-leave, picked up by a friend's yacht,
and landed on an unknown island, where I found the craft that I am now
temporarily in command of. If you'll allow me to come on board, I'll explain
myself more fully."

"Certainly. Come on board by all means, Mr. Wyndham," replied the captain.
"According to what you say, you ought to have some adventures to tell."

"Yes," said Wyndham, who by this time had got on to the gangway ladder, and
was mounting slowly, with the assistance of one of his own crew. "You must
excuse my coming rather slowly, for I was wounded again less than a month ago,
and am rather shaky still."

"Why on earth didn't you say so, man?" exclaimed the captain, as a couple of
bluejackets ran down the ladder in obedience to a sign from him. "I could have
sent a chair down for you if I had known that."

"Oh, I'm not quite bad enough for that, thanks," said Wyndham, as he accepted
an arm from one of the bluejackets, and so arrived safely on the cruiser's
deck. From the gangway he was at once taken straight down to the captain's
cabin, and there told him all that it was necessary for him to know of the
origin and mission of the Nautilus.

"And now," he said, in concluding his story, " we are going to run up to
Elswick and get our armament on board. It was ordered months ago, and will no
doubt be ready for us by the time we get there. When we've got it all on board,
and I'm a little stronger, we are going out to hunt that blackguard of an
anarchist down. In fact, I'm going to resign my commission in the navy on
purpose to do it."

"I don't think you can do that," said the captain of the cruiser seriously. "
At least, from what I have heard of you, I feel pretty certain you won't
attempt to do so under present circumstances."

"Indeed?" asked Wyndham, lifting his eyebrows. "And why not? I hope I wasn't
right in guessing, as I almost did when you fired the shot to tell us to heave
to, that England's at war."

"Yes, I'm sorry to say we are," replied the captain; "and, between you and me,
I am still more sorry to say we're not prepared for it."

"Oh," said Wyndham, "is that really so? I haven't heard anything about that.
Who are we fighting?"

"Russia, at present," replied the captain. "And I'm afraid we shall be at
loggerheads with France, too, before very long.

"I suppose you're a good way behindhand with the news now, but you'll remember
that, after the compromise that ended the war between China and Japan by
granting the Japanese, amongst other concessions, the suzerainty of Corea and
the control of the Corean ports, we found it necessary to reoccupy Port
Hamilton, in order to keep a check on the Russian naval developments in the
East.

"Well, for the last year we've been quarrelling about that with Russia, who
was very much sold because Lord Salisbury put his foot down and absolutely
refused to give her an ice-free port in Corea when the Chino-Japanese quarrel
was settled, and matters came to a crisis about a month ago, when the Russians
attempted to occupy Port Lazaraff by force, and our China Squadron stopped
them, also by force.

"They fired on us first, and there was a regular pitched battle, in which the
Russians were soundly thrashed. Of course, that could only mean war, and so war
it is. France is holding her hand for the present, in spite of the arrangement
that most people think there is between her and Russia. The moment she draws
the sword, Germany, Austria, and Italy will join us; and, for my own part, I
fancy that she's just waiting, for the present, to see how the cat jumps
between us and Russia.

"We've had no actual fighting here yet, but, of course, every one is on the
qui vive. The Russian Baltic Fleet will be shut up in the ice until April, and
the moment the Black Sea Fleet attempts to force the Dardanelles, Turkey is to
join us, and there'll be a general row.

"Meanwhile, we are keeping one eye on Russia, and the other on France; the
Mediterranean Squadron is being strengthened every day as fast as we can get
the ships into commission, which is precious slowly, I can assure you, thanks
to the normal torpidity of the Admiralty; but still, we are holding our own
very fairly, and if we only have Russia to tackle, I think we shall be able to
confine the war to the sea, and give her a good hammering when the ice breaks
up and we get properly to work. By the way, I wish we had a dozen or so craft
like that Nautilus of yours. Couldn't we get that one into commission, and have
some more built, don't you think?"

Wyndham was silent for a moment, and then, with a shake of his head, he replied-

"I don't feel altogether sure of that. Of course, as there's war, it will be
impossible for me to resign my commission, as I intended to do for private as
well as public reasons, and, therefore, if I am ordered on service, when I am
fit for it, I shall go; but, you see, the Nautilus is private property.

"She's been built outside British jurisdiction, by people who own no
allegiance to Britain or any other country, and, more than that, she's driven
by a motor-power of the composition of which I haven't the faintest notion. In
fact, I've given my word of honour not even to ask what it is; and if you had
fifty ships like her, they'd be very little use to you if you had to drive them
by steam-engines in the ordinary way.

"I suppose you thought we were some new-fashioned sort of Russian torpedo ram
trying to sneak through and do what damage we could in the narrow waters. Of
course, we're nothing like that; but still, I ought to tell you that I am
really only a sort of guest on board her, and those who actually do own her may
have plans of their own that I should be sorry to interfere with."

"H'm!" said the captain. "That makes it a little awkward, doesn't it? Could I
see one of these gentlemen, do you think? Perhaps we might be able to come to
some arrangement, though, of course, you understand I have no power to treat on
behalf of the Government; still, I have some interest at the Admiralty, and I
daresay that a report from me might be favourably considered, especially as
their lordships seem to be a little bit alarmed by the row that was kicked up
when the declaration of war actually came, and they weren't able to put three-
quarters of the ships into commission."

"If you'll send down and ask Mr. Austen to come on board," said Wyndham, "I
think he'll be the best man for you to talk to. He is—well, practically the
designer of the Nautilus, and I have no doubt his word would go a long way if
he chose to give it."

The captain at once rang for an orderly, and sent him down to the Nautilus
with an invitation to Mr. Austen to come on board the cruiser. The invitation
was accepted, and within five minutes he was seated at the captain's table.
Then a somewhat lengthy conversation ensued; the end of which was that Mr.
Austen consented to a report, embodying a description of the Nautilus, being
laid before the Admiralty, with a proposal that a dozen such vessels might be
built at the expense of the country for the purposes of home defence, on
condition that they should be furnished with motor fuel by Mr. Austen and his
friends, who were to have sole control of the engine-rooms, and that no attempt
was to be made to discover what the motor fuel was.

The ships might be commanded by British officers, and used as they thought
best, but only for the duration of the war; after that they were to be given up
to the Utopians, to be used according to their discretion. These conditions
were taken down by the captain of the cruiser, to be embodied in his despatch,
and then he was invited on board the Nautilus and shown over her without
reserve. To say that he was amazed at what he saw would hardly be doing justice
to his feelings by the time he had seen everything that was shown to him.

"For offensive or defensive purposes," he said, when he at length returned to
her saloon, and had been introduced to the rest of her company, "I would rather
command a craft like this, properly equipped, than the biggest battleship in
the British Navy."

"Yes, I should think you would," said Wyndham, with a laugh. "I know more
about her capabilities than you have been able to learn in such a short visit,
and I can tell you I should be very sorry for you if you were in command of the
Royal Sovereign or the Majestic, say, and I bad the Nautilus, and it was my
business to send you to the bottom. You wouldn't have a chance against me. You
might, perhaps, knock the platform into bits; but the next moment the ram would
be into you, and you'd go down like a stone."

"Yes," replied the captain, with a perceptible shudder, "I suppose we should.
Forty-four knots an hour, did you say you could make? Honestly, you know, that
seems to me almost impossible. Why, even that scoundrel who has been
terrorising the Atlantic wouldn't be in it in a race with you at that rate, and
rumour says he can do nearly forty."

"Nevertheless, it's a fact," replied Wyndham. "We've just travelled over
fifteen thousand miles in seventeen days and a half, and if you work that out,
you'll find that it comes to about forty knots an hour on the average, and if
it was only daylight, you should see for yourself. Hullo, what's that?"

As he spoke; there came the dull boom of a gun out to sea, followed by a
rattle of sharper reports. The captain of the cruiser jumped up from his seat
at once and made towards the door of the saloon, followed by Wyndham, Sir
Harry, Mr. Austen, and Adams.

When they reached the platform they saw searchlight beams darting out from a
score of points at once, and signals were being flashed inland from the outer
waters of the Straits. The captain of the cruiser, after one glance round, ran
up on to the deck of his own vessel and had a hurried consultation with his
first, officer; then he came to the gangway and called out-

"Now, then, Wyndham, there's a chance for your Nautilus. A couple of strange
crafts, steaming like the very deuce, are running up under the French land to
the north-west. They'll probably run inside the limit so we can't chase them,
though our fellows are after them. You can do as you like. Suppose you overhaul
them and see what you can make of them. They've got about a twenty- mile start
of you now. Do you feel inclined to tackle them?"

"Oh, I'm agreeable, of course," said Wyndham. "What do you say, gentlemen?" he
continued, turning to Adams and Mr. Austen.

They glanced at each other and nodded.

"Yes," said Adams; "I don't see why you shouldn't, as long as there isn't any
unprovoked bloodshed."

"Oh, of course not," said Wyndham. "I don't suppose you want me to sink them,
do you, Captain Andrews?"

"Well, no, not unless they absolutely refuse to give an account of themselves,
and in that case, of course—well, you can just use your own discretion."

"I see," said Wyndham in reply. "We won't hurt them unless we are obliged to.
What course shall we steer?"

"You can make it nor'-west by north from where you lie till you make the
French land. By that time you'll see the flames from their funnels, I expect,
and then, of course, it will only be a question of heels."

"All right. Good-bye. Keep those torpedo-boats of yours out of the way," said
Wyndham, "because if we hit anything it'll get hurt. Good-bye, I'll bring you
news back in an hour or so, or else you'll hear something startling in the
morning."

The captain waved good-bye from the deck as Wyndham went forward into the
conning-tower, accompanied by Adams, who was going to take the wheel for him,
while Mr. Austen and Sir Harry disappeared down the after companion-way. Those
on board the cruiser heard the companion-slide and the door of the conning-
tower shut with a smart snap. Then they heard the muffled tinkling of an
electric bell, and the Nautilus moved slowly away from the cruiser's side. As
soon as she was clear of her and her consorts, there was a sound as of rapidly
churned-up water, a mass of boiling foam rose astern of the Nautilus, two
clouds of spray leapt up ahead of her, and the next moment she had vanished
into the darkness on her errand of investigation.

XVI. THE "NAUTILUS" GOES INTO ACTION

AS the Nautilus gathered way, the lieutenant had the pumps set to work and
filled her water compartments until the hull was entirely submerged, and
nothing but the platform and about half of its supporting structure remained
above the surface. The two wings of spray which she had thrown up when she
started now subsided. The night was calm, though cold, and the water rushed
away on either side of the swiftly-moving platform in long, dark, smooth
swirls, without a trace of foam either fore or aft.

This was accomplished by means of a device which, in designing the Nautilus,
Mr. Austen had made use of for the first time in naval architecture. Far
forward in the hull, just behind the ram, the plates were pierced with scores
of tiny holes arranged along the top and sides of a cylinder, and through
these, fine jets of oil were forced, and these, rising to the surface or
spreading themselves along the upper sides of the hull, both diminished the
skin-friction and prevented the water breaking into foam forward of the
platform.

A double advantage was derived from this arrangement. The reduction of skin-
friction meant a considerable increase in speed, and the absence of any "bone
in her teeth," to use a nautical term, enabled her, as the present expedition
clearly proved, to approach close to another craft at night without giving any
warning of her presence. Had she been running thus submerged when coming
through the Straits, the probability is that she would have got through without
anyone being a whit the wiser; but this manoeuvre was only intended to be
resorted to when in action.

The apparatus for supplying pure oxygen and keeping the air in her interior
perfectly fresh was capable of performing its work continuously for twenty-four
hours. There were no furnaces or boilers to heat the air or vitiate it with
smoke and noxious fumes, and not even Violet, lying on the couch in her cabin
fifteen feet below the surface of the water, suffered the slightest
inconvenience as the wonderful vessel bore her at a speed of nearly forty-five
knots an hour through the depths. In fact, so absolute was the confidence in
the strength and capabilities of the Nautilus with which her voyage had
inspired those on board her, that Violet had point-blank refused to be put on
shore at Dover, for fear her brother should have felt bound to accompany her,
and so would have missed the excitement of the chase. As for any harm coming to
them, the idea never even suggested itself.

Within half an hour from the start, the plumes of flame from the triple
funnels of the two strange craft were distinctly seen from the conning-tower to
the north-west under the looming shadow of the French land. Slightly altering
the course of the Nautilus to the northward, Wyndham now steered direct for the
points of light. The hostile torpedo-boats, if such they were, were evidently
bound on some important mission, for it was obvious that they were steaming for
all they were worth.

Another half-hour brought the Nautilus close enough to them for Wyndham to see
that they were two large torpedo-boats of the class known in the French navy as
torpilleurs de haute mere, and that they were travelling at a speed of over
thirty knots an hour. This gave him an advantage of from twelve to fourteen
knots, and so the distance between them rapidly decreased. When the chase had
lasted for a little over an hour and a half, he was within five or six hundred
yards of them and dead astern. They still kept on under the land and within the
three-mile limit of the French shore which no British vessel could pass for any
hostile purpose without a breach of neutrality.

"I'll be hanged if I can make out what those fellows are up to," said Wyndham
to Adams when he had reduced speed so as to keep his distance from the torpedo-
boats. "They're evidently on some special errand or other, or else they
wouldn't be going at such a speed. British they are not, or they wouldn't be
over here. If they were French, and merely running from one port to another in
the ordinary way, there would be no reason for all this hurry, because we are
not at war with France, and they have just as much right to steam through the
Straits as our ships have.

"On the other hand, if they are Russians, how did they get here? They can only
have come from a French port or from the Mediterranean; and yet, if they have
come from the Mediterranean, they must have coaled either at sea or at a French
port, or they wouldn't have enough coal on board at this time to be steaming at
that speed. We can't ram them on mere suspicion of being Russians, so I suppose
there is nothing for it but just to follow them up for the present.

"There are the lights of Dunkirk on the quarter, so in half an hour we shall
be outside French waters, then perhaps we shall see what their game really is.
Fortunately, it is all on our way to the Tyne."

"It looks to me," said Adams, "as though they were either carrying some secret
despatches to a fleet in the North Sea, or else they're on a raiding expedition
somewhere. I don't really see that we can do anything else but watch them."

"No," replied the lieutenant, "I don't see that we can; but still, I am
satisfied that there is some pretty dark game afoot or afloat. They don't seem
to turn to the north, either. If they mean a rush across to the English coast
after sneaking through the Straits in neutral waters, they'll make it pretty
soon. I'd give something to know what they really are up to."

For two hours more they ran along in the rear of the two boats, without seeing
anything that gave them any clue to their character or the object of their
cruise. This brought them, as nearly as the lieutenant could calculate, off the
mouth of the Scheldt.

A few minutes later, they sighted the lightship marking the entrance to the
river, and almost at the same instant, the two torpedo-boats made a rapid turn
and ran out to the eastward in slightly diverging directions. Then the sparks
and flames that had been shooting from their funnels disappeared, their speed
decreased, and the lieutenant had to turn the Nautilus inland to keep out of
sight as he slowed her down.

"Oh, that's it, is it?" he said, as he saw the manoeuvre of the two boats.
"Whatever they are, they have come to watch the entrance to the Scheldt. Now
the question is, what are they watching for? Either for something coming in or
something going out. It can't very well be anything coming out, unless it's a
passenger steamer, and they wouldn't take all this trouble for that."

"Do you think it likely," said Adams, haphazarding a guess, "that Britain has
made any secret arrangement with Belgium to garrison Antwerp, as I have often
heard she would try to do in case of a war, and-"

"By Jove, I believe you've hit it!" exclaimed Wyndham. "The trouble with
France may really be much nearer breaking out than Captain Andrews knew, and
it's just possible that such an arrangement has been made, and that our people
might be running two or three transports across by night, so as to steal a
march on the Frenchmen.

"It would be rather a risky move; but, anyhow, we shall soon see if it is so,
for these fellows certainly look as though they had got wind of something of
the sort, and mean to patrol the outside of the river mouth to waylay a
troopship and shove a torpedo into her, and then get back again into French
waters as if they'd never done anything. If that's so, it's a very good job
that we followed them, and I think we shall be able to spoil their little game
very effectually.

"We'll just run round behind them and get out to sea in front of them. Yes;
they're evidently looking for something coming in, or they wouldn't be running
out at quarter speed like that."

The Nautilus now made a wide curve round the landward side of the boats, and
then, keeping well out of sight, put on speed and ran away to sea. When she got
out ahead of the boats, Wyndham noticed that they showed no lights visible from
a vessel bow on to them, and from this he rightly concluded that his surmise
was correct, and that they were lying in wait for something coming from
seaward. Nor was it very long before he and Adams made out a huge black mass
looming dimly against the dark background of sea and sky to eastward. It was
showing neither masthead nor side-lights, so evidently its mission was also a
secret.

"That's the craft they're looking for," said Wyndham, after a long stare
through his night-glasses. "I shouldn't be surprised if that's one of the big
P.&0. boats being used as a trooper. Those fellows haven't sighted her yet, I
think, for they're a good dozen miles behind us. We'll run along and tell that
chap what there is ahead of him. Hullo, there's another behind him," he
continued, as a second black mass loomed up astern of the first one.

In a quarter of an hour, the Nautilus was alongside of the leading steamer,
and Wyndham, throwing open the door of the conning-tower, hailed the deck and
rapidly explained the situation to the officer who answered his hail. Adams's
conjecture proved perfectly correct. War with France was considered to be
imminent and liable to break out at any moment. A secret engagement which had
long been in force between the Belgian and British Governments was being taken
advantage of to put ten thousand British troops into Antwerp, and three big
steamers were making a rush for the Scheldt that night.

Secret intelligence of this must have been conveyed by spies to France, and
the two torpedo-boats had been sent out to intercept and sink the troopers, if
possible, without any one being aware of their fate. It was a desperate move,
and in flat defiance of the law of nations; but in practice there could be no
doubt that the troops were being conveyed to a neutral country for hostile
purposes, and this would go far towards justifying the action of France,
provided always that it was successful.

If unsuccessful, the moral effect would be so bad that the Government would
probably repudiate all responsibility for the action of the two boats.
Wyndham's trained mind saw all this at a glance, and his course of action was
immediately taken. He warned the second and the third troopships of their
danger, and as the three slowed down and went at quarter speed to the
northward, he headed the Nautilus in for the land again, saying to Adams as he
did so-

"There's nothing else for it. We must send those two fellows to the bottom
without mercy. They are there to commit a breach of the law of nations and to
sacrifice thousands of lives without even the sanction of regular warfare. The
Destroyer herself has really done nothing worse than that. What do you think?"

"I am afraid I must agree with you," replied Adams gravely. "It seems a
terrible thing to do, certainly, but it would be infinitely more dreadful to
see them sink those steamers with all the thousands on board them."

"Yes," said Wyndham. " And if the Frenchmen once catch sight of them, they'll
send one, at any rate, of them to the bottom, for we can only attend to one
torpedo-boat at a time; so we'd better get the business over as soon as
possible."

The low platform of the Nautilus now began to glide faster and faster over the
water, and Wyndham kept her on a curving course towards the land, until the two
French boats—for such they really were, and bent on the very errand that Adams
had guessed—were in line broadside on, and the nearer one was about a mile
away. Wyndham signalled for full speed to the engine-room, and the Nautilus
rushed forward towards the unsuspecting enemy.

Not until she was close upon her was she detected by those on board the first
torpedo-boat, and then it was too late. The submerged ram went at her with a
speed of an express train. The steel spur pierced her thin plates like tissue
paper, and then the bulk of the Nautilus, hurled with frightful impetus upon
her, crushed the flimsily-built hull like an eggshell, and the platform passed
over the wreck.

For a moment they saw forms of men with agonised faces crawling about it, and
then the Nautilus swept on, leaving the fragments to sink in the sea. Four
minutes later the ram struck the second one square amidships, cut her in two as
cleanly as a gigantic chisel might have done, and as the two halves dropped
away on either side, Wyndham swung his terrible craft round, signalled for
quarter speed, and ran back to pick up those of the crews who were still
struggling and swimming for their lives.

Out of eighty men they only succeeded in saving twenty-four, and these they
took back to the leading troopship as prisoners of war. They confessed that
they had heard of the movements of the troopships from spies in England, and
had come out to sink them. But whether they had done this by the order, or even
with the sanction, of the French Government, they flatly refused to tell.

The result of this, the first warlike action of the Nautilus, proved to be of
immense importance. When France woke up the next morning, there were ten
thousand British troops in Antwerp. The French press stormed in its usual
hysterical fashion, but war was not declared. For the time being, at any rate,
the rapid and well-planned move was checkmate in the game that the two
Governments were playing.

Of course, all sorts of rumours were soon flying about concerning the exploit
of the Nautilus, but officially nothing was said on either side. The ram went
on her way to Elswick and shipped her guns, torpedo armament, and ammunition,
and underwent a thorough overhauling at the hands of Armstrong's most
experienced engineers.

Sir Harry, Adams, and Mr. Austen at once applied themselves to the task of
getting the various parts of the twenty air-ships into the hands of the
different firms who were to construct them, and orders were given at Elswick
for the building of another ram on the lines of the Nautilus, while that
redoubtable craft was taken round to Southampton, in readiness to sally forth
into the Atlantic on receipt of the first news by ship or cable of the
appearance of the Destroyer on the high seas, or to act as torpedo-boat
destroyer and scout in case of an outbreak of hostilities with France, and any
attempt on the southern coast.

In this way a month and then two months passed, and still they waited in vain
for any sign of the pirate who a few weeks before had been the terror of the
Atlantic. She had disappeared as utterly as though a shot from one of the big
guns of a battle-ship had blown her out of the water. Liners went to and fro
unmolested, and even the air-ship that had given such terrible evidence of its
powers had evinced no further sign of its existence.

A series of crushing naval defeats in Eastern waters had shown Russia the
folly of measuring her strength afloat with the Power that was still the
mistress of the seas. France, isolated by the alliance of Britain, Belgium,
Germany, Austria, and Italy, still withheld her hand, chiefly in consequence of
the wisdom and strength of the President of the Republic, who had set his face
like flint against war save in defence of territory; and so the combatants
waited until the breaking up of the ice in the Baltic or the forcing of the
Dardanelles should enable Russia to make an effort to retrieve in the West the
disasters she had sustained in the East.

XVII. A VISIT TO PARIS

WHILE these events were taking place in England, the crews of the Destroyer
and the Bremen were enjoying what they no doubt considered a well- earned
holiday amidst the tropical beauties of Utopia. Renault and Hartog had decided,
for the present at any rate, to take possession of the island and the dock
yard, keeping a sharp look out for unwelcome visitors, and to take advantage of
their leisure to fit out the Bremen as a floating workshop for the construction
of the air-ships, as soon as the necessary materials could be obtained from
their agents in America, England, and Europe.

They knew that they would be free from interruption, at any rate for a period
of some weeks, it might even be months, since it would be absurd for an
expedition to be sent out to attack them in the island, unless it could be
supported by at least two or three air-ships, and these Max knew from
experience could not possibly be built and made ready for flight in less than
four months from the time that work was commenced on them. He knew that Sir
Harry and his friends would push on the construction of their vessels with the
utmost possible speed; and he also saw clearly that, if there was going to be a
fight for the empire of the air, the side that got its fleet on the wing first
would have an immense advantage over the other.

So convinced was he of the paramount necessity of expedition that, after he
had been a fortnight in Utopia, and had seen Hartog get everything into working
order, he determined to run the risk of a journey to America and Europe, in
order to personally visit his agents, and push on the construction of the
various parts of the air-ships to the utmost possible speed.

It was not, however, only reasons of policy which impelled him to this
decision, for Max Renault was a man who possessed all the strong passions
usually associated with his masterful type of character, and of these, next to
the ruling passion which had made him the implacable enemy of all organised
society, the strongest was his love for the beautiful girl in whom he had
recognised a soul kindred to his own, which, while admitting his superior
strength as a leader and an organiser of the forces of anarchy, had tacitly
asserted an authority of its own over him, an authority which she knew he was
willing to bow to the moment that she gave him the permission she had hitherto
coldly and consistently withheld, because in the nature of the case it must
involve the surrender of herself to him.

His attempt to carry off Violet in the air-ship from Utopia had really only
been the result of a passing fancy, strengthened by a savage desire to inflict
an irreparable injury upon her and her brother, and the friend who was perhaps
her lover, simply because they were members of the class that he hated with the
whole strength and bitterness of his perverted nature. Had the attempt been
successful, if Violet had been cast in a less heroic mould, and had not chosen
the peril of almost certain death to the slavery which he would have imposed
upon her, he would probably have amused himself with her as long as the fancy
lasted, and then killed her in cold blood to remove an obstacle to the
execution of his plans.

But with regard to Lea Cassilis, his feelings were very different. He really
loved her with the love that such a man as he only gives once and to one woman,
no matter how many others might claim or win the admiration of the passing
moment. And now his thoughts had gone back to the challenge that she had given
and he had accepted in the little upstairs room in the back street off the
Caledonian Road more than four years before.

She had tacitly admitted that if the projects of that memorable night were
realised, it would be for him to take and keep that which he chose should be
his -and did she not well know what that would be? Now the power to carry out
those projects was finally his. He was no longer the nameless anarchist lurking
in the obscurity of city slums and planning murders and outrages in the dark.
He was the acknowledged and unquestioned leader of a band of desperate men who
had declared open war upon the world, and had so far proved themselves
invincible.

Then they were poor; now they were wealthy, and their wealth, skilfully used,
would enable them to turn the resources of civilisation against itself. They
could spend money like water, and every pound would buy as much for them as it
would for anyone else. There was no fear of their spending too much. The wealth
of the world's commerce was theirs to draw upon as they needed. There was no
answer but submission to the demands which came from the unassailable vantage-
ground of the air.

Would Lea still hold to her part of the implied bargain between them? Would
she think that he had accomplished enough of his part to claim the performance
of hers, or would she tell him to wait until the now inevitable struggle for
the empire of the air bad been fought and won, and society lay helpless before
the most formidable and implacable enemies that it had ever had?

It was to receive an answer to these questions and others that were shaping
themselves in his heart and setting his cool, evenly-flowing blood aflame,
that, after a two months' voyage, during which he had visited every agent in
America and England, and with his own eyes seen and inspected the progress of
the work on the materials of the air-ships, that he set the Vengeur's head
towards Paris, and dropped her to the earth one dark night in the forest of
Fontainebleau.

He had brought with him Raoul Taxil and six men whom he had chosen with the
greatest care. Taxil had now so completely convinced him of his personal
devotion, that he did not feel the slightest scruple in leaving him in charge
of the air-ship. But even had his estimate been wrong, he knew that treachery
was impossible, if only because everyone on board the Vengeurwas convinced it
would not pay. He was the only one who was able to prepare the motor fuel which
worked the Vengeur's engines. Not even Franz had been admitted to the secret.
In fact, Max had told him point blank that he would put a bullet through the
head of him or any one else that he even suspected of trying to share the
secret with him.

When he left the air-ship, after having given Taxil full instructions as to
evading observation, and the keeping of the rendezvous he had appointed, he was
so far disguised that even those who knew him most intimately would have had
some difficulty in recognising him.

A liberal use of hydrogen peroxide had bleached his hair from glossy black to
the bright bronze tint which had been so popular among beauties, professional
and otherwise, a few years before. His dark eyebrows had been lightened by the
same means, and a neatly trimmed moustache and imperial to match had been
skilfully affixed to his clean-shaven lip and chin.

With a light valise in his hand, he made his way into the town of
Fontainebleau, and caught a train there which landed him in Paris shortly
before midnight. He slept in a small hotel near Lyons station, and occupied the
following forenoon in fitting himself out with clothes which would be less
conspicuous in Paris than the quaint, ill-fitting odds and ends that lie had
been obliged to borrow from his men.

Before doing this, however, he had despatched a telegram addressed to Madame
Cora Dail, 5 Rue Vernet, Champs Elysées, and the consequence of this was that
when at four o'clock that afternoon he sent up a card inscribed "Francois
Laroche," and having an almost imperceptible pencil-mark in the top left-hand
corner, to the first floor, the concierge informed him that he was expected,
and touched a bell which brought a smart English footman to conduct him to
Madame's presence.

As the portière of the luxuriously furnished boudoir fell behind him, a slight
and still almost girlish figure rose with a nearly inaudible rustle of soft
draperies from a low couch in a delightful little curtained alcove formed by a
deep window looking out on to the broad tree-lined avenue.

"Welcome, Monsieur Max," said a well-remembered voice, and as he took the
little, cool, soft hand that was placed in his, he looked up, and their eyes
met. It was Lea, but Lea glorified; and the sight of her beauty dazzled him for
the moment, and seemed to deprive his usually ready and deliberate tongue. The
four years which had transformed the girl of eighteen into the woman of twenty-
two had touched nothing of her girlish freshness, but they had added to it a
reposeful dignity that he had never seen in the pretty little dressmaker, with
whom he had fallen in love in London.

And over and above this there was the glamour that wealth, which only
emphasises the coarseness of the common human material, enables innate
refinement to glorify itself with. Madame Cora Dail, the alleged widow of the
millionaire slayer of hogs in Chicago, was a very different person from Lea
Cassilis, the clever and precocious girl member of the Autonomie Group No. 7,
and this Renault saw at a glance before she had uttered her second sentence in
greeting to him.

"You are somewhat changed, I see," she went on, meeting his glance with a
steadiness that warned him, with something like a pang of jealousy, that he was
not now the only man who looked at her with unconcealed love and admiration in
his eyes. "I suppose the change was necessary, but honestly I can't say that it
is altogether an improvement. That moustache and imperial—may I ask whether
they are a natural growth, or only assumed for the occasion?"

There was a slight suspicion of mockery both in her tone and her words that
irritated him not a little, and seemed to tell him that he was likely to find
the distance between them as great as ever, but he kept himself well in hand,
and replied in similar tones-

" Unfortunately, the change which has the misfortune to fail to please your
ladyship was necessary, but, happily for me, it is not permanent. The moustache
and imperial were purchased with the hair-dye, and have only been in position
since last night. A pretty fair growth for the time, aren't they? But, to turn
to a more interesting subject, permit me to offer my compliments in exchange
for your welcome. To use the old simile of the butterfly and the chrysalis-"

"Thanks, Monsieur Max, we will take it as spoken," she interrupted, with a
half-curtsey and a smile that dazzled him afresh. "I was in hope that you had
brought some more interesting conversation with you than that. Let me assure
you that since I have been the widow of an American millionaire, with half
Paris at my feet, my ears have been so sated with pretty sayings that I could
almost thank anyone who would be absolutely rude to me.

"But come," she went on, with a sudden, and to Max very pleasant change in her
manner. "I suppose we have something better to talk about than this. Ah, there
is the coffee. 1 have given instructions that I am not at home to the President
himself, if he should do me the honour to make an afternoon call; and so, for
the next two hours at least, we can entertain each other with all the news that
we have to exchange. For instance, I am literally dying to hear all about your
life on that wonderful island of Utopia, where-"

"Utopia?" he interrupted. "How did you know that was its name?"

"Why, from Leo Marcel, of course. When I heard that he had got back from
Africa, as he did just when all Europe was ringing with your aerial exploits
over the Atlantic, I sent him a telegram asking him to come over to Paris and
tell me all he could about you—I mean about your adventures and the air- ship.
Ah, that reminds me, tell me first, have you brought her with you to France?"

"I am more than delighted by the knowledge that you thought me worthy of so
much interest," replied Max, obeying the gesture which invited him to seat
himself on the dainty silk-covered sociable on which she was reclining. "Yes, I
have brought her. Last night she landed me in the forest of Fontainebleau, and
by this time she should be safely hidden in some snug little ravine in the
Pyrenees."

"In the Pyrenees!" exclaimed Lea; "that is a very long way off, isn't it? Are
you not afraid of your lieutenant or your crew running off with your priceless
craft, and going into the general destruction business on their own account?"

"Not in the slightest," laughed Max, with a shake of his head. "I can trust
them, because they know that they can do nothing without me. I am the only one
who knows how the Vengeuris driven, and when they had used up the motive power
that there is on board, they would have to get out and walk, for they couldn't
make her fly another yard to save them from the guillotine. As for the
distance, you forget that aerial travelling is not exactly like going by train
or steamboat. The Pyrenees are only a three hours' flight from Paris, and if I
had her here now, you should dine in London this evening if you wished to do
so."

"Marvellous!" she replied, looking at him this time with a real interest in
her eyes. "But, of course, I had forgotten for the moment what Marcel told me
about your speed. And now tell me, when may I expect a trip to the clouds in
this wonderful cruiser that owns you as her master?"

"She will be back in the same spot at Fontainebleau at ten o'clock to- morrow
night," said Max; "and then, if you think you can safely trust yourself with
me, she shall take you, not only to the clouds, but beyond them, to the heights
where the sun shines all day and the stars all night, and then she shall carry
you to any spot of the world you may choose to see. If you would like to be the
first woman who has ever set eyes upon the North Pole or the South, you shall
see it, for the earth has no obstacles that the Vengeur cannot laugh at.

"I tell you, Lea, that the conquest of the air means more than you have ever
dreamed of; and if you will come with me to-morrow night, I will show you the
wonders and glories of a kingdom such as no man ever ruled over before, and
which is only waiting for the fairest woman on earth to come and be its queen."

XVIII. TRAPPED

N0 woman, and least of all women, Lea Cassilis, could have mistaken the
meaning either of the words or of the low, passion-thrilled tone in which they
were spoken. She looked at him as he sat there, leaning slightly towards her,
and possessing an unlikeness to himself that was almost grotesque. And as she
looked, she thought of the scene in the little club-room, when she had snatched
her hand away from under his, and told him that it would be time enough to ask
when he had the power to take.

Since then many things had happened. She had reigned for a season as the belle
of Paris, spending money as she pleased with both hands, worming her way into
intrigues which laid bare before her eyes the inner workings of the vast
machine that is called Society. Before her radiant beauty and lavishly-spent
wealth, all doors had flown open. She had mingled with the great ones of the
earth; she had learned their secrets and won their homage; and she had seen
that the management of nations was carried on by means of just the same petty
trickery and sordid selfishness as she had witnessed in the conduct of the
business of the fashionable dressmaker who had once been her mistress.

The further she had seen into society, the less she liked anything save that
gay, brilliant, idle aspect of it which was already beginning to bore her.
Since she had come to Paris, fortunes, titles, and vast estates had been laid
one after another at her feet, only to be rejected with a smiling, tolerant
disdain that had made some of the wits of Paris remark that la belle Americaine
would be contented with nothing less than a crown.

Perhaps, after all, it was a crown that she was waiting for; and, if so, the
hour and the man had come, and the crown would be hers for the taking, if she
would but put out her hand for it. True, it would be no tiara of gold and
jewels, such as the queens of the earth wore, yet it would be such that the
proudest of them might well envy her its possession. It would be the diadem of
an empire without frontiers, of a realm that included the whole earth, and from
whose throne she could hurl her lightnings alike upon palace and prison,
striking down the mightiest and the meanest with a more than royal
impartiality, and all this would be hers if only-

"Monsieur Max," she said, with a new light in her eyes, and a brighter flush
on her cheeks, when her thoughts had run thus far, "I know what you mean. You
are thinking of what we said at the club that night. Well, I have been thinking
of it too. I remember what I said and what you said, as distinctly, perhaps, as
you do. Tell me now truly, for the sake of our common hatred of society, have
you literally and actually the power to do what you said you would do then, and
therefore to take what you—well, what you led me then to believe that you
wanted?"

"I have," said Max, laying his hand on hers just as he had done that night; "I
have the power and I have the will, and yet-"

"And yet what?" she asked, dropping her eyes for a moment before the steady
gaze of his passion-lit eyes.

"Yet, though I have the will, there is something else that prevents me
permitting it to put the power into action—something that makes me, virtual
master of the world though I shall be in a few weeks from now, yet not master
of myself."

"And that is-?"

His grip tightened upon her hand as he answered-

"There is no need for me to tell you what you know already, Lea. A man does
not love a woman like you and remain his own master long, and it is just
because I love you that I cannot use the power which would force you to choose
between surrender and destruction. If I loved you less than I do, it would be
easy for me to wait my opportunity and carry you off in the Vengeur-"

"As you tried to carry off Violet Milton, eh?" interrupted Lea, looking into
his eyes with a cold, searching glance, and speaking in the even tones of the
merest commonplace.

Such an unexpected facer would have disconcerted ninety-nine men out of a
hundred, but Max Renault was the hundredth.

Inwardly, the shock of Lea's words seemed to him to drive every drop of blood
out of his heart; but, outwardly; his iron nerves gave no sign of discomfiture.
Like a flash, he saw that Lea's keen, subtle wit had, with the single question,
purposely created what might be the crisis of his life.

On his answer to it would depend her answer to the supreme question that he
had put to her by implication in his last speech. His splendid nerves responded
instantly to the call. Without the quiver of an eyelid, or a quaver in his
voice, he replied-

"Ah! so you have heard of that little romance, have you? and that means that
you have made the acquaintance of some of the Utopians or their visitors. May I
ask who?"

If she had obeyed her first impulse, she would have struck him across the
face, and ordered him out of the room, at whatever risk to herself. But the
mood passed as quickly as it came. A glance at the strong, stern face and the
steady eyes before her told her that in this stronger nature than her own she
had met her master, and, as she was a woman, she liked him none the less for it.

As the sudden anger passed out of her heart, it was replaced by something that
had never been there before, and her voice had just the least perceptible
tremor in it as she answered his question.

"Sir Harry Milton brought his sister over to Paris nearly two months ago, to
put her under the care of Roulier, the great nerve specialist, and I met him
while he was here. You didn't kill her, you know, when you threw her out of the
air-ship—or, I forget, did she throw herself out?"

"Oh, she threw herself out," replied Max, with a note of astonishment in his
voice. "But you amaze me by telling me she didn't die. Why, she pitched herself
out headlong when the air-ship was over a hundred feet from the ground - nearly
two hundred, in fact. The girl must have as many lives as a cat."

"And suppose she hadn't thrown herself out, what then?" asked Lea, with a
quite indescribable inflection of her voice.

"What then? May I smoke?" said Max, taking out his cigarette-case.

Lea nodded, not having a word ready to reply with. He struck a match, lit his
cigarette, and went on, in a voice that could not have been more imperturbable
if he had been discussing the day's prices on the Bourse-

"Well, then, I suppose I should have acted as any other man who was also a
good anarchist would have done under the circumstances. You see, under those
same circumstances, Miss Milton would have had the disadvantage of being at the
same time a really decent-looking girl and the daughter of a race which every
good anarchist is, by the very principles of his being, impelled to reduce to
the last extremity of degradation, and so-"

"And so," said Lea, leaning forward, her lovely face all aglow with what was
now genuine, uncontrollable admiration for the masterful spirit of the man who,
without a perceptible effort, had thus put her desperately meant home- thrust
aside "and so there isn't the slightest need for you to say any more about it.

"Max, I've met my master, and, like any other woman who is a woman, I'm glad
of it. There's my hand. Take it or leave it, as seems good to you. When the
Vengeur comes back to Fontainebleau, you will only have to renew your
invitation, and I will take that trip to the clouds and beyond them,—as your
guest, remember,—and you shall show me all these kingdoms of the air and the
world and the glories thereof, and after that—well, we shall see. Now, does
that content you?"

Max made no reply in words, simply because no words occurred to him which to
his mind were capable of doing justice to the situation. He rose to his feet,
picked Lea up bodily in his arms, pressed one long, lingering kiss on her
willingly surrendered lips, and then put her down again. Then, seating himself
beside her, he put his arm round her waist, drew her head down on to his
breast, and said quietly-

"It is so! If ever mortal man had reason to be content, then I am content. I
have offered you what no man was ever yet able to offer to woman, and you have
accepted it. May the Fates cover all my plans with confusion if ever, for a
moment even, you have reason to regret the choice that you have taken!"

And then he bent his head down and kissed her again, and after that she raised
her head and looked him in the eyes, and said in a low, steady tone-

"Even so. You have given to me what never was given to woman before, and I
have given you in return all that a woman can give; and if either of us fails
in justice to the other, may that other be able and willing to exact the last
penalty of vengeance that human hate could wish for! And now let us talk."

The hint was obvious, and Renault took it, and so for nearly an hour this
strangely-betrothed man and woman sat and talked just as any other man and
woman in all Paris might have talked, saving only for the subject of their
conversation. Each told the other in quiet, matter-of-fact narrative what his
or her experiences had been since the last time they had met, and then they
went on to discuss the prospect that now lay before the ruthless apostles of
the propaganda by force.

They discussed the fate of nations as though they had been the joint arbiters
of destiny, and they decided whether monarchs and statesmen should live or die
as best suited their purposes; whether the war that had been declared between
Britain and Russia should be allowed to go on, or whether either State should
be paralysed by blows which they alone could strike at its head; and whether
those who now held the guiding reins of the world should be allowed to hold
them a little longer, or whether, by striking them down, one after the other,
in swift succession, the States of Europe should be thrown headlong into the
demoralisation of leaderless anarchy. As the little clock in the boudoir chimed
six, Lea rose and said-

"Now, for the present, or till to-morrow morning, au revoir. As I told you, I
have a card for the President's reception to-night at eight, and you may be
sure that I shall not fail to do what is necessary. By to-morrow I shall have
made the necessary arrangements for our journey, and you will find me at the
Lyons station at eight o'clock, by which time those whom it may concern will
understand that I am somewhere else. Happily, rich American widows in Paris are
expected now and then to be guilty of some eccentricity, and this will do for
one of them. And so, mon maître bien-aimé, à demain, au revoir!"

