Part 6 out of 6
is Helen Wotton?"
They did not know.
"Then where is Ostrog? I must see Ostrog
forthwith. He has disobeyed me. I have come back to
take things out of his hands." Without waiting for
Asano, he went straight across the place, ascended the
steps at the further end, and, pulling the curtain aside,
found himself facing the perpetually labouring Titan.
The hall was empty. Its appearance had changed
very greatly since his first sight of it. It had suffered
serious injury in the violent struggle of the first
outbreak. On the right hand side of the great figure the
upper half of the wall had been torn away for nearly
two hundred feet of its length, and a sheet of the same
glassy film that had enclosed Graham at his awakening
had been drawn across the gap. This deadened, but
did not altogether exclude the roar of the people outside.
"Wards! Wards! Wards!" they seemed to
be saying. Through it there were visible the beams
and supports of metal scaffoldings that rose and fell
according to the requirements of a great crowd of
workmen. An idle building machine, with lank arms
of red painted metal that caught the still plastic blocks
of mineral paste and swung them neatly into position,
stretched gauntly across this green tinted picture. On
it were still a number of workmen staring at the crowd
below. For a moment he stood regarding these
things, and Asano overtook him.
"Ostrog," said Asano, "will be in the small offices
beyond there." The little man looked livid now and
his eyes searched Graham's face.
They had scarcely advanced ten paces from the
curtain before a little panel to the left of the Atlas
rolled up, and Ostrog, accompanied by Lincoln and
followed by two black and yellow clad negroes,
appeared crossing the remote corner of the hall,
towards a second panel that was raised and open.
"Ostrog," shouted Graham, and at the sound of his
voice the little party turned astonished.
Ostrog said something to Lincoln and advanced
Graham was the first to speak. His voice was loud
and dictatorial. "What is this I hear?" he asked.
"Are you bringing negroes here -- to keep the people
"It is none too soon," said Ostrog. "They have
been getting out of hand more and more, since the
revolt. I under-estimated --"
"Do you mean that these infernal negroes are on
"On the way. As it is, you have seen the people --
"No wonder! But -- after what was said. You
have taken too much on yourself, Ostrog."
Ostrog said nothing, but drew nearer.
"These negroes must not come to London," said
Graham. "I am Master and they shall not come."
Ostrog glanced at Lincoln, who at once came
towards them with his two attendants close behind
him. "Why not?" asked Ostrog.
"White men must be mastered by white men.
"The negroes are only an instrument."
"But that is not the question. I am the Master. I
mean to be the Master. And I tell you these negroes
shall not come."
"The people --"
"I believe in the people."
"Because you are an anachronism. You are a man
out of the Past -- an accident. You are Owner
perhaps of half the property in the world. But you are
not Master. You do not know enough to be Master."
He glanced at Lincoln again. "I know now what
you think -- I can guess something of what you mean
to do. Even now it is not too late to warn you. You
dream of human equality -- of a socialistic order --
you have all those worn-out dreams of the nineteenth
century fresh and vivid in your mind, and you would
rule this age that you do not understand."
"Listen!" said Graham. "You can hear it -- a
sound like the sea. Not voices -- but a voice. Do
you altogether understand?"
"We taught them that," said Ostrog.
"Perhaps. Can you teach them to forget it? But
enough of this! These negroes must not come."
There was a pause and Ostrog looked him in the
"They will," he said.
"I forbid it," said Graham.
"They have started."
"I will not have it."
"No," said Ostrog. "Sorry as I am to follow the
method of the Council -- . For your own good --
you must not side with disorder. And now that
you are here -- . It was kind of you to come here."
Lincoln laid his hand on Graham's shoulder.
Abruptly Graham realized the enormity of his blunder
in coming to the Council House. He turned towards
the curtains that separated the hall from the antechamber.
The clutching hand of Asano intervened.