When the train left Paris for the south at a quarter past eight the following
evening, Max and Lea were seated in a first class coupe, and by ten o'clock
they bad reached the little open space in the forest in which Lea for the first
time saw the, to her, strange shape of the Vengeur, as the air-ship, prompt to
the minute of the rendezvous, dropped slowly through the darkness on to the
soft brown turf.

Five minutes later, they were on board, and Lea saw the tree-tops swiftly
sinking down beneath her as the Vengeur soared up again into her element. The
night was dark and cloudy, but through the clouds the pale glimmer of half a
moon could every now and then be seen. As soon as the Vengeur was well clear of
the trees, Max took Lea with him into the conning-tower, and, inclining the
slats of the airplanes, he sent a signal for full speed to the engine-room.
Then, slipping his arm round Lea's waist, partly perhaps with the object of
keeping her steady during the air-ship's upward flight, he said-

"Now watch with all your eyes!"

The next moment the Vengeur leapt forward and upward; the cloven air sang and
whistled past her, and the black curtain of cloud seemed to fall bodily towards
the earth. For a moment the grey billows rolled noiselessly about them, and
then, in wondering admiration too intense for words, Lea saw a vast, limitless
sea of snowy cloud-fleeces spread out beneath her, and above she saw the
unclouded vault of heaven gemmed by myriads of stars, amidst which the golden
crescent of the moon floated stainless and serene, her white light casting a
huge shadow of the swiftly-flying Vengeur on the snowy cloud-sea beneath them.

There was no sleep for Lea that night. In vain Max tried to persuade her to go
to her cabin as the larger hours of the morning approached. Intoxicated with
the strange beauties of the scene and the bewildering novelty of her first
aerial voyage, she insisted on remaining with him in the conning-tower until
the beauties of the moonlit night were eclipsed by the glories of the sunrise
over the sea of clouds, which still lay outspread beneath them as far as their
eyes could reach.

Then, when weariness at last overcame her, she went to her cabin, to sleep and
dream of all the marvels she had seen, and Max, after sending for Taxil to take
command, went to his, to dream other dreams no less entrancing. About two
o'clock in the afternoon, Lea met Max again in the saloon, and, after their
greeting, said-

"Well, where has this wonderful voyage brought us to by this time?"

He pulled back the slide from one of the side windows and pointed through a
great rift in the clouds that lay a thousand feet below them. Her eyes followed
the direction of his finger as he pointed downwards, and she saw beneath the
clouds another cloud of grey-blue smoke, through which a thousand roofs and
spires were dimly showing.

"There's London," he said. "To-night we will dine at the Metropole, and then
run up to the Criterion and see a comedy, of course adapted from the French,
which I think will amuse you. There's a burlesque anarchist in it, not at all a
bad character from the capitalist point of view. The interesting part about it
is that in the last act it almost becomes a tragedy."

Not many hours later, Lea remembered these lightly-spoken words, in the midst
of the first real agony of terror which she had ever passed through. The
Vengeur was brought to ground in the midst of a dense bank of fog which lay
along the Essex shore of the estuary of the Thames, a little to the north of
Southend-on-Sea, and Max and Lea landed, with one of the crew to carry their
two valises and to act as messenger between them and the airship if necessary.

Taxil had, of course, received minute instructions as to keeping in touch with
them; and as they took their way towards the station, the Vengeur rose in the
air again and vanished in the fog.

That evening, as Max had promised, they dined at the Metropole, and afterwards
went to the Criterion Theatre to see the comedy and the burlesque anarchist.

Of all the theatres in London, that was the worst one they could have chosen
to visit on that particular night, for, as the Fates would have it, while they
sat in their stalls, one of the side boxes in the second tier was taken
possession of by two gentlemen, who were no others than Sir Harry Milton and
Lieutenant Wyndham.

In such a place it was impossible that Lea's brilliant and uncommon beauty
should not attract almost universal attention. Sir Harry recognised her at
once, and then began to look curiously at her companion. Of course, he pointed
him out to Wyndham, and then the two opera-glasses came earnestly into play.
Max's disguise was quite good enough to deceive even an intimate acquaintance
passing him casually in the street, but it could not stand the searching
examination that be was subjected to for the next two hours.

Feature by feature, gesture by gesture, he was identified without having an
idea of what was going on. For, the moment their suspicions were aroused, Sir
Harry and Wyndham kept themselves and their friends well in the background of
the box. At length, when the performance was over, conjecture had so far become
certainty that they had determined to take the risks and act.

Just before the curtain came down, they left their box and stationed
themselves among the well-dressed idlers who were already lounging about the
entrance to the theatre. As the occupants of the stalls and dress circle and
boxes came slowly up the steps which led from the theatre, they watched each
rank narrowly, until Lea at last appeared, leaning on Max's arm. This was Sir
Harry's cue. He walked forward, and, raising his hat to Lea, said-

"Good evening, Mrs. Dail. Who would have dreamed of seeing you in London? What
has London to offer so superior to the delights of Paris?"

Before she could reply, Wyndham stepped quickly up from the other side. With
one swift movement of his left band he snatched the moustache and beard from
Max's face, and, taking him by the collar with his right, said in a loud, clear
voice-

"Good evening, Mr. Max Renault, anarchist and murderer. Who would have thought
of seeing you here to-night?"

Max, taken utterly off his guard, tried to wrench himself free and force his
way through the excited crowd which Wyndham's startling words had instantly
brought about them, but it was no good—the surprise had been too carefully
planned, and he was completely trapped. When the crowd divided again, it was to
allow two policemen to go out holding the famous anarchist securely handcuffed
between them.

XIX. A SCENE AT BOW STREET

THE arrest of Max Renault occurred at a few minutes past eleven, and before
midnight the news—embellished, of course, by the wildest rumours and
exaggerations—had spread far and wide over London, and had been flashed over
the wires, not only to the provinces, but to the Continent and America as well.

Some accounts said that he had been arrested in the act of throwing a bomb on
to the stage, and that it was only on his examination at the police court that
the real importance of the capture had been discovered. Others, again, said
that the now famous air-ship herself had descended in Hyde Park, and had been
captured with all hands on board; while yet a third rumour said that she was
still at large, and had gone to attack Windsor Castle out of revenge for her
captain's arrest. The true facts were, however, as they were set forth at the
end of the last chapter. Renault offered no resistance, and did not even utter
a word of protest as soon as he saw that he was fairly in the toils. All he
said was confined to a couple of sentences addressed to Sir Harry, and that was-

"I am not going to deny my identity; I only wish to say that Mrs. Dail had, of
course, not the slightest idea of it. I hope that, as a gentleman, you will see
that she suffers as little inconvenience as possible."

Sir Harry bowed in reply, and at once offered his arm to Lea, who took it,
and, after one brief, frightened glance at Max between the two policemen, she
went out with him, saying as she did so-

"What an awful thing!—and, would you believe it, Sir Harry, I have almost been
silly enough to allow that man to persuade me to marry him. What an escape!
Ugh! it makes me cold all over to think of it. Please get me a cab. I'm staying
at the Metropole; my maid will be there waiting for me, and I shall get back to
Paris first thing in the morning.

"No, please don't trouble to come with me. Really I would rather not. I shall
be quite safe, and—well, you see, I left the hotel with one gentleman, as he
called himself, and it would hardly do to go back at this time of night with
another, would it? Those hotel people do talk so. Thanks; this will do nicely.
Good-night, and a thousand thanks for your kindness!"

She waved her hand to him from the cab, in farewell, and he called another,
and drove off to Bow Street to join Wyndham and his two friends. Lea drove to
the Metropole, had her valise and Max's brought down, paid her bill, called
another cab, and drove off at once to Charing Cross.

As she gave the direction, a man who bad been lounging about the hotel
entrance turned away and sauntered up the Avenue towards the station. He was
the man who had left the Vengeur with them to act as means of communication
between them and the air-ship if necessary.

When Lea had dismissed her cab at Charing Cross, she took a ticket for Cannon
Street, and the man, following close after, took one for the same place, and
got into the same carriage with her. She managed to find an empty first- class
compartment, and by the time the train reached Cannon Street, she had given her
companion an account of what had happened, and a lengthy and minute message to
Taxil. At Cannon Street they parted. Pierre, the sailor, disappeared on foot in
the direction of Cheapside, and Lea got into a cab and drove to Aldersgate
Street station.

There she watched the cabman out of sight, took a ticket for Farringdon
Street, and then, leaving the station, got into another cab and told the man to
drive her to an address in Westbourne Terrace, where, three-quarters of an hour
later, she was telling the story of Max's arrest to Rolland and his wife.

The next morning there was hardly anything on the newspaper placards but the
great black letters which announced the event of which all England was already
talking; the unexpected and almost grotesquely easy capture of the famous
anarchist and captain of the still more famous air-ship, which, as all the
world knew, had destroyed, single-handed, three powerful cruisers and the same
number of torpedo-boats.

When Max was brought before Sir John Bridge at Bow Street at ten o'clock the
next morning, not only was the court packed to suffocation, but Bow Street
itself was filled with an anxious, excited crowd, bent on getting a glimpse of
those who had played the chief part in the capture of the prisoner. As Sir
Harry and his friends drove up, the crowd parted, and cheered them as they went
through. Outside reporters took snap-shots at them as they entered the court,
and rushed off to have them reproduced to embellish the sensational narratives
of their adventures in Utopia and on the Atlantic, which the nimble fingers of
hundred of compositors were already setting up to form a sequel to the police
court proceedings.

The proceedings themselves were of the simplest possible character, but they
were none the less interesting on that account. When Max was brought into the
dock, he stood leaning on the rails in front, between the two stolid, stalwart
policemen who guarded him, with an unconcern that could not have been more
absolute if he had been a spectator watching the most trivial of cases. He
politely but firmly refused all offers of legal aid, and with equal politeness
disregarded the magistrate's warning that anything he said might be used
against him at the assizes if he were sent for trial.

First, Lieutenant Wyndham, then Sir Harry, then the officers of the liners
appeared in succession in the witness-box and told what they knew of the
accused, his crimes and his extraordinary exploits. The quietly-told,
circumstantial narratives were spoken in the midst of a breathless silence,
which was broken for the first time when Sir Harry described Max's attempt to
carry off his sister in the air-ship, and then all eyes were turned for a
moment on to the accused, and a low murmur of irrepressible indignation ran
like a fierce growl through the crowded court.

Max simply lifted his eyebrows a little, and, with an almost imperceptible
shrug of his shoulders, turned to Sir Harry and waited for him to go on with
his story. He followed every word of the evidence against him with the minutest
attention, and as soon as the case for the prosecution was finished, he said
very quietly-

"Is it permitted for me to say anything now?"

"If you have anything to say," replied Sir John, "or if you have any reason to
give why I should not commit you for trial, as I at present intend to do, I am
of course bound to hear you; but I must again warn you, as you have refused the
protection of any legal adviser, that anything you may have to say is, under
the circumstances, more likely to do you harm than good.

"You are accused of the most terrible crimes, and, so far as this court is
concerned, the evidence against you is more than sufficient, seeing that you
have already admitted your identity. It is my duty to advise you to say nothing
now, but to take steps to engage proper legal assistance, and then follow your
counsel's advice implicitly."

"I am obliged to you for your advice, sir," said Max in a low, even tone,
which seemed strangely loud in the breathless stillness of the court, "but at
the same time I am quite prepared to take the risk of disregarding it. I care
as little for your laws as I do for the assistance of a highly respectable
lawyer; who would only want hiring to defend even such a criminal and enemy of
society as I have no doubt these good people here think me.

"We are at war, I and the society you represent. The last turn of the game has
been in your favour. I and my people spared the lives of these gentlemen who
have given evidence against me—evidence which I suppose is quite enough to hang
me if you only have the power to do it. That shows how unwise it is to be too
merciful in warfare.

"Still, I must compliment them, if not upon their gratitude, at least upon
their moderation and their accuracy. I have listened carefully to everything
they've said, and I have the pleasure of saying that it is all true. And now,
sir, you have given me well-meant advice; permit me to give you some in return.
You say you intend to commit me for trial. That means, I suppose, that I shall
be locked up in your cells till I make my next appearance at the Old Bailey.
There the form of trial will be gone through, and I shall be condemned to death
in the usual way.

"You will not hang me, because you can't, but you will try to do so at your
peril. I am stronger than the law, and if the law tries to injure me, it will
get the worst of it. I am alone here, but there is a power behind me which can
and will exact such a penalty, even for the temporary inconvenience which you
may put me to, that the wisest thing you could do would be to take steps to
ensure my liberation and safety. You have heard something of what that power
can do. It will do nothing till sentence of death has been passed upon me. I
need say no more, and, therefore, sir, if you wish to send me for trial, do so."

As he finished his audacious speech, Max stared straight at the magistrate,
and, without moving a muscle of his countenance, waited for his reply. It came,
curt and sharp.

"You have outraged the laws of society and this country, and those laws will
be vindicated without regard to any possible risk: You have been allowed to
speak, and you have made a very foolish speech, in spite of its bravado, which
in all human probability has finally sealed your fate. You are committed to
take your trial at the assizes which will be opened on Monday next, on the
double charge of piracy and murder on the high seas. Let the prisoner be
removed."

Then the tension which had held the crowd silent broke, and as Max was marched
from the dock between the two policemen, there was a rustle and a movement of
feet and a low, hoarse murmur, through which angry exclamations broke, as
everyone thronged forward to get the last glimpse of him as he disappeared
through the prisoners' door. Then, as it closed behind him, the court slowly
emptied of all save those whose duty kept them there. No one had any interest
for the other cases that were coming on. There was only one topic for the
public of London that day, and no one cared to talk or hear or read of anything
else.

In less than an hour the newspaper offices were pouring out special editions
containing fuller and fuller reports, until every word that had been spoken
during the proceedings was set forth with the most minute accuracy. It was upon
this that Max had counted when he made his speech to the magistrate. It was by
no means so foolish as Sir John Bridge had honestly thought it to be.

Max knew that every word would be printed by the newspapers, and he
deliberately used them for the purpose of conveying his instructions to Taxil
and the crew of the Vengeur. Those instructions were simply that the Vengeur
was to keep out of the way, and nothing was to be done until sentence of death
had been passed upon him. Then, by some means, which he trusted to them to
devise, he was to be rescued, and after that, or if the attempt failed,
vengeance was to be taken for his arrest, or death, as the case might be.

Soon after nightfall that evening, Taxil dropped the Vengeur to the ground in
a lonely glade in the centre of Epping Forest, and found Pierre waiting for him
there by appointment, with a bundle of newspapers under his arm. That was
Tuesday evening. On Thursday morning London woke up to find posted in a hundred
different places—on the walls of the Law Courts, the Government offices, the
base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, the Bank of England, the gates of
Buckingham Palace, the Marble Arch, and even the terrace of the House of
Commons—a small, red placard about eighteen inches square, of which the
following is a copy:-

TO THE GOVERNMENT OF ENGLAND AND THE PEOPLE OF LONDON.

You are hereby warned that if Max Renault, at present in prison awaiting your
so-called trial for murder and piracy, is condemned to death, the sentence will
be executed upon you and your property. If it is carried out on him, the
vengeance exacted will be taken first on your Queen and Royal Family, and then
upon the members of your Houses of Parliament your judges and your lawyers, and
after them upon yourselves generally. If Max Renault is placed alone and free
on the gallery of the north tower of the Crystal Palace at midnight on
Saturday, London will be spared; if not, what is written here will be done at
the proper time.

Signed, for the Anarchist Central Executive, RAOUL TAXIL In command of the air-
ship Vengeur.

XX. SENTENCE OF DEATH

THE impression produced on the collective mind of London by this audaciously
worded poster may be safely left to the imagination of the reader. How in some
quarters it excited derision and in others panic; how the timorous heard the
news of it with dread, and how the secret enemies of society read it with a
smile on their lips and potential murder in their hearts; how the penny
newspapers published leading articles, ranging in tone from the alarmist
speculations of the Daily News to the easy, if wholly insincere, banter of the
Daily Telegraph; and how the halfpenny papers vied with each other in a contest
of imagination and mendacity which stopped at nothing, from the publication of
entirely fictitious correspondence with non-existent anarchists, to an
interview with the captain of the air-ship and author of the placard.

The five days that elapsed between the proceedings at Bow Street and the trial
of Max Renault for his life at the Old Bailey passed amidst ever-growing
excitement and ever-spreading uneasiness, but the red placard had been the last
sign made by the anarchists.

The demand for the release of Alex had, of course, been ignored—as his friends
apparently expected it would be, since, as far as was known, they had not even
come to the appointed place. Naturally, too, the newspapers informed them that
this would be the case. Neither on land nor in the air had a trace of the
Vengeur been seen, though millions of eyes were looking anxiously for her.

Max himself preserved an aspect of absolute indifference to the fate that
appeared so certain. He declined all legal aid in the preparation for his
defence, if he had any, and communicated with no one outside the walls of
Holloway. Lea had reappeared in Paris two days after his arrest; and then,
hearing that an outcry was being made against the English police for allowing
her to go out of the country unquestioned, she at once returned to London, put
up at the Metropole, and communicated with Scotland Yard, saying that if she
could be of any service to the prosecution, she was ready to give what evidence
she could.

This had led to an interview with one of the heads of the Criminal
Investigation Department, in which she managed to befog and mislead the
official so utterly that, on his report, it was decided not to call her, it
being, doubtless rightly, considered that there was more than enough evidence
to hang Renault several times over, had that been possible or desirable.

As for any connection between him and the wealthy and fascinating idol of half
Paris which could be construed to her disadvantage, such an idea had never
seemed to enter the heads of the authorities at all, and so Lea went back to
the Rue Vernet before the trial, to receive the condolences of her large circle
of acquaintances on the unpleasantness of the experience that she had passed
through, an unpleasantness which some said was amply compensated for by what
Paris considered to be the piquant novelty of the adventure.

The trial at the Old Bailey, although it naturally excited an interest that
was literally world-wide, was in itself almost devoid of sensational incident.
As a matter of fact, there was no question to try, since the prisoner had
already admitted that the fatal evidence against him was true. When he was
asked whether he pleaded "Guilty" or "Not guilty," he replied in a low, clear
tone-

"Not guilty."

"Then are we to understand," said the judge, "that you do not adhere to the
statement you made before the magistrate, and that you have evidence to call in
your own defence?"

"I have no evidence to offer," replied Max, "and what I said in the police
court I am prepared to say here."

"But that contradicts your plea of `Not guilty,'" exclaimed the judge. "The
same witnesses that appeared against you before the magistrate will be called
here to-day, and will give the same evidence. In the police court you
voluntarily admitted that that evidence was true, and yet you have just pleaded
`Not guilty.'

"I can hardly think that a man of very considerable intelligence, as you
appear to be, standing in the presence of a Court that is about to try him for
his life, could find it possible to indulge in a mere play upon words. It is
greatly to be regretted that you did not employ counsel, as I understand you
could well afford to do, and, even if not, counsel would have been provided by
the Crown. At any rate, you would have been spared the commission of an
absurdity which, under the present circumstances, is something more than
painful."

"My lord," replied Max, in a tone that took all respect out of the form of
address, "I plead `Not guilty' because I am charged with what you call murder
and piracy, and to that plea I shall adhere. I and my comrades have as much
right to make war, if we can, upon this country as this country has to make war
on Russia. I care nothing for the sophistry which calls it war in the case of
the nation and murder or piracy in the case of the individual. The men and
passengers who fell into my hands, I treated honourably. Their lives were in my
hand, and I let them go. If I had killed them when I had them defenceless, I
should have felt bound to plead guilty to the charge of murder - supposing it
could have been brought against me."

Great and all as was the horror with which Renault's crimes had inspired the
whole of civilised humanity, there was yet something in the spectacle of this
solitary man, confronting the sternest, though the most impartial, tribunal in
the world, disdaining all outside aid, and literally pronouncing his own
condemnation beforehand rather than condescend to take advantage of a quibble
or an untruth, which produced a marked impression on everyone in the crowded
court.

The most stolid of the jurymen could not resist the suggestion of romance with
which the whole situation was so pregnant, and even the judge's voice when he
next spoke had something less in it of that tone of scornful toleration which
is usually used from the Bench to those who are unable or unwilling to purchase
the assistance of a professional advocate.

"It is no part of my duty to discuss such a question as that with you. I am
here to interpret and enforce the laws of England as they stand, and, according
to those laws, the offences for which you are about to be tried are capital
offences, and there is an end of it. As a matter of form I will accept your
plea of `Not guilty,' and therefore the trial will proceed. Mr. Maudesley, I
believe you open for the Crown."

As the leading counsel for the prosecution rose to his feet, amidst a faint
rustle of garments and a low, half-repressed murmur of anticipation, Max made
an expressive gesture with his hands, and said in a slightly higher tone than
he had used before-

"One word more, if you please, my lord. After what I said in the police court,
and after what you have just said here, this trial can only be a formality
which will be very nearly a farce. I am in no humour to assist at an
entertainment for these people here."

As he said this, he jerked his thumb contemptuously towards those parts of the
court which were packed with fashionably dressed men and women, who had used
the most strenuous endeavours to get places for the grim drama that they
expected to see.

"Nor," he continued, with an added note of contempt in his voice, "do I wish
to be bored with the ready-made sentiment of this learned gentleman, whom I
could have hired to defend me if I had chosen. To save time and trouble,
therefore, I will anticipate the foregone conclusion, and withdraw my plea of
`Not guilty.'

"I did everything that your witnesses would swear I did. I am guilty of what
you call murder and piracy, and what I call war. Now, my lord, I hope I have
simplified your task; but before you pass sentence of death, as I presume you
will now proceed to do, let me repeat the warning-"

"Silence, sir!" exclaimed the judge in quick, stern tones which made the words
ring like pistol-shots through the crowded court. "You have been permitted to
trifle with the law, whose dignity I am here to uphold, because you are
undefended by counsel, and English justice condemns no man, however vile a
criminal he may be, unheard, but I shall not permit you to insult it by the
threats which you call warnings.

"You have pleaded guilty to a series of crimes and outrages which have caused
the sacrifice of hundreds of lives. Your own life is therefore forfeit to the
law, and the law will take its due, no matter what the consequences may be.
Even if it were in the power of you and your followers to lay London in ruins
before sunrise to-morrow, it would still be my duty to do that which I am about
to do, and I shall do it.

"Gentlemen," he continued, turning to the jury. "You have heard the prisoner
withdraw his plea of `Not guilty,' and, with a bravado and callousness utterly
shocking and disgusting alike to our sense of propriety and our feelings of
humanity, glory in the commission of crimes which excel all similar crimes,
perpetrated by the abandoned wretches among whom he seems proud to number
himself. Under such circumstances, happily unparalleled in an English court of
justice, there can, I conclude, be no doubt as to your verdict. Do you find the
prisoner, on his own confession, guilty or not guilty of the crimes of murder
and piracy on the high seas with which he stands charged in the indictment?"

For a moment there was silence so intense that the throng in the court could
hear their own hearts beating and their own breath going and coming. The
foreman of the jury glanced inquiringly at his colleagues. Every head was bowed
in unanimous assent, and then he rose to his feet and said, in a voice that he
did his best to keep steady under the excitement of the moment-

"We find him guilty, my lord."

"Prisoner at the bar!" said the judge, turning to Max and taking up the fatal
square of black cloth in his right band, "you have been found guilty, on your
own confession, of the crimes of murder and piracy on the high seas. It is my
duty to ask you now whether you have any reason to give why sentence of death
should not be passed upon you."

Max leant his folded arms on the rail of the dock, and, after one quick,
searching glance, first at the jury and then at the throng that packed the
court, looked the judge full in the face, and said, with a sneer that he made
no attempt to disguise-

"Since that will also be sentence of death on those who are my enemies, I have
neither reason nor objection. Say on, my lord!"

Then he stood and, still with unshrinking eyes and smiling lips, watched the
judge put on the black cap and heard him say the solemn words which, unless
some miracle should be interposed to save him, consigned him to a shameful
death and a felon's grave.

"-—and may the Lord have mercy on your soul!"

The last of the fatal words had scarcely died away in the hush that had fallen
on the now breathless throng, when Max suddenly straightened himself up, and,
before the warders could stop him, cried in a loud, clearly-ringing voice-

"That is the death sentence of London! That for your law and your justice.
Fichtre!" And with that he snapped his fingers in the faces of judge and jury,
and the next moment was hurried from the dock by the two warders.

XXI. A CALM BEFORE A STORM

ACCORDING to the merciful practice of the English criminal law, three Sundays
are allowed to elapse between the passing of sentence of death and its
execution, the execution as a rule taking place on the Tuesday following the
third Sunday. Sentence had been passed on Max Renault on Monday the 5th of
April, and therefore, as the newspapers speedily informed the general public
and the thousands of anarchists, scattered all over the Continent and America,
who had gloated over his exploits with fiendish delight, and had already given
him the first place in their evil hierarchy, the execution was fixed for
Tuesday the 27th.

"This gave an interval of about five weeks from his arrest, which, added to
the two months which had passed since the arrival of the Nautilus in British
waters, made a period of over three months during which every effort had been
strained both by the anarchists and the Utopians to push on the construction of
their respective aerial fleets, which another month or so would now probably
see equipped and afloat.

Sir Harry and his friends naturally had one great advantage in being able to
have their ships laid down, built, and equipped out of hand without any fear of
interference by the authorities, while the anarchists were forced to have the
sections of theirs made by various and widely-separated firms, and then had to
take them away to be put together on the floating dockyard into which they had
transformed the Bremen. On the other hand, this advantage was, if anything,
more than neutralised by the fact that their enemies were already in possession
of the only air-ship capable of taking the offensive at any moment, and that,
too, in a style that would far eclipse her former depredations.

The immediate consequence of Max's visit to America and Europe had been the
completion, under the specified time, of the armament which Hartog had designed
for the Vengeur, and while the whole world was wondering what had become of
her, she was lying snugly hidden on an uninhabited islet in the Faroe group,
taking on board her guns and ammunition from the Pilgrim. When she took the air
again, she carried four pneumatic shell-guns capable of throwing projectiles
charged with five pounds weight of either anarchite or fire- mixture, to a
distance varying from two to five miles, according to her elevation.

These were mounted two ahead and two astern, and on each broadside she carried
two automatic guns of the Maxim pattern, but of very light construction and
small calibre, from each of which could be projected, every minute they were in
action, seven hundred conical nickel-coated bullets, which would kill at a
range of from four to five thousand yards. In addition to these she carried
five hundred specially prepared projectiles made of papier-mache, and charged
with fire-mixture, for use in her vertical bomb-tubes.

As her net lifting power was nearly two tons over and above the weight of the
hull, machinery, and guns, she was able to carry a quantity of ammunition
sufficient to do an enormous amount of damage, considering the very
advantageous conditions under which it would be discharged—conditions which
would allow every projectile to be sent home to its mark with the most
deliberate aim.

As soon as the Pilgrim had performed this part of her work, she set out for
Liverpool, where the anarchist agents had instructions to send the parts of the
air-ships and their equipments as they were completed, and there, under the
noses of the authorities, the harmless-looking cases were shipped as hardware
and machinery for the port of Montevideo, and carried away, as soon as a cargo
was completed, to the island of Trinidad, off the coast of Brazil, where she
was met by the Bremen and the Destroyer.

Meanwhile, a series of conferences were being held between Sir Harry and his
Utopian friends, and a syndicate that had been formed to develop and keep in
the country a new machine for navigating the air. This air-ship had been
designed by Mr. Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the automatic gun which, in its
deadly fashion, had sung the praises of his inventive skill in so many parts of
the world.

The aeroplane, as Mr. Maxim had appropriately named this engine of warfare,
was to all intents and purposes a huge kite with auxiliary wings, supporting a
car in which an engine, driven by steam and burning vaporised gasoline fuel,
operated two huge propellers projecting from the stern.

These forced the inclined aeroplane and wings against the air, the upthrust of
which lifted the machine from the ground after a short run corresponding to
that of a bird taking flight from the earth.

But the flying machine was plainly no match for the airship proper. In fact,
some time before, Mr. Maxim had said that if ever an air-ship could be made
that could raise itself vertically from the ground and keep itself suspended
motionless in the air at any desired elevation within reason, it would be an
immeasurably superior engine of warfare to his own aeroplane.

Now that there could be no longer any doubt that such an airship had been
built, Mr. Maxim, with the impersonal unselfishness of the true scientist,
promptly admitted the fact, and set himself to work to design an air-ship that
would beat the Vengeur. This was the common ground upon which he and Sir Harry
and his friends met, and the result was, that they put their resources and
their knowledge together, and formed a corporation under the title of the
Aerial Navigation Syndicate.

Adams and Mr. Austen still retained in their own exclusive keeping the secret
of the composition of the motor-fuel to be used in the engines, and the last of
the Articles of Association was to the effect that no attempt was to be made to
trespass upon this forbidden ground. The Syndicate possessed a capital of three
millions, and, as the event proved, no capital ever before subscribed for any
object made such enormous profits as this did, though how they were to be made
remained a matter of pure conjecture, until the world rubbed its eyes and
wondered why it had never thought of such a scheme before.

The advantage of their alliance with Mr. Maxim very soon became apparent to
Sir Harry and his friends. His unrivalled inventive skill, and the immense
experience he had gained in the long course of experiments that he had made in
connection with the construction of his aeroplane, at once bore fruit in
improved designs for the new airships. Not only were they to be made larger and
more powerful, but several improvements were to be made both in their internal
construction and the materials used, which were expected to greatly increase
their strength and carrying power, and would so enable them to carry a more
powerful armament and a greater quantity of ammunition.

A fleet of twenty-four of these air-ships had been laid down in ten different
manufactories scattered over the British Isles, and all the firms engaged in
the work had been obliged to give a pledge, under heavy penalties, not to
disclose any particulars connected with the work, or to allow the workmen
engaged on one part to know what was being done in another department. Added to
this, the firms that were building the hulls knew nothing about the machinery;
and even the various parts of the engines, the propellers, and the lifting fans
were made by different engineering firms under orders given in different names.

As a matter of fact, two or three of these firms were actually employed at the
same time in making portions either of the air-ships or their machinery for
both the anarchists and the Syndicate; but, as the most elaborate precautions
were taken on both sides to keep all reliable information out of the
newspapers, and as the prices paid by both were so high, the various
manufacturers found the keeping of the secrets far too profitable to run any
risks of the momentous work on which they were engaged becoming known to anyone
save themselves and their employers.

The object of this policy of secrecy was, in the first place, to obviate as
far as possible the danger of discovery by anarchist spies, which would in all
probability lead to the destruction by the Vengeur of any dockyard or
manufactory that was found to be making any part of the Syndicate's ships.
Added to this, the Syndicate had ulterior motives in view, which carried its
plans far beyond the extermination of the anarchists as a fighting force.

The British Government had refused to avail itself of Mr. Austen's offer to
place the designs of the Nautilus at its disposal unless the secret of the
motor-fuel were also given up to them. This was, of course, impossible, and so
the Nautilus and her sister ship, the Aries, which was being constructed as
rapidly as possible at Elswick, were to remain, for the time being at any rate,
the only examples of that type of war-ship in existence.

An immense amount of popular indignation was naturally aroused by the
publication of the news that the Government had virtually retired from the
building of any aerial craft which could hope to engage the Vengeur on equal
terms. Questions were asked in Parliament and answered in the usual—terms of
official reticence and ambiguity. The Syndicate kept its own counsel rigidly,
and the interviewers who besieged its members were sent empty away one after
the other, until they gradually got tired, and relieved their disappointment by
spreading reports that the Syndicate had nothing to tell because it had nothing
to do.

It was reported on wholly erroneous grounds, or rather on no grounds at all,
that all efforts to transform the aeroplanes into air-ships such as the Vengeur
were believed to have ended in failure, and this sent public opinion round the
other way, until it praised the Government and the War Office for refusing to
spend the money that was so urgently needed for strengthening the army and the
fleet upon experiments in an entirely new fighting arm, which, for all anyone
knew for certain, might. never be brought to perfection. The members of the
Syndicate, far from denying these reports, rather encouraged them, as their
work depended in no way upon popular favour or support, and anything that
tended to increase the mystery in which they were shrouding their plans was so
much added defence against the very probable attacks of their enemies in the
anarchist camp.

As for the Vengeur and the Destroyer, as day after day and week after week
went by,, and nothing was heard of either of them, it began to be believed
either that some unknown misfortune had overwhelmed them, or that the capture
and now certain fate of their leader had so disorganised them that; like a body
without a head, they bad become incapable, for the time being, of definite
action.

Even the Utopians were themselves deceived by the quietude of affairs since
the arrest of Renault. They felt certain that he was not the man to disclose
the secret of the motor-fuel to any of his followers, for to do so would be to
surrender the one claim he had to supremacy among a band of men whose especial
boast it was that they owned no law but that of their own individual wills.
From this they argued to the conclusion that the Vengeur had exhausted her
supply of fuel, and that, while the only man who could and would replenish it
was lying waiting for death in Newgate, the air-ship, as useless as a steamer
without coal, was hidden in some out-of-the-way place, impotent for any further
mischief.

But while the public was diverting its attention from the doings of the
anarchists to the war with Russia, which the rapid breaking up of the ice in
the Baltic would in a few days bring from the East to the West, and while the
members of the Syndicate were permitting themselves to be lulled into a false
sense of security, the enemy had been hard at work with equal secrecy and equal
energy. Lea Cassilis, from her house in Paris, had been in constant
communication with the anarchist groups, both in England and all over the
Continent, perfecting the preparations for the simultaneous striking of a
number of blows at the social organisation on the day fixed for Renault's
execution.

Spies had also been ceaselessly at work, ferreting out as far as was possible
the designs of Sir Harry and his friends with regard to the building of the new
aerial fleet, for Lea had learned from Max that Mr. Austen at least, and
probably Adams as well, knew the all-important secret of the motive power, and
would therefore be certain to build other airships to replace the stolen one.

Their comings and goings were watched, and their footsteps dogged day and
night by anarchist spies, and, in spite of all the precautions that they took,
their lives were in danger, and might have been taken a dozen times over, had
not Lea, still firmly convinced that some means would be found to rescue Max,
and believing that his vengeance would only be satisfied by killing them
himself, expressly forbidden their death, at any rate until it was known
whether or not Max would be able to take his vengeance for himself.

So successful, however, were her spies in their efforts to find out what the
Syndicate was really doing, that on the night of the Sunday before the Tuesday
fixed for Max's execution, four explosions occurred almost simultaneously in
four of the works where parts of their air-ships were being constructed. One
happened in London on the banks of the Thames, another at Sheffield, another at
Birmingham, and another on the Clyde.

How they were carried out was, of course, a mystery, and remained one; but so
well were they planned and executed that essential parts of no fewer than eight
of the twenty-four air-ships were utterly ruined, and the building of the
complete fleet was thus delayed for quite three months longer. The next
morning, the "Anarchist Terror," as the newspapers had come to call it, was
more widespread than ever. The explosions were taken as a direct renewal of the
warning that had been given by Max himself and in the red poster.

Popular excitement rose to fever heat in a few hours; the news from the seat
of war was once more at a discount, and the anarchists and their threats and
possible doings once more occupied the first places in the columns of the
newspapers and the excited imagination of the public. It was confidently
reported, and almost universally believed, that the Vengeur had passed from
town to town during the night and bombarded the works, which had been destroyed
from the clouds; and then the man in the street began to ask his neighbour,
with anxiety by no means unmingled with fear, what would happen to London
itself if, after all, the anarchists were able to carry out their threats
against it?

XXII. AT THE LAST MOMENT

AS soon as day dawned over London, on Monday the 26th of April, the policemen
and that portion of the inhabitants who happened, whether by reason of business
or pleasure, to be abroad, were astonished and not a little disquieted to find
hundreds of red placards posted in all the conspicuous parts of the city and
its surroundings, bearing the simply ominous inscription:- BEWARE! AND TAKE
WARNING WHILE THERE IS YET TIME WE WILL HAVE LIFE FOR LIFE AND BLOOD FOR BLOOD -
THE ANARCHIST EXECUTIVE.

But not only was the placard posted on the walls of public and other
conspicuous buildings. In the form of a leaflet it was scattered in thousands
about the streets and even on the house-tops. In vain did the police attempt to
collect these after they had torn the placards down. They were picked up by the
early-comers into the streets and passed eagerly from hand to hand; then the
evening papers, published soon after seven in the morning, got hold of them and
reproduced them in their boldest and blackest type, so that by mid-day the
scare was complete.

Then came the irrepressible monger of sensation, and he, having no facts to go
upon, promptly elaborated from his inner consciousness letters from non-
existent correspondents, describing how, in the watches of the night, they had
seen—at any rate with the eye of imagination—a vague and ghostly form
corresponding to the published descriptions of the air-ship, floating to and
fro over London, and scattering a red rain of leaflets far and wide over the
streets and house-tops.

That day, important news which had come to hand, telling of the break-up of
the ice in the Baltic and the mobilisation of the Russian fleet, was crowded
into obscure corners to make room for romantic descriptions of aerial exploits
on the part of the Vengeur, which no human eye had ever seen her perform, and
with equally imaginary narrations dealing with the manner in which the real
inspirer of all this panic, and the veritable hero of the moment, was passing
the last few hours that were left to him on earth.

What he ate and drank, the books he read, the number of hours he had slept
each night, and the very words with which he was supposed to have refused the
ministrations of the chaplain; his behaviour towards the warders, and even his
demeanour when alone, were all set forth with a well-simulated accuracy which
spoke volumes for the imaginative capacity of those who had corrected the
dearth of reliable facts out of the plenitude of their own inventiveness.

To all this was added a touch of realism which, in the eyes of the multitude
at any rate, endowed it with unimpeachable veracity. Line-sketches were given
of the condemned cell, showing the arch-anarchist seated at the wooden table
with his face buried in his manacled hands, while two stern-faced warders kept
watch and ward on either side of him.

Later editions followed this up with plans of Dead Man's Passage, the yard of
Newgate, and the open shed under which stood the gallows ready to receive their
victim. Then, when the sensation worked up by the newspapers had reached its
height, rumours began to fly about from lip to lip to the effect that the air-
ship, which was now a fearful reality in the popular mind, had been seen here
and there and everywhere, swooping down through the clouds and hovering over
affrighted towns and villages, flying at full speed through the air on some
unknown errand of slaughter and destruction, and even hovering over Osborne
House, with intent to bury the Queen and her household in its ruins.

Everybody appeared to feel confident that some extraordinary attempt at rescue
would be made, and the wildest theories were advanced in anticipation of it. It
was even suggested that for once the French method should be adopted, that the
hour of execution should be altered, and that Renault should be taken
unexpectedly from his cell and hanged out of hand without warning.

The Home Secretary was actually asked a question in Parliament as to whether,
in view of the exceptional circumstances, he did not think it advisable that
something of this sort should be done; but the questioner was met with a cold
rebuff; and informed that the Government declined to be intimidated by the
vague threats that were being circulated, and that the law would take its
course in the ordinary way, and at the appointed time—namely, eight o'clock on
the following morning—an intimation with which the anarchists were promptly
made acquainted through the medium of the evening papers.

Meanwhile, Sir Harry, Mr. Austen, Adams, and Lieutenant Wyndham had come to
the conclusion that, for the sake of the momentous projects which they, as
active members of the Aerial Navigation Syndicate, had in view, it would be
better for them to scatter as widely over the British Islands as they could, so
that, in case the Vengeur was really capable of taking reprisals for the
execution of Renault, and confined her operations, as, for the time being, she
would be obliged to do, to London, no chance shell should make the carrying out
of their plans impossible.

In consequence of this decision, they had all left London on the Saturday and
Sunday by different trains for various parts of the kingdom, with the intention
of keeping constantly on the move, either on land or sea, until the hour of
execution had actually passed, and it was known what form, if any, the
vengeance of the anarchists was to take. In this way they were able to put the
anarchist spies, for the time being, completely off their track, and, it is
probable, to this course of action some of them, at any rate, owed their lives.

It is hardly necessary, perhaps, to mention that very good care was taken to
send Dora Merton, her mother, and all their friends into places where they
would be safe, at least for the present, from the attacks of their enemies.
Some had gone to remote villages in Wales and Scotland, some were scattered
among English watering-places, and some had been sent to the Isle of Man and
the Channel Islands; and as all had, of course, renounced the picturesque
Utopian costume on their arrival in England, they found no difficulty in losing
themselves among the inhabitants of the places in which they took refuge.

By nightfall on Monday, the whole of London was in a state of feverish and
irrepressible anxiety and apprehension. The terror of the unknown hung over
everyone, from the mansions of Mayfair to the slums of Whitechapel. No one
talked of anything but the approaching doom of the arch-anarchist and the
vengeance that had been threatened by his still invisible allies. An epidemic
of unreasoning fear had seized upon the whole people, from those who wandered
about the streets arguing and gossiping with each other and buying up every new
special edition that the newspaper offices kept pouring out full of repetitions
of what had gone before, to the Cabinet Council that was sitting in Downing
Street discussing the telegrams that were constantly arriving from the various
points of the Empire threatened by Russian attack.

Many believed that London would be bombarded from the air during the night,
and this belief was strengthened by a fire which broke out among some
warehouses on the Rotherhithe bank of the river, but which had, in fact,
nothing whatever to do with the work of any incendiary. Of course, it was taken
for granted that the anarchists had set them on fire, and thousands of people
wandered about the streets all night, wondering where the next conflagration
was going to break out, or when the fire bombs would begin to descend from the
sky.

The whole strength of the Fire Brigade and of the police force was kept on
duty until the morning, but nothing happened, and the grey dawn of a cloudy
April morning broke over London, showing its buildings still uninjured, and
without bringing any news or warning of aggressive action on the part of the
anarchists.

By five o'clock, the anxious watchers in the street began to move with one
accord from all points towards what was now the common centre of interest- the
dark, smoke-grimed prison of Newgate; and by six, Ludgate Hill, Old Bailey,
Newgate Street, Holborn, and the southern end of Giltspur Street, were packed
with an excited throng of anxious, pale-faced people, waiting, some to see the
hauling up of the black flag, and others, who could not see it, to hear the
shout of relief and the cheer of triumph that would hail its appearance as the
sign that the master spirit of the Anarchists had ceased to exist.

All round the prison and its approaches, strong cordons of police were drawn
up to keep the crowd in the roadways, and to prevent it getting on to the
pavement or too near to the doors of Newgate, while hundreds of other policemen
in plain clothes mingled with the crowd, keeping a sharp look-out for
anarchists who might have come armed with hand bombs to take a mad and
indiscriminate vengeance for the death of their chief. Half a dozen squadrons
of lancers and dragoons were also kept in readiness, but out of sight, at the
Horse Guards, in case any rioting or outrages on the part of the anarchists,
who were believed to be in strong force in London, should make it necessary to
clear the streets, and all the public buildings were guarded by double sentries
and extra policemen.

Amidst the general excitement, the man who was the cause of it all was,
outwardly at least, the calmest man in London. Certainly, no one in the whole
metropolis had slept more soundly than Max Renault had done when the warders
woke him at half-past five. He dressed himself leisurely, and with his usual
care, in his own clothes, which, in accordance with the usual custom, had been
returned to him after his sentence. At six, his breakfast was brought to him,
and he ate as hearty a meal as though he had been going out hunting, instead of
to the gallows, and when it was over, he washed it down with half a pint of
champagne, in which he drank "success to Anarchy and destruction to Society."

Of any attempt that might be made for his rescue, or any revenge that might be
taken for his death, he said not a word. There was no bravado in his manner or
boasting in his speech; he was simply cool and collected, polite to everybody,
and apparently anxious to give as little trouble as possible. When the chaplain
entered the condemned cell to make one last effort to bring him into a frame of
mind befitting the terrible position in which he stood, he shook hands with
him, and said, in the easiest manner imaginable-

"My dear sir, I'm afraid you're giving yourself quite unnecessary trouble on
my behalf. I know you're doing it from a sense of duty, and if I were not so
averse to listening to wasted words, I would hear you with pleasure, if not
with profit; but, you see, I have no creed but anarchy, and no faith save in
the ultimate triumph of its principles, and so I must really decline to waste
the short time that appears to be left to me in unprofitable conversation."

"I can neither force you to listen, nor would I if I could," said the chaplain
gravely and almost sternly. "To a man standing as you do on the brink of
eternity, argument is worse than useless, and I will not tempt you to further
mockery. Is there anything that I can do for you—I mean in the worldly sense?
Have you any message to leave or any property to dispose of? If you have, you
may command me."

"Thank you," replied Renault, smiling, as he could sometimes smile, with a
rare sweetness. "The only message I have to give has been given, and my
property belongs of right to my comrades in arms, to be used in the work to
which we are devoted. And now, if you wish to do me a real service, get me one
of this morning's papers, and let me read quietly until the time comes."

The good chaplain was far too familiar with the behaviour of men in Renault's
position not to be able to see that his callousness was genuine, and in no
measure assumed. He saw, too, that to make any attempt to perform the last
offices of the Church for him would only be to give him opportunity for
scoffing, which might, if he were provoked too far, degenerate into blasphemy;
so he left the cell and went to the governor's room, where he got a copy of the
Standard, which he sent to the condemned cell by a warder.

Max took it, and soon became absorbed, as he might well be, in its contents.
The editorial page opened with a leading article, a column and a half long, on
his career and the justly merited fate that awaited him; and on the next page
there were three columns concerning the anarchists and their doings in all
parts of the world; and after them came the war news, the chief item of which
was to the effect that Kronstadt and the Russian Baltic ports were now free
from ice, and that the mobilisation of the Russian fleet would be complete in a
day or two. All this, however, was of no importance, in Max's eyes, in
comparison with one brief paragraph in the summary of news which ran as
follows:-

"As stated in our late edition last night, the Home Secretary has declined to
entertain the suggestion that the convict Renault, now under sentence of death
should be executed at some unknown date and hour, in order to obviate any
possible attempt at rescue. Such a rescue is rightly considered to be
absolutely impossible, and the execution, which is fixed for eight o'clock this
morning, will have taken place before these lines are in the hands of the
majority of our readers."

Max continued apparently absorbed in the perusal of the paper until a quarter
to eight, not even seeming to hear the muffled note of the bell of St.
Sepulchre as it tolled his own death-knell. When the governor and the chaplain
entered the cell with the executioner, he looked up, laid the paper down, and
rose to his feet with a slight bow. The governor briefly informed him the
purpose they had come for, and without a word he submitted to the process of
pinioning.

As soon as this was completed, the door of the cell was thrown open, and the
usual procession was formed, the governor leading the way and the chaplain
bringing up the rear, reading the burial service of the English Church. So they
went from the cell, down Dead Man's Passage, and out into the yard. On the
threshold, Max paused for just an instant, giving a glance up into the sky, in
which the clouds hung low, and then one look at the open shed under which the
rope was already dangling from the black-painted beam.

So far he had not opened his lips, but when a fourth of the way between the
passage and the scaffold had been traversed, he stopped suddenly, drew a deep
breath, and then a long, piercing, screaming cry came from his lips, and rang
out high above the murmur of the excited throng outside the prison walls. The
next instant, the murmur of the crowd was changed into a roar of amazement,
which grew shriller and shriller, until it became one mighty, long-drawn yell
of fear.

Before the cry Max had raised had died away, a huge grey shape dropped swiftly
and vertically from the clouds, and passed from the view of the crowd behind
the walls of Newgate Yard. Then came the sound of a rapid fusillade of small-
arms, and then the air-ship soared up again, with the still-pinioned body of
Max dangling in a lasso from one of the ports in the hull. Before the Vengeur
had reached the clouds, it had been hauled in. Then she stopped, just under the
clouds, and the vast crowd, knowing intuitively what was to come, began to
surge to and fro with wild yells and hoarse shouts of terror, for the rescue
had been achieved after all, and the moment of revenge had come.

XXIII. REVENGE!

BRAVO, Raoul! that was the neatest thing you ever did in your life, mon brave,
and you'll live to be pretty old before you do anything smarter! Tonnerre! How
that canaille yelled when they saw me go up instead of the black flag. I can be
as good a friend as I can an enemy, and you shall never want a friend now as
long as I'm alive."

The scene over which the Vengeur floated was even now terrible enough to have
shaken the nerves of any but an anarchist or a professional soldier. The vast
throngs packed into the streets about Newgate were swaying to and fro in great
masses, struggling to force their way out, and, after the manner of crowds
possessed by panic, doing everything to frustrate their own object.

For fully ten minutes the Vengeur circled slowly round over the agonised
thousands, as though her captain and crew were enjoying in anticipation the
horrors that they were about to add to the frightful scene beneath them. Then
Max stopped her a couple of hundred feet over the cross of St. Paul's, with her
bow pointing westward, and called down one of the tubes-

"Ready with the forward guns—one on the end and one on the middle of the
street. Let go!"

There was a sharp, hissing sound as the pent-up air in the breech- chambers
forced the projectiles out. Then two bright masses of flame blazed out,
followed by the mingled roar of the explosions and the crash of glass as the
neighbouring shop windows were blown in.

Two great ragged gaps were torn in the densely packed masses amidst which the
shells fell, as though the earth had burst open beneath their feet, and bodies
of men and women were hurled up into the air, mingled with limbs and torn
fragments of other bodies, and fell back upon the heads of those who thronged
the pavements. Then, in the midst of such a cry of agony and terror as had
never reached human ears before, Max took up another tube, and said-

"Ready with the port stern gun! Send a shell into that lot where the four
streets meet!"

Again the hissing sound came, and the shell burst in the midst of the throng
that was packed into the junction of Cheapside and Newgate Street, with the
same hideous effects.

"Starboard bow gun—a couple of shells in the crowd by the church there. Port
bow, another under the bridge! Port stern, send a shell at that big building
with the pillars in front of it—that's what they call their Royal Exchange—a
bourgeois swindling den!"

His orders were obeyed almost as soon as they were given, and, as each shell
struck and burst, the scene of wholesale murder became more and more hideous,
for the fearful effects of the projectiles seemed to strike the helpless
throngs with paralysis, and all they could do was to sway to and fro, and
scream and moan with terror, as though they intuitively knew that they were at
the mercy of an enemy from whom there was no escape.

Some made wild rushes into the shops and houses, and as soon as he saw this,
Max ordered the guns to play upon them, loaded with fire-shell, and a few
minutes later unquenchable fires were blazing furiously in a score of houses
and shops all round the area of slaughter and destruction. Then, like the
incarnation of an evil spirit brooding above the scene of indescribable horror,
the Vengeur passed slowly over the streets dropping bombs charged with fire-
mixture as she went, and when she had completed the circuit, a ring of flame
and smoke encircled the black frowning walls of the prison in which everyone
had believed by this time Max Renault would have been hanging by the neck.

"I think that will do for this part of London," he said to himself, as the
Vengeur once more floated over the cross of St. Paul's; "and as we have a good
many visits to pay to-day, we may as well be off. Ah, yes! that's a happy
thought. It's nearly nine o'clock, and the City men will be just coming up from
the county to begin their day's swindling. We'll smash up the railway stations
first, and begin with Cannon Street. I've owed the South-Eastern a personal
grudge for some time."

He took up the mouthpiece of a tube and called into it-

"Stern guns there, train on that railway station with the rounded roof.
Starboard gun, load with anarchite and fire into the station and at the trains
on the bridge. Port gun, load with fire-shell and train on the hotel in front.
Let go when you're ready—six shells each."

Then he took up another tube and gave the order, "Starboard bow gun, blow up
that bridge at the bottom of the street. Port bow gun, load with fire-shell and
set those two railway stations on fire. Ludgate Hill hasn't been fit for
anything but burning for a good many years now," he added to himself, with a
low, malicious laugh.

By the time his orders had been obeyed, Cannon Street Hotel was ablaze in half
a dozen places, the station was half wrecked, and the wrecks of a couple of
trains were lying scattered over the bridge. The bridge across Ludgate Hill had
been blown to pieces, and Ludgate Hill and St. Paul's stations were both on
fire. He now turned the Vengeur's prow eastward and brought her to a standstill
again over the Bank of England. Then the pitiless order went down the tube-

"Ready with the bomb tubes!—that's the Bank of England. I don't think they'll
do much business to-day. Let go half a dozen pills for the Old Lady of
Threadneedle Street to digest, if she can. Ah, that's a sort of run on the Bank
they haven't had since the Old Lady started in business! Money will be a trifle
tight to-day, I fancy, in the City."

He kept the Vengeur moving very slowly as the bombs were dropped, so that they
might fall in different places. As they crashed down through the roof and
burst, jets of flame and smoke rose through the holes they made, showing how
terribly they had done their work, and in a few minutes the interior of the
treasure-house of England was blazing like a furnace.

After this came the turn of the General Post Office, and soon the bombs were
crashing through the roofs of the great buildings in St. Martin's-le- Grand,
setting floor after floor on fire as they burst and scattered their fearful
contents through the rooms and passages. Then a shell struck the cupola of St.
Paul's and wrecked it at a blow. The great golden cross tottered for a moment
and then crashed downwards, smashing a great hole in the dome, and shivering to
fragments on the marble pavement of the cathedral.

Then Max steered the Vengeur at easy speed towards Westminster, still keeping
his elevation of three thousand feet, and sending an occasional shell from his
guns at random over London to north and south, in sheer wantonness of
destruction, for the mere sake of keeping up the panic he had created.

As the Vengeur passed up the river, Max caught sight of the square red-
turreted building which he recognised as New Scotland Yard.

"Ah!" he said, looking down at it through his glasses, "I mustn't forget that.
I'll let the national windmill alone for the present, for I may be able to
catch some of the hereditary legislators and misrepresentatives of the
sovereign people in it a bit later on; but our friends of the police and the
Criminal Investigation Department will probably be at home, and pretty busy
too, so I'll just stop a minute and leave my card."

So saying, he stopped the air-ship high above the great square building, and
then half a dozen fire-bombs descended on its roof in quick succession. They
crashed through it as though it had been made of glass, and presently tongues
of flame and wreaths of smoke began shooting and creeping out of the windows.
As soon as he saw this, he ran half a mile to the southward, and sent a dozen
anarchite shells through the windows to help on the conflagration that his fire-
bombs had started.

"That'll do for you, my friends, I think. Scotland Yard was always a pretty
warm corner, but I don't thick it was ever quite as hot as it is now. There are
a good many fellows in there who'll never hunt down any more poor devils of
anarchists and hand them over to the tender mercies of M. de Paris. Now, where
shall we pay the next call? Ah, of course, I have it. It would never do to
forget that. We'll go and scare the rooks out of the legal dovecots.

"Those sleek-looking scoundrels, they're the cause of half the injustice and
the oppression that has made anarchy what it is, and me what I am. Here goes
for the Temple and what the canting hypocrites are pleased to call the Royal
Courts of Justice. I hope the Courts are sitting. I'll go and serve a notice of
ejectment on them, and decline to stay execution, as they say in their pompous
jargon."

With that he sent the Vengeur across the Embankment and the Strand, and placed
her over the Law Courts. Then bomb after bomb crashed in quick succession
through different parts of the gabled roof of the great building, until it was
on fire in a dozen places at once, and there was such a stampede and haste to
get out as the law's delay had never known before.

That afternoon and evening neither flag was hoisted nor light kindled on the
Clock Tower of Westminster, for the universal panic had now spread to all ranks
of society, and neither Lords nor Commons felt inclined to run the risk of a
sitting in a building whose conspicuous position and character marked it out
for almost certain destruction at the hands of the enemy of mankind who, for
the time being, held London at his mercy.

Max waited in vain for the signal that Parliament was sitting, still keeping
up the terrorism by circling hither and thither high over the vast wilderness
of houses, and dropping a bomb or sending a shell here and there as the fancy
took him, or any tempting object presented itself. He kept this up until about
six o'clock, and then, as his ammunition was beginning to run rather low, he
decided to put the finishing touches to his horrible work, and then get away
and join Hartog again.

Going to work with almost diabolical deliberation, he first ran up and down
over the river and destroyed the floating fire-engines. Then, hovering over
Westminster, he sent bomb after bomb through the roofs of the Houses of
Parliament, the Government Offices, the Horse Guards, the Admiralty, and
Whitehall. For a moment the thought of destroying Westminster Abbey as well
crossed his mind, but a glance at the venerable pile brought back to his well-
stored mind all its ancient and splendid traditions, and instead of giving the
order, he said to himself-

"No, I won't do that. It would do no good, and it would take a thousand years
to repair the damage. I'll let the old church alone. Who knows but some day we
may preach the new Gospel of Man in it. Sacre diable, how the abodes of red
tape are burning! It seems to make splendid fuel. I wonder what there is in
that fire-mixture of Hartog's? It burns as if it came from the lake of Tophet
itself. Fine bonfires those for anarchy to light its pipe at! Ah, they're
lighting the street-lamps out yonder to the north. It's time to go and pay the
gasworks a visit. I think I've provided London with quite light enough for to-
night. It's a waste to burn gas under the circumstances."

Then the Vengeur ran across to Vauxhall, and a few moments later the shells
began bursting among the gasholders, tearing great ragged holes in them, and as
the gas came rushing out, fire-bombs were dropped to ignite it, and huge
tongues of roaring flame shot up into the air, until one after another the
gasometers burst like huge shells. Then came the turn of the Old Kent Road
works, and the southern half of London shook to its foundation as the enormous
quantities of gas stored up in the holders took fire and then blew up, hurling
fragments of iron plate, bricks and coal, and fragments of bodies far and wide
over the surrounding streets.

Every gas light in South London went out within a few minutes, and then the
Vengeur headed away north-westward to the works of the Gas Light and Coke
Company at Kensal Town. The great "Jumbo," the largest gas-holder in the world,
was full, and the huge iron reservoir had been raised to the tops of the iron
pillars with which it was surrounded.

Max turned his attention to the smaller ones first, and sent a shell through
the roof of each of them in rapid succession. Then he poised the air- ship
exactly above the giant, and dropped first a solid piece of iron weighing about
ten pounds on to its roof, and then sent a fire-bomb immediately after this.
The piece of iron bored a clean hole, and as the gas came rushing up out of
this, the fire-bomb fell and ignited it.

The next instant a long stream of intensely brilliant flame, almost like the
ray of a searchlight, leapt up into the darkening sky hundreds of feet above
the gas-holder. Then the volumes of gas escaping from the others caught fire in
the air, with which, of course, they made a highly explosive mixture, and
exploded with a concussion, the force of which was felt even by the Vengeur,
floating nearly three thousand feet above. The great reservoir soon began to
subside; its enormous weight driving the gas out with terrific force, sending
the long tongue of flame far up into the sky, and casting a parting gleam on
the hull and aeroplanes of the Vengeur as she soared away to the westward.

"Ah!" said Max, as he looked back out of the conning-tower at the dark gulf of
London, still lighted up by huge patches of flame covered by enormous canopies
of rolling smoke; "the next time you try to hang an anarchist, perhaps you will
think twice about it. I hope that will teach you that the centre of power has
shifted. The rule of nations is at an end, for I can paralyse those who rule
them with a single stroke. What I have done to London to-day it would have
taken a besieging army weeks to do. The rule of the world has shifted from the
earth to the air, and woe betide the earth as long as I rule the air! How mad
Franz will be when he finds he has missed all this fun!"

So saying, he sent a signal for full speed to the engine-room, and in a few
minutes the conflagrations of London were only little points of light on the
horizon.

XXIV. A REIGN OF TERROR

THE excitement produced by the terrible events of Death Tuesday, as the fatal
day of the anarchists' revenge had been promptly and permanently named, was
completely indescribable. Not only England but the Continent—indeed, it might
almost be said the whole civilised world—was convulsed by it.

Nothing like this had ever happened in the history of the world before. The
ocean terrorism maintained by the Destroyer on the Atlantic was as nothing to
it. From under the very shadow of the scaffold, in the centre of the most
populous city in the world, a notorious criminal had been snatched from the
grasp of justice by means so unheard-of and marvellous, that only the awful
reality of what had followed made it impossible to doubt the fact that it had
occurred.

This man, arraigned at the bar of English justice to answer for the most
terrible of crimes, had calmly admitted them, and then, snapping his fingers at
the majesty of the law, he had threatened to take a tremendous vengeance even
for the indignity of having sentence of death passed upon him—and he had kept
his monstrous threat to the letter.

There could be no doubt about that. The blackened and smoking ruins of the
most important buildings in London, of the very seat of Government itself, the
darkened and wreck-strewn streets, the thousands of human bodies, torn and
mangled almost beyond recognition, and the mutilated remains of men, women, and
children who had perished in the burning houses or been crushed to death by the
panic-stricken throngs in the streets—all these were evidence, too fearfully
unmistakable, of the fact that the enemy of society had, for the tune being at
least, armed himself with a power superior to anything that the forces of law
and order could bring against him.

In what had been to him merely the pastime of a spring day, this one man, with
half a dozen followers, had done what it would have taken the leagued armies
and fleets of the Continent weeks of the most appalling strife and bloodshed to
do. He had bombarded London, and the amount of damage he had done had been
limited only by his inclination or the failure of his ammunition. What had
happened to London might happen to Paris the next day, to Berlin the next, to
St. Petersburg the next, and so on. It was only a question of time and
ammunition. From the monarch in his palace to the peasant in his cottage, no
one was safe, and no one had the remotest idea where the next blow would fall.

To say that a reign of terror, a condition of almost universal panic, had been
established at one stroke by the anarchists, would be simply to state the bare
facts of the case. Men were afraid to meet anywhere in large numbers, lest, as
in London, destruction swift and inevitable should be hurled upon them from the
sky.

The Parliaments of the world met in scanty numbers, and in fear and trembling.
They passed their resolutions hurriedly, and separated as soon as possible, for
politics had suddenly become invested with an actual personal danger, and as
politicians and heroes are seldom made of the same stuff, legislators mostly
preferred the safer obscurity of their own homes to the perilous prominence of
their official positions.

Suppose the British Houses of Parliament had been sitting when the Vengeur
made her attack on the Palace of Westminster, how many members of either House
would have escaped death or mutilation? What was there to prevent a similar
assault to be made at any moment on any other of the Parliament Houses of the
world, from the Chamber of Deputies in Paris to the House of Representatives in
Washington? There was nothing, and so it came to pass that the parliamentary
Governments of the world were half paralysed by the terrorism of anarchy in its
most frightful form.

But, although this was primarily due to the assault of the air-ship on London,
it was not wholly caused by it. While Renault had been at work in the air, Lea
had been no less active on land. Through her agency, all the anarchist groups
in the world had been prepared beforehand for the startling events of Death
Tuesday, and they had unanimously resolved to celebrate the rescue of the man
they now looked up to as their leader and chief, in spite of their rigidly
individualistic principles, in a fashion worthy of themselves and their
horrible creed.

The result had been that there was hardly a great centre of population in the
civilised world that had not been the scene of some explosion, assassination,
or other outrage.

Within a week, the war party in France was in the ascendant, and before
another week had passed, France had joined hands with Russia, and declared war
on Britain, as the harbourer of anarchists, and the enemy of the peace of
Europe. By this time, too, the Baltic was clear of ice, and the Russian
northern fleet was only waiting for the cooperation of the French Channel
squadron to force the British blockade of the Sound, and carry the war to the
shores of Britain.

Such was the general position of affairs on the 12th of May, when a meeting of
the directors of the Aerial Navigation Syndicate took place at the offices of
the Maxim-Nordenfeldt Company in Victoria Street, Westminster. Mr. Maxim
himself was in the chair, and others present were Mr. Austen, Sir Harry, Edward
Adams, and Lieutenant Wyndham. The proceedings had opened with a terse
comprehensive view of the position of the Syndicate by the chairman, and, in
concluding this, he said-

Now, gentlemen, from what I have said and you already know, I think you will
agree with me that it won't be very long now before the old order of things is
completely done away with, and all the fighting of the future, if there is to
be any, will have to be done either by semi-submarine craft of the type of the
Nautilus and the Aries, or else by means of air-ships.

"That scoundrel Renault has proved that against a properly managed air- ship,
carrying guns and a fair amount of ammunition, there is practically no defence.
Now, he and ourselves are the only people in the world who possess these ships.
We don't know how many he's got by this time, because he hasn't given any sign
of his existence since his attack on London. But, however many or few he has,
we know how he'll use them.

"We have two, the Volante and the War-Hawk, ready to take the air to- morrow.
I fancy they're swifter and more powerful as fighting machines than his, and I
don't know that any of us will have any reason to wish any alteration in the
original plan, that they should be devoted to hunting this scoundrel down, and,
if possible, destroying him. It is also agreed, I think, that the Volante shall
be commanded by Mr. Adams, and the War-Hawk by Mr. Austen, and that each of
these gentlemen will choose their own officers and crew."

A general nod of assent went round the table as Mr. Maxim paused for a moment,
and then he went on-

"With regard to the rest of the fleet, I am happy to say we have so far
repaired the damage caused by those rascals with their bombs, that we shall
have twenty more ships ready for work in a fortnight from now, and this will
bring us face to face with a question, if possible, more important than
anarchist-hunting, and that is our attitude with regard to the war.

"As you no doubt know, we have received some very tempting offers for the use
of our ships, not only from the British Government, but from France and Russia
as well. But I think you'll agree with me that the services in warfare of such
an engine of destruction as our air-ships will undoubtedly be, are not to be
measured by a few thousand pounds a month that a Government would pay for the
hire of them."

"Most assuredly!" said Mr. Austen, as the chairman paused as if awaiting a
reply. " I think, at any rate, speaking for myself and my immediate friends,
that the very worst policy would be to place the air-ships at the disposal of
any Government. To do so would be to give them the means of tyrannising over
other Powers, and subjecting them to an almost irresistible temptation to
embark upon a career of indiscriminate conquest, which might end in enslaving
the liberties of the world.

"For my own part, I don't believe that any government, whether despotic or
democratic, is sufficiently civilised to be entrusted with such a power as
that. The world is not ready for aerial navigation yet, and I have never ceased
to regret, since Renault stole the air-ship from Utopia, that I did not keep my
son's secret and let it die with me."

"You'd have been something more than mortal if you had done that, Mr. Austen,"
said Mr. Maxim drily. "Besides, you know, if your air-ships hadn't been built,
my aeroplanes would have been nearly as dangerous to the peace of the world;
and, as it was then just a matter of business with me, I should have sold them
or hired them out to anyone who'd have paid for them, and left them to fight it
out amongst themselves, just as they do with the Maxim gun."

"But as a matter of business," chimed in Sir Harry, "and humanity as well, I
certainly think that our original plan will be by far the best so far as the
war is concerned. What do you think, Mr. Adams?"

"Oh, undoubtedly," replied Adams. "Once we have driven the anarchists from the
air and given that blackguard, Renault, his deserts, I hope we shall carry it
out as quickly as possible; but I am certainly of opinion that we ought to use
every effort to hunt Renault and his accomplices down first. We really have
nothing to do with the quarrel with France and Russia, and it is of very little
moment to us which is in the right or the wrong.

"My voice will certainly be for hunting the anarchists down first with every
ship that we can get afloat, and then carrying out the original plan on the
basis of which this Syndicate was formed."

"And that is my view, too," said Sir Harry, as Adams ceased speaking. "On both
public and private grounds, I think we are bound to put a stop to the terrorism
which this Renault, unfortunately, has it in his power to exercise. I think
that if England, France, and Russia are foolish enough to go to war about
matters which they could settle in a few hours with a little common sense and
fair play, we may as well leave them to fight it out for the present.

"But even if the whole of Europe were at war, it would be of less importance
than exterminating Renault and his accomplices, because it stands to reason
that if we give them time to build a large fleet of air-ships, they will simply
take advantage of the war to increase its horrors a hundredfold and spread
their terrorism round the whole world, and, in that case, civilisation will
simply come to an end, and the anarchists will soon gain command of the
world—and a very nice prospect that would be."

"Very well, then," said the chairman. "We will consider that as settled, and
so this will be the last meeting of the Syndicate for the present. We have done
our talking and our thinking, and now we shall go to work. You gentlemen will
go on active service, and I shall remain here to superintend building
operations and business in general. I hope our next meeting will be to arrange
terms of peace, and put international matters on a little more satisfactory
basis than they are now. I think that is everything, isn't it?"

"No," said Mr. Austen, taking a sealed envelope from his breast pocket. "There
is one thing more. Mr. Adams and I start to-morrow upon what may be a very
perilous undertaking. All warfare is uncertain, and this warfare will probably
be the most uncertain of all; and therefore, Mr. Maxim, we have decided to
leave with you the formula for the preparation of the motor-fuel, so that you
may have it prepared in proper quantities, and, of course, with due regard for
secrecy, for the supply of the fleet.

"All we shall ask in return will be your word of honour that you will learn
the formula by heart, and at once destroy this paper, that you will never
disclose it to anyone, and that you will supply none of the fuel on any
conditions to anyone outside the Syndicate."

"You have my word on all these points, I can assure you," replied the
chairman, as he took the priceless envelope. "If ever I let it out, you are at
liberty to blow me to smithereens with one of my own guns."

After this, a few more minor details of business were arranged, and the
meeting broke up. That evening the members of the Aerial Navigation Syndicate
dined together at the Hotel Victoria, in company with several old friends from
Utopia, and not the least hearty of their toasts was that in which they drank
"Success to the cruise of the Volante and the War-Hawk."

XXV. THE "WAR-HAWK'S" FIRST FLIGHT

THE most elaborate precautions had been taken by the Syndicate to prevent the
Anarchists and their spies from doing anything to hinder the blinding of the
Volante and the War-Hawk, the first two vessels of their fleet that were to
take the air, and also to keep secret the manner and place of their building.

As has already been said, the various parts of the ships and their engines and
armament had been made by different firms, and these, when completed, were
despatched by rail to two different points. The Syndicate had acquired,
privately of course, and in names unknown to the world, Lundy Island, off the
coast of Devon, and one of the Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumberland,
for the purpose of putting the vessels together and equipping them under
circumstances which made it possible to keep all strangers and possible
traitors away from the spot.

Thus everything that was necessary for the building and equipment of the
Volante had been conveyed by rail to Bristol, and there shipped on board the
Irene and taken to Lundy Island, while the materials of the War-Hawk had been
sent by rail to North Shields, and conveyed thence by another steamer to the
Farne Island. No one was allowed on either of the steamers save those who had
been members of the colony of Utopia, and were personally known to the
directors; while on the islands the strictest possible watch was kept in order
to make sure that no strangers or suspicious persons landed upon them.

All the building operations had been carried out on both vessels
simultaneously, and the day after the last meeting of the Syndicate, Edward
Adams and Mr. Austen, with their chosen lieutenants, went, the one west and the
other north, to see everything in order, and, as it were, put their respective
ships into commission. Adams took with him Tom Harris and Ralf Smith—late of
the Mermaid—as lieutenant and engineer, and Dr. Edwards as surgeon. His crew he
would find waiting for him on board the Irene, or else on the island.

The War-Hawk, with whose fortunes the reader will be more particularly
concerned, was in a certain sense Sir Harry Milton's own ship, although, at his
particular request, Mr. Austen had consented to take command of her. He had
spent nearly a hundred thousand pounds out of his own pocket on her, and had
spared no expense to make her the most perfect and the most powerful aerial
cruiser in existence, and therefore the most certain instrument of his
vengeance on the man who had wronged him so wantonly and so deeply.

From point to point the elongated cylinder which formed the War-Hawk's hull
measured two hundred and twenty feet, with an amidships diameter of thirty-
five feet. Her triple engines were capable of exerting nine thousand
horsepower, six thousand of which could be concentrated on her six lifting
fans, which, under these conditions, were capable of lifting a dead weight of
four tons, in addition to the hull and engines.

The engines and gearing were so constructed that while either three or six
thousand horse-power could be applied to the lifting fans, leaving three
thousand for the driving propellers, the whole nine thousand could be
concentrated on the latter, and then the aeroplanes, driven forward at a speed
of more than three miles a minute, would more than support the whole weight of
the vessel and her cargo.

For armament she carried two pneumatic shell-guns forward, and two aft, which
had been specially designed for the vessels of the Syndicate by Mr. Maxim and
Mr. Austen, and which would throw a shell carrying twenty pounds weight of high
explosives to a distance of seven miles when fired from an elevation of two
thousand feet. On each broadside were four machine guns of the Maxim type,
effective at a range of three miles, and with a firing capacity of seven
hundred and fifty shots a minute. She was also fitted with six vertical bomb-
tubes, each furnished with a releasing apparatus which automatically despatched
the projectile the moment that the tube was exactly vertical to the object
aimed at.

Sir Harry had had two objects in view in making the War-Hawk, as he hoped he
had made her, the most formidable engine of destruction in existence. First and
foremost, of course, was his settled purpose of hunting Max Renault from the
world, and taking due vengeance on him for the crimes that be had committed,
but hardly second to this came the fact that he had determined to confide the
safety of all that was dearest to him on earth to the speed and strength of the
splendid craft upon which he had lavished money without stint.

Violet, who had of course been brought away from France as soon as it was
known that there was any danger of war being declared, was now quite
convalescent, although the great nerve specialist under whose care she bad been
in Paris had been unable to hold out any hope that, without the intervention of
a miracle, she would ever be able to walk again. As Dr. Roberts had feared, the
injury to her spine had proved to be the most serious of all.

Her vigorous constitution had triumphed over all her other injuries, severe as
they had been. Her general health, and even her spirits were fast coming back
to her, but her lower limbs were almost useless, and so she was a prisoner to
the invalid chair in which it was only too probable she was condemned to pass
the remainder of her waking life.

As soon as she had learned that her brother was building the War-Hawk, and
intended to take the air himself in pursuit of Renault, she had begged and
pleaded so hard to be taken with him, that at last, acting on Dr. Roberts's
advice, he had yielded.

"Don't you see, my dear fellow," the late surgeon of the Calypso had said to
him, when he expressed his surprise at his advice, "that, after all, this air-
ship of yours will probably be the safest place she can be in? You'll always be
on the look-out for the enemy. You will know where he is, or, at any rate,
where he is not, and if you meet him, you'll only attack him under favourable
circumstances; but if you leave your sister on land, you will never know when
some of these blackguardly anarchist spies might find her out and kill her just
out of pure spite, or when Renault himself might find out where she was, and
blow up the building she was living in out of revenge for his former failure.

"Added to that, in these nervous complaints the all-important thing is to
guard against mental worry. If you leave her at home and go careering through
the air yourself, she will be in a constant state of anxiety about you,-
sleepless nights and all that sort of thing,—and instead of getting stronger
and better, she'll simply get weaker and worse out of sheer anxiety for you.
Take my advice, and take her with you, and take me, too, to look after her. You
know I can make myself useful in other ways than as a sawbones."

After this, there was nothing for it but to let Violet have her way and make
one of the company of the War-Hawk. But this decision speedily opened another
question, which was settled in a way that gave Sir Harry not a little secret
satisfaction.

It was quite impossible that, in her helpless condition, Violet could go on
board the War-Hawk without one of her own sex as attendant and companion, and
for this office Dora Merton volunteered in such decisive terms that she
speedily overcame what little opposition she met with. Thus it came to pass
that when the air-ship lay on the island on the evening of the 14th of May,
ready to take her first flight into the air, her company consisted of Mr.
Austen and Sir Harry as joint commanders, Frank Markham as chief engineer, and
a crew of eight Utopians, who had been specially trained to the work, Dr.
Roberts as ship's surgeon and general utility man, as he described himself,
Violet Milton and Dora Merton-whom Violet had ever increasingly strong reasons
for regarding as a sister, in fact as well as in fancy, as every day of their
intercourse went by.

The central portion of the War-Hawk's hull had been flattened so as to form a
promenade deck about seventy-five feet long by twenty broad, and on this Sir
Harry, Mr. Austen, the doctor, and Dora were standing round Violet's chair,
waiting for the sinking disc of the sun to disappear over the hills of
Northumbria, and so give the signal for the voyage to begin.

A few moments later, Mr. Austen went to the rail which surrounded the deck,
and, leaning over, said to those who were standing about the ship on the land-

"Is everything clear?"

"Yes," came the reply; "all clear."

"Very well, then," said Mr. Austen, going to the top of the companion-way
which led down to the engine-room. "Are you ready with the lifting fans,
Markham? You can go ahead when you like. I'm going to take the wheel in the
conning-tower now."

"All ready," came the reply, in Markham's voice, from the engine-room; and
then came the click of a lever, the blades of the lifting fans sprang out
horizontally from the masts, and began to spin round with ever-increasing
speed, and a sound that gradually rose from a soft whirr to a shrill whistle.

"It doesn't look as though these wheels just turning round in the air like
that could lift this great ship and everything on board from the earth, does
it? " said Violet, leaning back in her chair and looking up at the revolving
fans.

"The air is a solid, if you only hit it hard enough," said the doctor, quoting
from an American authority on aeronautics. "Wait till these fans hit it hard
enough, and we shall rise like a fish in the water, or more properly, perhaps,
a bird on the wing."

The whistle of the fans, revolving with ever-increasing rapidity as Markham
brought more and more of the engine-power to bear upon them, now rose almost to
a scream. A hurricane of wind seemed to beat down upon the steep, sloping
awning over the deck for a moment, and then they felt the deck lift and sway
beneath their feet. They looked over the side, and saw that the land was
sinking away from beneath them, then a bell sounded in the engine-room, and the
propellers began to revolve. A gentle breeze seemed to sweep along the deck,
and the island slipped away behind them.

"Look, we are off at last!" cried Dora, clapping her hands in sheer delight.
"There's the sea below us now, and the islands—look at them, they are like so
many little dots on the water already. What a speed we must be going at, and
fancy, we are flying, actually flying! Isn't it glorious? no more obstacles for
us now, either on sea or land, no hills to climb, no rough seas to go pitching
over or plunging under. We can fly over everything."

"There's no doubt about that," said Sir Harry, "and I suppose this is actually
the first time on record that an angel has flown without wings."

"Bravo, Harry!" laughed Violet, looking up at Dora's now rosy face. "That's
very nice."

While this conversation bad been going on, the War-Hawk had swung round and
was running at about forty miles an hour to the south-westward. Before Violet
could make any retort to Dora's last piece of banter, Sir Harry, who had been
sweeping the clear seaward horizon with his field-glasses, leant forward
suddenly, as though something had caught his attention. He looked hard through
the glasses for a moment, and then, taking them from his eyes, said-

"Violet, you must go below at once. Come along, I'll carry you. Miss Dora,
will you get one of the boys to bring the chair down?"

And before they had time to ask any questions, he had picked his sister up in
his arms and was carrying her below to her cabin, followed by Dora. He laid her
upon her couch, kissed her, and ran up on deck again without a word. Then,
calling the crew up and telling them to prepare the ship for action, he went
into the conning-tower and said to Mr. Austen-

"There are three air-ships coming up yonder from the southward. We have only
just left the island in the nick of time."

XXVI. A FLYING FIGHT

MR. AUSTEN followed the direction of Sir Harry's finger with his field-
glasses, after locking the steering-wheel for the moment.

"I'm afraid there is no doubt about it," he said, putting the glass down and
releasing the wheel again. "As you say, there are three of them, and they are
coming up very fast. Of course they cannot be anything but a portion of the
Anarchist fleet."

"That's quite certain," said Sir Harry. "Simply because they can't be ours.
Evidently their spies have managed to find out where we were building the War-
Hawk, and those three ships have been sent to smash her up before she could get
into the air. If they'd been half in hour sooner, they'd leave blown us and the
War-Hawk into little pieces—and with Violet and Dora on board too! Phew! It
gives one the shivers to think of it. However, thank God, we are all right now.
The question is, what shall we do—fight, or run away?"

"Run away, by all means," replied Mr. Austen, with a grim sort of smile and a
meaning twinkle in his eye. "I don't know whether it has ever struck you, but
the fact is, that in aerial warfare to run away will not only be to fight, but
to fight under the most favourable circumstances. The first, and in fact the
only axiom in aerial tactics will be: Get your enemy behind you and below you.
Then smash him up."

"I see, I see. Of course it will be!" exclaimed Sir Harry. "An air-ship flying
at a hundred miles an hour cannot use her bow guns with any effect, while her
stern guns will be even more effective than if she was stationary. What a fool
I was not to think of that before! Well, then, we shall have a trial of heels
first, and then a little gun practice at long range, I suppose?"

"Just so," said Mr. Austen. "Always supposing that those fellows are foolish
enough to follow us. Now, as I have had more practice than you have, I'll stop
here and manage the ship, and you go aft and fight the two stern guns. You can
tell me through the speaking tube what you want in the way of speed or
elevation."

"Yes, that's the plan," said Sir Harry, turning to leave the conning- tower.
"They've got the awning down and everything snug by this time, so we're ready
for full speed whenever you life."

"Very good," said Mr. Austen, sending a signal to the engine-room as he spoke.
"We'll go up to four thousand feet first. As soon as your range-finder tells
you that they are within five miles, you can open fire. Don't be afraid of the
ammunition. Our gunners want practice, and we can get plenty more at Lundy. If
we can get those fellows to follow us, we'll work round there and join forces
with the Volante."

"All right," said Sir Harry. "I won't spare the shells, I can tell you. I only
hope that blackguard Renault is on board one of them, and that I get a shell
squarely into her."

So saying, he closed the door of the conning-tower and descended into the hull
of the ship, which was now rising rapidly into the upper strata of the air. He
paid a visit first to his sister's cabin, and briefly explained the position of
affairs to her and Dora, assuring them that there was no danger,- as there
really was not, as long as they could keep the enemy behind them,—and then he
went into the after gun-room, where he found the crews standing by the two long
guns, which had already been loaded.

The three anarchist vessels were now about six miles astern, and nearly two
thousand feet below the War-Hawk. Of course at that distance they were mere
specks floating in the ocean of atmosphere, and to hit them with a point-blank
aim was quite out of the question. Still, as the War-Hawk was only moving at a
speed of about sixty miles an hour, while they were travelling nearly a
hundred, the distance rapidly decreased, and every moment they became more and
more distinct.

"What are you loaded with, Martin?" said Sir Harry to the captain of the
starboard gun.

"Twenty pound melinite in both guns," was the reply.

"I'm afraid that won't do for these fellows," said Sir Harry. "But still you
can try the range with them. I think they've sighted us, for they are evidently
rising. Take the two outside ones and try your luck."

The two gun captains took a careful sight through the range-finders mounted on
the breeches of the guns, and then came a long and a sharp whistling hiss, as
the air pent up in the breech chambers under the pressure of a hundred
atmospheres rushed out, driving the projectiles before it. Sir Harry, with his
glasses, had no difficulty in following the two shells, flying as they did in a
line with the flight of the War-Hawk, until they vanished into the distance. No
result visible to the naked eye followed, but as he took his glasses down from
his eyes, he said-

"Bravo! Capital shots both of them. You got the direction excellently, and I
don't think they can have been fifty yards out, either of them. Now we'll try a
couple of gelatine time-shells."