In another moment Lincoln had grasped Graham's
He turned and struck at Lincoln's face, and incontinently
a negro had him by collar and arm. He
wrenched himself away, his sleeve tore noisily, and he
stumbled back, to be tripped by the other attendant.
Then he struck the ground heavily and he was staring
at the distant ceiling of the hall.
He shouted, rolled over, struggling fiercely, clutched
an attendant's leg and threw him headlong, and
struggled to his feet.
Lincoln appeared before him, went down heavily
again with a blow under the point of the jaw and lay
still. Graham made two strides, stumbled. And then
Ostrog's arm was round his neck, he was pulled over
backward, fell heavily, and his arms were pinned to the
ground. After a few violent efforts he ceased to
struggle and lay staring at Ostrog's heaving throat.
"You -- are -- a prisoner," panted Ostrog, exulting.
"You -- were rather a fool -- to come back."
Graham turned his head about and perceived
through the irregular green window in the walls of
the hall the men who had been working the building
cranes gesticulating excitedly to the people below them.
They had seen!
Ostrog followed his eyes and started. He shouted
something to Lincoln, but Lincoln did not move. A
bullet smashed among the mouldings above the Atlas
The two sheets of transparent matter that had been
stretched across this gap were rent, the edges of the
torn aperture darkened, curved, ran rapidly towards
the framework, and in a moment the Council chamber
stood open to the air. A chilly gust blew in by the
gap, bringing with it a war of voices from the ruinous
spaces without, an elvish babblement, "Save the
Master!" "What are they doing to the Master?"
"The Master is betrayed!"
And then he realised that Ostrog's attention was
distracted, that Ostrog's grip had relaxed, and,
wrenching his arms free, he struggled to his knees.
In another moment he had thrust Ostrog back, and
he was on one foot, his hand gripping Ostrog's throat,
and Ostrog's hands clutching the silk about his neck.
But now men were coming towards them from the
dais -- men whose intentions he misunderstood. He
had a glimpse of someone running in the distance
towards the curtains of the antechamber, and then
Ostrog had slipped from him and these newcomers
were upon him. To his infinite astonishment, they
seized him. They obeyed the shouts of Ostrog.
He was lugged a dozen yards before he realised that
they were not friends -- that they were dragging him
towards the open panel. When he saw this he pulled
back, he tried to fling himself down, he shouted for
help with all his strength. And this time there were
The grip upon his neck relaxed, and behold! in the
lower corner of the rent upon the wall, first one and
then a number of little black figures appeared shouting
and waving arms. They came leaping down from
the gap into the light gallery that had led to the Silent
Rooms. They ran along it, so near were they that
Graham could see the weapons in their hands, Then
Ostrog was shouting in his ear to the men who held
him, and once more he was struggling with all his
strength against their endeavours to thrust him towards
the opening that yawned to receive him. "They can't
come down," panted Ostrog. "They daren't fire.
It's all right." "We'll save him from them yet."
For long minutes as it seemed to Graham that
inglorious struggle continued. His clothes were rent
in a dozen places, he was covered in dust, one hand
had been trodden upon. He could hear the shouts of
his supporters, and once he heard shots. He could
feel his strength giving way, feel his efforts wild and
aimless. But no help came, and surely, irresistibly,
that black, yawning opening came nearer.
The pressure upon him relaxed and he struggled
up. He saw Ostrog's grey head receding and
perceived that he was no longer held. He turned about
and came full into a man in black. One of the green
weapons cracked close to him, a drift of pungent
smoke came into his face, and a steel blade flashed.
The huge chamber span about him.
He saw a man in pale blue stabbing one of the black
and yellow attendants not three yards from his face.
Then hands were upon him again.
He was being pulled in two, directions now. It
seemed as though people were shouting to him. He
wanted to understand and could not. Someone was
clutching about his thighs, he was being hoisted in
spite of his vigorous efforts. He understood suddenly,
he ceased to struggle. He was lifted up on men's
shoulders and carried away from that devouring panel.
Ten thousand throats were cheering.