These were shells containing blasting gelatine and a tube filled with liquid
oxygen. As the guns were being loaded again, Sir Harry said-

"What do your range-finders say now?"

"Coming down to nine thousand yards and fifteen hundred feet elevation."

"Then set the shells for six seconds, and let go as soon as you are ready."

Almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth, the compressed air hissed
through the barrels again, and Sir Harry began counting.

"One-two-three-four-five-six. Ah, there they go! Elevation perfect, but about
a hundred yards astern of them. Still, it has shaken them up considerably. Ah,
I thought so! they're scattering."

The moment after the two transient specks of light had appeared in the
distance against the now darkening background of the sky, telling of the
bursting of the two shells, the two outer anarchist vessels swerved sharply to
right and left, and, still mounting upwards and travelling at the utmost speed
of which they were capable, swung round in two wide curves, as though they were
striving to head the War-Hawk off.

Watching them closely through his glasses, Sir Harry allowed them to come
within three miles of the War-Hawk's quarters, and then asked Mr. Austen to
quicken up until the War-Hawk was relatively stationary to them. At the same
time he had the two bow guns swung round until they bore on the anarchist
vessels on either side.

"Now," he said to the crews as soon as the guns were in position. "Your range
is three miles. Time your shells for that, and blaze away. Ah, they've opened
fire too! Well, they won't do much harm at this speed, I think."

His last exclamation was called forth by the bursting of a couple of shells
about a mile on either side of the War-Hawk, and some three hundred feet below
her. What Mr. Austen had said was borne out to the letter. The four vessels
were now moving at a speed of a hundred and twenty miles an hour through the
air, and therefore the wind was rushing past them with a force half as great
again as that of a hurricane. Consequently, as the anarchist gunners very soon
found, it was impossible to take any effective aim with guns into the muzzles
of which the air was being forced at this enormous pressure.

But with the War-Hawk's artillery the conditions were reversed. Her guns being
trained aft at a very acute angle, the wind swept harmlessly past their
muzzles, and her projectiles, hurled forward with an initial velocity of three
thousand feet a second, sped undisturbed on their way. Her gunners now settled
down steadily to their work, and every shell burst nearer than the one before
it to one or other of the anarchist vessels. At length one from the starboard
forward gun burst fairly under the air-planes of the nearest of them.

"Bravo! " cried Sir Harry, who had watched the explosion through his glasses.
"That's crippled him at last."

And so it had done; for, like a bird with a broken wing, the stricken ship
stopped, turned over, and vanished in the distance as the others sped onwards.
By this time they were travelling over the Cheviot Hills in a south- westerly
direction. Those on board the War-Hawk, looking back into the gloom behind and
beneath them, saw a brilliant spout of flame burst up out of the midst of the
dark heather-clad hills far away in the distance astern.

"What was that, Sir Harry?" asked Dora, with a tremor of awe in her voice. She
had come from Violet's cabin with a message, and was standing by his side
watching the effects of the shot through the open slide through which the
barrel of the gun projected.

"That was an anarchist air-ship loaded with explosives falling on to the earth
from a height of about three thousand feet," replied Sir Harry gravely. "That
is what it means to be crippled in an aerial engagement. Horrible, isn't it?"

"Horrible! " cried Dora, with a shudder. "There is no word that would describe
it. It seems too awful even to think about. Is that what would happen to us if
they hit us?"

"Most probably," he said, still more gravely. "And that is why we are keeping
them behind us. Ha! there goes another. Well aimed, Martin. That appears to
have shaken him considerably. It burst right under his stern, didn't it?"

"Yes, and crippled his propellers, I think," said the captain of the starboard
after gun, flushing with pleasure at the result of his shot. "She is dropping
out of sight fast, and there's the other one turning round to go and help her,
I suppose."

"So she is," cried Sir Harry. "Now, Miss Dora, you go back to Violet and tell
her we have had it all our own way so far. Don't I only wish old Wyndham was
here. I think this sort of fighting would open his eyes considerably."

"You are not the only one on board who wishes that; Sir Harry," said Dora,
with a laugh, as she walked towards the companion-way that led up from the gun-
room—which was placed in the lowest part of the hull so that the guns could be
fired clear of the air-planes and the propellers.

As the third of the anarchist air-ships had gone back to her crippled consort,
who was now beyond range, Sir Harry also left the gun-room, and went to discuss
the situation with Mr. Austen in the conning-tower.

"We've done very well," said the engineer; "very well indeed, considering this
is the first bit of gunnery practice our gunners have had. I hope that one we
sent down didn't fall on a town or a village. We can't be very far from some of
the towns on the North Tyne. Good heavens! Why, an explosion like that would be
enough to lay a whole town in ruins. I'm afraid this aerial warfare is going to
be something much more horrible than the old-fashioned sort, and goodness knows
that's bad enough."

"I'm afraid so," replied Sir Harry; "but I don't think that fellow fell
anywhere but on the moors, and he wouldn't do much harm there except to
himself. I'd give something to know that that blackguard Renault had been on
board of her. But what do you think we had better do now? Shall we go back and
see what those fellows are up to? There is a good moon getting up now, and we
shall have plenty of light to see what they are doing."

"Yes," replied Mr. Austen, "I think we may as well. I'll tell Markham to go up
another thousand feet, and then we'll try if we can get over them. Just see
that there are no lights showing anywhere about the ship when you go back to
the gun-room, will you? We mustn't let them see us coming if we can help it.
Tell me when you want to use the guns again. We'll go back at sixty miles, and
then you'll be able to pick them up easily."

As Sir Harry left the conning-tower, the blades of the lifting fans sprang out
from the masts and began to revolve faster and faster as the speed of the air-
ship decreased. At the same time, Mr. Austen inclined the planes, and the War-
Hawk, swinging round, mounted on an upward curve in an easterly direction.

As she did so, a scene of strange and almost indescribable beauty opened out
under the wondering eyes of Dora and Violet, as they sat at the window of their
cabin, quite oblivious for the time being of any danger, and wholly absorbed in
amazed admiration of the marvels of their first aerial voyage. They were far
above the clouds now, and the great bank of cumulus to the westward, which had
looked so dark from the earth, was now a fairyland of snow and opal, stretching
away into the infinite distance in endless ranges of hills of the most
fantastic outline, bathed in the mingled silver of the moonlight and the
crimson afterglow of the sun that had set behind them.

To the eastward there were only a few isolated masses of cloud floating like
islands of snow in the ocean of air, and below these, thousands of feet beneath
them, lay the dark outline of the land and the shimmer of the moonlight on the
water beyond it. As the War-Hawk swept round, two little grey patches close
together appeared far below and in front of them. One was the crippled air-ship
and the other her consort, lying about fifty yards away from her.

XXVII. AN ESCAPE AND A CAPTURE

WHAT are we to do with those fellows?" said Sir Harry to Mr. Austen, as the
War-Hawk slowed up and hung suspended in the air some fifteen hundred feet
above the two Anarchist air-ships. "It doesn't seem quite the thing to blow
them to pieces in cold blood, and yet-"

"My dear sir," replied Mr. Austen almost sharply, "please remember whom we're
fighting. These people are not honourable adversaries; they are only vermin,
and as vermin we must destroy them. There, look at that! do yon think any human
being with a soul to call his own would do a thing like that—leave his consort
helpless under his enemies' guns! Wilson, Vincent, get your guns to bear on
that scoundrel and see if you can't wing him before he gets out of range."

The latter part of Mr. Austen's speech went down the speaking-tube
communicating with the forward part of the gun-room, and almost instantly the
bang of the two mingled reports sounded through the ship, and the two shells
went screaming after the uninjured air-ship, which had literally sprung away
from the side of her helpless consort the instant that the War-Hawk had been
discovered hovering over them.

Unfortunately, the order had been given a moment too late, and the shells
passed astern of the rapidly moving vessel and struck the earth far below,
expending their energy harmlessly on the heather. Before the guns could be
recharged, the anarchist craft, with her planes inclined downwards, had passed
like a flash underneath a light bank of clouds and vanished.

"That's my fault," said Sir Harry bluntly. "I don't think I understand this
kind of warfare yet. Kill or be killed seem the only alternatives. That fellow
may do untold mischief before we can catch him again."

"Exactly," said Mr. Austen drily. "But it was my mistake as well as yours. We
ought to have fired on them both the moment we came to rest. However, we won't
let that one escape."

"Not if I can help it," added Sir Harry. "I'd like to take the beggar prisoner
and hang the crew in due form; but while we were doing that, I suppose that
other fellow would come back and blow us to pieces."

"Stop a minute—I don't see why we shouldn't if we only take proper
precautions," interrupted Mr. Austen. "I think that other fellow has had quite
enough of fighting for the present, and this one is absolutely helpless; if he
hadn't been, he'd have followed the other. As far as I can see, he's only able
to use his lifting fans to stop himself falling on to the earth. We'll leave
him there, and see what has become of the other. Full speed ahead, please,
Markham. Now," he continued, as he put the speaking-tube back on its hook,
"we'll try what the War-Hawk can do in the way of speed."

As he spoke, the blades of the lifting fans fell down beside the masts and
were caught in the clips which held them in position. The wind began to
whistle, and then to sing, and then to scream past the masts and stays as the
air-ship gathered way, and, with the whole nine thousand horse-power of her
engines concentrated on the propellers, went rushing through the cloven
atmosphere at a speed of three miles a minute, or a hundred and eighty miles an
hour. Keeping her air-planes slightly inclined, Mr. Austere sent her on an
upward path to the eastward, the direction which the anarchist craft had taken.

"We won't give him any chance to get above us," he said to Sir Harry; "and if
we can get over him and in front of him, we may get a chance of another shot at
him. Yes, there he is. Look! You can just see his outline in the moonlight
against the background of that moor down yonder."

Sir Harry looked downwards, and saw what looked like a grey shadow in the
bright moonlight hanging between them and the land. He brought his glasses up
to his eyes for a moment, and then said-

"Yes; and what's more, we have the heels of him. We are overhauling him hand
over fist."

"So we are," said Mr. Austen, "thanks to the lavishness of your expenditure on
the War-Hawk, I think I can congratulate you on having the fastest air-ship
afloat, and of course that means the most formidable one. I should say he was
making about thirty miles an hour less than we are, and of course, if he means
to run for it, he is doing his best."

"Well," laughed Sir Harry," I'm thankful my money has been of some good at any
rate, for I am exasperatingly conscious of the fact that I haven't
distinguished myself very much since we got afloat."

"All in good time, my dear sir," said Mr. Austen good-humouredly. "Remember
this is your first aerial voyage, to say nothing of your first battle in the
air, and, added to that, you must remember that I've studied aerial navigation
and tactics in theory for more years than you have thought about them for
months. I don't suppose it will be very long before you'll be able to take the
War-Hawk into action without my assistance, and make her the terror to her
enemies that she ought to be."

"Well, however that may be, I am lucky in having some one who can teach me,"
laughed Sir Harry in reply. "And I've certainly learned the most valuable
lesson of all to-night, for I know now that I know nothing at all about it. So,
for the present at least, you will please consider yourself in supreme command.
You take entire charge of the ship, and tell me what to do, and I'll do it."

"Very well; that's practical, to say the very least of it," said Mr. Austen,
looking at him approvingly out of his keen grey eyes. "And now, if you'll just
take a look round and see that the guns are all ready and the men in their
places, and then come back here, I'll give you your first lesson in aerial
navigation. Meanwhile, we shall have overtaken that fellow, I think, and then
perhaps we shall see some fun."

Sir Harry, feeling a little out of sorts with himself, but still satisfied
that he had taken the most sensible course in reducing himself for the time
being to the condition of a pupil, made his round of inspection, and by the
time he got back to the conning-tower, he found, as Mr. Austen had said, that
they had already overtaken the fugitive, which was now floating, a grey speck,
nearly two thousand feet below them.

"We'll get a little farther ahead," said Mr. Austen, "and then we can open
fire on him with the stern guns. But I don't want to do that yet, because we
must be passing over the borders of Northumberland and Durham now, and that's
crowded with towns, so if we did happen to send him to the earth, we might kill
hundreds of people below in doing it. We'll wait till we get out to sea, and
then it won't matter.

"Eh? What? Hang the fellow! he knows his business a great deal better than
those others did. Do you see that crowd of lights down there? Well, that's
Newcastle and Gateshead, and those yonder to the eastward are the towns along
the Tyne to South Shields and Tynemouth. There he goes—he's dropping down
towards them. He knows we daren't fire at him, because, if we miss him, our
shells will strike in the town, and if we hit him, he'll just drop like a huge
bomb-shell into Newcastle and lay half the town in ruins. Confound him! what
are we to do?"

"And look!" almost shouted Sir Harry, grasping him by the arm and pointing
downwards to where myriads of lights indicated the position of Newcastle and
Gateshead. "He's bombarding the towns himself out of pure spite and revenge for
our having destroyed his two consorts!"

It was only too true. Although the anarchist air-ship apparently lay at the
mercy of the War-Hawk, in reality she commanded the situation. True, she
offered a comparatively easy mark to her guns, but then, if a shell struck her
anywhere but in the magazine, she would be crippled, and drop like a stone,
with all her cargo of explosives, upon the town; while every shot that missed
her—and in the deceptive half-light of the moon the aim was anything but a
certain one—would strike some part of the town below, and do just as much
damage as her own shells.

" What the deuce are we to do?" exclaimed Mr. Austen angrily, as he saw the
anarchist's shells bursting, apparently in half a dozen parts of the town at
once. "Who on earth would have thought of the brute trying a move like that?
There, see, he is dropping fire-shells now into the shipping. Great heavens!
look how it's blazing! That must be awful stuff those shells are loaded with.
Oh, this won't do at all! There is only one thing to be done. We must go down
and get about a couple of miles away from him, and then fire horizontally at
him over the town."

"And expose ourselves to his shells while we are doing it," interjected Sir
Harry. "I'm afraid that would hardly be prudent, would it?"

"No, no; you're right—that won't do," said Mr. Austen. "If we lose our
elevation, we give away our advantage, and we can't get him within range of our
guns without bringing ourselves within range of his, and the worst of it is
that the first shell that hits settles the matter. Confound the clouds! Look at
them coming up there from the sea, and a sea-mist, too, by all that's
unfortunate! Was there ever such a miserable climate as this? Ah, there he
goes!—I thought so. That's what the blackguard's been waiting for. We've lost
him!"

Before the last word had left his lips, the anarchist airship had executed a
daring but perfectly successful manoeuvre.

A dense bank of cloud had drifted rapidly in from the sea, followed by the
rolling masses of a veritable sea-mist, which swept up like a vast cloud of
white smoke, mingling with the darker smoke of the fires and the explosions and
the thousands of chimneys of the two towns.

Through this he dropped suddenly like a stone towards the earth, and, once
enveloped in it, he set his propellers to work at their utmost speed, and went
skimming away out to sea at fully a hundred and fifty miles an hour, only a few
hundred feet above the housetops, leaving a dozen fires blazing furiously
behind him in the town and on the river.

"Outwitted after all! And just as we had him at our mercy, if it hadn't been
for the town!" exclaimed Mr. Austen. "And yet, what could we have done?"

"Nothing," said Sir Harry. "There was no help for it. We couldn't have fired
on him while he was between us and all those thousands of helpless people down
yonder. I suppose it's no use chasing him any farther?"

"Oh no, not the slightest," said Mr. Austen angrily. "He's given us the slip
completely this time. A needle in a haystack is nothing to an air-ship flying a
hundred and fifty miles through a fog. Confound the weather!—and he was no fool
either who was in command of that ship."

"Suppose it was Renault himself," said Sir Harry. "By heavens! if I thought
that, I'd have blown her up if it had wrecked half Newcastle! Why the deuce
didn't that strike me before?"

"Well, we can't do anything now," said Mr. Austen. "Whether it was Renault or
not, he has outwitted us this time, and there is an end of it. Still, the War-
Hawk hasn't done very badly for her first two or three hours in the air. We've
destroyed one of the enemy and crippled another—And that reminds me, we may as
well go back and see what has happened to that other one."

"And if we can only collar the crew, we may find out whether Renault was in
command of the expedition," said Sir Harry. "I shall never forgive myself if I
hear that he was on board that brute that escaped."

Mr. Austen had carefully noted the course steered by compass in pursuit of the
third air-ship, as well as the time occupied, consequently he was able to run
the War-Hawk back from Newcastle almost to the very spot where the disabled
anarchist had been left. Then, from a height of four thousand feet, her two
searchlights were brought into play ahead and astern, and before long one of
them fell on the object of their search, still hanging almost motionless in mid-
air, supported by her rapidly revolving fans.

Her three propellers had been so shattered and twisted, and her stern had been
so much damaged by the explosion of the shell, that it was impossible for her
to move a yard horizontally by her own power, and hence she was drifting to the
westward at the rate of about twelve miles an hour before the breeze that had
brought the unlucky mist, under cover of which her consort had escaped.

The War-Hawk with her two searchlights had, of course, been sighted by the
anarchists before she sighted them. It is hardly necessary to say that she was
as absolutely at her mercy as a balloon would have been-more so, in fact; for
an uninjured balloon would probably have, by this time, outsoared the War- Hawk
and sought safety in the upper regions of the air. As it was, all the available
force of her partially injured engines just sufficed to keep her afloat, and
that was all.

The War-Hawk's head-light flashed straight down upon her, and, half- blinded
by the rays, her crew looked up, and saw the two forward guns with their
muzzles depressed and converging upon them. Then they looked down at the dark
earth lying below them, as it were, at the bottom of a gulf more than three
thousand feet deep. A shot that crippled their lifting fans would send them
headlong to death and destruction. A shell bursting in the hull of their ship
would explode their magazine and scatter them and their craft in fragments
through the air. It was no wonder that, under the circumstances, the courage
which was equal to the destruction of defenceless towns or the blowing up of
ocean liners swiftly degenerated into panic. There was one chance left, and
that was surrender, and they took it. A white flag fluttered from a flagstaff
astern.

"Ah!" said Mr. Austen as soon as he made it out. "They seem to think
discretion is the better part of valour."

" Which means," said Sir Harry, "that they prefer hanging to being blown to
bits. Of course we can't give them any other terms."

"Certainly not," said Mr. Austen. "Still, I would much rather hand them over
to the proper authorities, if we can do so safely, than kill them ourselves in
cold blood. And, besides, the moral effect would be very much greater. We'll go
down and see what they have to say. I don't think they'll try any treachery
with these two guns trained on them. It wouldn't pay."

Then he sent a message to the engine-room, and the War-Hawk sank slowly down,
still keeping her guns trained on the anarchists, until only a hundred yards
separated the two vessels.

"Will you do the shouting, please? Your lungs are a good deal better than mine."

"Oh yes, with pleasure," replied Sir Harry. "Though it's the first time I've
been on speaking terms with these gentry."

So saying, he threw open a slide in the forward part of the conning- tower,
and sang out, as though he had been hailing a ship from the deck of his yacht-

"Air-ship, ahoy! Who are you, and does that white flag mean surrender?"

A little thick-set man, standing on the hull and holding on to the after- mast
with one hand, made an expressive gesture with the other, and replied in a
high, shrill voice and a strong German accent-

"Dis is der air-ship Vengeur, and ve are vat you call anarchists. Ja, ve
surrender! By tam, dere is noding else to do!"

XXVIII. PRISONERS OF WAR

THE irony of fate!" exclaimed Mr. Austen, as the reply floated up out of the
depths. "To think that our first prize of war should be the poor old Volante,
as we meant to call her—the ship that we all spent so much thought and labour
over in Utopia, and which I so fondly fancied was going to enable us to compel
all the nations of the world to keep the peace—and here we meet her in our
first battle!"

"Yes, queer enough certainly," laughed Sir Harry somewhat bitterly. "That's
just how the Fates seem to delight in making fools of us." Then he turned to
the open slide and sang out again in reply to the anarchists' hail, "I suppose
you know that surrender means being taken to Newcastle and handed over to the
police?"

"Dat is vat I suppose it does mean," came the answer. "It's not likely you are
going to be kind enough to gif us a free passage to some safe blace, and set us
at liberty. Ve know dat you can blow us into blazes and little bits if you
like, and so ve vould rader go and see de police."

If Sir Harry had been a good deal closer than he was, he would have heard
Franz Hartog—whom the reader will already have recognised in the commander of
the crippled air-ship—mutter to himself in conclusion, "Dere is some chance to
get avay from de police, but, by de beard of Gambrinus, dere is none to get
avay from dose guns!"

"All right," replied Sir Harry. "How many men have you got on board?"

"Dere are eight besides mineself"

"Send them all up on deck, and look sharp about it," said Sir Harry. "Now, Mr.
Austen," he continued, "it won't do to give those chaps any chance of
treachery, and if you'll leave this business to me, I think I have a plan that
will make it impossible."

"With pleasure," said Mr. Austen. "You do just as you think best, and I'll
keep an eye on them from here in case they do attempt any tricks."

"Thanks. Then will you bring the War-Hawk right over her, and lower her to
about thirty feet above her?"

So saying, he left the conning-tower, called the crew together, leaving a man
stationed at each of the forward guns, and briefly explained what he was going
to do. Two long rope-ladders were then dropped through two slides in the lower
part of the gun-room of the War-Hawk, which sank slowly down until their ends
touched the deck of the Vengeur, so that they hung clear between her after
lifting fan and the one in front of it. The two forward guns were now useless,
so Sir Harry called the men from them, and told them to load two of the
vertical bomb-tubes. Then he went to one of the slides and called down to the
Vengeur, whose crew were now standing by the masts on the narrow deck.

"Are you all on deck?"

"Ja, ve are all here, except de man at der engines. Do you vant us to come up
de ladder?"

"Yes, but only one by one. If you're the captain, come up first by the
starboard ladder. No nonsense, mind! Our bomb-tubes are loaded, and the moment
I even think you are up to any tricks, I'll blow you to pieces. Up you come,
now!"

There was no choice save between obedience and destruction, and so Franz
turned to his men and said-

"You hear dat, boys? De game is up for de present, so don't try any tricks. Ve
may be able to fool de police, but ve can't argue mit dose bombs, so behave
yourselves."

Then, growling Teutonic oaths under his breath, he clambered slowly up the
ladder, Markham, of course, putting a little extra power into the lifting fans
to counteract the extra weight. The moment that he got up to the slide, he was
seized and unceremoniously dragged through. Then he was tied hand and foot, and
meanwhile one of the War-Hawk's men climbed down the other ladder and took his
place on the Vengeur's deck. The moment he got there, he whipped a couple of
revolvers out of his belt and covered the anarchists. Then Sir Harry called out
again-

"Now then, next man, up you come!"

The second anarchist at once commenced the ascent to captivity. As he went up,
another "War-Hawk" went down, and so the two crews exchanged places, until five
of the anarchists,including Hartog, were lying bound in the gun- room, and five
of the War-Hawk's men were on board the Vengeur. These speedily tied up the
remainder of her crew, and then took charge of her engines. Then a rope was
passed down from the stern of the War-Hawk and made fast to the Vengeur's bow,
and when all was ready, Sir Harry went back to the conning- tower.

"Very neatly done indeed, Sir Harry," said Mr. Austen. "This will be a very
pleasant little surprise to the good people in Newcastle. By the way, have you
learned whether or not Renault was on board any of the ships?"

"No, I haven't," laughed Sir Harry. "I tried to get it out of that little
brute of a German, who—would you believe it?—is Franz Hartog, the man who stole
the Russian torpedo-boat, and turned her into the Destroyer, but he cursed me
by all his gods, and told me to find out for myself. Still, I believe he was on
that one that escaped, because when I indulged in a little politic romance, and
told him we had blown her to pieces, he let out a gasp of genuine disgust which
there was no mistaking."

"And so he's Franz Hartog, is he?" said Mr. Austen, lifting his eyebrows.
"Then, if that's so, whether Renault has got away or not, we can congratulate
ourselves on having made the next important capture to him. I expect by this
time Herr Franz is pretty sorry that he didn't stick to sea piracy instead of
taking to the air."

"Yes," laughed Sir Harry. "He is about the most disgusted man I ever saw."

"All right for towing now, Mr. Austen," came a message from the engine- room,
as Sir Harry ceased speaking.

"Very well," he replied down the tube. "Go slowly at first, and quicken up
gradually. Don't bring too much strain on the rope at once."

Then the War-Hawk's propellers began to revolve, and she moved away to the
eastward, with her captive in tow, at an increasing speed that gradually
quickened up to fifty miles an hour. A little over an hour's towing brought the
lights of Newcastle once more beneath them.

A long blur of darkness to the north-east marked the position of Jesmond Dene
and Armstrong Park. Sir Harry knew the topography of Newcastle perfectly, and
under his guidance the two air-ships crossed the town unseen, above the clouds
of smoke that were rising from the conflagrations, and dropped like shadows on
to the open space between the clump of trees and the old watch-tower
overlooking the now deserted valley of Armstrong Park.

It was now after ten o'clock at night, but the fire brigades were still
working hard in extinguishing the fires which had been started by the anarchist
fire-shells, and nearly the whole population was out in the streets in a state
of excitement, bordering on panic, waiting for the air-ship to reappear in the
skies and complete her work by bringing the doom of central London upon
Newcastle.

As Sir Harry was personally acquainted both with the Mayor and Captain
Nicholls, the chief of police, he thought it would be better for him to go
personally to explain the strange occurrences which had brought them with their
prisoners to the town. As soon, therefore, as the air-ships touched ground, he
landed and went to the gate-lodge, where a brief explanation and a sovereign
quickly secured his exit.

Crossing "Sir William's Bridge," he was lucky enough to be overtaken by an
unoccupied cab, and in this he drove straight to the police station in Pilgrim
Street, where he found the Mayor in consultation with the Chief Constable,
discussing plans for obtaining protection for the town in case the panic in the
streets should degenerate into riot. His card secured his immediate admission
to the chief's private room, for his connection with the Aerial Navigation
Syndicate was well known, and in addition to this, his personal influence in
the county, and his acquaintance with the Mayor, made him doubly welcome at
such a moment.

"Good evening, Sir Harry!" said the Mayor, rising from his seat when he
entered, and holding out his hand. "We were talking about you only a moment
ago. I suppose you know we are in terrible trouble? The anarchists have been
bombarding the town from one of their air-ships. When is your Syndicate going
to get its fleet afloat and hunt these scoundrels from the air? And where have
you come from, by the way? Have you dropped from the clouds?"

"That is just exactly what I have done," laughed Sir Harry, as he shook hands
with him and the chief of police. "I have just come down in one of those very
ships; and, what's more, I've brought an anarchist ship with me, and all her
crew prisoners of war; so all you have got to do is to send out the prison van
to Armstrong Park, and bring them home and lock them up."

The Mayor and Captain Nicholls stared at him for a moment in blank
astonishment. He had told his startling tidings in as matter-of-fact a voice as
if he had been asking them to dinner, and it took some time for them to grasp
the full meaning of what he said. Then the Mayor found his voice again, and
exclaimed-

"What! You have captured the air-ship and brought the scoundrels on board her
prisoners into Armstrong Park? I thought the age of miracles was past, but if
you've done that, it isn't, and the thanks of the two towns will be yours, for
you have done them the greatest service that anyone could do them. As you can
see for yourself, the scoundrels have set Newcastle and Gateshead on fire in
about a dozen places, besides wrecking twenty or thirty buildings with their
shells."

"Stop a moment," said Sir Harry, "I haven't fully explained myself yet. I am
sorry to say we have not captured the particular airship that did the damage.
You'll scarcely believe me, but she has got clear away, although we were
floating over her at the very time she was firing on the town. We did not fire
on her, because, you see, if we had done so, every shot that missed her would
have struck you; while, if we had hit her, she would have come down, with about
a ton of explosives on board, and levelled half Newcastle with the ground."

"I see! I see!" said the Mayor. "Of course you couldn't. But which air- ship
is it that you've captured?"

" There were three of them," replied Sir Harry. "They came to attack us this
evening on one of the Farne Islands, on which we built the ship I have come in,
but we just managed to give them the slip. We have destroyed one, captured
another, and, as I say, the one that fired on you has escaped. But I'll tell
you something else we've done. We've caught Franz Hartog, that brute of a
German engineer who stole the torpedo-destroyer from Elbing, and committed all
those horrors on the Atlantic. So you'll have quite a distinguished prisoner,
you see."

"That's glorious news, isn't it?" exclaimed the Mayor, turning to the chief of
police. "I needn't say I hope you'll hold him tight when you get him."

"There's no fear of that," was the reply. "If walls and doors will hold them,
they won't slip through my fingers, I can tell you. But now, Sir Harry, I
suppose you want them fetched at once?" continued the captain. "So, with your
Worship's permission, I'll get out the van, and have a guard of mounted men
ready to go with it."

"Very well," said the Mayor. "It will be better not to lose any time about it,
for it will pacify the people wonderfully when they know we have got them under
lock and key. And now, Sir Harry, while they're getting ready, sit down and
tell me this wonderful story over again."

In a quarter of an hour the chief returned to say that the van was ready, and
that the Mayor's carriage was waiting to take him and Sir Harry to the Park.
The two vehicles rattled away up Pilgrim Street towards Jesmond Road, with
their escort trotting on either side of them, to part the crowd that filled the
great thoroughfare, and within an hour Franz Hartog and the crew of the Vengeur
were safely stowed away in the compartments of the prison van, and on their way
back to the cells.

The news of the capture spread like wildfire through the towns, and was
immediately telegraphed all over the country, to be reproduced, with unexpected
effects, as events proved, in all the morning papers.

The good people of Newcastle would fain have lionised Sir Harry, and made a
public spectacle of his marvellous craft; but, as the War-Hawk was already
overdue at Lundy, he declined even the Mayor's invitation to sleep at his
house, and, as soon as he had seen the anarchists safely within the grim, black
walls of the gaol in Carliol Square, be returned to the Park, and the War-Hawk,
with the Vengeur still in tow, rose into the air, amidst a mighty roar of
cheers from the thousands who had gathered on the great viaduct and about the
Park gates to catch a glimpse of the now famous vessel. She flashed farewell
with her searchlights, and sped away up into the clouds en route for Lundy
Island.

XXIX. MAX TO THE RESCUE

THE next morning the whole country was ringing with the fame of the War- Hawk
and her exploits. The reaction from the horror and panic induced by the
merciless revenge which Renault had taken upon London, to the cheering
certainty that, after all, the world was not to be given over unresisting to
the fury of its worst enemies, and that at last the Syndicate had brought into
existence a power capable of successfully disputing the empire of the air with
them, sent the nation almost wild with delight.

Of course the newspapers published voluminous accounts, necessarily
imaginative, of the aerial combats between the War-Hawk and the anarchist
vessels, and more reliable, if no less highly coloured narratives of her coming
with her prisoners of war to Newcastle. Once more Sir Harry's portrait appeared
in all the illustrated periodicals, together with alleged pictures of his
wonderful vessel, which represented her under a variety of forms, from that of
a flying torpedo-boat to that of a gigantic bird with screw propellers instead
of a tail.

Once more the whole nation was talking about nothing but the anarchists, and
the Syndicate, and the hostile fleets of air-ships, which the popular
imagination multiplied until they were numerous enough to have shaken the
heavens and devastated the earth in their conflicts.

All this was perfectly natural, and indeed inevitable, and yet, as events
speedily proved, it was the very worst thing that could possibly have happened.
Three days passed without any of the air-ships belonging to either side having
made a sign of their existence. The Vengeur had been taken to Lundy Island, and
placed for repairs on the slips on which the Volante had been put together,
after which both the Volante and the War-Hawk had vanished to destinations
unknown to any but the directors of the Syndicate.

Then, on the early morning of the fourth day after Hartog and his shipmates
had been placed in durance vile, Newcastle woke up to find itself placarded,
just as London had been, with the ominous red posters, which demanded the
immediate and unconditional release of the prisoners, under pain of aerial
bombardment.

The message from the enemy was brief and to the point. By ten o'clock Hartog
and his companions were to be put on board a steam launch and taken ten miles
out to sea, where they would be picked up by an air-ship. If a white flag was
not hoisted over the police station to show that this had been done, the
bombardment would begin at half-past ten.

There was no doubt this time as to whether the threats would be fulfilled or
not. The experience of London conclusively showed what the fate of Newcastle
would be if the order was disobeyed. The feeling of relief that had been
enjoyed since the capture of the Vengeur instantly gave place to panic again.

The Mayor at once telegraphed to the offices of the Syndicate and to the Home
Office, imploring assistance and the protection of the aerial fleet which was
believed to be in existence. Of course, the Government could do nothing—it had
no engine of warfare at its disposal that could cope for an instant with the
anarchist air-ships; and Mr. Maxim telegraphed back in the name of the
Syndicate, saying that the only two available vessels were beyond the reach of
communications, and reminding the authorities that, having taken no precautions
to ensure secrecy, they could only expect the anarchists would be informed of
what had happened by the newspapers, and would naturally do as they had done.

With this cold comfort Newcastle was obliged to be content. The authorities
were confronted with what was in sober truth a very terrible dilemma. On the
one hand, there was the dignity of the law to be vindicated; and on the other,
there was a practically impossible penalty to be paid for doing so. To yield
meant to confess before all the world that the forces of anarchy were superior
to those of civilisation and order, and so, to all intents and purposes, held
the world for the time being at their mercy; while to resist meant to consign
one of the wealthiest and most populous towns of the kingdom to destruction and
carnage horrible beyond all description.

What had happened a few nights before, terrible and all as it had been, would
be as nothing to what was now threatened, for the placard distinctly stated
that the town would be bombarded by a fleet of twenty air-ships, that they
would destroy friend with foe, and that if Hartog and his companions died,
their tomb would be the ruins of Newcastle and Gateshead.

What was to be done? At half-past eight, the Mayor, in an agony of perplexity,
telegraphed to the Home Office for precise instructions. He said that the
prisoners had been before the magistrates two days previously, had been
formally committed for trial, and were now lying in the town gaol awaiting the
assizes. In an hour the reply came back, to the effect that the law was to take
its course at all hazards. The moment this decision became known, the
population of the two towns revolted en masse, and turned out into the streets,
vowing that the prisoners should be released if they pulled the gaol down with
their own hands to do it.

The psychological moment had arrived, and the habit of respect for the law
suddenly succumbed to the irresistible terror which affected everyone in
precisely the same way. All had lives and homes to lose, most had families and
property as well. The rich man feared for his mansion just as the artisan
feared for his cottage. Rich and poor were, for the moment, united in the
presence of an impending fate, which would make no distinctions of class or
fortune.

The elementary idea upon which all law is founded—the preservation of life,
peace, and property—was suddenly inverted. To obey the law meant to lose
everything that the law was supposed to safeguard. In other words, a power
stronger than the law had sprung into existence and annulled it at a stroke.

There was no time for demonstrations or speech-making or discussion. The Watch
Committee of the Town Council had been sitting since seven o'clock. The streets
were full of angry and excited multitudes, animated by a single purpose, and
the town authorities were speedily made aware of what that purpose was.

Considering the terrible and unparalleled position in which he was placed, the
Mayor acted with wonderful coolness and discretion. Staunch respecter of the
law as he was, he clearly saw, as the moment for making a final decision grew
rapidly nearer, that to obey the law was to defeat it. Half a dozen troops of
lancers and as many companies of infantry, with the whole police force, had so
far sufficed to keep the crowd clear of the police station and the gaol; but he
knew that the moment the first shell fell from the sky, it would be the signal
for panic, universal and ungovernable, in the midst of which the military and
civil forces would be helpless, even if, by some miracle, they were not
infected by it.

Therefore, after a brief discussion with his colleagues, he telegraphed back
to the Home Office to say that the town was practically in revolt, and that,
unless the Government could furnish him with the means of protecting life and
property and upholding the authority of the law, he would be compelled to take
the responsibility of releasing the prisoners.

This message was despatched at a quarter to ten, but the Mayor had determined
not to obey the summons of the anarchists until the very last moment- until, in
fact, their air-ships appeared in the sky in fulfilment of their threat.

All but official telegraphic communication between Newcastle and London bad
been stopped. In five minutes the message was being read off to the Home
Secretary. In ten more two other messages were being flashed back to Newcastle.

One was to the colonel commanding the troops in the town, ordering him to
bring the prisoners by special train to London at all hazards, and directing
him to acquaint the Mayor with his instructions. The other was to the senior
captain of the coast defence squadron stationed in the Tyne, ordering him to
close the river until the prisoners were on their way to London.

By a quarter-past ten the town was practically under martial law. The Mayor
bowed to circumstances, ended the sitting of the Town Council, and retired to
his private room to await the issue of events he could not longer control. The
colonel in command of the troops made his way with a strong guard to the gaol,
and requested the governor to have the prisoners at once removed to the
station, where a special train was already being made up.

The excitement of the populace had now risen to the pitch of frenzy, but the
knowledge that the magazine rifles of the infantry and the carbines of the
cavalry were loaded with ball cartridge, prevented any actual outbreak for the
time being. Just as the half-hour sounded from the tower of St. Nicholas, the
gates of the gaol opened, and the prison van came out from the deep archway
under the first entrance tower.

The same moment a mighty roar of terror went up from the throats of the
hundreds of thousands of people filling the Manors, Erick Street, Croft Street,
and all the approaches to Carliol Square, save Worswick Street and the space in
front of the gaol gateway, which were kept clear by the police and the
soldiers, and thousands of hands were pointed upwards to the sky. From a score
of points all round the town the dreaded air-ships were rapidly approaching.

They stopped at a height of about fifteen hundred feet, plainly in view of
everyone against the clear sky. One of them, flying a plain blood-red flag from
her flagstaff astern, swept down swiftly in the direction of the gaol, and
stopped five hundred feet from the ground and about seven hundred yards in a
straight line from the gates where the guard was drawn up round the prison van.
The moment she came to a standstill, the colonel raised his sword and ordered
his men to fire on her.

The rifles went up with mechanical precision, but before a trigger could be
pulled, three streams of fire spouted from the air-ship's broadside, and a
storm of Maxim bullets was poured into the broad open space in front of the
gaol.

Horses and men went down under it in huddled heaps to the ground. The colonel
was almost the first man to fall, and before the withering hail had been
raining down for five minutes, there was neither man nor horse left alive
within fifty yards of the prison van.

The crowds that had been watching for its departure surged back, screaming
with terror, and treading its weaker members under foot in its mad rush for
shelter from the bullets of the terrible machine guns. At the same moment, the
other air-ships opened a converging fire of shells from twenty points upon the
devoted town and the crowds who thronged the streets.

Instantly the prisoners were forgotten, and all control was at an end.
Buildings were collapsing in every direction under the frightful energy of the
explosives rained upon them, and hurricanes of bullets were sweeping along the
streets. In the midst of the indescribable panic which now reigned supreme, the
air-ship with the red flag ran forward and dropped to within fifty feet of the
ground close by the prison van. She was the Revanche, Renault's new flagship,
and the same craft which had so narrowly escaped destruction by the War-Hawk
four days before.

Her fore and aft guns sent shell after shell down the Manors and into the ends
of Worswick Street and Erick Street, until she floated over a solitude cumbered
with ruins and strewn with hundreds of corpses. Then a rope ladder dropped to
the ground from one of her ports, a couple of men descended, went to the van,
and took the keys from the corpse of a policeman lying by the step, rapidly
opened the doors, and brought the handcuffed prisoners out.

They were all there, Hartog and the eight men who had been so ignominiously
captured on board the Vengeur. Their handcuffs were speedily unlocked, and as
soon as his hands were free, Franz ran towards the air-ship, crying-

"Ach, mein lieber Max! I knew you vould come for us. I fought you vere not de
man to run avay and leave your friendt in trouble. How did you know dat ve vere
in de van?"

!I guessed it, my friend," replied Max, who was leaning out of one of the port-
holes laughing at the comical figure presented by the little German in his
unwonted excitement. "My glasses showed me the soldiers round it, and I felt
pretty sure that they wouldn't honour anyone but you with a military escort."

"Ah, ja! and vere is dat escort now?" chuckled Franz, looking round with an
evil grin at the mangled and riddled corpses of the unhappy redcoats. "I vonder
ven dese fools vill learn dat dey can only fight air-ships mit air- ships?"

"Well, you ought to be able to teach them," laughed Max in reply. "How the
deuce did you let yourselves get taken prisoners like a lot of tame pigeons?"

"Mein friendt, if you had had one of dose shells bursting among your
propellers and blowing holes in your stern like ve had, I don't tink you vould
have been able to run avay quite as fast as you did," snapped Franz, and the
retort was so smartly turned that Max himself could not help joining in the
laugh that it raised against him.

"I fought and ran away so as I could fight another day," he said, when the
laugh had died away. "And it's a precious good job for you that I did. But come
along, we can't stop here talking all day. Up you come, all of you! We are
missing half the fun. Stand by, there, to put more power on to the fans," he
continued, turning towards the interior of the ship, and as the released
prisoners climbed one by one up the ladder, the lifting fans revolved faster
and faster, and as soon as the last had got on board, the Revanche rose slowly
into the air, her propellers spun round until she was moving at a speed of
sixty miles an hour, and the added weight, supported by the air-planes, was no
longer felt.

As soon as he was on a level with the other ships, Max visited them one after
the other, until he had distributed the late crew of the Vengeur among eight of
them. Meanwhile the bombardment had been kept up by the whole fleet with
pitiless vigour.