He saw men in blue and black hurrying after the
retreating Ostrogites and firing. Lifted up, he saw
now across the whole expanse of the hall beneath the
Atlas image, saw that he was being carried towards
the raised platform in the centre of the place. The far
end of the hall was already full of people running
towards him. They were looking at him and cheering.
He became aware that a sort of body-guard
surrounded him. Active men about him shouted vague
orders. He saw close at hand the black moustached
man in yellow who had been among those who had
greeted him in the public theatre, shouting directions.
The hall was already densely packed with swaying
people, the little metal gallery sagged with a shouting
load, the curtains at the end had been torn away, and
the ante-chamber was revealed densely crowded. He
could scarcely make the man near him hear for the
tumult about them. "Where has Ostrog gone?" he
The man he questioned pointed over the heads
towards the lower panels about the hall on the side
opposite the gap. They stood open and armed men,
blue clad with black sashes, were running through them
and vanishing into the chambers and passages beyond.
It seemed to Graham that a sound of firing drifted
through the riot. He was carried in a staggering
curve across the great hall towards an opening beneath
He perceived men working with a sort of rude
discipline to keep the crowd off him, to make a space clear
about him. He passed out of the hall, and saw a
crude, new wall rising blankly before him topped by
blue sky. He was swung down to his feet; someone
gripped his arm and guided him. He found the man
in yellow close at hand. They were taking him up a
narrow stairway of brick, and close at hand rose the
great red painted masses, the cranes and levers and
the still engines of the big building machine.
He was at the top of the steps. He was hurried
across a narrow railed footway, and suddenly with a
vast shouting the amphitheatre of ruins opened again
before him. "The Master is with us! The Master!
The Master!" The shout swept athwart the lake of
faces like a wave, broke against the distant cliff of
ruins, and came back in a welter of cries. "The
Master is on our side!"
Graham perceived that he was no longer encompassed
by people, that he was standing upon a little
temporary platform of white metal, part of a flimsy
seeming scaffolding that laced about the great mass
of the Council House. Over all the huge expanse
of the ruins, swayed and eddied the shouting people;
and here and there the black banners of the revolutionary
societies ducked and swayed and formed rare
nuclei of organisation in the chaos. Up the steep
stairs of wall and scaffolding by which his rescuers
had reached the opening in the Atlas Chamber, clung
a solid crowd, and little energetic black figures
clinging to pillars and projections were strenuous to induce
these congested masses to stir. Behind him, at a
higher point on the scaffolding, a number of men
struggled upwards with the flapping folds of a huge
black standard. Through the yawning gap in the
walls below him he could look down upon the packed
attentive multitudes in the Hall of the Atlas. The
distant flying stages to the south came out bright and
vivid, brought nearer as it seemed by an unusual
translucency of the air. A solitary aeropile beat up
from the central stage as if to meet the coming
"What had become of Ostrog?" asked Graham, and
even as he spoke he saw that all eyes were turned
from him towards the crest of the Council House
building. He looked also in this direction of universal
attention. For a moment he saw nothing but the
jagged corner of a wall, hard and clear against the
sky. Then in the shadow he perceived the interior of
a room and recognised with a start the green and
white decorations of his former prison. And coming
quickly across this opened room and up to the very
verge of the cliff of the ruins came a little white clad
figure followed by two other smaller seeming figures
in black and yellow. He heard the man beside him
exclaim "Ostrog," and turned to ask a question. But
he never did, because of the startled exclamation of
another of those who were with him and a lank finger
suddenly pointing. He looked, and behold the
aeropile that had been rising from the flying stage
when last he had looked in that direction, was driving
towards them. The swift steady flight was still novel
enough to hold his attention.
Nearer it came, growing rapidly larger and larger,
until it had swept over the further edge of the ruins
and into view of the dense multitudes below. It
drooped across the space and rose and passed
overhead, rising to clear the mass of the Council House,
a filmy translucent shape with the solitary aeronaut
peering down through its ribs. It vanished beyond
the skyline of the ruins.
Graham transferred his attention to Ostrog. He
was signalling with his hands, and his attendants busy
breaking down the wall beside him. In another
moment the aeropile came into view again, a little
thing far away, coming round in a wide curve and
Then suddenly the man in yellow shouted: "What
are they doing? What are the people doing? Why
is Ostrog left there? Why is he not captured? They
will lift him -- the aeropile will lift him! Ah!"
The exclamation was echoed by a shout from the
ruins. The rattling sound of the green weapons
drifted across the intervening gulf to Graham, and,
looking down, he saw a number of black and yellow
uniforms running along one of the galleries that lay
open to the air below the promontory upon which
Ostrog stood. They fired as they ran at men unseen,
and then emerged a number of pale blue figures in
pursuit. These minute fighting figures had the oddest
effect; they seemed as they ran like little model
soldiers in a toy. This queer appearance of a
house cut open gave that struggle amidst furniture
and passages a quality of unreality. It was perhaps
two hundred yards away from him, and very nearly
fifty above the heads in the ruins below. The black
and yellow men ran into an open archway, and turned
and fired a volley. One of the blue pursuers striding
forward close to the edge, flung up his arms,
staggered sideways, seemed to Graham's sense to hang
over the edge for several seconds, and fell headlong
down. Graham saw him strike a projecting corner, fly
out, head over heels, head over heels, and vanish
behind the red arm of the building machine.
And then a shadow came between Graham and the
sun. He looked up and the sky was clear, but he
knew the aeropile had passed. Ostrog had vanished.
The man in yellow thrust before him, zealous and
perspiring, pointing and blatent.
"They are grounding!" cried the man in yellow.
"They are grounding. Tell the people to fire at him.
Tell them to fire at him!"
Graham could not understand. He heard loud
voices repeating these enigmatical orders.
Suddenly over the edge of the ruins he saw the prow
of the aeropile come gliding and stop with a jerk. In
a moment Graham understood that the thing had
grounded in order that Ostrog might escape by it.
He saw a blue haze climbing out of the gulf, perceived
that the people below him were now firing up at the
A man beside him cheered hoarsely, and he saw
that the blue rebels had gained the archway that had
been contested by the men in black and yellow a
moment before, and were running in a continual
stream along the open passage.
And suddenly the aeropile slipped over the edge of
the Council House and fell. It dropped, tilting at an
angle of forty-five degrees, and dropping so steeply
that it seemed to Graham, it seemed perhaps to most
of these below, that it could not possibly rise again.
It fell so closely past him that he could see Ostrog
clutching the guides of the seat, with his grey hair
streaming; see the white-faced aeronaut wrenching
over the lever that drove the engine along its guides.
He heard the apprehensive vague cry of innumerable
Graham clutched the railing before him and gasped.
The second seemed an age. The lower van of the
aeropile passed within an ace of touching the people,
who yelled and screamed and trampled one another
And then it rose.
For a moment it looked as if it could not possibly
clear the opposite cliff, and then that it could not
possibly clear the wind-wheel that rotated beyond.
And behold! it was clear and soaring, still heeling
sideways, upward, upward into the wind-swept sky.
The suspense of the moment gave place to a fury of
exasperation as the swarming people realised that
Ostrog had escaped them. With belated activity they
renewed their fire, until the rattling wove into a roar,
until the whole area became dim and blue and the air
pungent with the thin smoke of their weapons.
Too late! The aeropile dwindled smaller and
smaller, and curved about and swept gracefully
downward to the flying stage from which it had so lately
risen. Ostrog had escaped.
For a while a confused babblement arose from the
ruins, and then the universal attention came back to
Graham, perched high among the scaffolding. He
saw the faces of the people turned towards him, heard
their shouts at his rescue. From the throat of the
ways came the song of the revolt spreading like a
breeze across that swaying sea of men.