When he had transferred the last of the Vengeur's men, he said to Franz, whom
he had kept on board the Revanche with him-

"I think that's lesson enough for them for the present. The next time we ask
them to oblige us, perhaps they will be a little more civil about it. We've got
a better use for our ammunition than this. François, hoist the signal to cease
firing, and then the one for the fleet to collect."

"Vat for is dat?" asked Franz, with a look of undisguised disappointment. "Vat
better use could you have for your ammunition dan burning dose rats out down
dere? Mein Gott, see vat blazes! Dere von't be half de town left by evening. I
don't see how you can find a finer game dan dis."

"Can't I?" laughed Max. "You wait till we get on the other side of the North
Sea, and you'll see. I had news last night that the French and Russian fleets
are going to break the British blockade of the Sound to-night, and I don't see
why we shouldn't have a share of the fun. You see, they'll be battering each
other to pieces on the water, and as we love one of them just about as much as
the other, we'll just get above them and-"

"And make a tree-cornered fight of it, and smash dem all up mit a fine and
generous impartiality!" interrupted Franz, bringing his hands together with a
sounding clap. "Friendt Max, you are a genius! Dat vill be someting like sport.
Dis is no better as burning haystacks beside it. Let us go at vonce, in case
dey begin before ve come."

XXX. THE BATTLE OF THE SOUND

AS it was extremely unlikely that the Russian fleet would attempt to break the
blockade of the Sound until it had the advantage of the darkness, Max decided
to economise his motor-fuel, and keep a speed of only fifty miles an hour
across the German ocean. It was, therefore, close on eleven o'clock at night
when the fleet arrived over what was to be the scene of action.

It was a dark, moonless, and somewhat cloudy night, but, as the ships sank
through the clouds, their crews could distinctly make out the two irregular
shores of the Sound, with their twinkling lights and the illuminated clusters
which mark the position of the towns along them. To the north of Kronborg, in
the triangular opening between Hogenaes on the Swedish and Gilleleie on the
Danish shore, was massed the main body of the British fleet.

Although Germany and Denmark had not yet declared war, their Governments had
intimated to Russia that any attempt to violate the neutrality of the Sound, or
to force the passages between the southern islands of Denmark, would be
considered as an act of war. The southern approaches to the exits from the
Baltic were, therefore, patrolled by a powerful German fleet, with Kiel and the
Holstein Canal as its base; while the Danish fleet, supported by the land
fortifications, barred the way to the Sound, and the Grön Sound, which forms
the channel between the islands of Falster and Zealand, and the entrance to the
Great Belt.

Thus the Russian fleet, strong as it was, would have been hopelessly
outnumbered but for two facts. A French squadron of eight battle-ships, sixteen
cruisers, and thirty-five torpedo-boats had forced the passage of the Straits
of Dover four days previously, under cover of a general attack on the English
Channel ports, and had placed the British blockading squadron between two
fires, just as the Russians would be if they once steamed into the Sound.

This was the first fact, and was by this time known to all Europe. The second
fact had been kept a profound secret, confined to the Tsar and half a dozen of
his most trusted engineers, who commanded a body of a hundred picked
volunteers, sworn to secrecy, and chosen exclusively from the noblest families
of Russia. For over five years the Russian engineering staff had been steadily
experimenting in the directions of a solution of the problem of aerostation,
and about six months before the outbreak of the war their efforts had been
crowned with success, and a fleet of navigable aerostats had been secretly
constructed far away from public observation, on one of the Tsar's private
estates in the wilderness of the Urals.

The inactivity on the part of the Russian fleet in the Baltic, which had
excited so much surprise, was in reality due to the necessity of waiting until
the aerostats could cooperate with the battle-ships in forcing the passage of
the Sound. No fewer than a hundred of these new engines of war had been built
by the Russian Government, and fifty of them were to take part in the struggle
for the command of the narrow sea, a battle which, as the event proved, was
destined to be entirely unparalleled in the history of naval warfare.

Max had given the captains of his fleet strict and ample instructions as to
their course of action, and of these the first was to keep carefully out of
sight until night fell, and not to fire a shot on any account until they
received a signal from him. A few minutes before eleven, Max and Hartog were in
the conning-tower of the Revanche, floating about three thousand feet above the
island of Moen, intently watching sea and land with their glasses through the
white rifts in the clouds which now lay some five or six hundred feet below
them.

They had already seen the French, German, Danish, and British fleets, and
formed a pretty correct idea of the general plan of the action, and now they
were waiting, like those on sea and land, but with very different feelings, for
the appearance of the Russian fleet, whose arrival would give the signal for
the work of death and destruction to begin. All of a sudden Hartog gave a loud
grunt of astonishment, and very nearly dropped his glasses. Max, who was
accustomed to these exclamations of his, took no notice until he caught him by
the arm, and, pointing down to a rift in the clouds to the northward, said in a
voice husky with excitement-

"Look, mine friendt, look down dere, and tell me vhat you tink of dat for a
nice trick to blay on dose unsuspecting sailors and soldiers vat are vaiting to
plow each oder to pieces mit all de resources of Christianity and civilisation.
By tam! I believe dose tings belong to de Russians, and if dey do, dere will be
de teufel's own delight down dere before de sun rises."

Max looked down, and to his amazement saw three great elongated, cigar- shaped
bodies drifting rapidly through the air to northward over the waters of the
Sound.

"Aerostats, by all that's wonderful!" he ejaculated. "And pretty lively ones,
too, at that. Those fellows aren't moving much less than fifty miles an hour,
and what wind there is is against them. Yes, I remember now, Lea told me only
the other day that she had heard rumours that the Tsar's engineers had
succeeded in building some of those things in some out-of-the-way place, and
hoped to be able to use them in the war. Well, if they do belong to the Tsar,
and he has a good few of them about, I hardly think there'll be much need for
our assistance for some time yet. They'll smash one another up pretty
completely without us."

"And den," chuckled Hartog, rubbing his hands in anticipation of a perfect
carnival of bloodshed,—"den, wen dey are all smashed, ve can sail in and go for
de remains, and den tackle de war-balloons and bust dem up as vell. Mein Gott,
dat will be glorious fun!"

"I don't see why we should smash up the war-balloons, at any rate just yet,"
said Max quietly. "Just think of the damage they are able to do to those who
are our enemies just as well as theirs. Of course I don't suppose they'd be any
match for us, for we could fly two or three feet to their one, but for land and
sea warfare they'll be better than anything the British or Germans have got. I
think we'd better see what damage they can do before we interfere with them. It
all helps on the good work of anarchy, you know. The more horrible war becomes,
the sooner the peoples of the earth will get disgusted with the rulers and
politicians who are always dragging them into it. Let them do what destruction
they can manage, and then we'll go in and finish."

"Max," said Hartog, in a tone of sententious mock reproof, "I am afraidt you
haf very bloodtirsty tastes. I tink it would be a fery great slaughter dat
would satisfy you."

"Yes," said Max, with a savage laugh, "a very big one; but look, there goes
the main fleet! The first three we saw were only scouts, I suppose. I don't
think it will be long now before the fun begins."

The rift in the clouds had widened now, and through it they saw a long line of
the strange-looking shapes, curved in the form of a crescent, drift swiftly to
the north, where the unsuspecting fleets and fortresses were waiting for a very
different and far less formidable enemy.

"I hope our fellows won't take it into their heads to fire at those
aerostats," continued Max. "That would spoil all the fun. I wish those clouds
were a bit thicker, and I'd take the risk of signalling them."

"Yy not hoist a vite flag instead of de red one," suggested Hartog, "and den
fly along past dem? Dey will understand dat after your oder instructions."

"Yes, that's not a bad idea," said Max. "We'll try that."

Ten minutes later the Revanche bad ascended a few hundred feet and passed
along the long line of air-ships which extended north and south. At the
southern end, towards Fehmern Island, at the entrance to Kiel Bay, one of the
ships stationed there ran alongside her. When they were within hail, a slide
was drawn back in her conning-tower, and her captain called to Max and asked
him if he had seen the aerostats. Then, on learning that he had, he told him
that another squadron had passed under him into the bay, apparently heading for
Kiel.

"All right," replied Max. "I suppose you understand what the white flag means?"

"Oh yes; you don't want us to do anything until they have got to work," was
the reply. "I suppose you'll give the signal when you want us to start?"

"Yes, I'll fire the first gun. If you have nothing better to do, you may as
well run along and speak the other ships, and tell there not to fire until I
do, and to be careful of the ammunition, and to see that every shot does its
work. I'm going to look for the Russian fleet now."

Max nodded to the captain of the Ravachol,—for all the vessels of the
anarchist fleet, saving the Revanche and the captured Vengeur, had been named
after the so-called heroes and martyrs of anarchy,—and then the flag-ship, once
more flying the red flag, flew it a rapid pace toward the eastward. After half
an hour's flight, during which they gradually descended to fifteen hundred
feet, Max pointed ahead and said to Hartog-

"There they are, and a rare old crowd of them too! Why; there must be over a
hundred of them altogether."

"Ja, dat is so; and vat for a smoke and sparks dey are making. Dey will be
going full speed now mit der forced draughts. Dey vill vait for deir aerostats
to make tings all clear anyhow in de Sound, and den make a rush to get trough.
I tink ve had better go back, or ve shall miss some of de fun."

"Yes," said Max, swinging the Revanche's head round, "I suppose we had. The
bombs will be beginning to fly by this time. I am rather curious to see how
those things do their work."

In an hour the Revanche was over the scene of action, and a strange and
terrible scene it was. The aerostats had dropped to a height of a thousand feet
above the fortifications of Elsinore and the Danish ships guarding the Sound,
and were raining melinite and dynamite bombs on them with fearful effect.
Searchlights were flashing up from the land and water in all directions,
seeking the terrible foe, until the whole air was ablaze with them, and those
in the forts and on board the ships saw, to their horror, not only the
aerostats, but, above them, the more distinct shapes of the anarchist air-
ships.

Thousands of projectiles from machine guns were being hurled in showers into
the air, but none seemed to strike the rapidly moving aerostats, which were
able to dart hither and thither in the almost windless atmosphere at a speed of
over fifty miles an hour, so that they swept through the beams of the
searchlights and into the darkness again with such bewildering rapidity that it
was little better than a waste of ammunition to fire at them.

From their great size, it was evident they could carry enough ammunition to
keep the bombardment up for hours, possibly till daylight, and during all that
time the British and Danish fleets and fortresses would be battered into ruins
under the falling storm of explosives, and then the untouched Russian fleet
would come and make short work of what was left of them.

As for the other fleet, one or two vessels of which were every now and then
made visible by some chance ray of the searchlights shooting up through a rift
in the clouds, the bewildered defenders of the Sound could make nothing of it,
beyond the fact that it evidently was not friendly, or it would have engaged
the aerostats before they had had time to begin their deadly work.

When the anarchists, from their unassailable vantage-point, had watched the
bombardment for about three hours, they could see that Copenhagen was in flames
and Elsinore in ruins; while, from the constant explosions that took place on
the water, blazing up like volcanoes for a moment through the darkness, and
then dying down into the night again, and from the constantly diminishing
number of searchlights that were thrown up against the clouds, it was manifest
that terrible execution had been done.

But the merciless destruction was not by any means confined to Danish
territory and the Sound, for the air-ships brought up reports from the south to
the effect that Kiel had been vigorously bombarded all the time, and was now
little better than an area of blazing ruins; while another squadron of
aerostats had attacked the German fleet, and not only prevented it getting out
of the bay, but had greatly damaged and completely demoralised it into the
bargain.

"I told you there would be no need for us to interfere for the present," said
Max, who had received the news when the Revanche was floating over the Gut of
Elsinore. "The organised anarchy that these good people call war is, after all,
nearly as effective as anything we can do. They seem to be in hopeless
confusion down there, and yet their heavy guns haven't fired a single shot yet.
Verily, the days of sea fighting are about over. Ah, I thought so! There are
the Frenchmen closing in from the north, and here come the Russians at last
full steam up from the south. I don't think there'll be much of the British
fleet left by sunrise."

XXXI. THE VICTORS VANQUISHED

THE showers of sparks and plumes of flame now plainly visible north and south
clearly proved that Max was right when he said that the French and Russian
fleets were closing upon their more than half-disabled enemies. Under the
highest speed that their forced draught would give them, the two great
squadrons, loaded with potential death and destruction, rapidly converged upon
the narrow waters in which the remains of the British and Danish fleets were
now imprisoned.

"Ah, ja, now de big guns are beginning to speak!" cried Hartog, as the deep,
dull booming of the battle-ship's artillery rose like distant thunder from the
water.

Pale flashes of yellow-white flame streamed through the darkness to north and
south of the Gut, to be answered by other flashes from the centre; and these,
again, were supplemented by brilliant spheres of light which blazed out for a
moment and then vanished, as the bombs from the aerostats fell on the decks of
cruisers and battle-ships, and exploded, spreading death and ruin over them.

Outnumbered as they were on the water, and attacked from an unassailable
position in the air, the sorely-pressed British and Danish battle-ships were
maintaining a heroic if hopeless, fight, not for any possible advantage, for
there was none to be gained; but simply with the object of doing as much damage
as possible to their enemies before the inevitable came. Every gun that
remained effective was served and fired with such rapidity and precision that
the fighting force of the fleets seemed doubled, and cruiser after cruiser and
battle-ship after battle-ship, when her guns were no longer serviceable, made a
dash with the ram upon the nearest enemy, charging into her through a storm of
shot and shell, and either sinking beside her or with her rather than haul down
her flag in surrender.

Indeed, so obstinately heroic was the resistance, or rather the dying
struggle, of the allied fleets, that not until morning dawned, and the unequal
fight had been prolonged for five hours, did the French and Russian fleets find
the way of the Sound open, and steamed together southward past the silenced
fortifications on land and the crippled and sinking wrecks of the blockading
squadrons on sea.

To the south, from the direction of the Great Belt and the Bay of Kiel, the
sounds of conflict were still rolling up like peals of distant thunder. A
portion of the Russian fleet had been detached, as soon as the defeat of the
British and Danish force was assured, to co-operate with the second squadron of
aerostats against the German fleet and the fortifications of Kiel. To the north
the victory was complete, and so the united fleets, greatly diminished in
numbers by the fierce struggle that their triumph had cost, but still in
overwhelming strength, steamed south to complete the destruction that the
aerostats had begun.

As the light increased, a splendid, but what would have been to any other eyes
a terrible, spectacle was unfolded before the gaze of the anarchists, floating
high above the smoke and din of the combat. To the south-west the smoke and
flames of the burning town and docks and arsenal of Keil were plainly visible
over the low-lying land of Probstei. In the Fehmern Belt and Fehmern Sound one
German fleet was making ready to attack the French and Russian squadrons, while
to the eastward a second German fleet was coming up under full steam from
Stralsund, apparently in the hope of catching the enemy between two fires.

As soon as the reinforcement was sighted, the French fleet parted from the
Russian and made its way east to intercept it. Meanwhile the aerostats had sunk
down alongside a flotilla of transports which had been kept in the wake of the
Russian fleet, and were taking in fresh supplies of ammunition. By the time the
four fleets were fairly engaged again, they mounted slowly into the air,
divided into two equal squadrons of twenty-five each, and stationed themselves
over the two divisions of the German force.

It was now quite light enough for Max and Hartog to see that the gas- holders
of the aerostats, instead of being made of silk or balloon cloth, were really
huge cylinders of a white metal, probably very thin sheet aluminium, which
glistened with a silvery lustre in the beams of the rising sun, and that their
cars, instead of being suspended by ropes, were simply lower compartments of
one and the same structure. They also differed in another respect from all
previous types of aerostats.

Two propellers projected from the stern of the car, and a third and very much
larger one revolved on a shaft projecting from the after part of the gas-
holder itself. This was obviously an immense improvement on all previous forms,
not only as regards speed, but also in stiffness and facility of management.
From the jets of white vapour which constantly escaped from the stern of the
cars, it was plain that their motive power was derived from steam engines, and
as a matter of fact their engines had been designed and built from the
published descriptions of those which had been used to propel the Maxim
aeroplanes.

As soon as the sun got fairly above the horizon, the clouds began to melt away
rapidly, and before long the anarchist fleet was plainly visible to the eyes of
the astonished combatants, flying round and round in wide curves at just
sufficient speed to keep the vessels supported on the air-planes with the
smallest possible expenditure of motive power. They maintained themselves at an
almost uniform speed of between forty and fifty miles an hour, and a height
that varied from two to three thousand feet, as they alternately sank and
soared in their swift and graceful evolutions.

That they had an interest in the combat was manifest from the fact that they
remained on the scene of action, but they took no part whatever in the
struggle, until a signal from the Russian flagship sent three aerostats into
the upper regions of the air to investigate.

"Those fellows had better mind their own business," said Max, who still
remained with Hartog on the conning-tower of the Revanche. "If they come too
close, they'll be getting hurt. We'll let them rise a bit further, just to
satisfy their curiosity, and then if they don't go down again, we'll send them
down. I wonder how they manage to rise without throwing out any ballast."

"Oh, I tink I can tell you how dat is done," said Hartog, "Dey haf a
collapsible air-chamber inside de gas-holder. Ven dey vant to go down, dey pump
air into it, vich is fourteen times heavier dan deir hydrogen, so down they go;
and ven dey vant to rise, dey draw de air out, and den de hydrogen expands and
takes its place, getting lighter de more it spreads, and so dey go up. It is
very simple ven you know how. But look, von of dose fellows is coming at us as
dough he fought he can do us some damage. Maybe he tinks he can fly as fast as
ve can. Vill you not show him vat a foolish mistake dat is?"

Instead of replying, Max uttered a short, scornful laugh, sent a signal to the
engine-room, and then gave some rapid orders down the tubes communicating with
the gun-room. The Revanche immediately quickened up a little. Max gave the
wheel a turn, and brought her stern on to the aerostat, which was now almost on
a level with her, and about five hundred yards away. Then he took up one of the
speaking-tubes and said into it-

"After guns—fire when you're ready," and then he looked back to watch the
effect of his order. A minute later the two shells struck the forward part of
the car, close under the gas-holder of the aerostat, almost simultaneously, and
burst.

The aerostat exploded like a huge bubble in the midst of a momentary mist of
flame. Her car, with its cargo and machinery, plunged downwards into the water
from a height of nearly two thousand feet, just missing one of the Russian
battle-ships, and that was the end of her. The other two needed no second hint
not to continue the investigation. They sank rapidly on a slanting course
towards where the French and German fleets were now hotly engaged, leaving the
anarchists in undisputed possession of the upper regions of the air.

"Dot vill be a nice little surprise for dem," chuckled Hartog, as he watched
the fearful effects of the two shells. "I suppose dey fought ve came here just
to see de fun as ve might haf come to a circus, and so dey came to say goot
morning to us. Perhaps dey vill attend more strictly to pusiness now."

"Yes," said Max, with something like a snarl, as though the fate of the
aerostat had whetted his appetite for destruction. "We'll give them business
when they've crippled each other a bit more. Those poor beggars of Germans are
making a precious poor show against their new enemies of the air. Your fellows
don't fight as well as the British did, Franz."

"No, dey don't," snapped Hartog savagely. "Mein Gott, I am ashamed of dem! Dey
seems to tink dey are at a review. If I vas only down dere in mine old
Destroyer, I vould show dem vat proper fighting is."

"Until you got a shell on top of you from one of those aerostats," laughed
Max," and then you'd wish you were up here again, I think."

"Ach Himmel, ja! I forgot dat. No; sea fighting is no good mit air-ships. It
is not a fair game, unless you happen to be in de air-ship. But don't you tink
it's about time for us to join in de fun, friendt Max? Look, dey haf half
crippled each oder already."

This was true, for ever since daybreak the fighting had been fast and furious
between the fleets, and the aerostats had been discharging their fresh cargoes
of bombs upon the German vessels with fearful effect. Their fire was visibly
slackening, and each of their squadrons had lost at least a dozen battle-ships
and cruisers, which had either been blown up by the bombs from the air or been
sunk by torpedoes.

The French and Russian loss had also been fairly heavy, for, despite Max's
characteristically French sneer, the Germans had fought their ships splendidly,
considering the fearful disadvantage at which they were placed by the assault
of the aerostats. At length, Max, tired of watching in inactivity, yielded to
Hartog's persuasions and his own inbred love of destruction, and flew from the
flagstaff of the Revanche the signal which, according to the anarchist code,
meant, "Fleet to engage. Destroy everything."

The captains of the air-ships went to work in obedience to the signal with a
business-like alacrity which proved how impatiently they had been waiting to
take their share in the work of destruction. Max had reconsidered his decision
as to the aerostats, and therefore had included them in the general order. In
the first place, he felt it very unlikely that they would be the only vessels
of the kind in the possession of the Russians, and secondly, he thought that it
would not be safe to leave too great a destructive power at the disposal of
society.

The Revanche devoted herself exclusively for the time being to the aerostats,
and almost as fast as her guns could be loaded and fired, the well- aimed
shells struck the huge gas-holders which offered such a splendid mark for the
gunners. The impact of the shells pierced the thin metal envelope, and as the
hydrogen rushed out to mix with the air, the explosion ignited it, rending the
envelope to fragments with a shock that shook the air for a hundred yards about
it, and sending the car, with its crew and cargo, plunging headlong into the
depths below.

The crews of the war-ships looked upwards in wondering dismay at the
marvellous spectacle presented by the two contending aerial fleets, the
aerostats vainly trying to outsoar or escape from the guns of their agile
enemies, and ever and anon bursting with a flash and a bang, like gigantic
shells, as the fatal missiles struck them, while the air-ships, like gigantic
birds of prey, outsoared and outflew them, sweeping hither and thither in
bewilderingly rapid curves, and then stopping for a moment or two to send their
terrible shells home.

In less than an hour the marvellous but unequal battle was over, and the
remains of the last aerostat had plunged in fragments into the sea. No fewer
than five of them, deliberately driven by the anarchists over the fleets, had
fallen amongst them, exploding their cargoes of bombs in their midst, wrecking
the helpless battle-ships and cruisers, and blowing the torpedo-boats and
catchers into atoms.

At first the Germans had thought that the air-ships were the British craft
belonging to the Syndicate about which so many rumours had been flying through
the Continent; but, as soon as the last aerostat had been destroyed, they were
speedily undeceived, for the anarchists now went to work with terrible
effectiveness on French, Germans, and Russians alike. The war-ships, already
half-crippled in their struggle with each other, fell an easy and a helpless
prey to the twenty-one aerial cruisers, which, from their unassailable
altitudes, swept their decks with storms of Maxim bullets, followed by showers
of shells and bombs charged with anarchite and fire-mixture.

By mid-day, out of the four great fleets, only six battleships and four
cruisers remained afloat. Of the lighter craft, not one had escaped, and of the
big ships that remained floating, more than half the crews had been killed, the
guns were useless, the engines crippled, and the ships themselves were only
kept afloat by their water-tight compartments. And so ended the great Battle of
the Baltic—in the indiscriminate destruction of victors and vanquished by the
common enemy of them both.

"Dat is about de most unprofitable sea-fight vatever vas fought, I should
tink," chuckled Hartog, as Max flew the signal to cease firing. " I suppose you
vill leave dose fellows to get home as best dey can, and tell de story for der
edification of Europe?"

"Yes," said Max; "we shall produce the best effects that way, I think, and
they certainly aren't worth wasting more ammunition on now."

XXXII. THE OUTLAWS' EYRIE

IMMEDIATELY the signal to cease firing had been obeyed, the air-ships formed
in line, and then the Revanche flew the signal, "Mount Prieta at a hundred
miles an hour. Follow me. Do as I do."

The fleet was now floating over the Bay of Kiel. An almost straight line of
over a thousand miles in length, drawn south-west from Kiel, marked the course
that the Revanche began to steer towards the stronghold which the organised
forces of anarchy, now ranged under the leadership of Renault, had established
in a little rock-walled valley, or rather a deep gorge fenced in with
precipices impassable to man or beast, which lay on the northern verge of Mount
Prieta.

This is the highest peak of the Cantabrian mountains, the chain, which a
glance at the map of Europe will show, running in continuation of the Pyrenean
chain from the Bidassoa to Cape Finisterre. Another look at the map will show
that the line of flight would pass over Hamburg, Bremen, Antwerp, Paris, and
Bordeaux.

Max kept the fleet at an elevation of two thousand feet, and as each of the
cities was reached, he halted his fleet, sent a couple of shells from the bow
gun of each vessel into the midst of it, and then, passing over it at ten miles
an hour, dropped half a dozen fire-bombs from each of the ships, which were
flying extended in a long line abreast. This was, of course, merely done for
the sake of further intensifying, by purely wanton destruction, the terrorism
which the news of the frightful termination of the Battle of the Baltic had by
this time carried like wildfire over the telegraphs of the Continent.

That night Europe went almost mad with fear. The impartial destruction of the
remains of the contending fleets in the Baltic proved, not only that the
anarchists saw in the warfare that was being waged on land and sea an
opportunity ready made to their hand for intensifying their terrorism of
society tenfold, but also that against a fleet of air-ships so powerful as the
one under Renault's command, both the Russian aerostats, from which such
tremendous results had been expected, and the mightiest naval armaments afloat,
were absolutely defenceless.

This of itself was enough to send a thrill of terror through the Continent,
but when, within the space of twelve hours from mid-day to midnight, five of
the chief cities in Germany, Belgium, and France had been set on fire in a
hundred places at once, it did not take long before terror was aggravated into
something like delirium. The war, in which Germany and Denmark had now
definitely joined, and upon which, under ordinary circumstances, the eyes of
the world would have been fixed with all-absorbing interest, already occupied
quite a secondary place in the imagination and the fears of the peoples of
Europe.

Indeed, voices were already being raised in appeal to the combatants to cease
their own strife and unite in a determined effort to meet the common enemies of
all organised society in their own element, and hunt them without mercy out of
the world.

It was by this time perfectly well known that the anarchists were not in sole
possession of the priceless secret on which the power of the air-ships
depended. There were other air-ships than theirs in existence, if anything
superior to theirs, and, as the events that had taken place at Newcastle
conclusively proved, they were under the control of honourable and
distinguished men, who were firm friends of order, and therefore the
irreconcilable enemies of anarchy.

By the morning of the day after the Battle of the Baltic, all Europe,
combatants and non-combatants alike, was asking where were these air-ships now,
and what possible reason could the directors of the Aerial Navigation Syndicate
have for keeping their ships out of the way and allowing the Anarchists to
pursue their unheard-of depredations unmolested?

The next morning the Times published the following letter from the Chairman of
the Syndicate:—"SIR,—Will you allow me to remind those who are apparently under
the impression that the Aerial Navigation Syndicate has a special mission and
obligation to protect society at large from the onslaughts of the anarchists,
that this Syndicate is a private corporation, founded primarily upon a
commercial basis, for the furtherance of the purposes of those who have put
their work and their money into it. What those purposes are, or in what manner
they will be carried out, is our business and no one's else. "We recognise no
obligations to employ the force at our disposal according to the direction of
any Government or Governments. We have broken no laws and attacked no one save
the enemies of society, and therefore our right to complete freedom of action
cannot be impugned. We shall act when and how we think fit, and that is all
that I either can or will say on the subject. "I may add that so far, the
publicity given by the newspapers with regard to events still fresh in the
public memory has, in each instance, directly assisted the anarchists in their
designs. Through the newspapers Renault's accomplices received the disguised
message which he gave them from the dock at Bow Street; through the same medium
they were informed of the precise hour at which his execution was to take
place, and so were able to rescue him in the nick of time; and thus, too, the
rescue of the crew of the Vengeur and the terrible tragedy at Newcastle were
directly due to information derived from the minute details published in the
newspapers. "I feel sure that all sensible people will agree with me that it
would be something worse than madness for us to follow the same foolish course.-
—Yours truly, "HIRAM S. MAXIM."

To this letter there was obviously no other answer than the admission that the
position taken up by the Syndicate was unassailable from the points of view
both of legality and expediency. Neither the British nor any other government
had any claim to the knowledge of the secret of the motive power which was
practically the sole yet priceless possession of the Syndicate. The Government
was free to experiment in the same direction if it chose, but it had no power
to compel a disclosure of the secret which had been brought from Utopia.

Therefore, there was nothing else for society to do but to wonder and to wait,
while warfare on land and sea, and anarchy militant in the air, spread terror
and disquiet through the nations, and undermined the very foundations upon
which the social fabric rested. But great and all as was the panic which
obtained under the new reign of terror, it was by no means lacking in
justification. Indeed, if all the facts could have been made public, they would
rather have intensified than diminished it.

During the short period that had elapsed since Max had escaped with the
Vengeur from Utopia, he had accomplished wonders both of construction and
organisation. He had used the practically unlimited funds which the
depredations of the Destroyer on the North and South Atlantic had placed at his
disposal, with an administrative skill well worthy of a far better cause.

By means of the disguised agencies which Hartog had established and he had
perfected, he had been able to obtain the materials for the construction of a
fleet of twenty-five air-ships for warlike purposes, and one aerial transport,
a very large craft, capable of lifting great weights and conveying them through
the air at a speed which, though only about half that of the cruisers, was
still quite enough to put her beyond the risk of capture save by the
Syndicate's airships, of which only two were known to be in existence.

This transport, which he had named the Voyageur, formed the link of
communication between the camp of the anarchists on Mount Prieta and the
outside world. She never travelled save by night and under the escort of two of
the cruisers, and her duty was to meet the Pilgrim, which still passed
unsuspected as the private yacht of a wealthy South American gentleman whose
real name was Leo Marcel, at stated rendezvous at sea, out of the regular
tracks of shipping, and to relieve her of the stores, guns, ammunition, or
treasure which she carried, and bring them back through the air to the camp,
which none of the air-ships were permitted even to approach, save under cover
of clouds or darkness.

The camp itself, despite the ruggedness and forbidding character of its
surroundings, was admirably fitted by nature for the purpose to which Max had
devoted it. The gorge was walled in by rocks ranging from a hundred to a
hundred and fifty feet in height on all sides save the north, where, through a
deep narrow cleft, the stream of water, which came from the upper part of the
mountain and traversed the centre of the little sheltered valley, found its way
down the slopes which inclined toward the shore of the Bay of Biscay.

On either side of this stream extended for about three hundred yards to the
walls of rock, a fairly level, sloping plain of light, sandy soil, on which
between fifty and sixty wooden huts and workshops were now standing. As long as
it remained undiscovered by the only enemies that Renault and his followers had
to fear, this refuge formed a hidden, entrenched camp, from which the
anarchists could safely defy the combined forces of Europe.

From it they could issue forth to slay and plunder and destroy, and to it they
could return without the slightest fear of being followed. It was, in fact, a
very fortress of anarchy entrenched in the midst of civilisation, impregnable
and unassailable by all means save one, and only treachery or the most
improbable accident could bring that means into operation against it.

A few minutes after midnight on the 17th July, Renault's fleet sighted the
dark summit of Mount Prieta rising high above the sea of clouds over which the
air-ships had been flying at an ever-increasing altitude after leaving Bordeaux
in flames behind them.

Speed was immediately slackened, and the fleet swept slowly forward until a
single faint ray of light became visible at the bottom of the dark gulf formed
by the gorge in the mountain side. Then the propellers stopped, and one by one
the ships sank downwards, until they rested side by side on a little plateau at
the upper part of the valley. The Revanche landed last, and as they
disembarked, Max said to Hartog-

"Well, aerial navigation is a very fine thing in its way, but it's a relief to
get your feet on terra firma again, and have a good stretch, after all. Isn't
the air of this valley splendid? I wonder what the powers that be down yonder
would give for a sniff at it."

"I don't tink myself," said Hartog sententiously, "dat dey vould find it very
goot for deir healts, unless dey came mit an air-fleet dat vould make it very
unhealty for us. But goot air it is, and I can tell you I am as hungry as a
volf. Ve had better go and get some supper."

"Yes," replied Max, "that's a very sensible and practical remark. I used to
think birds of prey voracious to the extent of greediness-"

"But now dat you are a bird of prey yourself; you see dat flying gifs a big
appetite. Dat's so, eh?" interrupted Hartog, with a guttural chuckle at his own
joke.

"If you like to put it so, yes," laughed Renault. "But you might have put it
more politely, perhaps. Still, I'll return good for evil for once, and ask you
to supper. Lea expects me to-night, and I daresay she'll have enough for two or
three."

"Eh? Vat is dat? Is Ma'm'zelle Lea here? I did not know dat de camp of de
outlaws vas peautified by such a charming presence as hers."

"Look here, Franz," said Renault, with another laugh, "I shall begin to think
that the air of the upper regions has made you drunk if you begin to talk like
that. That speech was the nearest approach to poetry that you've made by at
least a thousand miles. I must try and remember it for Lea's benefit. But, by
the way, you mustn't call her 'Ma'm'zelle Lea' now."

"Ah, I see!" said Hartog, nodding and patting him on the shoulder with his
little flat and somewhat flabby hand. "I remember vat you said dat night in de
club-room. And so de proud demoiselle has surrendered at discretion, has she?
Vell, I congratulate you, friendt Max. I don't tink fery much of vomen myself,
for deir mental machinery is altogeder too complicated. I likes my own
machinery much better. I feel I can depend more upon it. But still Lea is as
peautiful as she is goot, and in every vay a vorty mate for de chief of der
Outlaws of der Air. But you haf not told me yet how she came here."

"Franz," said Max, "if you were not literally rolling in your ill-gotten
gains, I should think you wanted to borrow something from me, but as that can't
be the case, I suppose I must put it down to pure good nature. As for the way
Lea got here, that's very simple.

"You see, the notoriety that Mrs. Cora Dail got through that unfortunate
affair at Bow Street and the Old Bailey got rather oppressive, and then some
long-nosed mouchard in the service of the French police managed to smell out a
distant connection between her and one of the President's servants, who was
suspected of putting that bomb in the carriage, and so Madame Dail decided to
return to America while the road was yet open to her.

"She sold off her house before any of our stray shells or bombs smashed it up,
and sailed from Marseilles to New York in that Messageries steamer, the
Champagne, which you remember never was heard of again. She had the misfortune
to fall in with three of our air-ships, of which the Revanche was one, and they
stopped her, kidnapped Madame Dail and two or three other lady friends of hers,
some of whom you know. Then they, cleared everything that was light and handy
and valuable out of the ship, and then sent her to the bottom, as it wasn't
thought advisable that she should get to New York and tell any tales."

"Ah!" said Hartog, with a chuckle. "So dat is vat became of her, is it? I
tought some accident of dat kind had happened, ven I heard she had not arrifed."

"But here we are," interrupted Max, "at my humble home, for the time being,
and there is Lea's own fair self coming to meet us. Now do try and remember
that pretty speech for her again."

XXXIII. NEWS AND BAD NEWS

THE building from which Lea, clothed from head to foot in costly furs, came to
meet them, was a small wooden house of the bungalow type, which can be
purchased in sections and put together with very little trouble. Most of the
dwelling-houses in the camp were of this kind, and had been taken out to sea in
the Pilgrim, transferred from her to the Voyageur, and then carried through the
air to the gorge.

"Welcome, my lord! You come in victory, as usual, I suppose?" said Lea, as she
came forward to meet Max with her gloved hands outstretched.

"Yes," said Max. "In victory, as usual, if you can call it victory where all
the destruction is on one side; but as far as amusement has gone, we have done
very well indeed. We have rescued friend Franz here with his crew from the
clutches of British law, set Newcastle on fire, watched the British, Russian,
and German fleets do each other mortal damage in the Baltic, and then finished
the work for them; and after that, as we came home, we left our cards on the
good bourgeois of Hamburg, Bremen, Antwerp, Paris, and Bordeaux, and gave them
the wherewithal to illuminate their cities in honour of our visit. Altogether,
we have had a fairly busy and most enjoyable four days of it."

"Bravo!" said Lea, slipping her hand through his arm as she turned back
towards the house. "What a pleasant state of excitement Europe must be in now!
But I suppose you must be as hungry as the usual hunter, so you won't be sorry
to hear that supper is ready."

"Not at all," said Max. "Franz here compares his hunger to that of a wolf, and
mine would do credit to an Indian after a four days' fast. I suppose you've got
enough for both of us?"

"Oh, yes, plenty; and the Voyageur has brought back some very nice champagne,
you will be glad to hear. I believe it originally came from the Duke of
Downshire's yacht, which met with an accident the other day on a cruise to the
North Cape."

"Oh, so the Voyageur's back, is she?" said Max, as they entered the house. "I
am glad of that, because it's quite time that we had some definite information
as to the movements of the enemy. We had better ask Maurin to supper, and then
he can give us the news."

"While we're about it," said Lea, "we may as well have a party, so I'll ask
the Rollands and your engineer Raoul to come too, for I know Sophie is dying to
see him. Those two will be going into partnership before long, I fancy."

"Dey would make a very goot match if dey did," observed Hartog. "Taxil is a
fine young fellow, and a goot anarchist, and Sophie Vronsky is a goot girl, and
very clever mit her pen, as dose Russian passports she vonce did for me clearly
proved. Ja, dey will do very well for each oder, I should tink."

"Very well, then," laughed Lea, "we will make a match of it. Now, if you two
want a wash, you had better go and get one. I'll have supper ready in half an
hour, and then we can make an interesting night of it. Sophie and I had a good
nap this afternoon, so we don't care how long we sit up."

Unpretentious as the bungalow looked from outside, its interior was a marvel
of warmth and luxury. Between purchase and plunder, Lea had fitted it up with a
dainty magnificence that made its interior at least no bad exchange for her
boudoir in the Rue Vernet. The little dining-room in which the party sat down
to supper about one o'clock, lighted by a couple of silken-shaded lamps on high
standards of solid silver, and warmed by a fire of blazing pine logs, was as
cosy an apartment as ever a conspiracy was hatched in, and the supper to which
these epicurean anarchists sat down would not have disgraced the Hotel Bristol
or the Cafe de l'Opera.

Lea and Sophie had cooked it with their own hands, for domestic service was as
yet unknown in the anarchist camp, and the company waited upon themselves and
each other with a free-and-easiness which was of the essence of true
Bohemianism. In fact, no more well-bred, pleasant-mannered supper-party could
have been found in Europe than this little company of murderous conspirators,
whose names, so far as they were known, were execrated throughout the
Continent, which was just then shuddering in a frenzy of panic under their last
assault.

Until the meal itself was over, the conversation was general, but as soon as
the two girls had cleared the table of the remains of the eatables, and
replaced them with a variety of liquids, cigars and cigarettes were lighted,
and Max called upon Maurin, the captain of the Voyageur, for such news as he
had to tell of the outside world.

"You will be able to get most of it pretty fully from the newspapers I have
brought with me," he said in reply. "But I can give you an epitome of it now,
and also some particulars which have not found their way into print. In the
first place, nothing has been heard of the air-ship War-Hawk, commanded by Sir
Harry Milton, which captured M. Franz here. After leaving Newcastle, she
vanished with the Vengeur, and we have not been able to pick up a trace of her
since.

"It is rumoured that the Syndicate has another vessel ready to take the air,
if not actually afloat, and also that before long a large fleet will be ready
for service; but in what part of the world the ships are being built, or when
they will actually get afloat, we have not been able to learn."

"That doesn't seem to say much for the intelligence of our agents," said Max,
with a frown.

Maurin shrugged his shoulders and replied apologetically, "It would seem so,
but unhappily the Syndicate appears to have unlimited command of money, and so
can pay any price for secrecy. Added to that, the terrorism which you have
inspired both in Europe and America has led to the most extraordinary
precautions being taken at all the dockyards and arsenals, ship-building yards
and manufactories, and it is practically impossible to obtain reliable
information.

"It is believed that the ships are being built on islands in remote parts of
the sea, and that no one is allowed to put foot on these islands who is not
personally known to the directors or their friends. We have found that the
Syndicate holds no meetings, but Maxim, the chairman, goes to his offices in
Victoria Street, Westminster, quite in the ordinary way, and as though nothing
had ever happened."

"Then we must pay him a visit," said Max. "What is the number? Thirty- two,
isn't it?"

"Ja, dat's it," chimed in Hartog. "I vent to see him dere vonce about an
engine for his aeroplane, and der old fellow insulted me by telling me dat he
tought he knew more about engines as I did, so I came avay; but I should like
to see him again—at der oder end of von of his own guns."

"All right; we'll go and leave cards on the Maxim-Nordenfeldt Company in a day
or two. And now, Maurin, can you tell us anything about the Nautilus, and that
Lieutenant Wyndham, who ought to have been dead long ago?"

"Ah, yes. Lieutenant Wyndham is by this time almost as famous a man as you are
yourself, and that Nautilus has proved herself to be a really marvellous craft.
She's been cutting up the French and Russian fleets in fine style.

"But the British have been very badly beaten in the Mediterranean. They had
neither ships nor men there to give them anything like a chance against the
Toulon fleet and the Russian Black Sea fleet which had forced the Dardanelles
and the Bosphorus. What force she had in the Mediterranean was caught between
the French and Russians and almost annihilated."

"So," said Renault, "between what they've done and we've done, the French and
Russian fleets are about destroyed, and the British have lost their
Mediterranean Squadron and the one that was blockading the Sound. That, with
the two German squadrons that we destroyed, makes a total of, say, six fleets
smashed up within as many days. That's pretty good work, even for modern
warfare."

"Even mit de valuable assistance of an anarchist airfleet," chimed in Hartog,
with a chuckle, rubbing his hands with pleasure at the idea of such fearful
slaughter and destruction as this meant.

"Yes," said Lea, sending a little cloud of scented smoke from her pretty lips.
"I should think a few more experiences like that ought to give even the most
civilised nations of Europe enough of fighting for some time to come. What a
pity you couldn't get hold of the Nautilus, Max! She'd have been very useful as
a toll-collector along the steamship routes. Wouldn't it be possible to capture
her in some way?"

"I'm afraid not," said Max, shaking his head. "Of course, I've no doubt we
could destroy her, but I don't see much good even in doing that yet, for all
the damage she does helps on the cause of anarchy in general. By the way,
Maurin, is there any fresh news about the fighting on land?"

"Not much," replied Maurin. "You remember, of course, that the ten thousand
men which the British were able to throw into Antwerp, thanks also to the
assistance of the Nautilus, frustrated the designs on Belgium, and enabled
England to form a junction with Germany in the Low Countries, and to make the
Quadrilateral practically impregnable.

"That was checkmate to France on the north. The Germans are massing on their
eastern frontier, and the Russians on their western frontier, so that there
will be some pretty heavy fighting in the next few days; that is, if what has
happened at sea, and the general terror that we have spread pretty well all
over Europe, doesn't put a different aspect on the face of affairs. Now I think
that's about all I've got to tell. We've brought a lot of English, French, and
German papers with us, and you'll be able to read the accounts in full in the
morning."

"All right," said Max, with a half-stifled yawn. "And now, I think it's about
time to get to bed, for a good many of us haven't slept for two nights. We'll
have a council of war in the morning, and decide what is to be done next."

The party broke up very soon after this, and as soon as Max and Lea found
themselves alone, all the careless gaiety that she had worn while the others
were present suddenly vanished from Lea's manner, and going up to Max, who was
standing on the hearth-rug by the fire, she put her hands on his shoulders and
said very seriously-

"Max, I've got bad news for you, and you ought to hear it at once, so that you
can decide what to do before the morning."

"You have bad news, Lea?" he said, in a voice whose gentleness would have
astonished anyone who had heard him giving an order on board his ship, or
laughing at the slaughter of the helpless crowd in London. "You? Well, if I'm
to hear bad news, I would rather hear it from those pretty lips of yours than
anyone's else. Now, what is it?"

As he spoke, he took her face between his hands, and, holding it there, kissed
her two or three times upon the lips before he would let her speak, saying,
when he at last released her-

"There, that will sweeten the bad news, whatever it is. Now, out with it."

"It's this," she said. "At the council of war you are going to hold to-
morrow, the captains of the air-ships are going to make a united demand that
you shall appoint a committee of five of them, and tell them the secret of the
motor-fuel. It has been talked about quite openly while you have been away.
They say that it is dangerous for it to remain in the keeping of one man,
because if you were to be killed or captured, the fleet would soon be useless."

Max's brows had been gradually coming together while she was speaking, until
they formed an almost straight black line across his eyes. He was silent for a
moment, and then he said slowly-

"Yes, that's bad news indeed; it means conspiracy, and probably treachery. I
wonder who's at the bottom of it? However, I'm too sleepy to think very clearly
to-night. Let's go to bed now; I daresay I shall either dream or think of a way
out of it by the time I meet them in the morning."

XXXIV. VENDETTA

IT will be necessary now, in order to preserve the continuity of the
narrative, to leave Max Renault, and the followers who, in his estimation, were
bidding fair to become conspirators, to await the development of events, which
might, perhaps, be pregnant with the future fate of civilised society, and
rejoin the War-Hawk and her crew, as she left Newcastle with the partially
disabled Vengeur in tow.

Three of her men were sent on board the captured vessel to get the engines
into order as far as possible, and to keep up the supply of power to the
lifting fans, so that the War-Hawk might not have any downward drag upon her,
and could so tow her through the air at the highest possible speed. She was
able to travel a little over seventy-five miles an hour under these conditions,
and an hour or two before dawn on the following morning, she and her prize of
war dropped through the darkness upon Lundy Island, and found that the Volante
was still there waiting, although she was quite twelve hours late for the
appointed rendezvous.

This is altogether unexpected good luck," said Sir Harry, as he shook hands
with Adams. "We were afraid you would have got tired of waiting for us, and
thought that something had happened to us, and so have gone off on a relief
expedition to find us. In fact, as matters turned out, we did almost want a
relief, because we'd hardly got into the air—"

"0h yes," said Adams, interrupting him with a laugh. "I know all about that.
We haven't learned to fly quite as fast as the telegraph yet. You forget that
the Syndicate has had a private wire laid from Bull Point to the island, so
that we could get the latest intelligence, as the evening papers say. We know
all about the attack on you at Farne Island, and your brilliant capture of the
Vengeur and her crew.

"That's why we waited. I felt pretty sure you could take care of yourselves,
because I know the War-Hawk is a good deal better ship than any the anarchists
have, so I thought it better to wait here till you came, than go off after you
on a wild-goose chase,—I don't mean anything rude, you know,—and perhaps miss
you after all, and then make you miss us here at the rendezvous."

"Oh, but we've done more than that," said Sir Harry. "We sent one of the
anarchists' ships into perdition with a well-aimed shell, and terrible things
those shells are, I can tell you, when they hit squarely. It was like a charge
of shot from a choke-bore gun under the wing of a partridge. She stopped dead
and went down like a stone, and when she struck the ground, she went off like a
shell full of dynamite. But I am sorry to say we let the other one go. We had
to, and what made it all the more exasperating was the fact that we learnt from
the prisoners we took that that blackguard Renault was in command of her."

"Oh yes, we know all about that too," laughed Adams, again interrupting him.
"By to-morrow morning that news will be all over England, and, perhaps, Europe,
and if the anarchists have got anything like a fleet together, I'm afraid
there'll be something like disaster come of that. However, that's not our
business. If the authorities are silly enough to make this sort of thing public
property, they must, of course, run the risk of telling the anarchists what has
happened. You did all you could without taking the law into your own hands. For
my own part, I think I should have shot the brutes on sight, but then I haven't
got quite orthodox ideas about law and order, and the authority and dignity of
the powers that be."

"It's quite possible that that might have been the wisest course," said Mr.
Austen, who had joined the pair just at this moment. "But somehow we couldn't
bring ourselves to send the wretches into eternity in cold blood, although it
might have been wiser from the point of view of public safety."

"Oh, well, that doesn't matter now," said Adams. "If the authorities can't
take care of their prisoners when they have them delivered into their hands,
that's their business. But there was another reason why I waited for you-
something a good deal more important I fancy, than even the capture of the
Vengeur and her crew."

"Oh, indeed?" said Sir Harry, lifting his eyebrows. "And what might that be?"

"Well, come into the farmhouse and have a drop of whisky and a smoke in
comfort, and I'll tell you all about it," said Adams, leading the way to the
homestead which the Syndicate had purchased with the island.

Sir Harry and Mr. Austen followed him, after sending a messenger back to the
War-Hawk; to tell Violet and Dora not to expect them for the present, and when
they had established themselves in the sitting-room of the farmhouse, Adams
went on with his story.

"About an hour before sunset last night the steam-launch came off from
Ilfracombe flying our private signal, and landed at the jetty, and Markham, who
has been running her since we came down here, brought up a man who had a letter
for me from Mr. Maxim. This letter introduced him as a Corsican, named René
Berthauld, who had satisfied him that he had important information to give us,
and asked me to cross-examine him about it.

"He also told me that the man had been given distinctly to understand that if
I was not satisfied with what he had to say, he would not be allowed to leave
the island alive. So you see the man, as it were, brought his life in his
hand—about the best pledge that a mail could bring; so I heard his story, and I
was satisfied with it. At the same time, guessing that you would be here soon,
I didn't care to do anything definite on my own responsibility, so I kept him
here, and telegraphed back to the office that I would do nothing until you
arrived. Now the man's here yet, and if you would like, he shall come down and
tell his story in extenso before us all; perhaps it will sound more interesting
from his lips than from mine."

"Oh, by all means!" said Mr. Austen. "You have whetted our curiosity quite far
enough to show that there is something interesting behind this."

"Yes, and something very interesting, I can tell you," said Adams, "not only
as regards the actual information, but also as showing how a man, doing what
certainly appears to be exactly the right thing to do at a given juncture,
makes the one fatal mistake of his life."

"Now you have sent our curiosity up to boiling point," said Sir Harry. "Let us
have him in at once, and get our suspense relieved."

"Very well, you shall have him here in a moment," said Adams, getting up and
leaving the room as he spoke.

In a couple of minutes he came back, accompanied by a man of medium height and
middle age, whose dark olive complexion, black hair, and somewhat deep-set
black eyes betrayed his southern origin at a glance. His face showed a curious
mixture of shrewdness and openness, but there was something about the square
brow and the squarer jaw which gave Sir Harry and Mr. Austen the impression
that he was the sort of man whom it would be better to have for a friend than
an enemy.

"Now, M. Berthauld," said Adams politely, motioning him to a chair, "these are
the two gentlemen of whom I spoke to you. Take a cigar, and help yourself to
whisky, and then oblige us by telling your story over again, in order that they
may understand all the particulars better than they might understand them from
me. This is Sir Harry Milton, and this is Mr. Frederick Austen."

The stranger bowed to Sir Harry and Mr. Austen in turn, with that natural
grace which, among the peoples of the South, seems to supply the place of
aristocratic breeding, helped himself to a cigar from a box on the table, while
Adams mixed him a glass of whisky and water, and then, with the air of a man
who has something important to say and doesn't want to waste any time in saying
it, settled himself in the chair and began his story forthwith in French, after
being assured that all his hearers would understand him-

"Gentlemen, I am a Corsican. My name, as you already know, is René Berthauld,
and I was born thirty-four years ago at Porta Vecchio, in Corsica. I had an
elder brother named Victor, three years older than I, who, after the death of
my father, became head of our family. Six years ago, or thereabouts, my
brother, who, I may say, without disrespect to his memory, was a man of more
imagination than education, and a man, too, whom fate had not treated very
kindly, became disgusted with the order of things as they are arranged in
Europe; and I may say, too, without offence to you gentlemen, that that order
of things presses somewhat hardly upon those who have nothing but a pair of
hands at the end of fairly strong arms for their patrimony in life.

"My brother became a Socialist through listening to the lectures of those who
find it easier to talk than to work, and from that he became a member of the
Mala Vita, which, as you know, is an Italian secret society, whose hand is
against every man's. But this did not content him for long, and at last he
joined the anarchists. He was suspected of being concerned in the bomb outrage
in the Liceo Theatre in Barcelona, which you gentlemen will, no doubt,
remember, and from Spain he fled to London—the universal refuge of all
anarchists and criminals who have made their own countries too hot to hold them.

"I corresponded with him from Rome, where I had got employment in the
municipal electric lighting works, and in all my letters I exhorted him to cut
off his connection with the anarchists and return to a decent way of life, for
I am a practical man myself, and I have no faith in these theories for undoing
the work of hundreds of years at a single stroke.

"At last my letters seemed to have some effect upon him. He told me that he
had determined to forsake the anarchists; but he said that he was, by this
time, so far implicated in their doings, that, unless he could win the pardon
of the authorities, by some great stroke against the anarchists, it would be
impossible for him to live, except in constant fear for his life or liberty.
Then, after that, he hinted at some great blow that was to be delivered by the
members of the Group that he belonged to.

"It was Autonomie Group No. 7, which had its headquarters somewhere in London,
though, of course, he would never tell me where, and he said that he would foil
this great design, and save Europe from such a shock as it had never had
before. In this letter he mentioned one name as that of the leading spirit of
the Group. It was a name that you gentlemen and all the world now know too
well—Max Renault."

The Corsican paused for a moment, and Sir Harry and Mr. Austen said in a breath-

"Ah, now, that's getting interesting. Go on, please. We are listening with all
our ears."

"It is even so," said Berthauld. "But it shall be more interesting before I
have done. That was the last letter that I ever had from my brother. I wrote to
him at his lodgings, and the letter came back, marked 'Gone Away,' through the
English post office. Victor had never failed to answer a letter of mine before;
but before my letter came back to me, all Europe was ringing with the
assassination of President Carnot by Caserio Santo.

"Now I knew Santo slightly, and he knew that I had a brother who was an
anarchist, and it was from him I learnt that, although these people profess to
act entirely as their own minds prompt them, they are really under the
direction of a governing Group, and that Group is always in London, because
that is the only place where they can be safe.

"As soon as I learnt this, I put two and two together, as you say. My brother
had told me of the great blow that was to fall on Europe, and said that he
would prevent it, but the blow had fallen, and my brother bad disappeared. From
that it did not take much reasoning for me to convince myself that Victor had
betrayed himself, or had been betrayed in some way, and that the anarchists had
killed him as a traitor.

"I gave notice at the works, and drew what wages were due to me, and with
these and my savings I went to London, but not before I had become a member of
the Cette Group of anarchists, to which Santo himself belonged. I gave my name
as Gabriel Malato, and under that name I travelled to London, with credentials
from the Cette Group. I can tell you I was not in London very long before I
made the acquaintance of several of the London anarchists, and not very much
longer before I met one Rolland, who introduced me to Max Renault himself as a
candidate for membership of the Group No. 7.

"You may be sure that I was put through a pretty searching examination, but my
brother's letters had told me so much about the anarchist organisation that
what I had learned from them, together with my passports from the Cette Group,
satisfied even Renault himself at last, and so I was admitted. On the night of
my admission, Renault told me that, in the very room in which I took the oath,
he had with his own hand shot a traitor named Victor Berthauld, who had almost
betrayed the plans for the assassination of President Carnot.

"Gentlemen, what better proof did I want than that? The Fates had led me to
London, and had placed me face to face with my brother's murderer, and, more
than that, the murderer had confessed to me with his own lips. But Max Renault,
clever as he is, made a mistake when he confessed that to me, in his boasting
way, to warn me of the doom that would be mine if I turned traitor.

"He thought that Victor Berthauld was a Frenchman, and that Gabriel Malato was
an Italian. He did not know that Victor Berthauld and Gabriel Malato were
brothers and Corsicans. Now, gentlemen, you will understand why I became an
anarchist in profession, and joined the Group No. 7. You have heard of the
Vendetta. Look you, look at this!" and as he spoke, the Corsican bared his
right arm to the elbow, and showed on his forearm a livid scar in the form of a
cross.

"That is the sign of the Vendetta. You know what it means. Blood for blood.
The night that Renault confessed that my brother had died by his hand, I went
home and cut that cross with my dagger, and as the blood came out, I kissed the
sign, and swore that his life and those of his companions should pay for
Victor's, and so they shall.

"Without betraying my name, I gave information to the police in London, which
led, as perhaps you know, to the club being raided,—he club with which they
used to cover their meetings,—and four of them were arrested. Max Renault
himself and Franz Hartog, the German who commanded the Destroyer, and Rolland,
and an Italian named Cassano were captured. You know what happened. This stupid
English justice let them go again, because they had a clever advocate, and
because they could not prove, for the satisfaction of a stupid jury, that they
had made bombs or actually stabbed the President, and so, for that time, my
vengeance was defeated.

"But I was not discouraged. The group broke up, and Renault went away to your
island of Utopia, where he got the air-ship, and Hartog went to Germany to
build the boat which he stole, and Lea Cassilis, Renault's sweetheart,
disappeared, and afterwards came out in Paris as Madame Cora Dail-"

"Good heavens! you don't mean to say that that pretty little woman was really
his sweetheart?" broke in Sir Harry. "O Lord! what fools she made of us at the
theatre that night, and of me in particular! Well, never mind; go on, please.
It can't be helped now."

"There is not much more to tell," continued the Corsican. "I kept friends with
Rolland, and when Renault returned, I was able to learn all that was going on.
Now, I know the agents of these anarchists and their plans; and, more than
that, I know where their hiding-place is; and if you will take me on board one
of your air-ships, I will lead you to it, up near the summit of Mount Prieta,
in the Cantabrian Mountains, and you shall destroy it.

"Mind, gentlemen, I am not an anarchist, nor am I a spy or a traitor. I am a
Corsican, and Max Renault killed my brother. I will have blood for blood,
according to the creed of my race, so help me God, and the Holy Virgin, by this
sign!"

And, so saying, he pressed his lips once more to the sign on his arm, and
looked up at them with hungry eyes, waiting for them to speak.

XXXV. TURNING THE TABLES

THERE was a pause of silence for some moments after the Corsican had done
speaking. His three hearers looked at him as they might have looked at some
half-wild animal endowed with speech, for it was the first time that any of
them had been brought face to face with the personified passion of revenge,
which is the concrete form of all that is implied by the terrible word Vendetta.

There was no possibility of mistaking the absolute sincerity of Berthauld for
any skilfully simulated pretence for gaining their confidence with a view to
betraying their plans to the enemy. The man's whole frame seemed vibrating with
the passionate frenzy into which he had worked himself during the telling of
his story. Hate and blood-hunger blazed out of his eyes, and his lips were
drawn back from his long white teeth, like those of an animal ready to spring
at the throat of its prey; and then on his arm, which he still kept bared
before them, was the livid cross scored in the flesh, the visible sign-manual
of his oath and his resolve.

By tacit consent, the other two waited for the oldest man to speak first, and
at length Mr. Austen said in a cold, almost judicial tone-

"Mr. Adams has told us that you have already satisfied him of the truth of
your story and the sincerity of your intention; and for myself, I may also say
that I am satisfied. Sir Harry Milton will speak for himself."

Sir Harry nodded, and said briefly-

"You may speak for me too, Mr. Austen. If you are satisfied, I am."

"Very well, then," continued Mr. Austen, turning again to Berthauld. "I may
cut matters short by saying that, under the extraordinary circumstances of the
case, we will accept your assistance. You will, of course, understand that we
have nothing whatever to do with your private enmity to Renault, or with the
motives which lead you to desire revenge upon him; and I must also tell you, in
order to avoid any misunderstanding, that if Renault is not killed in battle,
and if, as I think very unlikely, we capture him alive, we shall hand him over
to the proper authorities for execution, of course taking proper precautions to
prevent a second escape."

"I have sworn to kill him with my own hand if I can," said Berthauld, with the
hungry gleam still in his eyes, "and if the opportunity offers, I shall do so.
But if you take him prisoner, I will forego that, and only ask that you will
make me one of his guards until he is handed over to the hangman, for if you
take him, he will be yours, not mine; but if I take him, I will kill him, as I
have sworn to do. Does that content you?"

"Yes," replied Mr. Austen, "there can be no fault found with that, though I
think the point is hardly worth discussing, for I cannot believe that he will
ever allow himself to be taken alive. He will blow his ship to atoms first with
his own hands. But now, as regards yourself. You understand, I suppose, that
you give yourself as a hostage for your own sincerity."

"Yes," said the Corsican, rising to his feet, and stretching out his arm with
the gesture of a man who voluntarily surrenders his liberty. "Until this is
accomplished, I am yours, body and soul. Do with me as you please. I have no
arms, not even a knife, and I want none. You may search me and see. You may
guard me night and day on board your air-ship, and shoot me if you even suspect
me. I ask nothing but that you will let me help you to hunt this Renault down,
and when he is dead, set me free to go about my business."

"That is enough," said Mr. Austen. "You will go on board Mr. Adams' ship as
soon as we have decided what is to be done first. And now tell us, if you know,
how Renault and his accomplices managed to get their air-ships built."

"Yes, I can do that," said the Corsican. "The North German Lloyd liner,
Bremen, which they captured, Renault and Hartog transformed into a floating
dockyard. They kept her in the South Atlantic, cruising constantly east and
west a few degrees south of the Tropic of Capricorn and between the tenth and
thirtieth meridians. This, as you no doubt know, is midway between the two
great steamship tracks to South America on the one side, and the Cape of Good
Hope and Australia on the other. The Destroyer acts as a sort of tender to her,
and keeps her supplied with coals and provisions, which she takes from the
cargo steamers. They have never been discovered, because they have never left
anyone alive to tell tales. When they have got all they want out of a steamer,
they send her to the bottom with all hands on board."

"The scoundrels!" exclaimed Sir Harry and Mr. Austen in a breath; and Sir
Harry, bringing his open hand down with a slap upon his knee, said angrily,
"Ordinary justice has no punishment for crimes like that. I begin to see now
the reason for the Vendetta."

"It is more just than your justice," said the Corsican quietly. "Think of the
friends and kindred, the mothers and the wives and the lovers of those poor
fellows whose bones have been picked by the fish in the South Atlantic, and you
will see why I want my revenge on Renault.

"But I must go on with my story. The last air-ship that is built on board the
Bremen always remains by her till the next one is finished, to guard against
the accident of being discovered by a war-ship, then the other takes her place,
and she goes to the camp at Mount Prieta to join the fleet. More than this,
they have establishments for stores and depots for treasure and arms and
ammunition at an inlet on the African coast, south of Cape Bojador; another on
one of the keys of the Bahamas; another in one of the bayous of Florida;
another in the island of Trinidad, in the Atlantic; and another at your island
of Utopia, which I suppose you know they have taken possession of."

"We didn't know it, but we expected it," said Adams. "But we can very soon
turn them out of there. And now, M. Berthauld, we can get to work, I think. I
propose that the War-Hawk and the Volante shall go in company first to
Trinidad, destroy the depot there, then you will guide us to the Bremen and the
Destroyer, and we will sink them, and after that—But stop a minute-there is
something else. How do the anarchists get their material for building the air-
ships, and their ammunition and guns, to the Bremen?"

In answer to this question, the Corsican described the Pilgrim and her work,
and added, with a laugh, "This gentleman's yacht, as everyone believes her to
be, was lying quietly in Plymouth only a few days ago."

"And where is she now?" asked Sir Harry.

"She had then a full cargo on board, and I believe it was intended for the
Bremen. If that is so, she would sail for the South Atlantic, probably for
Trinidad first. May I ask, gentlemen, how many ships you will take with you on
the expedition?"

"Only the two that are here," replied Adams. "They can fly nearly two hundred
miles an hour, and their armaments are much more powerful than anything the
anarchists have, if what we saw in the north last night is any guide."

"Yes, they will be quite enough," said Berthauld. "Renault has about twenty-
five ships altogether now, but none of them are as fast as yours. With those
two you could fight the whole fleet, and beat it. And now, may I ask when you
propose to start, gentlemen?"

"There is nothing to stop us starting at once," said Adams. "And the sooner we
are off the better. The Volante is quite ready, and I suppose the War- Hawk
will have filled up her fuel magazines by this time."

"Oh yes, she'll be quite ready; and we ought to get afloat as soon as
possible, so as to be well out of the way before the light gets too strong."

In less than half an hour the two air-ships were afloat again, and flying at
sixty miles an hour on a course a little to the west of south. An elevation of
four thousand feet was kept, and as the light increased, a bright look-out was
kept for steamers corresponding to the description which Berthauld had given of
the Pilgrim. As far as they had been able to calculate, she ought by this time
to be about a thousand miles on her way, supposing she had taken the route to
the South Atlantic, and was steering, as in that case she would do, a direct
course for the island of Trinidad.

The whole ocean, however, seemed deserted, except far away to the northward,
where a few faint smoke hazes betokened the presence of the Atlantic liners and
their convoys. The speed was therefore increased, first to a hundred, and then
to a hundred and fifty miles an hour; and at length, towards four o'clock in
the afternoon, Adams, who was scanning the ocean through his glasses from the
conning-tower, made out a faint wreath of smoke coming from some solitary
steamer far away on the southern horizon.

The two air-ships were flying side by side about a hundred yards apart, and
Adams, seeing Mr. Austen in the conning-tower of the War-Hawk, attracted his
attention by running the Volante up closer, and then told him in the deaf and
dumb language on his fingers that he had sighted a steamer, and wanted to slow
down and speak to him. The two air-ships rapidly decreased their speed until
they were flying close together at thirty miles an hour, then the slides in the
conning-towers were drawn back, and they arranged that if the solitary vessel
by good fortune proved to be the Pilgrim, the Volante would go down and speak
her, while the War-Hawk remained a thousand feet above her, so as to put any
idea of resistance out of the question. Then the speed was increased again, and
twenty minutes later the Volante took a downward sweep, and stopped a hundred
feet from the surface of the water and some half-mile ahead of the steamer.

"We are in fortune!" said Berthauld, whom Adams had called into the conning-
tower. "That is the Pilgrim. I thought it would be, from what they told me
about her having to make another voyage soon to the Bremen. May I ask what you
will do with her now that you have caught her?"

"As soon as I am satisfied that she is the vessel you describe, and is really
in the employment of the anarchists, I shall sink her just as I would sink the
Destroyer if we were fortunate enough to meet with her," replied Adams. "I will
serve her crew as they have served the crews of the steamers they have robbed
and sunk. You had better keep out of sight now. I am going to hail her."

"Very good," said Berthauld. "But let me caution you to be careful, for they
are just as likely as not to reply to your hail with a volley."

"I will see to that," said Adams shortly. "Now you had better go to the gun-
room."

As the Corsican left the conning-tower, Adams signalled to the gun-room, and
ordered the forward and after shell guns and the four broadside Maxims to be
trained on the steamer's deck as he went alongside; then the Volante ran
forward to meet the steamer, on whose bows the word Pilgrim could be distinctly
seen. But just as she was slowing down, Adams, who had never taken his eyes off
the Pilgrim's deck, saw half a dozen men tear the covering off a large boat
which she carried on deck amidships, and in this boat he saw a short, mortar-
like gun of large calibre mounted on what looked like a swivel-stand.

There could be no mistaking the purpose of this weapon. The Volante was well
within range, and the obvious object was to send a shell into her as she slowed
down. Just as a couple of men jumped into the boat, he sent the signal, "Full
speed ahead," to the engine-room, and the Volante sprang forward on an upward
leap of a thousand feet, as a puff of smoke rose from the boat and a heavy
shell went whistling harmlessly away astern of her.

The next instant a couple of shells from the War-Hawk struck the water and
exploded on either side of the steamer, deluging her decks with water. Then
came two from the Volante, both of which struck the deck and exploded, tearing
two great ragged holes in the planking. Two more from the War-Hawk followed in
rapid succession. The anarchists replied as well as they could with their one
gun, but the air-ships were far beyond its range, and the fate of Leo Marcel
and his crew was soon sealed.

Shell after shell burst on the torn-up deck of the Pilgrim, or else in her
interior, and before the bombardment had continued a quarter of an hour, two of
the projectiles exploded together in her stoke-hole, and the next moment, in
the midst of a vast cloud of steam and smoke, the Pilgrim broke in two and
disappeared, taking with her Leo Marcel and sixty anarchists to the fate to
which they had consigned so many of their fellow-creatures.

"Like cures like!" laughed Sir Harry grimly to Mr. Austen, who was standing
with him in the conning-tower as the Pilgrim vanished. "That's the only sort of
physic that's any good for the disease of anarchy."

"Yes," said Mr. Austen; "it's a rather heroic remedy, as Dr. Roberts would
say, but I don't think the disease would yield to any other. If she only had
the materials for constructing a couple of air-ships on board, we haven't done
a very bad morning's work. Well, now, I suppose it is a case of full speed
ahead to the southward."

On the morning of the third day after the sinking of the Pilgrim, the crews of
the two air-ships saw the bare, gaunt rocks of Trinidad rising out of the
water. The War-Hawk remained aloft as before, and the Volante descended to
investigate. She found some huts on the desert shores of a bleak, hidden bay,
but, save for the huge land-crabs crawling about them, the whole island
appeared to be deserted. A shot was fired to call the attention of any
inhabitants that might be there, but there was no response, and Adams decided
that it was not worth while wasting time examining the place; so he rose and
rejoined the War-Hawk, and the two air-ships resumed their journey, flying now
in a south-eastward direction, so as to cross the Tropic of Capricorn into the
unfrequented regions of the ocean in which they expected to find the Bremen and
her consort.

When they reached what Berthauld had described as the anarchists' cruising-
ground, they separated, the War-Hawkgoing to the east and the Volante to the
west, both flying in a zig-zag course at an elevation of five thousand feet, so
as to command the largest possible range of vision. It had been settled that
whichever of them sighted the Bremen first was to return to the spot from which
they had started, the latitude and longitude of which had been carefully noted,
and then the two were to proceed to the scene of attack together.

It fell to the good fortune of the War-Hawk to catch the first glimpse of her
quarry, and the first eyes which saw her were the pretty brown orbs of Miss
Dora. She was standing in the conning-tower—not an infrequent amusement with
her now—with Sir Harry, soon after sunrise on the third day of the search,
looking down at the water through his glasses, when he saw a quick flush rise
to her cheeks, and she leant slightly forward, as though something had caught
her attention. Then she took the glasses from her eyes and handed them to him,
saying as she did so-

"Sir Harry, I think I can see something that looks like a little cloud of thin
smoke, with a dark spot in the middle of it, far away down yonder. Will you
have a look, please? Who knows but it might be the Bremen or the Destroyer?"

XXXVI. THE END OF THE "BREMEN."

WE won't tell any of them yet," said Sir Harry, after he had taken a long look
through the glasses at the distant tinge of brown haze that blurred the western
horizon. "I think we had better make sure first, so as not to spoil the honour
of the first discovery for you, if it turns out really to be the Bremen."

"Oh, I don't see any particular honour in it," said Dora, with just a
perceptible shudder. "This is horrible, all this fighting and destruction. If
you promise not to tell, I'll confess that I fainted right off when you sank
the yacht the other day. It seemed so awful to think of, these two ships flying
up in the clouds out of reach, and blowing that unfortunate steamer to pieces,
and sending her and everyone on board her to the bottom of the sea. I sometimes
think the world must have gone half mad for such dreadful things to be
possible—to say nothing about their being necessary, as I suppose that was."

"I quite agree with you," said Sir Harry. "The world is really much more of a
madhouse than the conceit of humanity would care to admit. As a matter of fact,
with all our boasted religion and civilisation, we are very little removed in
some respects from mere beasts of prey. Indeed, where the predatory instincts
are concerned, we are rather below them than otherwise. They kill because they
must kill, or else die of starvation; we kill when we have ample. No tiger ever
killed an antelope or an ox just to show that he was the stronger beast of the
two, or to prove his exclusive right to a certain piece of jungle."

"I like to hear you say that, Sir Harry, because—"

"Now look here, Miss Dora, I have no doubt you were going to say something
that it would be pleasant for me to hear," he said, interrupting her; "but
before you say it, I wish you would explain how it is that a good Socialist
like yourself can persist—well, I had almost said so obstinately - in using
that most unsocialistic prefix to my name? You know what I mean."

"Yes," she said, with a faint flush on her cheek and just the suspicion of a
roguish twinkle in her eyes, "I think I can quite understand what you mean, and
perhaps I can answer you by reminding you that we Utopians don't call each
other Miss and Mr. in our conversation."

"Oh, but then you know—Hullo! yes, that must be the Bremen. A big steamer with
no masts and two funnels, apparently going nowhere, just as Berthauld described
her. If you'll pardon me, Dora,—I mean, of course, Miss Dora,—I'm afraid I
shall have to postpone what bade fair to be a very interesting conversation, at
any rate for me. If all goes well, we shall be back at Utopia in a few days,
and then-'

"And then," said Dora, who meanwhile had opened the door of the conning-
tower, "you will have had time to think out a suitably conventional apology for
leaving out the 'Miss' just now. Good morning! I am going to see if Violet is
awake."

And with that she vanished and shut the door behind her, leaving Sir Harry
with his attention for the moment perplexingly divided between thoughts of love
and war.

The latter, however, imperatively demanded all his energies, for while they
had been talking, the War-Hawk had been flying swiftly, and had brought him
within plain view of the object which had attracted Dora's attention. A second
look through his glasses convinced him that the object lying on the waters far
below him was nothing else than the craft of which they were in search. He took
its bearing carefully, and dotted its position down on a chart on which the
latitude and longitude of the War-Hawk had already been marked at sunrise. Then
he spun the steering-wheel round until the dot lay dead astern of the air-ship,
sent the signal for full speed to the engine-room, and the War- Hawk darted
away westward in search of her consort.

The Volante returning by arrangement to the rendezvous, was picked up after
four hours' flight, and as soon as the plan of attack had been arranged between
them, the two returned to the eastward, and a little before mid-day they were
soaring at a height of eight thousand feet above a calm sea, on which was
floating the mastless Bremen, steaming to the eastward at a leisurely speed of
about ten knots. To their intense disappointment, there was no sign of the
Destroyer to be seen, and so they were forced to conclude that she was away on
one of her raiding expeditions for coal and stores.

Great as was the height at which they were floating, their glasses enabled
them to make out the shape of an air-ship lying upon the Bremen's decks.
Unfortunately, too, for their hopes of a surprise, the sky was absolutely
cloudless, and so they would be visible from the Bremen's decks, if only as a
couple of tiny specks drifting across the background of the intense blue above
them.

"Confound it, they have seen us!" said Sir Harry to Mr. Austen, who had now
come to take his accustomed place in the conning-tower. "Look, the air-ship is
rising. I wish we could have got a shell into them before they spotted us."

"We couldn't have done that in this clear atmosphere, and I don't think it
very much matters, because, as the Yankees would say, we have decidedly got the
drop on them, and I don't think there is much chance of escape. There goes
Adams down to cut him off. He'll keep the air-ship busy, and we'll sink the
steamer, and then go and help him if it's necessary."

"Yes, that's the plan," said Sir Harry. "So I'll leave you to your
manoeuvring, and go and take a turn at the guns. Good-bye for the present."

"Good-bye. Shoot straight!" said Mr. Austen, as he turned to leave the conning-
tower.

"As straight as I can, you may depend upon it," laughed Sir Harry, as he
closed the door and went down to the gunroom.

According to the arrangements already made, the Volante dropped about four
thousand feet in a slanting direction towards the steamer, from whose deck the
anarchist air-ship had now risen about fifteen hundred feet. She was evidently
managed by an experienced hand, for she shot away to the southward at full
speed and on an upward course, so as to gain the advantage of being pursued.
But Adams had learned a good deal from the story of the War-Hawk's fight with
the three vessels over Northumberland, and lost no time in frustrating this
manoeuvre.

The anarchist had about a mile start of him, but she had the worst of the
elevation, and the Volante, putting on full speed, rushed away after her,
soaring two feet for her one, until the positions were reversed, and Adams was
able to give the order for the stern guns to open fire on her. He slowed down
until the two ships were almost relatively stationary, and presently a couple
of shells burst together about fifty feet above the red flag that was flying at
the anarchist's stern.

He saw her stop for an instant, and, as it were, shiver in the shaken
atmosphere. Then she dropped two or three hundred feet, came to equilibrium,
and swung round to fly northward again.

The moment that she wasted in turning was fatal, for one of the gunners had
his gun loaded again, and, just as she stopped for a second on the turn, sent a
lucky shell, which passed through one of her broad air-planes and exploded
underneath it, blowing it into ribbons. The next instant she turned over like a
winged bird, and with one awful plunge dropped like a stone into the sea four
thousand feet below. They saw a little splash far away in the calm water, and
that was all.

"That settled her affair," said Berthauld a few moments after, as he opened
the door of the conning-tower and looked in. "I had the honour of firing that
shot, Mr. Adams. I learnt my gunnery under Max Renault, on board the Vengeur. I
hope now that if you had any doubts of my sincerity-"

"I never had any, M. Berthauld," replied Adams. "If I had had, you would not
be here now. But that was a splendid shot, and I congratulate you, wherever you
learnt to shoot. In future, if you care to take it, you shall have charge of
one of the Volante's guns."

"It is an honour that I shall prize highly," said the Corsican. "Yours are
splendid guns, better both for range and accuracy than Renault's. And now I
will go back and get ready to have a shot at the Bremen, if your consort has
not already destroyed her."

As he closed the door of the conning-tower again, Adams swung the Volante
round and headed her back to the northward, where, far away in the distance, he
could see a dark speck on the water, with puffs of smoke breaking out every
moment about it.

Ten minutes brought him within range, but by this time the War-Hawk's guns had
already done terrible execution. She had sunk to within two thousand feet of
the helpless and defenceless Bremen, and shell after shell was bursting upon
the quondam liner's decks. As the Volante slowed up, her two bow guns came into
action, and so well were they served, that a perfect rain of shells was hurled
upon the terrified and now despairing anarchists.

The return of the Volante alone told them that their airship had been
destroyed, and that they had now nothing to look for but swift and certain
destruction. So far as they were concerned, their reign of terror was over. The
tables had been turned on them with a vengeance, and, maddened by panic and
despair, dozens of them leapt overboard, as though preferring death by drowning
to be mangled and torn to pieces by the shells from the sky.

"Rats leaving a sinking ship!" said Sir Harry, with a short, savage laugh, as
he trained his gun afresh upon the Bremen and sent another shell to its mark.
"It is fearful work this fighting, but there is a horrible fascination about it
that makes one absolutely enjoy it while you're at it."

"Especially when you are shooting at such vermin as these," said Markham, who
was at the other gun, as he sent another shell on its errand of destruction.
"Those fellows seem to have very little taste for their own kind of physic,
but, after all, it is quite as good as the hanging they could only expect, if
we were able to take them prisoners. There goes the last of the funnels. Now I
think Mr. Austen might let us try a few bombs."

He had hardly spoken the words before a message came down the tube from the
conning-tower telling them to cease firing and man the bomb-tubes.

"I thought so," said Markham, as he left his gun. "She is not much better than
a wreck now, and a few minutes with the bombs will finish her."

The War-Hawk now forged ahead a little until she came to a standstill exactly
over the doomed Bremen. Meanwhile, the six bomb-tubes had been charged, and at
the signal, "Let go," the six bombs, each filled with twenty pounds of
dynamite, were released simultaneously. A blaze of light flashed out almost
from stem to stern of the Bremen; then came the roar of the combined
explosions, and they saw the great ship literally split from end to end. A vast
cloud of smoke and steam rolled up, and when this had drifted away under the
light breeze from the northward, the floating dockyard of the anarchists had
vanished beneath the waters of the Atlantic.

"Horrible, but necessary!" said Sir Harry drily, as he saw the bomb-tubes
closed, and went to his sister's cabin to tell her and Dora that it was all
over.

"It is a frightful fate, even for those wretches," said Violet, half
pityingly, when he had told her the news. "But I suppose it had to be done, if
the world was to be saved from them. And where are we going to now?"

"Utopia is the next port of call, I believe," replied Sir Harry. "You know I
told you that some of the scoundrels had taken possession of it, and so we
shall have to go and clear them out."

"But fancy, bloodshed in our beautiful Utopia!" said Dora, with a shudder.
"Who of us would ever have thought that our paradise was going to be turned
into a battlefield, or a slaughter-house, for I suppose it will be more like
that than anything else? I won't see it. Violet, you and I will shut ourselves
up here until it's over. I could never think Utopia the same again if I saw
people being killed on it."

"Yes, we will do that," said Violet. "I think I love Utopia now quite as much
as you do, and I couldn't bear to see it desecrated by bloodshed any more than
you could."

So it came to pass, four days later, that the two girls sat hand in hand,
silent and trembling, in their darkened cabin, listening to the crash of
exploding shells, and the fearful thudding roar of the machine guns, which told
them that the extermination of the anarchists who had taken possession of
Utopia was being carried out with pitiless thoroughness.

They felt the air-ship rising and sinking, shooting forward and stopping, and
every now and then swinging swiftly round, and this went on for six hours
incessantly. Then at last they felt her gently touch the ground and come to a
standstill. As she did so, the door of their cabin opened, and Sir Harry came
in in his shirt-sleeves, and with the perspiration running down his face.

"It is all over!" he said huskily. "You can come out now, for there isn't one
of the scoundrels left alive on Utopia. It's been hot work, but we've done it.
Look -doesn't it seem like being at home again?"

As he spoke, he pulled the window-slide back, and when Dora and Violet looked
out, they saw that the War-Hawk was resting on the plateau on which they had
held their memorable New Year's Day picnic, and far away below them the lovely
familiar landscape stretched away down to the bay, and on from the white coral
beach across the emerald water of the lagoon to the long white line of breakers
tossing and foaming on the reef.

"How delightful it is to be able to breathe this glorious air again!"
exclaimed Violet, as her brother and Markham carried her chair out into the
open. "If only poor Bertie were here now instead of being cooped up in a ship
under water, I think I could get well altogether in a week. Why—what is the
matter?" she continued, glancing anxiously from one to another of the little
group about her chair. "What are you looking at each other like that for—has
anything happened to Bertie? Tell me at once, please. Don't be afraid even if
he is—if he is dead, for if he is, I know that he will have died at his duty
like a sailor and a gentleman."

There was silence for a moment, and then Dr. Roberts, passing a slip of tissue
paper to Sir Harry, said-

"Tell her, Milton—you can do it better than I."

"What is it? Never mind telling me. Give it to me!" exclaimed Violet, almost
snatching the paper out of her brother's hand. She opened it with trembling
fingers and read through a gathering mist of tears—"BULL POINT STATION, "July
17th, midnight. "News just received that Nautilus was surprised and torpedoed
by unknown vessel off Scillies soon after nightfall. Wyndham in command. None
saved. "GARDNER."

"It is God's will and the fortune of war," murmured Violet in a weak, broken
voice. "Oh, my poor brave Bertie, to think of you dying like that! Take me
back—I-"

Then her head fell forward on her breast, and her bands dropped limply on her
lap.

"It has killed her! I thought it would," cried Sir Harry, springing forward
and taking hold of her hand. "Roberts, how could you-"

"Dead? nonsense!—she has only fainted. I'll have her round in three minutes,"
said the doctor, bustling off to the ship for his restoratives. "There's no
harm done—don't be afraid."