The little group of men about him shouted
congratulations on his escape. The man in yellow was
close to him, with a set face and shining eyes. And
the song was rising, louder and louder; tramp, tramp,
Slowly the realisation came of the full meaning of
these things to him, the perception of the swift change
in his position. Ostrog, who had stood beside him
whenever he had faced that shouting multitude before,
was beyond there -- the antagonist. There was no
one to rule for him any longer. Even the people
about him, the leaders and organisers of the multitude,
looked to see what he would do, looked to him to act,
awaited his orders. He was King indeed. His
puppet reign was at an end.
He was very intent to do the thing that was
expected of him. His nerves and muscles were quivering,
his mind was perhaps a little confused, but he
felt neither fear nor anger. His hand that had been
trodden upon throbbed and was hot. He was a little
nervous about his bearing. He knew he was not
afraid, but he was anxious not to seem afraid. In his
former life he had often been more excited in playing
games of skill. He was desirous of immediate action,
he knew he must not think too much in detail of the
huge complexity of the struggle about him lest he
should be paralysed by the sense of its intricacy.
Over there those square blue shapes, the flying stages,
meant Ostrog; against Ostrog he was fighting for the
WHILE THE AEROPLANES WERE COMING
For a time the Master of the Earth was not even
master of his own mind. Even his will seemed a will
not his own, his own acts surprised him and were but
a part of the confusion of strange experiences that
poured across his being. These things were definite,
the aeroplanes were coming, Helen Wotton had
warned the people of their coming, and he was Master
of the Earth. Each of these facts seemed struggling
for complete possession of his thoughts. They
protruded from a background of swarming halls, elevated
passages, rooms jammed with ward leaders in council
kinematograph and telephone rooms, and windows
looking out on a seething sea of marching men. The
man in yellow, and men whom he fancied were called
Ward Leaders, were either propelling him forward
or following him obediently; it was hard to tell.
Perhaps they were doing a little of both. Perhaps some
power unseen and unsuspected, propelled them all.
He was aware that he was going to make a proclamation
to the People of the Earth, aware of certain
grandiose phrases floating in his mind as the thing
he meant to say. Many little things happened, and
then he found himself with the man in yellow entering
a little room where this proclamation of his was to be
This room was grotesquely latter-day in its appointments.
In the centre was a bright oval lit by shaded
electric lights from above. The rest was in shadow,
and the double finely fitting doors through which he
came from the swarming Hall of the Atlas made the
place very still. The dead thud of these as they closed
behind him, the sudden cessation of the tumult in
which he had been living for hours, the quivering circle
of light, the whispers and quick noiseless movements
of vaguely visible attendants in the shadows, had
a strange effect upon Graham. The huge ears of a
phonographic mechanism gaped in a battery for his words,
the black eyes of great photographic cameras awaited
his beginning, beyond metal rods and coils glittered
dimly, and something whirled about with a droning
hum. He walked into the centre of the light, and his
shadow drew together black and sharp to a little blot
at his feet.
The vague shape of the thing he meant to say was
already in his mind. But this silence, this isolation,
the sudden withdrawal from that contagious crowd,
this silent audience of gaping, glaring machines had
not been in his anticipation. All his supports seemed
withdrawn together; he seemed to have dropped into
this suddenly, suddenly to have discovered himself. In
a moment he was changed. He found that he now
feared to be inadequate, he feared to be theatrical, he
feared the quality of his voice, the quality of his wit,
astonished, he turned to the man in yellow with a
propitiatory gesture. "For a moment," he said, "I must
wait. I did not think it would be like this. I must
think of the thing I have to say.
While he was still hesitating there came an agitated
messenger with news that the foremost aeroplanes were
passing over Arawan.
"Arawan?" he said." Where is that? But anyhow,
they are coming. They will be here. When?"
"Great God! In only a few hours. What news of
the flying stages?" he asked.
"The people of the south-west wards are ready."
He turned impatiently to the blank circles of the
"I suppose it must be a sort of speech. Would to
God I knew certainly the thing that should be said!