XXXVII. PLOT AND COUNTERPLOT

WELL, sweetheart, I think that danger is past for the present. I thought at
one time they were going to break into open revolt, but I managed to convince
them in the end of my good faith and devotion to the sacred cause of anarchy.
That compromise was not at all a bad idea. I am to take Hartog into my
confidence, tell him the secret of the composition of the fuel, and, whenever I
go away from the camp, leave the formula for its preparation in a place known
to him, so that, if anything happens to me, he can come back, find it, and
prepare the fuel as it's wanted. Very pretty, isn't it?"

"And are you going to do it?" asked Lea, looking up at Max with a smile of
incredulity. They were alone together in their sitting-room in the bungalow on
the afternoon of the day on which the council of war had been held at the camp
of Mount Prieta. Lea, for some reason of her own, which she declined to give,
had not been present, and Max had been explaining to her what had taken place.

"Do it?" he said, with a short laugh at her question. "No, I see you don't
take me seriously. You know me too well for that. I have been expecting this
trouble ever since I brought the Vengeur away from Utopia. The command of the
air is a magnificent thing; but, like every other priceless possession, it
entails endless difficulties and dangers. You see, we are above and beyond all
human laws now, and that cuts both ways. I am the master of these fellows just
as long as I can keep them in hand by moral force, and remain the only
possessor of the secret. Now they want the secret, and they mean to have it.

"If I don't find some means of outwitting them, they will take it by force,
or, anyhow, I don't suppose one of them would scruple to use the methods of the
Holy Inquisition, and torture me till they either killed me or wrung it out of
me. Yet, on the other hand, if I tell them, every one of them is equal to me,
all command is at an end, and therefore all concerted action. Then every one
would be plotting against everybody else to kill him, so as to remain the sole
possessor of the command of the air.

"They might work together until we have smashed up those two or three ships
that the Syndicate seems to have; but after that it would simply be a matter of
mutual extermination, until only one man was left in command of one ship, and
he would be able to do as he pleased until one of his crew killed him or forced
him to share the secret with him, and so on. That is anarchy in command of the
air, worked out to its logical conclusion. These idiots don't see how our
conditions have changed since we left the earth for the air; and as they won't
submit to reasonable and necessary control, they shall pay for their folly and
their want of confidence in a way that will considerably astonish them.

"What I mean to do is this, and I shall want your help in doing it. The only
really dangerous man among them is Hartog, and he will have to be disposed of.
He is coming with us in the Revanche to-morrow, because none of the other
fellows will give up the command of their ship, and so he will have to wait for
the new one that should be coming from the Atlantic in a few days now.
Ostensibly we are going out to meet her and hand her over to Franz. I shall
write out the formula to-night, show it to Franz, and then hide it. I'll take
care you know where it's hidden, and you must manage to get hold of it and
destroy it before we start.

"Then, when once we get Franz on board the Revanche, over the Bay of Biscay,
I'll denounce him as a traitor to the crew, who, I really believe, are devoted
body and soul to me, and then I'll put a bullet through his ugly head and drop
him into the Bay. When that's done, we'll just get right out of the way and lie
low for a month or two. Meanwhile, the other fellows will have used up their
supply of fuel, and the air-ships will be lying waiting, useless and helpless,
in the camp, and some fine morning we'll come back and wipe the lot out. Now,
what do you think of that?"

"Excellent," replied Lea, with an admiring smile. "It couldn't be better, as
far as it goes. But haven't you forgotten the Syndicate and its fleet? What are
you going to do about them?"

"Oh, for that I have to trust, to a certain extent, to the chapter of
accidents; but that danger is not by any means as great as it seems at first
sight. When we have disappeared for a bit, the odds are, they'll think we've
quarrelled among ourselves and wiped each other out, or something of that sort.
They'll never find the fleet up here, and we can keep out of sight, and,
whenever we get a chance, drop unexpectedly on one or two of their air-ships
and blow them up until we've got rid of the lot in detail.

"It won't matter if it takes a year or two to do it. There'll be no hurry when
these other fellows are disposed of; and then, when the Revanche is the only
air-ship in existence, and we've killed, as we probably shall have done, Austen
and Adams and the rest of them, we can begin a nice, pleasant little reign of
terror on our own account."

"I see, I see!" said Lea. "That will be famous if we can only do it; and,
after all, I really don't see why we shouldn't. I suppose you won't mind Sophie
Vronsky coming on board with us, will you, if only for Taxil's sake and mine?
She is really the only girl in the world I can make a companion of, and I feel
pretty certain that there would be difficulties with Raoul when he knew she was
to be abandoned with the rest."

"Oh yes; of course she can come!" laughed Max in reply. "I've always thought
she would make a capital sweetheart for Raoul, and I am quite glad to hear that
they are likely to make a bargain of it. Now I must be off and see the Revanche
got ready for her cruise to-morrow. It may be a rather long one; it would not
do to have anything left out. Meanwhile, you and Sophie use your eyes and your
ears, and learn everything you can that may be of use to us."

Later on that afternoon, Max fulfilled his part of the bargain he had made
with the captains of the fleet by writing out the formula, showing it to
Hartog, and arranging with him where it was to be buried by them as soon as it
was dark enough for them to do so unobserved by the others in the camp.

Of course, Max did not forget to tell Lea the spot fixed upon, and how he
would mark it for her; and so adroitly did she follow his directions, that the
priceless paper had not been lying underground, in the bottle in which they had
enclosed it, for more than an hour before she had dug it up again with her own
hands, taken it out of the bottle, and replaced the latter almost exactly as
she had found it.

But nearly six hours later,—that is to say, about a little before four o'clock
in the morning,—another visit was paid to the spot, this time by two men who
had stolen out of the sleeping camp by different ways and met there, obviously
not by accident.

"Now, my tear Taxil," said one of them in a hoarse, guttural whisper, "dis is
de spot, and ve vill have it out in tree minutes. It is not buried very deep. I
did not tink it vas vorth vile, as I should vant it again so soon. You haf got
your trowel, now dig avay. If ve only vorks our plans out right, dot little
piece of paper vill mean der empire of de vorld to us; and you shall reign ofer
it, mit de peautiful Lea, and I vill be your prime minister and chief engineer.

"Ve vill share de secret between us, and take tundering good care dat no von
else gets it so soon as ve haf got dat fool Renault out of de vay. Dat vas very
lucky dat Sophie believes you so much in love nit her, and so faitful to Max
dat she told you vat a dangerous person I ain, and how dey vas going to put me
out of de vay. Now, if dey only knew dat it vas not Sophie at all, but de
incomparable Lea, dat you haf been consuming your heart init love for all de
time in secret; I tinks de game vould haf been played a little differently, eh?"

"I suppose so," said Taxil, who meanwhile had been digging away with his
trowel. "But, after all, it's Renault's own fault. He shouldn't have brought a
girl like Lea into the camp, or on board his ship. He must have queer ideas of
anarchy, after all, if he expected we should leave her to him, to say nothing
of giving him the supreme command as well. Fancy us—anarchists and enemies of
all laws—setting up a king over us, and giving him absolute power of life and
death, for that is what the possession of the secret means, after all's said
and done! Ah, here we are; this is the bottle, I suppose," he said, as the
blade of his trowel struck with a clink on the glass.

"Ja, dot vill be it," whispered Franz, pulling a corkscrew out of his pocket
as Taxil drew the bottle from the hole. "Gif it to me, and I vill open it."

Taxil handed him the bottle, and he gently drew the cork, and then inverted
the bottle over his hand and shook it. Of course nothing came out, for the tiny
roll of paper had long ago been consumed to ashes in Lea's bedroom fire.

"Mein Gott, it is gone!" said Hartog in an agitated whisper. "By tam, dere are
traitors in de camp! Now, vat is dat for a foul, dirty piece of treachery! No,
dere is noding dere," he continued, shaking the bottle still more vigorously.
"Now dot vill show you vat a scoundrel dat Renault is. No von else knew of de
place but him, and he has come and stolen it avay. Taxil, my poy, dis is
serious. Ve vill have to act sharp and prompt to-morrow, or you vill never get
your Lea, and I shall haf a bullet drough mine head. Are you sure you can trust
de men?"

"Every one of them," replied Taxil. "They can't stand Renault's discipline,
and they hate him for it, especially since he shot Gaston that day for
grumbling at the strictness of the rules. They say they might as well be sailor
slaves on board a man-of-war instead of free anarchists, as they ought to be.

"No, there won't be any difficulty with them, especially as I've promised them
plenty of plunder, and at least a village a week to sack and amuse themselves
in. That's the sort of life they want. They're sick of just stopping up in the
air and up here, and having all fighting and no fun. But we shall have to
polish Renault off pretty quickly in the morning, now that he's got the paper
back. By the way, I hope you've remembered what there was on it."

"Dere vas no fear of dat, my poy. You don't vant to show me figures twice for
me to remember dem; and, besides, I wrote it out again—not completely, 'cause I
had no chance, but enough to help me remember it—immediately after ve had
buried it. Anyhow, it is impossible for dose oder fellows to get it, and dat is
all ve vanted to take it for.

"Now, you had better bury de bottle again, so dat some von else can find de
choke out for demselves, for ven ve are gone, dose chaps vill be hunting all
ofer de valley for it. It is very sad, but dere is not von of dem dat can keep
fait' mit der oder. Dat is de vorst of dese common sort of anarchists."

"And I don't suppose you'll keep faith with me much longer than it suits your
purpose, you little pig," said Taxil to himself a few minutes later, when he
had buried the bottle and parted from his fellow-conspirator. "Well, Lea is
worth risking anything, even life itself, for, and I'll do it; but when I once
get hold of the secret, I'll take care that that dirty little German doesn't
have the chance to make much use of it."

While Taxil was indulging in this soliloquy, Hartog, stealing furtively on his
way back to bed, was communing with himself after very much the same style.

"Dat is a goot, useful boy," he muttered under his breath as he slunk along.
"And he vill be serviceable to me just for de present in vorking out vat de
vorld vill soon call de tragic fate of Max Renault, der anarchist. By tam, vat
a grim sort of joke dat vill be! I vill teach him to svindle me, and lay blots
for my life, to shoot me and sling me into de sea as if I vas von of dem
Utopians instead of a goot anarchist, who got all de money for him and made his
engines and air-ships.

"Ach Himmel, vat is dat for ingratitude! De man has no soul at all who could
do dat to his friendt. But I vill show him who has de longest head in de long
run. Ven he buys me for a fool, he vill just lose his money. Dere is not going
to be any king of der air but Franz Hartog, I can tell him. Dat vas a very nice
little scheme vat he had to put me out of de vay so conveniently, but ve shall
see, Monsieur Max, ve shall see!"

Despite the plots and counter-plots which were thus working underneath the
surface of everyday life in the anarchists' camp, so cunningly were all the
parts played, that the company of the Revanche took their places as quietly,
with just the same appearance of friendliness as ever; and as she rose into the
air, shortly before daybreak, hats were waved and cheers followed her, just as
though, instead of a cargo of hate and jealousy and murderous designs, she
carried the hearty goodwill of the whole anarchist community.

XXXVIII. MUTINY

THE deceptive peace that reigned on board the Revanche was maintained
unbroken, as though by common consent, until a couple of hours after sunrise,
when the air-ship was flying northwards at a speed of eighty miles an hour,
some three thousand feet over the Bay of Biscay.

Renault, Hartog, Taxil, and the two girls had breakfasted together in perfect
apparent cordiality, discussing the plans of the immediate future, as though
they honestly meant to act together for the rest of their lives, instead of
being resolved each upon the other's destruction or captivity and wholesale
treachery to their followers. Anarchy, as Renault had said to Lea, was about to
produce its logical and only possible result. Armed with the means, if not of
conquering, at least of terrorising the whole earth, the inherent viciousness
of their principles, by making it impossible for the anarchists to trust each
other with authority and confidence, was about to turn their weapons against
each other, and save society by their mutual destruction.

The dream which the arch-anarchist had dreamed while crossing the Pacific in
the stolen Vengeur had been fulfilled almost to the letter. His name was a word
of terror from one end of Europe to the other, and also, in a lesser degree,
over those other areas of civilisation which had learned of his exploits, and
waited in fear and trembling to see which of them he would attack first. And
now, at the very floodtide of his power and success, he saw himself confronted,
as he had foreseen, by treachery and mutiny in his own camp, and on board his
own flag-ship.

The desperate resolve that he had taken was really the only reply that he
could make to the threat. To save himself and the crew that he believed
faithful to his fortunes, it was necessary to sacrifice every one else in the
camp, and perhaps to destroy with his own guns, the fleet on which so much
labour and so much treasure, bought with the blood of thousands of ruthlessly
slaughtered victims, had been spent. But to all this he scarcely gave a
thought. He had decided on his course of action, and he was one of those men
who never make two decisions. Characteristically, too, he depended solely upon
himself to execute his own unspoken sentence upon Hartog. As he rose from the
breakfast table in the saloon, he said-

"Taxil, will you go and relieve François in the conning-tower, and leave
Duprez in charge of the engines; then come back and bring the other fellows
with you? I want to tell them something that I think it will interest them to
hear. I believe there have been some complaints lately about our not taking our
comrades sufficiently into our confidence, and it won't do to have any
misunderstandings of that sort in work like ours. We'd better get this one
cleared up as soon as possible."

"Very well," said Taxil. "I'll have them here in a minute." And with that he
left the saloon.

"I fink dat is a very vise measure on your part, Monsieur Max," said Hartog,
beaming at him through his spectacles with an expression of the most absolutely
unsuspecting innocence. "Dere is noding so dangerous as misunderstandings among
people like us, aldough I really can't see vy dese fellows cannot follow mit
perfect confidence—especially ven dey haf been led as perfectly as you haf led
dem."

"With your very able assistance, friend Franz," interrupted Renault, with a
smile, as Taxil re-entered the saloon, followed by six of the crew.

Taxil and a stalwart Frenchman named Louis André, who acted as second officer,
came and stood beside Renault, while the others remained in a group behind
Hartog's chair. Then Renault continued, still with a smile on his lips-

"As you say, however, to people engaged in the desperate work that we have got
to do, there is nothing so dangerous as misunderstandings, and it was to clear
up one of them which might have had very serious consequences that I have
thought fit to call this informal little meeting; and, to begin with, I am
going to accuse you, Franz Hartog, before the officers and crew of the
Revanche, of treachery to the cause of anarchy and attempted mutiny in the
camp. If it had not been for the very great and, indeed, indispensable services
that you rendered to us at the beginning, I tell you frankly I would have shot
you as I shot Berthauld—on suspicion. As it is, you shall have the opportunity
of defending yourself, and if you can clear yourself, why-"

Renault's speech was never finished, for it ended in a choking, gurgling gasp,
and the sound of his body falling heavily to the floor of the saloon. Hartog
had heard his indictment without moving a muscle of his face, until he saw
Renault's hand moving toward the hilt of a pistol that rested in an open case
at his belt. Then he had nodded to Taxil and André.

Quick as thought, André, with all the skill of a practised garrotter, had
whipped a silk handkerchief round Renault's throat, drawn it tight, and then,
forcing his knee into the small of his back, flung him to the floor.

Taxil was on him in an instant, turned him over on his face, and tied his
elbows behind his back, before André loosed the suffocating pressure upon his
windpipe. Meanwhile, Franz had pulled out a pistol and covered the two girls,
saying, as he did so-

"Sit still, my tear young ladies; dere is no von vants to hurt you; but it
might be dangerous for you to move just now. Here, Leon, Mascoll, come and take
care of Madame Lea and Miss Sophie, but don't hurt dem unless it is necessary.
Now, friendts, Taxil and André, if you have got our late captain safely
secured, you may let him up to hear me finish his speech for him."

Everything had happened with such paralysing rapidity that Max had not been
able to make a single movement in self-defence; and the two girls were sitting
motionless with fear, each with the barrel of a pistol against the back of her
head, before either of them had very well realised what had happened.

As for Max, even after he had regained his breath, he still seemed too
stupefied by the utterly unexpected attack to grasp the astounding fact that
the crew, upon whose fidelity he would have staked his existence, had, without
the slightest warning, turned traitors to a man, and that the little German had
so completely outwitted him that, instead of being his victim, he was now his
master.

Hartog sat quietly grinning and enjoying his bewilderment; but by the time he
found his voice again, he had recovered both his senses and his courage, and,
casting a glance of unutterable contempt about him,—under which more than one
of the crew lowered his eyes in something like shame,—he said, as quietly as if
he had been issuing an order in working the ship-

"You miserable curs! And so it's for this that I made you masters of the air,
and put the world at your mercy? And it was for this," he went on, with a
glance of scornful hate at Hartog, "that I rescued you and your crew from the
bourgeois at Newcastle, when I might have left you to be hanged like the dogs
that you are. Well, I suppose I might have expected that from a German, but I
didn't think it of you, Taxil. Did you rescue me from Newgate only to turn
traitor just when we had the world at our mercy? You might just as well have
left me to hang as that."

"You had better hear what Hartog has to say before I answer that," said Taxil,
in a somewhat forced tone, and with a faint flush, as if of shame, on his face.

"Ja I vill do de talking," said Hartog, folding his arms on the table in front
of him and blinking angrily at Max through his spectacles. "Treachery, my late
friendt Renault, seems to pe a game dat two can play at, and it is because you
haf turned twice and trice traitor to de cause of anarchy and your own
comrades, dat dis little accident has happened to you. You had nodings but your
own suspicions of me, but I haf proofs against you.

"First, you stole de paper mit de formula of de fuel vich you had agreed to
leave, so dat if you got killed I could make more fuel for der oder ships. You
did dat so as to leave all de rest mit no fuel ven dey haf used up vat dey haf,
so den dey vould be helpless vile you took de Revanche away, and left dem to be
captured and killed by our enemies.

"After dat, you invited me to come mit you on board dis ship, so dat you could
trow me overboard, and keep de secret in your possession. Is not dat de case,
Taxil, and did not Sophie Vronsky tell you dat? And did ve not tell der oder
captains, and did ve not all resolve dat Max Renault had ceased to be a goot
anarchist, and had become a traitor and a tyrant?"

"Yes," said Taxil, who by this time had recovered his self-possession. "Sophie
told me of the plot against you, and I warned you, because I would not be a
party to such treachery for anyone's sake. Then I went with you to secure the
paper, and we found it stolen. We agreed with the other captains that this was
plain proof of treachery, and we decided that, as Max Renault had always
treated traitors, so he should be treated himself."

"And are you all agreed to dat?" said Hartog, looking round at the others.
"Vill you haf freedom of action according to de goot principles of anarchy, or
vill you haf a tyrant for your master who has already turned traitor?"

The men glanced at each other for a moment, and then at Max, who still stood
defiantly facing them between Taxil and André. Then one of them stepped forward
and spoke for the rest.

"We will have neither tyrants nor traitors," he said, with a scowl at Max.
"Comrade Renault has led us well, but we are satisfied that he has used his
ability to make us his servants instead of his free and equal comrades. That is
contrary to the principles of anarchy, and we will not have it."

The rest nodded, and then Max broke out, with a short, bitter laugh-

"Just so! You are too simple and too greedy to see that in work like ours one
must lead and the rest follow. Well, do as you like. I am not going to ask my
life of a lot of curs like you. The game's up, I suppose, as far as I'm
concerned, and it serves me right, because I trusted a woman with my secret,
and she, of course, trusted another.

"Cherchez la femme, as usual," he continued, with a half-scornful, half-
reproachful glance at Lea and Sophie, who sat and heard him with downcast heads
and burning cheeks. "I am not the first man who has trusted a woman to his
ruin, and I don't suppose I shall be the last. Well, you others, what are you
going to do with me? You may as well get it over quickly, and then go to
perdition your own way."

"Dere vill be blenty of time for us to get dere ven ve haf decided vich road
to take, Monsieur Max, and dere is no particular hurry about disposing of you.
Dere are a great many people in London who vill be glad to see you again, and I
haf been tinking dat you shall pay dem a visit to-night, out of consideration
for all you haf done—as you vere goot enough to say of me just before you meant
to pitch me into de Bay of Biscay. Ve vill not kill you ourselves; you shall
haf von chance for your life, and if you do not make de best of it, vell, den,
dat is your look-out. Now you will go to your cabin and be taken goot care of.
Take dose two girls avay too, and see dat dey don't get up to any mischief.
Keep dem in separate cabins for de present."

Neither Max nor either of the girls made the slightest resistance to what they
saw was inevitable. For the present, at any rate, they were entirely at the
mercy of Hartog and Taxil, and to resist now would merely be to subject
themselves to violence.

When Max was taken to his cabin, he was tied hand and foot, and then tied
again into the hammock in which he always slept while on board the Revanche.
André remained on guard over him, and at his first attempt to begin a
conversation, curtly told him to hold his tongue if he didn't want to be
gagged, so forced him to content himself with silence and his own bitter
reflections on the fearfully sudden change in his fortune, and the unknown fate
that was awaiting him in London. Lea and Sophie were simply locked in their
cabins, and there left,—likewise to their reflections,—while Hartog, Taxil, and
the rest arranged their plans for the immediate present.

Strange as it may seem, neither of the girls had difficulty in recovering
their equanimity, in spite of the shock that the scene in the saloon had been
to both of them. Mentally and morally they were not women in the best and
commonly accepted sense of the word. To begin with, they were criminals,
pitiless and unscrupulous, and therefore necessarily of a low moral caste, and
this was especially true of Lea.

Despite her extraordinary physical charms and a highly developed intellect,
she was little better than a beautiful animal, who used her beauty and the
power it gave her as the means of attainment to the given ends of the moment.
Of heart in the womanly sense of the word she had literally none. She had not,
and never had had, any real love for Max such as a true woman gives to her
lover or her husband.

She had given herself to him simply because she admired him physically and
mentally, and because she saw, or believed she saw, in him a man who would
enable her to satisfy at once her ambition and her genuine hatred of organised
society.

But now she saw him defeated in his aims and helpless at the mercy of his
enemies with very much the same feelings that a tigress might have seen her
lord and master lying mangled and dying under the claws of a stronger than he.
She would release him if she could, but more for the sake of continuing to
reign with him and of placing him under an obligation to her than of doing him
a purely personal service, and in one event, and one only, would she avenge him
if he was killed.

She had firmly resolved that any attempt to make her the slave or plaything of
any of the others whom he had ruled, and she had ruled through him, should be
fatal to the Revanche and her crew if she could make it so. Taxil she believed
to be in love with Sophie, so she feared nothing from him. Hartog she looked
upon with utter contempt, now not unmixed with dread and loathing; and as for
André and the rest of the crew, she regarded there as animals who might make
good servants when held properly in control. As masters any one of them would
have been unendurable, and if the worst came to the worst, she was quite
prepared to kill herself rather than be made the sport of their brutal passions.

She was still deep in such thoughts as these, and still vainly seeking for
some possible path out of the miserable position in which the last sudden turn
of fickle fortune had placed her, when she heard the bolt of the lock shoot
back. She looked up as the door opened, and saw Taxil come into the cabin and
shut the door behind him.

XXXIX. HARTOG'S REVENGE

WELL, M. Taxil, so you have at last deigned to visit one of your captives,"
she said, with just a suspicion of mockery in her tone, but still smiling not
unpleasantly, as he entered. "May I ask to what I am indebted for the
honour—for I suppose I am to consider it an honour—of your visit? Have you come
to tell me what decision the victors have come to with regard to the
disposition of the spoils?"

She was perfectly cool and collected now. Like all women of ready wit and self-
confidence, she had seen in his entrance a call to arms, to a battle of wits,
in which the victory would be not to physical strength or the advantage of
position, but rather to the arts of subtlety and persuasion. Taxil looked at
her as she spoke, flushed slightly, and hesitated for a moment before he
replied.

In that moment Lea saw that she had gained half the victory already. Taxil was
a younger man than Renault, and infinitely less skilled in those wiles of her
sex of which she was such a perfect mistress. He might be master of the air-
ship and Renault's fate, but in her eyes he was a boy, and at a glance she saw
that as such she could humour him. She waited for his answer, leaning back on
the sofa on which she was seated, and toying with a little bunch of trinkets
that hung from the watch-chain fastened to her belt.

As for Taxil, all his courage and the assurance of triumph seemed to have
deserted him the instant that he found himself alone with her. He had come
prepared, if necessary, to use threats, and even to proceed to violent
measures, to reduce her to submission, in case she objected to the change of
command in which the mutiny had resulted. He had been quite prepared, should
she prove refractory, to try the effects of imprisonment, if necessary
accompanied by short commons, to bring her to look favourably upon his suit;
but now that he actually stood in her presence, he felt that in some mysterious
fashion their positions had been reversed—that he had become the suitor and she
the mistress, to accept or reject as seemed best to her.

There was no time for him to argue with himself in order to convince himself
of the absurdity of this view. She sat there placidly waiting his reply to her
question, just as though he had been paying an afternoon call at her house in
Paris, rather than visiting one who was virtually his prisoner of war. He had
to say something, and that with the best grace he could.

"I have not come to tell you anything," he said at last in an awkward,
constrained voice. "But rather to ask something of you."

"And that is-?" She lifted her eyebrows for a moment, looked at him
inquiringly, and then dropped them again.

"That is—well, that is, of course, you must understand, Ma'm'zelle Lea, that
matters are now altogether changed on board the Revanche, and I at present have
the honour to stand where Max Renault stood before the discovery of his
treachery-"

"Through the treachery of others, and those whom he trusted most!" she
interrupted, with the mocking note in her voice a little more pronounced. "That
is what you were going on to say, I presume. Well, granted that, and what then?"

"What then? Why, this," he exclaimed, taking a couple of quick strides across
the cabin and throwing himself on one knee beside the sofa. "There was no
treachery on my part, whatever it may have seemed to you. It was only fidelity
to the Cause, for we had proved him traitor first; but even if there had been
treachery, surely you do not need to be told what would have made me turn
traitor if that had been possible."

"I?" she said, half lifting her eyelids and looking steadily at him from under
the dark long lashes. "I? What have I to understand? I should have thought that
that was a question you should have addressed to Sophie rather than to me.
Didn't you know that Max was perfectly agreeable to your making a match of it?"

"Sophie! Bah!" he exclaimed, taking hold of her hand and pressing it
passionately to his lips. "Do you think I would have done this for Sophie's
sake? No, Lea; whatever you may think of my temerity, I have been flying at
higher game than her. It is you that I want, that I have always wanted and
loved and hungered for ever since my eyes were first blessed with the vision of
your loveliness. It is you that I would ask to share with me the empire which,
for your sake, I would dare anything and do anything to conquer. Grant me my
prayer, and there is nothing on earth that you shall desire and not obtain if I
can give it you. Give me yourself, and, in exchange, I will give you the empire
of the world."

She had heard him to the end in silence. She had not even taken her hand away,
but suffered him to hold it and kiss it, as he had done, between his
passionately uttered sentences. Instinctively she contrasted this boyish
courtship of his with Max's masterful wooing in her boudoir in the Rue Vernet.
She saw at a glance how, if at all, she would be able to save herself from
becoming the victim of the violence which he certainly could use if he chose,
and possibly also of saving Max, who had by no means suffered by the momentary
comparison she had made between them.

"Ah, I see!" she said, with a lazy, indulgent smile. "It is a case of le roi
est mort, vive le roi, is it? You have dethroned Max, and you wish me to share
the throne with you as I did with him. But that is very cruel to poor Sophie,
you know, and not altogether flattering to me. You come to woo me as a
conqueror to a captive, and I may as well tell you that in such a guise your
suit is hopeless.

"Of course, I know that you have strength on your side, but I also know that I
have it in my power to put myself far beyond your reach if I even thought you
were going to use it. You see that ring on the hand you have been kissing with
such fervour? Well, that is such a ring as Lucrezia Borgia used to wear. Ah, so
you let go already, do you? Perhaps you are wise, but I could have killed you
with it some time ago if I had wanted to; and you must understand that I can
kill myself with it at any moment that I choose, and, further, that I will do
so the instant that you attempt to take any unfair advantage.

"No, don't say anything now, please, let me finish, and let us understand one
another clearly. I am not to be taken by assault, understand that once for all.
To what you have said I reply neither 'yes' nor 'no' for the present, because I
will give no answer except in perfect freedom. There is no reason that I can
see why I should not like you as well as Max, unless, of course, you take
deliberate steps to make me dislike you; but before you can expect any answer,
you must give me my freedom back—perfect freedom, mind, so far as the ship is
concerned. I must be free to come and go as I like, unwatched and uncontrolled;
and you must set Sophie free too, so that I may be with her if I choose."

"But Max," he objected, rising to his feet again; "you do not mean-"

"No," she said. "I see what you are going to say. I will promise not to
interfere with him. I see that it would be useless, even if he did not deserve
to be treated as a traitor. And, for the matter of that, I don't mind
confessing that he won me rather by force than persuasion, for I believe he
would have killed me if I had refused to come with him to the camp. Perhaps you
may win me more worthily; who knows? If you can, why, then you will, and
there's an end of it; but you will never do it while you are the master and I
am the captive."

"And I will never try to do so," he said, stepping backwards to the door and
throwing it open. "There, your door is open and you are free, and here is the
key of Sophie's cabin. Now I have accepted your terms. You will keep faith with
me, won't you?"

"Yes, I will," she said, getting up from the sofa and holding out her hand to
him. He took it as a courtier might have taken the hand of a queen, and as he
bent over it and kissed it, she said, " As you keep faith with me, so will I
keep it with you. As for the future—well, you know what the English say in
their proverb, 'Faint heart ne'er won fair lady yet.' And now, before you go, I
have a favour to ask you."

"It is granted before you ask it," he replied, looking up at her with a light
in his eyes and an expression on his face which told her how complete her
victory over him had been.

"Well, it is only this," she said: "I want you to put Max somewhere else and
let me share his cabin with Sophie. It is the biggest in the ship, you know,
and we shall be more comfortable there. You see, she is the only other woman on
board, and you can understand that I should like to be with her."

"Of course," he said. "There can be no objection to that. I will have him
moved at once, and in a few moments you can take possession. Au revoir!" And
with that he bowed himself out of the cabin, leaving the door open behind him.

The first use she made of her freedom was to go to Sophie's room and lock
herself in there. A quarter of an hour later, Taxil knocked at the door and
told her that Max's cabin was ready for them. She unlocked the door and went
out, followed by Sophie, who seemed to be crying bitterly, and went straight to
her new quarters.

"Now," she said to Sophie, as she locked the door behind her, "I will show you
how we can turn the tables on these traitors, and how you shall have all the
revenge that even a woman scorned can want. I am afraid there is no chance of
saving Max, for they will watch him closely, and the first attempt we made,
they would kill him, but we can avenge him and ourselves too. They won't watch
us, for that fool Taxil—I suppose you won't mind me calling him that now?—has
been pleased to fall in love with me, and when a man's in love, a woman can do
what she likes with him. He has promised me perfect freedom on board the ship,
and this is the first use I am going to make of it."

As she spoke, she took a little key from the bunch of trinkets at her belt and
knelt down before a little triangular cabinet fixed to the wall in one corner
of the cabin. She opened it, pulled out a drawer, and took a small bunch of
keys from it. Then she pulled up the thick rug which covered the floor of the
cabin and disclosed half a dozen slides in the floor, each of which had a
keyhole at the end. She unlocked one and pulled the slide back, disclosing a
cavity filled with a light reddish-grey powder.

"That," she said, "is one of the reservoirs for the reserve of the motor-
fuel, and this is the fuel itself. Now watch."

She thrust her hand down through the powder at the end of the compartment at
which she had unlocked it, groped about for a moment, and then took hold of
something and pulled. The powder immediately began to flow down through a hole,
and as it disappeared, she raked more and more of it over the hole with her
hand, until at last the compartment was empty.

"There goes a thousand miles of travelling power," she said. "Scattered
uselessly in the air! Now you must help me, Sophie, and we will get rid of the
lot before they suspect anything. I'll unlock the slides and you open them.
We'll have them all empty in ten minutes."

"I see," said Sophie, with a savage snap of her teeth. "You mean that if they
do give Max up to the English, as I suppose they mean to do, they shan't be
able to fly very far afterwards, and so they'll be in just the same plight as
the ships they have left behind at the camp."

"Exactly," said Lea, as she went on unlocking the slides and pulling them
open. "Max entrusted this secret to me, so that I could do this if anything
ever happened to him. Hartog can't make any more of the fuel without getting
fresh materials, and to get them he must either meet with the Pilgrim or go
back to the camp, and I don't think he'll dare to do that, for he has turned
traitor to both parties. Besides, he knows there's a large reserve on board
somewhere, though I don't think either he or Taxil knows that it's here, and if
they did, they'll come to look for it too late now."

While they talked, both girls worked hard shovelling the priceless powder out
through the holes at the bottoms of the reservoirs. At the speed at which the
air-ship was flying, it was drawn out by the strong draught and scattered
instantly and invisibly astern, and in less than half an hour all the six
reservoirs had been emptied, and the Revanche had been deprived of motive power
which would have carried her over a voyage of over six thousand miles.

Then the slides were drawn over and locked again, and everything in the cabin
replaced in order. At mid-day their lunch was brought to them by the man whose
turn it was to act for the day as steward, and just as they had finished, there
came a knock at the door. It opened, and Hartog came in, smiling and bowing,
with a ludicrous attempt at mock politeness.

"My tear young ladies," he said, stopping just inside the cabin and rubbing
his hands together with an air of intense satisfaction, "if you vill look out
of de vindow, you vill see dat ve are just coming ofer London, and if you vant
to see de last of our late captain, Max, you had better come up on deck, and
you shall see him. Dis vay, please, and don't lose any time, because ve are in
a hurry."

"Thanks, M. Hartog; but, if it is all the same to you, we would rather stop
here, I think," said Lea. "I suppose you mean to throw the poor fellow
overboard, and neither of us-"

"Oh no; I can assure you ve shall do noding of de kind," replied the German,
bowing again, and still rubbing his hands together. "Ve could not tink of
asking young ladies to look upon such a painful spectacle as dat. Ve are only
going to put him in a place of safety, and say `goot-bye' to him politely. I
can assure you you shall not see von hair of his head hurt, and I vould much
rader you come dan dat I should haf to send an escort for you."

"That means, I suppose," said Lea, "that if we don't come, you will fetch us
by force, in spite of what Taxil promised me?"

"Ja, dat is even so," said Hartog shortly, as he turned away and walked out of
the door.

"I suppose we must go, Sophie," said Lea. " It will be better than being
dragged out by that little brute and his men. Poor Max, I wonder what they are
going to do with him! It will be a miserable end for him, whatever it is, and
I'd give ten years of my life now to save him if I could; for, at any rate, he
is a man, and these others are only fools or brutes."

Her voice broke as she ceased speaking, her face was ashy pale, and her limbs
were trembling with apprehension and excitement now that the supreme moment in
the fate of the man who had been her lover had come. Sophie, as pale and
trembling as she was, nodded in reply, and put her arm through hers, and
together the two girls went on deck.

Their first glance round showed them that they were floating over Trafalgar
Square at a height of about eight hundred feet, the second showed them Max,
standing bound, gagged, and blindfolded, and with a noose of a rope round his
body under his arm-pits, by the low rail that ran round the deck. Two men stood
on either side of him and two others stood behind him holding the rope, and
Hartog was close beside him with an open knife in his hand. As they reached the
deck, Lea had made a sudden motion as though to run to Max, but Taxil stopped
her, whispering "No, for Heaven's sake don't go near him! If you do, you'll
only get hurt and do him no good. You'd have known nothing about it if it
hadn't been for that brute Hartog, but he would have you up to see what he is
going to do. If you don't want to look, shut your eyes, and trust to me to
settle with him afterwards."

But, do what they would, there was a horrible fascination about the scene
which forced them to look whether they would or no. The air-ship sank slowly
down towards the square, from which they could see the people hurrying as fast
as their legs could carry them, evidently in dread of a repetition of what had
happened after Max's rescue from Newgate. When she reached the level of the
capital of Nelson's Column, she stopped and swung slowly towards it, then she
rose a little, and hung exactly over it.

Hartog now cut the cords which bound Renault's hands and feet, saying as he
did so-

"Now, M. Max, it is time to say 'goot-bye.' Ven you touch ground, holdt on in
case you fall. You vill find yourself in a nice airy situation mit a good
extensive view. Here are some nice cigars and a box of snatches vitch I vill
put into your pocket in case you vant to smoke ven you haf got dat gag out of
your mouf. Now over mit him, boys, and if he kicks, knock him on de head to
keep him quiet, or else he might fall and hurt himself."

As he gave the word, Max was lifted bodily from the deck, and the next moment
hung suspended just over the flat surface of the capital of the column. In an
agony of fear and horror Lea leant over the side, and saw him lowered until his
feet touched the stone and his outspread arms caught the base of the figure.
Then the rope was cut. Hartog threw a piece of iron rod, round which was tied a
piece of paper, down into the square, and shouted once more-

"Goot-bye, M. Max. Take care of yourself, and give our compliments to the goot
people of London. Goot-bye!"

Then he stamped on the deck, and as the air-ship rose into the air and darted
away to the eastward, a mist floated before Lea's eyes, and with a faint cry of
"Max! Max!" she fell fainting into Taxil's arms.

XL. GAME TO THE LAST

RENAULT'S first action, as soon as he had satisfied himself that his feet were
resting on a solid foundation, was to take the bandage from his eyes. Although
he felt certain that such an enemy as Hartog would have taken very good care to
leave him in a position from which no escape was possible without the
intervention of a miracle, still, with that elementary instinct of self-
preservation which in such supreme moments rises superior to, and independent
of, all reasoning, he lifted the bandage very slowly from his eyes, for fear of
being dazzled and dazed, and so losing his footing by some involuntary movement.

He looked out under it as he raised it, and the first glimpse showed him where
he was. He was on the east side of the capital, and therefore facing Morley's
Hotel and Charing Cross, and far away over the roofs above which he stood he
could see the rapidly diminishing shape of the airship as she sped away into
the clouds. Moved by an irresistible impulse, he shook his fist at it and
mumbled an inarticulate curse on Hartog and her crew behind the gag which
filled his mouth. Then his old sang froid came back to him, and he sat himself
down deliberately with his back against the base on which the figure of Nelson
stands beside the coil of rope, and proceeded to untie the fastenings of the
gag.

"You treacherous little beast!" he said, as soon as his stiffened tongue and
jaws had recovered the faculty of speech. "You malicious, vindictive little
cur! What an ass I was not to let the Newcastle people stretch that worthless
little bull neck of yours as they wanted to! Why the deuce didn't you pitch me
overboard in the Bay of Biscay as I intended to pitch you, and have done with
it?

"That would have been too generous a way for you to treat an enemy, I suppose;
and yet, after all, I don't know—I must confess there's a sort of what the old
dramatists used to call `poetic justice' about it. As you said, the good people
of London had very good reason for wishing to see me again, and you've
certainly put me in a fairly conspicuous position.

"Oh yes, I thought so; the audience is beginning to collect for the spectacle.
Curious how times change, and men change with them! The last time I was in this
neighbourhood, the people couldn't get out of the way fast enough. They seemed
to look upon me as a sort of destroying pestilence, as I possibly was;
and—curse that treacherous, sausage-eating little pig, and the curs that turned
on me at the last moment!—if it hadn't been for them, I should be that still,
instead of playing an entirely new version of St. Simeon Stylites on the top of
Nelson's Column.

"Still, it is no use growling; the game is up, and if, as Byron says, the wolf
dies in silence, a good anarchist can meet his end with no less dignity, I
suppose. At any rate, when the end does come, I shall have the satisfaction of
knowing that I have sent a good few thousands of my enemies to perdition before
me. Yes, that was a glorious night when I left the heart of London burning
behind me, and they won't have repaired those ruins down yonder at Westminster
until a good time after they have settled accounts with me.

"Well now, I wonder how they are going to get me down. Obviously they must
either fetch me down or shoot me up here, unless I oblige them by jumping down.
I don't see how they could fetch me, because I wouldn't go. There isn't a man
in England plucky enough to climb up and fetch me down. I suppose they'd do
that by flying a kite over the column, like they do over mill chimneys, and
then hauling ropes and ladders up. Or perhaps they might build a scaffolding -
only that would be too much trouble, I should think, especially as I might
disappoint them by jumping off just as it was finished. It looks a nasty fall,
and those stones look most uncompromisingly hard; but still, I should never
feel the smash. According to all accounts, big falls are rather pleasant
experiences than otherwise.

"Ah, what has that policeman picked up down there? Looks like a bit of paper
tied to something. I daresay it's a message that that little pig Hartog threw
over to tell them I am here. Yes, that is evidently it. See how they're
pointing up. Ah, you brutes! you think you've got me now, don't you? And you
are looking forward to another little scene in Newgate Yard which will not be
interrupted by the appearance of an anarchist air-ship; but I can promise you
that that will never happen. You shall have something more tragic than that if
you have anything.

"Tonnerre! what a crowd, and what a sea of stupid, gaping, upturned faces! If
I could only have command of the Revanche now for ten minutes, they might burn
me alive or break me on the wheel afterwards. Wouldn't I scatter them in fine
style! And aren't they howling, too. It's a good job my aerial experiences have
given me a steady head, or I might lose it and fall down. But, bah! what a fool
I am! It will only be a few minutes or a few hours sooner, after all, and what
would that matter?

"Ah! a bullet. So you'd shoot me like a trapped wolf, would you, messieurs?
That was rather a bad shot. I think you have knocked a piece of Nelson's coat
away. I don't care to be shot, because I might only be wounded; so I think I'll
lie down for a bit. Yes, and I may as well have a smoke at the same time.
There, that's better; now they can't see me, and I can have one more smoke in
comfort, at any rate.

"I wonder what that little blackguard Franz is going to do? And, tonnerre de
Dieu! I never thought of that—I wonder whether poor Lea has remained faithful
and remembered what I told her about the reserves of fuel? Yes, she must have
done; she could never have joined those curs, and she's too clever and a good
deal too spiteful not to have played that little trick upon them, and if she
has, what a gorgeous swindle it will be for Hartog and the rest!

"There isn't an ounce of the stuff in the camp except what's on board the
other ships—I took very good care of that; and the Revanche will only have
about enough to travel a thousand miles with, and then—why, down she comes like
a balloon with the gas let out; and when that happens, I don't think I shall
have very much cause to envy either Franz or any of them. They'll be drowned
like so many rats in the sea; or, better still, they will have to drop on land,
and then—if they don't get torn to pieces by wild animals—they'll give a little
pleasant excitement to the whole of Europe, and then get strung up or shoved
under the guillotine, to the applause of a most appreciative audience.

"Yes, that would be a very comforting thought in my present position if only
poor Lea wasn't among them. It will be a miserable end for her to meet anyhow;
and yet, if I'd left her at the camp, it wouldn't have been much better, even
if it hadn't been much worse. Ah, well! I can't save her now, though, if I
could, and there was a ladder from here down into the middle of that gaping,
yelling crowd, that's longing to tear me limb from limb, I'd willingly walk
down if it would save her.

"Hullo! What's that they are bringing up Parliament Street from the Horse
Guards? A captive military balloon, as I am still alive. So that is your little
game is it, gentlemen? What a pity you haven't got one of the Syndicate's air-
ships here to fetch me off. I think you'd find it rather more useful than that
clumsy-looking thing.

"Yes, that's what it is; all right. There's the balloon, and there's the car
and the cart with the windlass and rope. I suppose they've been practising with
it in the Park. Really, that is quite a brilliant idea for the British War
Office, but I'll give them something a bit more brilliant than that before
they've finished the experiment.

"I wonder what sort of a fool they take me for. Let's see, have I got anything
in the way of a weapon about me? Yes. I'll be hanged if they haven't left me my
sheath knife! Good! Now, there won't be more than three men come up with it. I
wonder if I could manage to despatch them and then cut the rope before they
could wind it back to the earth. No! That won't do. They weave a couple of
strands of wire now in those ropes. I couldn't cut it even if I could kill the
fellows before they got it down, and even if I got clear away, I should have to
come down somewhere, or else get blown out to sea, and starve and go mad if I
didn't get drowned.

"No; I've had my fun, and I'll end the game here, and now. I don't care very
much for fame, but the world shall remember the way I went out of it as long as
anarchy itself is remembered. Yes, cheer away, my friends! You see they've got
it into position, and four brave men—volunteers, no doubt—are getting into the
car to come and pull a lonely and defenceless anarchist off the top of Nelson's
Column. A glorious exploit, but it will be more glorious before it's
finished—for me if not for you. It's a good job there isn't a breath of wind
stirring, even up here.

"Yes, it is rising perfectly straight. It will come to within about ten feet
of the capital, and then I suppose they'll throw out grappling irons and haul
it up close, and then they think there will be a bit of a fight. What a set of
fools! Here it comes. It's only about fifty feet away now, so here goes. I wish
to God I could live to see the end of the fun!"

The gigantic crowd which thronged, not only the square, but all the approaches
to it, was staring upwards with strained, fixed eyes, all concentrated on the
great mass of the balloon, which slowly rose in a vertical line from the wagon
containing the windlass up towards the capital, on which stood Max Renault,
alone and forsaken, and really at bay at last.

The spectators expected to see him dragged off the capital and into the car
and then brought down again. A strong guard of police and dragoons from the
Horse Guards kept a large open space round the waggon, and stood ready to
protect the prisoner from the infuriated multitude that was longing to tear him
limb from limb, but both mob and guard were destined to be disappointed in a
fashion at once as terrible as it was unexpected. As the top of the balloon
rose to within a dozen feet of the edge of the capital, they saw the figure of
their anticipated victim leap from where he stood down into the midst of the
swelling mass of inflated silk.

In the instant that he did so, they saw the sunlight flash upon something
bright that he held in his hand. Instinctively everyone grasped at least a
portion of his desperate intention, and a mighty roar of rage and horror rose
up simultaneously from tens of thousands of throats. Then there came silence, a
silence of speechless, breathless apprehension. Then those who thronged the
upper windows of the buildings round saw the knife flash to and fro through the
riven silk.

The knife dropped, and Max took something from his mouth and rubbed it on the
breast of his coat. Then came a spark of fire, a mighty rush of pale blue
flame, and then a frightful explosion. The balloon burst like a huge bubble in
a momentary mist of flame, and car and rope crashed down on to the waggon,
spattering it and all the pavement about it with the blood and mangled remains
of the four would-be captors and the victim who had destroyed them with
himself. And so, outwitting both the false friends who had betrayed him, and
the foes who would have taken him alive, died Max Renault—game to the last.

· · · · · ·

Twelve hours later the Revanche, far away over the North Sea, a little to the
northward of the Arctic Circle, was driving to the north-eastward before a
furious gale, blowing at a speed of over eighty miles an hour. For four hours
she had been flying against it, with the whole power of her engines
concentrated on the stern propellers, and at the end of that four hours Taxil
went to Hartog, who was steering in the conning-tower, and said-

"We have only a couple of hundredweight of the fuel left, and I have just been
to the reserve reservoirs in Max's cabin, and they're empty."

"Empty? Vat is dat you say? Mein Gott! den dere is treachery on board even
now!" Hartog almost screamed, half in passion and half in fear. "Max vould
never haf been such a fool as to come on a voyage like dis mit only fuel enough
for about two tousand miles on board her. Some von has emptied dose reservoirs,
and I believe it is dat defil of a girl who has done it. She is de only von who
can have known of dem besides you."

"Don't call Lea 'devil' in my hearing, please," said Taxil curtly, "or you and
I will quarrel. I don't believe Max would have told her about them, and if she
had known, she couldn't have opened them, for I took the keys from Max myself,
and they have never been out of my possession. It's no good shouting or calling
names. The question is, what are we to do? We are using all our power now, and
not making forty miles an hour headway. In three hours all the fuel will be
done, and then we shall just drop into the sea, for we are a good four hundred
miles from land anywhere. We must turn the power on to the fans, and keep her
afloat at any risk."

"But, Gottsdonnerwetter, man, don't you see vat dat means?" shouted Franz, who
was now almost in a frenzy of fear at the prospect he saw so clearly before
him. "Look here at dis chart. Ve are very little south of de Arctic Circle, and
dis infernal vind is blowing a hurricane. If ve stop de screws, ve shall go
north at someting like sixty miles an hour, and, by tam, if no von has found de
Pole yet, ve shall soon find it.

"Look, dere is der ice ahead of us. You see der ice-line on de chart. Ve cross
dat and ve are lost, unless dis infernal vind stops. Ve shall go drifting avay
over de ice-fields, and unless ve can keep afloat long enough to fly over der
oder side, ve shall come down vere no living man has ever been, and then you
vill have reason to see how fondt you are of your Lea, for, by tam, you vill
vant to eat her!"

The words were hardly out of his mouth before Taxil's knife leapt out of its
sheath, flashed for a moment before Franz's eyes, and then sank deep into his
breast. Almost without a groan he dropped to the floor of the conning- tower,
and as he did so, the fearful thought flashed across Taxil's mind that he had
killed the only man now left among the anarchists who possessed the secret of
the motor-fuel.

Almost mechanically he locked the steering-wheel, went into the engine- room,
turned the power of two engines on to the lifting fans, and slowed the centre
propeller down to half speed. Then he went back to the conning-tower, set the
air-ship's head across the storm, locked the wheel again, and went to Lea's
cabin to tell her what had happened.

When morning came, the Revanche was flying in the midst of a furious snowstorm
across a white, desolate wilderness, which could be dimly seen through the
thick-flying flakes. The power of the engines was visibly failing. Only a few
pounds of the precious fuel now remained. In a last despairing effort, Taxil
concentrated all the power left at his disposal upon the lifting fans,
determined to keep afloat over the icy grave that lay beneath them as long as
he could. But this was not for very long. The speed of the fans visibly
slackened, and slowly the Revanche began to sink down through the snow to the
awful silent wilderness in which her last voyage was to end.

"It's all over, I'm afraid, Lea," he said to her, as they stood shivering side
by side on deck. "We shan't be long before we meet the fate that I fear now we
have deserved."

"Deserved?" she cried, in a voice that came brokenly from between her
chattering teeth. "That you have deserved, you mean, you cowardly, treacherous
hound! If it hadn't been for you and your treachery, Max would still be in
command, and the Revanche would still be floating in triumph through the air.
You have given him over to his enemies, but, thank God, I've avenged him."

"You!" he gasped, clutching her arm in a savage grasp. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that I and Sophie emptied the reserve reservoirs. Do you think I was
going to let a wretched little cur like you reign in Renault's place? Not I—not
even to save myself from a fate like this. Now I have told you. Kill me if you
like!"

And as she spoke, the Revanche touched the snow-covered surface of the Polar
ice.

XLI. THE SYNDICATE PREPARES TO ACT

A FORTNIGHT after the last tragedy of Renault's life had been enacted in
Trafalgar Square, the War-Hawk and the Volante returned from their work of
exterminating the anarchists in the Southern hemisphere, and exploring their
stations and treasure-stores, under the guidance of Rene Berthauld. They
dropped to earth for a few minutes on Lundy Island, to learn the news of what
had happened in their absence, and to telegraph the hour of their arrival in
London to Mr. Maxim at the offices of the Syndicate.

Of course, the first news that was told them was the story of Renault's fate,
and as soon as Sir Harry heard it, he turned to Mr. Austen and Adams, who were
standing beside him, and said-

"Well, there's an end of that part of my undertaking, and I must confess that
it is a more dramatic one than I think I could have brought about myself, for I
must either have sent him into eternity out of a pitched battle, or else, if I
had caught him alive, I could only have handed him over to the law, to be hung
prosaically, like any commonplace murderer. I must own, too, that the exit he
made for himself was more worthy of him, for, wild beast as the fellow was,
there was something about his cold-blooded pluck and pitiless thoroughness that
even I can't help admiring."

"Yes," said Adams quietly. "If he had only been born five hundred years ago,
he would have probably been a shining light of chivalry, and one of the finest
soldiers of his time; and even now, if it hadn't been for that twist in his
intellect that made him an anarchist, he would have made about the ablest
dictator that a South American Republic could have wished for."

"If he hadn't devoted himself to politics," added Mr. Austen drily, "and risen
to the same position in France. Still, whatever he was, or might have been, the
world is very well rid of him. Now, I think we had better go on board again and
get off to London. We can read up the rest of the news en route from the
papers."

Three hours later, that is to say, about ten o'clock at night, the two air-
ships touched earth again in the middle of Hyde Park. Sir Harry, Mr. Austen,
Adams, Dr. Roberts, Violet, and Dora at once disembarked, taking with them two
of the War-Hawk's crew to carry Violet's invalid chair, and then the air-ships
immediately rose again and vanished into the darkness.

The party went straight to Sir Harry's town house in Grosvenor Place, where
they found the chairman of the Syndicate already awaiting them. Then the
directors forthwith shut themselves in the library to hold the meeting that had
been arranged by telegraph, while the two girls betook themselves to Violet's
sitting-room for a quiet chat until supper-time. Dr. Roberts, not being a
member of the Syndicate, and having, apparently, nothing particular to do,
vanished mysteriously. About half an hour later there came a knock at the door
of Violet's room, and as Dora cried "Come in," it opened, and the doctor
entered.

"I have brought a visitor for you, Miss Violet—someone who has come on rather
important business, so you must excuse the lateness of the hour." Then, before
she could reply, he threw the door wide open, and without any further
introduction, in walked Wyndham, not only alive, but as well and hearty as he
had ever looked in his life.

Dora controlled her astonishment with a success that was almost suspicious;
but Violet sat for a moment transfixed and rigid, with wide-staring eyes, and
her hands clutching the arms of her chair convulsively. Just as Wyndham was
running forward to her, the doctor stopped him, and said in a short, sharp tone-

"Wait-and you will see something!"

And so he did, for the next moment Violet's whole body seemed shaken by an
overpowering emotion; then, raising herself on her arms, she struggled to her
feet, and with a glad cry of-

"Bertie! Bertie! Then you are not dead after all!" tottered half-way across
the room and fell fainting into his arms.

It had been a risky experiment, but it had succeeded, as Doctor Roberts had
been confident it would when he arranged the sending of the false telegram to
Lundy which Violet had read in Utopia. The violent and unexpected emotional
shock had overcome the remaining nervous weakness that had been day by day
diminished by careful treatment and nursing, and under its stimulus the
interrupted nerve-connections had been restored, and the muscles of her lower
limbs once more placed under the control of her brain. Wyndham lifted her up
and laid her on the sofa, and in a very few minutes the doctor had brought her
back to consciousness.

"Now, see if you can stand up again," he said to her when she had swallowed a
fairly stiff glass of brandy and water.

"I think I can," she said, and then, giving one hand to him and another to
Wyndham, she raised herself slowly, but steadily, from the sofa, and stood once
more erect upon her feet.

"That will do," said the doctor. "Now sit down again, and don't over- exert
yourself, whatever you do. Come along, Miss Dora. You and I have nothing more
to do here. The case is now one which demands strictly private treatment, and
we can leave her with perfect safety in Lieutenant Wyndham's hands. You can
come back later on and bring her down to supper."

The meeting of the directors lasted an hour, and during that time Mr. Maxim
told them that the building of the fleet had progressed very satisfactorily,
and that within twenty-four hours a fleet of five-and-twenty vessels, not
counting the War-Hawk, the Volante, and the now repaired Vengeur, would be
ready to take the air, fully equipped for the assault on the anarchists'
stronghold at Mount Prieta.

"I quite agree with you, gentlemen," he said in concluding his report, "that
it will be much better to dispose of these scoundrels before we commence our
final undertaking. A fortnight ago—in fact, on the very day that Renault put an
end to himself—they abandoned their previous tactics, and, instead of operating
as a fleet and according to some definite plan of action, they scattered, and
every one of the ships seems to have gone off on a raiding expedition of her
own.

"For about a week they absolutely terrorised the Continent from end to end.
They set fire to towns and villages, slaughtered people by hundreds, and then
landed, armed to the teeth, and committed the most unheard-of crimes under
cover of their ships' guns. Then they suddenly disappeared, and for the last
five or six days no one has heard anything about them. The whole world has been
looking for them, for no one knew what country was to be attacked next, but so
far not a single ship has made her appearance again.

"Now, putting two and two together, it seems to me that there has been a
mutiny in the anarchist camp, the first result of which was the abandonment of
Renault on the top of Nelson's Column. No doubt they fought about the secret of
the fuel. Renault probably refused to give it up, and so in revenge they gave
him up to his enemies: Then, with what fuel they had left, they went on one
last burst of wickedness, and then retired to their camp, where I expect you
will find they have left their air-ships and scattered back to their old
haunts."

"That may be true of the majority of them," said Mr. Austen, "but I'm afraid
it is too good to be true of that scoundrel Hartog and the Revanche. This man
Berthauld has told us that he is an extremely clever chemist as well as
engineer, and, difficult and risky as the job would be, it is just possible
that be has got possession of some of the fuel and analysed it. If he has done
that, one can easily see why he should stir up a revolt against Renault, and
insure his being killed or executed, so as to be the only possessor of the
secret himself. At the same time, I confess that that doesn't square with the
fact that the Revanche herself has not reappeared."

"Another probability," suggested Adams, "is that some one else has killed
Hartog for just the same reason. I was quite sure that these scoundrels could
never stick together as long as one of them had a secret like that. The
proverbial apple of discord would be a mere nothing to it. However, I suppose
we shall find all that out before long. And now with regard to the war, Mr.
Maxim, how does that actually stand?"

"In this way," replied the chairman. "Thanks chiefly to the really wonderful
exploits of Lieutenant Wyndham in command of the Nautilus, and Renault's
destruction of the French and Russian fleets in the Baltic, France and Russia
have been thoroughly well thrashed at sea. England, of course, lost very
heavily as well; but public opinion woke the Admiralty up so thoroughly, that
wonderful progress has been made in refitting damaged ships and getting others
into commission that were nearly finished, so there is now an ample force to
guard the coast and put any attempted invasion out of the question. As for the
Russian squadron in the East, it is simply a thing of the past.

"On land, however, things seem to be going rather the other way. Germany is
hemmed in between France and Russia, and is getting decidedly the worst of it.
Italy has no money, and Austria seems afraid to begin; while, with the
exception of the ten thousand men that England threw into Antwerp before the
declaration of war,—thanks also to the Nautilus,—she is not able to do very
much to help Germany. There is a scheme on foot, however, for her to finance
Italy, which I believe is nearly completed, and if she does that, the war will
probably become general—that is to say, of course, if we allowed it, which, I
suppose," he added, with a smile, "you gentlemen of Utopia would not think of
for a moment."

"Certainly not," said both Adams and Mr. Austen in a breath.

"I thought so," continued Mr. Maxim. "Well, we shall be in a position to send
in the ultimatum the moment you come back from your expedition to Mount Prieta.
You know, of course, that the Russians have a fleet of navigable aerostats
similar to those which Renault destroyed over the Baltic, but I don't think
they'll give you any trouble, for they are huge clumsy things, and no use at
all for aerial fighting.

"Now, I think that's everything, except the terms of the ultimatum. I have got
a draft of it here which I'll read to you, and then we can make any alterations
that are necessary."

As he spoke, the chairman took a sheet of foolscap from his pocket, opened it,
and read as follows:—Offices of the Aerial Navigation Syndicate, Victoria
Street, Westminster S.W. (Date ) To His Imperial Majesty, The Emperor of the
Russias.

SIRE,-I have been instructed by the directors of the Syndicate to respectfully
inform your Majesty that unless all hostilities on sea and land on the part of
Russia and France cease within forty-eight hours of the receipt of this
ultimatum, and unless within a further period of forty-eight hours satisfactory
undertakings are entered into on the part of the said two nations to pay into
the Bank of England to the account of this Syndicate the sum of five hundred
millions (English pounds sterling) as war indemnity, the capitals and principal
cities of the two countries will be bombarded and destroyed, and all troops
remaining in the field will be dispersed by the aerial fleets of the Syndicate
without further notice. A note identical with this has been sent to the
President of the French Republic, and both have been despatched with the
knowledge and consent of Her Britannic Majesty's Government, with which the
forces at the disposal of the Syndicate will henceforth co-operate. In the hope
that your Majesty will appreciate the necessity of replying with as little
delay as possible, I have the honour to subscribe myself, Your Majesty's
obedient servant, HIRAM S. MAXIM (Chairman of the Aerial Navigation Syndicate).

"How do you think that meets the case?" he continued, laying the paper down on
the blotting-pad in front of him.

"Excellently, I should think," said Sir Harry. "Though I can imagine it won't
be very pleasant reading for His Majesty and M. le President. Still, I don't
think it contains anything unreasonable or over-stated. The indemnity from the
two countries is only half what Germany exacted from France in '71; and even if
we have to proceed to extremities, there will still be an enormous saving of
human life. Of course, they won't be able to hold out against it for a week,
especially if we work with the Germans and bring the Italian troops into the
field as well. I don't see that it wants any alteration as it stands; do you?"
he said, looking round at the others.

Everyone agreed with him, and the proceedings were terminated by a knock at
the door and the entrance of Violet, walking slowly, but steadily, with her
right arm through Lieutenant Wyndham's and her left through Dora's.

"Good evening, gentlemen!" she said, with a low laugh, as they all sprang to
their feet in sheer amazement. "We have come to tell you that supper is ready."

XLII. WOLVES AT BAY

THREE days after the meeting of the directors of the Syndicate at Sir Harry's
house in Grosvenor Place, soon after eight o'clock on a lovely summer morning,
the news ran like wildfire through London that a large fleet of air- ships
flying the Union Jack and another flag, on which were emblazoned in gold and
white background two winged hands grasping each other, had dropped to the
ground in the middle of Hyde Park.

Almost immediately ever-growing streams of people began to move towards the
Park. Omnibuses full of men going to the City converged instead towards the
Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner, and there were promptly emptied by common
consent. Business for the present was left to take care of itself, for rapidly
succeeding rumours filled the air, and it soon became known that the much-
abused and misunderstood Aerial Navigation Syndicate had been quietly and
skilfully working for the best all the time, and had at last emerged from its
secrecy and retirement with a fleet of air-ships powerful enough to meet the
still dreaded anarchists in their own element, and hunt them from the skies in
which they had too long reigned supreme.

What the immediate destination of the fleet was no one knew, and no one seemed
to care much to know. Everyone was satisfied for the time being to see the
aerial cruisers there, resting quietly on British soil and flying the British
flag. The chairman and directors of the Syndicate made, perforce, a triumphal
progress through the cheering throngs that lined the way from Grosvenor Place
to where the airships were lying, guarded by a strong body of police and
lancers, and when at last, at the firing of a gun, the whole fleet of twenty-
eight vessels rose at the same instant from the ground and soared away up into
the blue, cloudless sky, it was followed by such a roaring cheer of delighted
enthusiasm as London had never heard before.

At a height of a thousand feet the fleet separated into two squadrons, led by
the War-Hawk and the Volante, and then, with a parting salvo of aerial
artillery, they sped away to the southward, and in a few minutes were lost to
the admiring gaze of the almost frantically delighted populace.

A flight of five hours brought them in sight of the Central Cantabrian chain,
crowned by the rocky summit of Mount Prieta. Signals were now flown from the
two flagships, and the two squadrons separated, the one flying to the westward
and the other to the eastward, and rising in long upward curves until a height
of ten thousand feet had been reached. Then they converged again, with the
mountain between them.

A few minutes later, those on watch in their conning-towers could distinctly
make out with their glasses the dark oval of the gorge to the north of the
peak, in which Berthauld had told the leaders of the expedition they would find
the camp of the Outlaws of the Air. That his information had been accurate and
faithfully given very soon became manifest, for at the moment of their arrival
over the gorge, five airships rose out of it and attempted to scatter and
escape underneath them, but before they had flown a thousand yards, a
converging hail of shells and Maxim bullets was rained down upon them from
every ship in the two squadrons.

Three blew up and vanished in a brilliant outburst of flame, and with a shock
that shook the atmosphere, and the other two, riddled and crippled, dropped to
the earth like birds stricken on the wing, and were dashed to fragments on the
rocks beneath. Then the squadrons halted, poised over the gorge, at the bottom
of which about a score more airships could be seen resting. They waited for a
good ten minutes, but not one of these made an attempt to rise.

"Those fellows are helpless," said Mr. Maxim, who was standing in the conning-
tower of the Volante with Adams. "They've got no fuel, and they can't rise. You
may depend upon it that all the fuel they had left they put into those five
ships we've sent to glory. That was their forlorn hope, and they've been fools
enough to let us catch them like rats in a trap."

"Yes," said Adams, "I suppose that's it. They had no idea that anyone knew
anything about this place, and really, if it hadn't been for Berthauld, we
might have hunted the world over for years before we'd found it. Well, we must
clear them out of there now we have got them, but we mustn't destroy those
ships, they are too useful for that, and they are worth a fight to get hold of."

More signals were then exchanged between the flag-ships and the squadrons, and
presently the War-Hawk and the Volante, each accompanied by three ships, sank
slowly down towards the gorge, while the remainder kept guard in two great
semicircles above. When they were on a level with the encircling rocks, the six
ships ranged themselves three on either side, commanding the whole of the
valley with their shell guns and Maxims, while the War-Hawk and the Volante
sank down in the centre, and stopped a hundred feet from the ground, just clear
of their consorts' line of fire.

On one bank of the stream that ran down through the gorse stood an irregular
group of between forty and fifty half-starved and woebegone—looking wretches,
the last remnant of the lately terrible Outlaws of the Air. Mr. Maxim had been
correct in his opinion. The five air-ships that had been destroyed had
contained all that was left of the motor-fuel in the camp. All the men that
they would carry had crowded into them, ruthlessly shooting down those who had
disputed the last chance of escape with them, and whose corpses now lay
scattered about the space they had risen from.

But the fate of the five ships had apparently utterly demoralised those who
were left in the gorge, for when Sir Harry hailed them in French, and asked
them whether they preferred surrender or shooting down where they stood, they
threw up their unarmed hands, and one of them shouted back-

"Yes, we surrender, if you will give us our lives."

"I can't promise that," he replied. "All I can promise is a fair trial and
English justice."

"Will you promise to take us to England?"

"Yes, if you will surrender quietly, and if there is no treachery. If there is
any, not one of you shall escape alive. If a shot is fired, either from those
huts or the ships, you shall be shot down where you stand, every man of you.
Now, put your hands above your heads, and keep them there."

Every band went up as he spoke, and the two air-ships dropped to the ground,
one on either side of the group, so keeping the anarchists between the cross-
fire of six Maxims. Three men from each vessel landed, and, taking the
anarchists one by one, bound their arms behind them, the others being compelled
to keep their hands up until their turn came.

None of them made the slightest resistance, for they had chosen cunningly and
well. Resistance meant nothing but certain death; but English justice was an
unknown quantity, and might offer more than one loophole of escape to them, as
it had done to many others of their evil kind. As a matter of fact, it may as
well be said at once that a very clever Old Bailey barrister who was retained
for their defence, and actually paid with stolen money, made out the
impossibility of identification of the prisoners with those who had committed
depredations within the limits of English jurisdiction, so that everyone in
court, from the judge to the warders, felt certain that a verdict of "Guilty"
was almost impossible.

Of course, it was a moral certainty that they had manned the fleet which half
destroyed Newcastle, just as it was that they had committed the outrages that
had terrorised Europe; but moral certainty is one thing and legal certainty
another, and all that the judge in his summing-up could do was to dwell upon
the fact that they had been caught in the anarchist camp in possession of the
air-ships. Berthauld, unhappily, had been employed chiefly on the transport
Voyageur, and had not been present at the Newcastle tragedy, so that he was
unable to swear positively that the prisoners were there.

The case for the prosecution looked very weak when the judge had finished his
admirably impartial summing-up; but for once, at least, twelve jurymen declined
to be fooled by legal technicalities and forensic trickery. They did not even
leave the box; they consulted for two or three minutes, and then the foreman
stood up, and, in answer to the charge of the clerk as to whether they found
all or any of the prisoners guilty of murder and arson on the high seas or
within the limits of the British jurisdiction, he replied, to the relief and
delight of every one but the prisoners-

"We find them all guilty."

And so in due course Justice was done in spite of Law.

While the anarchists were being secured, two other ships landed in the gorge,
and a complete search was made of all the huts and air-ships for men or
explosives that might have been concealed with a view to treachery. Nothing,
however, was found except in the regular magazines of the air-ships, which were
nearly full. Hardly any food or drink was found in the camp—a fact which proved
that the outlaws had been reduced by the desertion of the Revanche almost to
extremity.

The captives were distributed amongst their own ships and those of the
Syndicate's squadron, and six hours after the first and only attack had been
made, the united fleets, now numbering forty-eight vessels, mounted into the
air in two divisions, and within six hours more the remnant of the Outlaws of
the Air had been safely lodged in Pentonville prison, under lock and key and a
special guard of military and police.

XLIII. THE ULTIMATUM

FOR a fortnight the directors and officers of the Syndicate were busily
engaged in refitting the captured vessels with new guns and stores, and getting
their new crews accustomed to them and their machinery, which was slightly
different to that which propelled their own ships.

This period was signalised by at least two important events. The first was the
unexpected appearance at dawn one morning, in Southampton Water, of the
Nautilus, which had sailed under sealed orders the day after the success of Dr.
Roberts' experiment. Behind her floated, peaceful and harmless at last, the
long-dreaded Destroyer, once the terror of the Atlantic, and now the latest
addition to the British Navy.

She had been sighted by a North German Lloyd boat chasing a French mail- ship
bound for Buenos Ayres, and reported. Lieutenant Wyndham found that his sealed
orders were to run her down and sink or capture her, whatever time it took to
do so. By a stroke of great good luck, he ran across her in three days, a
little south of the transatlantic track. The Destroyer at once gave chase, and
the Nautilus went about and ran for it, always keeping just five miles ahead,
until at last it dawned upon the pirates that the Destroyer had at last met a
vessel faster than herself.

This they knew could be nothing but the terrible Nautilus; and so, after
keeping the chase up all day, they doubled at nightfall and ran in the opposite
direction. But this was exactly what Wyndham had expected; and the Nautilus,
instead of being five miles away, as the pirates thought, was only three-
quarters of a mile, so that the moment she turned she was seen in the clear
summer night.

Then the searchlight of the Nautilus flashed out, and, after having wasted
nearly half of their rapidly diminishing stock of fuel, as Wyndham had intended
they should do, the pursuers became the pursued. Day dawned, and found the
remorseless Nautilus still travelling at exactly the same speed as her prey,
and exactly four miles astern of her.

All day the chase continued, the two vessels flying through the water at
nearly forty knots an hour; but towards evening the speed of the Destroyer
began to slacken. The Nautilus slowed down too, always keeping her four-mile
distance, until at length the last pound of fuel had been burned on board the
Destroyer, and she came to a dead stop.

This happened within about eighty miles of the steamship track between New
York and the Channel, and here Wyndham knew he would be certain to pick up a
British steamer on patrol duty, so, leaving the helpless Destroyer where she
lay, he ran north at full speed, flashing the private signal all the way, until
it was answered from a British war-ship, which he found to be the Ariadne, a
twenty-two knot cruiser on the Atlantic station.

He reported what he had done, gave exact directions as to the position of the
Destroyer, and then sped away to mount guard over her until the cruiser
arrived. When she at length did so, the pirates were given their choice between
being blown out of the water or surrender. They replied with a shot from their
forty-pounder, which drilled a clean hole through the cruiser's unarmoured
bows. Then Wyndham, training one of his guns, dropped a five-hundred-pound
dynamite cartridge, with a time-fuse attached, into the water about twenty
yards from the Destroyer.

It burst well under the surface, hurling up a gigantic mass of foaming water
high into the air, and this, falling back with frightful force, deluged the
pirate craft with tons of water, and left her helpless and half sinking, with
every man on board her either drowned or maimed. The hint proved quite
sufficient. The red flag came slowly down at last and a white one took its
place. Then the Ariadne lowered her pinnace, and the terror of the Atlantic was
ignominiously taken possession of without a struggle, to be towed back to
England in triumph by her captor.

The second event was the despatch of the ultimatum of the Aerial Navigation
Syndicate to the Tsar of Russia and the President of the French Republic at
noon on the day on which the whole fleet was pronounced fit for service. The
two copies were delivered simultaneously in Paris and St. Petersburg by air-
ships flying flags of truce.

The allotted forty-eight hours passed, and no answer came back. As the forty-
eighth struck, the two fleets of twenty-four vessels each, headed as before by
the War-Hawk and Volante, rose into the air from Hyde Park, and winged their
way, at a hundred miles an hour, the former to St. Petersburg and the latter to
Paris. Before the last extremities were resorted to, a second message was
delivered to each city, repeating the terms of the former, with the additional
intimation that the indemnity would be increased a hundred millions for every
day of delay, and that the bombardment would begin within an hour.

But before a quarter of the hour was up, both cities were in a state of utter
panic and disorder. The terrible experiences, still fresh in the popular mind,
of what the anarchists had done under similar circumstances, made the mere
sight of the air-ships, circling slowly in small divisions over the cities,
with their guns pointing downwards, ahead and astern, and the muzzles of the
Maxims peeping from the port holes in their broadsides, sufficient to drive the
inhabitants into a frenzy of fear which made it impossible for the authorities
to control them.

Vast throngs half mad with fear filled the streets and squares, besieging the
Government buildings, and demanding surrender on any terms, since absolutely
certain destruction was the only alternative to it. But the authorities in both
St. Petersburg and Paris could do nothing without the consent of the Tsar and
the President, and the Tsar was at Posen preparing for an advance on Berlin,
while the President was at Strassburg inspecting the now triumphant army of the
Rhine, which had driven the Germans out of Alsace and Lorraine.

Telegrams had been despatched to both on the first appearance of the air-
ships, and the reply to the one from Paris was received just as the hour was
expiring. Then a war balloon with a white flag flying from the car rose from
the garden of the Tuilleries; the Volante sank down to meet it, also flying a
white flag, and Adams had a brief interview with the general in command of the
city, who had ascended to meet him. The general informed him that the President
had communicated with the Tsar, and that both refused to comply with the demand
of the Syndicate. It was, therefore, impossible for Paris to make terms for
France.

"Very well," said Adams. "Then I will spare Paris for the present, as it is
helpless; but the President shall learn the cost of his refusal in Strassburg,
and if he then persists, Paris must prepare for its fate, for we are determined
to bring the war to an end at any price."

Three hours later, the fleet ranged itself in five divisions over the ancient
city of Strassburg, which was thronged with troops in the full flush of
victory. No warning was given this time, for it had already been telegraphed
from Paris. The moment the ships were in position, the work of death began.

It was short, sharp, and terrible. The streets were swept with incessant
storms of Maxim bullets, and shells began bursting in fifty parts of the city
at once. The airships flew to and fro far beyond the range of terrestrial
weapons, and in an hour the city lay little better than one vast shambles under
the hurricane of death and destruction that had swept over it. At the end of an
hour a white flag was hauled up the spire of the cathedral, and the firing
instantly ceased.

The Volante descended, and when she rose again, half an hour after, Adams had
in his pocket the written consent of the President to an armistice of ten days
between France and Britain, during which terms of peace were to be arranged. He
then took his fleet back to London, replenished his fuel and ammunition, and
the next morning he was far on his way to Posen and St. Petersburg, to form a
junction with the other fleets, in case the Tsar had not consented to the terms
accepted by his ally.

At Posen he found the whole Russian force, amounting to more than a million
and a half of men, beginning the advance on Berlin under cover of a fleet of a
hundred aerostats similar to those which Renault bad destroyed over the Baltic.
He took in the situation at a glance, and at once flew the signal to engage.

It was in vain that the huge, slow-moving aerostats tried first to cope with,
and then to escape from, the agile cruisers of the air. One after another they
were blown up by the shells, or sent, riddled and crippled, to the earth. When
half of them had been destroyed, the second division of the Syndicate's fleet
appeared on the scene of action from St. Petersburg, which had been spared as
Paris had been, and for the same reasons.

The combined squadrons made very short work of the remainder, and as the last
one vanished in a mist of flame, a message was dropped to the earth, calling
upon the Tsar, who had watched the destruction of his aerial fleet in impotent
rage, to stop his advance, and accept the same terms that France had accepted.
If within half an hour a white flag in token of consent was not upon his
headquarters, the forces of the Syndicate would co-operate with the British and
German armies before Berlin, and a hundred millions a day would be added to the
indemnity until he surrendered. If in despite of this the war was prolonged for
more than a week, his headquarters would be destroyed and himself put to death.

The half-hour passed and no white flag appeared; so, without firing another
shot, the two squadrons turned westward in the direction of Berlin, and the
same evening formed a junction with the allied British and German forces. Three
days later, the final battle of the war was fought. Although the Russians
considerably out-numbered the allies, the loss of the aerostats on the one
side, and the presence of the air-ships on the other, made the issue a foregone
conclusion from the first.

The Voyageur and two other air-ships had been constantly employed bringing
fresh fuel and ammunition from London, and so the fleet was able to go fully
equipped into the fight. Before their first assault had lasted half an hour,
the Russian commanders found it utterly impossible to keep even their best
troops steady under the rain of shells, bombs, and machine-gun bullets that was
hurled upon them from the sky. Wherever a bomb or a shell burst, they broke and
ran like so many sheep.

The British and German commanders were kept constantly informed of the
position of the Russian forces and the havoc that was being wrought upon them,
and when the confusion in the Russian ranks was at its height, the allied
armies advanced in perfect order upon their demoralised foes. To a battle
fought under such conditions there could be only one end. Five hours' fighting
saw the complete collapse of the Russian host. From an army it had become a
rabble.

A retreat was attempted soon after nightfall, but the searchlights of the air-
ships flashed clown upon them from the clouds, making their every movement
plain to their pursuers, and after a night of indescribable carnage and
destruction, the Tsar at last surrendered his sword to the German Emperor and
accepted terms of peace.

By the expiration of the ten days' armistice these terms were finally settled.
France gave up the whole of her African possessions and spheres of influence to
Britain and Germany, evacuated Madagascar and Siam, and gave guarantees for the
payment of three hundred millions of war indemnity. Russia withdrew all her
pretensions in Central Asia south of the 40th parallel of north latitude, the
crossing of which, on any pretence, by her troops or allies, was to be for ever
considered as a declaration of war.

The Tsar's obstinacy, or his ignorance of the power at the disposal of the
Aerial Navigation Syndicate, had increased the Russian indemnity to six hundred
millions. Thus eight hundred and fifty millions were practically at the
disposal of the directors of the Syndicate, whose original capital had been a
million sterling. Two hundred millions each were given to Britain and Germany
to cover the expenses of the war, and the remainder was divided equally among
the original subscribers to the Syndicate.

EPILOGUE.

THE NEW UTOPIA.

A YEAR after the signature of the final terms of peace, a new state came into
existence and took its place among the powers of the world. This was the State
of Oceana, and its jurisdiction extended over all the islands included within
the vast parallelogram enclosed by the 30th parallels of north and south
latitude and the 120th and 160th meridian of east and west longitude. A glance
at the map will show that this includes nearly all those myriads of lovely
islands which gem the bosom of the Central and Southern Pacific, and that is
equivalent to understanding that the State of Oceana was beyond all comparison
the most beautiful realm on earth.

Although it was in every sense a sovereign State, free and independent of all
control or interference on the part of other empires of the world, it was yet
entirely unique among them, in consequence of the fact that it was without
government, politics, or laws in the ordinary acceptation of the terms. It was
managed simply as a huge business concern, and its managers were the directors
of what had lately been known as the Aerial Navigation Syndicate.

The various islands had been acquired either by treaty or cession under the
terms of peace, or else by purchase. The rights of the native inhabitants,
which had been sorely infringed both materially and morally under the alleged
"Protectorates" of the powers which had exploited them chiefly for their own
benefit, were restored.

Absolute religious, social, and commercial freedom was proclaimed throughout
the whole area of Oceana, subject solely to two restrictions. The natives were
forbidden to make war on each other under any circumstances, and any trader or
other white person, whether a citizen of Oceana or not, convicted of giving or
selling alcohol in any shape to them was to be put to death, as experience had
clearly proved that to the Kanaka alcohol is poison.

Subject to this prohibition, the trading ships of all nations were admitted on
equal terms to the islands, but no war-ship was to be allowed to cross the
invisible lines that formed its frontiers on any pretence whatever. The penalty
for an attempt would be destruction, and all the nations of the world were
given to understand that the directors of Oceana not only would but could
enforce it, for they had at their disposal four aerial fleets numbering a
hundred vessels each, and the powers of the earth did not need telling, after
what had happened in the war, that this was a force capable of dominating the
whole world were the policy of the directors to change from one of peace to one
of aggression.

Such was the outcome attained, as we have seen, through many and strange
adventures and vicissitudes, by the little social colony which had first been
conceived in the brain of Edward Adams, and discussed and matured by the modest
and obscure society which had called itself the Brotherhood of the Better Life.

Although Oceana possessed neither capital nor seat of government, yet all
those who had been chiefly instrumental in achieving its greatness naturally
returned to their lovely home in Utopia, there to continue the tranquil and
natural existence which had been so rudely interrupted by the involuntary visit
of the Calypso three years before. Only one or two changes had been made
manifest when the colony once more settled down in its old home, and the nature
of two at least of them may be guessed from the few lines that now remain to be
written. It was New Year's Day 1901, and the first day of the new century was
being celebrated in Utopia as the second anniversary of the foundation of the
State of Oceana. Almost exactly such another picnic as had taken place on the
fatal first of January two years before was being held on the slopes of Mount
Plato, and just before sunset Violet and Dora were standing almost exactly
where Dora and the rest had stood at the terrible moment when they saw the
airship rising above the crater of Mount Orient. They had both been gazing for
a little space in silence at the dark oval of the crater, when Dora said-

"Whenever I think of all that has passed since then and now, I always think
also how little people know who say that the age of miracles is past. Who would
have thought then that within two years you would be standing here, well and
strong, and the wife of the Lord High Admiral of the Aerial Fleets of Oceana?"

"Or," said Violet, slipping her arm through Dora's, "that a certain fair
socialist would so soon have been transformed into a millionairess, the Lady
Bountiful of broad lands in capitalist England, and the wife of a baronet who
might be a duke if he liked. I think there is quite as much miracle in that,
your ladyship."

"If you ever use that horrid term of addragain," said Dora, disengaging her
arm and stepping back a pace, "I'll never rest until I've worried Harry into
going to England and using the whole weight and influence of the State of
Oceana in persuading the Queen into making your admiral a duke at the very
least—and then I'll call you 'Your Grace' every time I meet you. Now come away
back to the others, for every moment it grows darker, I seem to see the shape
of that awful air-ship growing out of the darkness over yonder."

"Don't," said Violet, with a shudder, putting her arm round Dora's waist and
turning her away.

And with that they turned their backs on the darkening crater, and went down
to the mountain side with the full glow of the tropical sunset shining in their
eyes, and lighting up two faces as fair as any that that day's sun had shone
upon.

THE END