Aeroplanes at Arawan! They must have started
before the main fleet. And the people only ready!
Surely . . ."
"Oh! what does it matter whether I speak well or
ill?" he said, and felt the light grow brighter.
He had framed some vague sentence of democratic
sentiment when suddenly doubts overwhelmed him.
His belief in his heroic quality and calling he found had
altogether lost its assured conviction. The picture of
a little strutting futility in a windy waste of
incomprehensible destinies replaced it. Abruptly it was
perfectly clear to him that this revolt against Ostrog was
premature, foredoomed to failure, the impulse of
passionate inadequacy against inevitable things. He
thought of that swift flight of aeroplanes like the swoop
of Fate towards him. He was astonished that he could
have seen things in any other light. In that final
emergency he debated, thrust debate resolutely aside,
determined at all costs to go through with the thing
he had undertaken. And he could find no word to
begin. Even as he stood, awkward, hesitating, with
an indiscrete apology for his inability trembling on his
lips, came the noise of many people crying out, the
running to and fro of feet. "Wait," cried someone,
and a door opened. "She is coming," said the voices.
Graham turned, and the watching lights waned.
Through the open doorway he saw a slight grey
figure advancing across a spacious hall. His heart
leapt. It was Helen Wotton. Behind and about her
marched a riot of applause. The man in yellow came
out of the nearer shadows into the circle of light.
"This is the girl who told us what Ostrog had
dune," he said.
Her face was aflame, and the heavy coils of her
black hair fell about her shoulders. The folds of the
soft silk robe she wore streamed from her and floated
in the rhythm of her advance. She drew nearer and
nearer, and his heart was beating fast. All his doubts
were gone. The shadow of the doorway fell athwart
her face and she was near him. "You have not
betrayed us?" she cried. "You are with us?"
"Where have you been?" said Graham.
"At the office of the south-west wards. Until ten
minutes since I did not know you had returned. I
went to the office of the south-west wards to find the
Ward Leaders in order that they might tell the people."
"I came back so soon as I heard -- ."
"I knew," she cried, "knew you would be with us.
And it was I -- it was I that told them. They have
risen. All the world is rising. The people have
awakened. Thank God that I did not act in vain!
You are Master still."
"You told them" he said slowly, and he saw that in
spite of her steady eyes her lips trembled and her
throat rose and fell.
"I told them. I knew of the order. I was here.
I heard that the negroes were to come to London to
guard you and to keep the people down -- to keep
you a prisoner. And I stopped it. I came out and
told the people. And you are Master still."
Graham glanced at the black lenses of the cameras,
the vast listening ears, and back to her face. "I am
Master still," he said slowly, and the swift rush of a
fleet of aeroplanes passed across his thoughts.
"And you did this? You, who are the niece of
"For you," she cried. "For you! That you for
whom the world has waited should not be cheated of
Graham stood for a space, wordless, regarding her.
His doubts and questionings had fled before her
presence. He remembered the things that he had meant
to say. He faced the cameras again and the light
about him grew brighter. He turned again towards
"You have saved me," he said; "you have saved
my power. And the battle is beginning. God knows.
what this night will see -- but not dishonour."
He paused. He addressed himself to the unseen
multitudes who stared upon him through those
grotesque black eyes. At first he spoke slowly.
"Men and women of the new age," he said; "You
have arisen to do battle for the race. . . There
is no easy victory before us."
He stopped to gather words. The thoughts that
had been in his mind before she came returned, but
transfigured, no longer touched with the shadow of a
possible irrelevance. "This night is a beginning," he
cried. "This battle that is coming, this battle that
rushes upon us to-night, is only a beginning. All your
lives, it may be, you must fight. Take no thought
though I am beaten, though I am utterly overthrown."
He found the thing in his mind too vague for words.
He paused momentarily, and broke into vague
exhortations, and then a rush of speech came upon him.
Much that he said was but the humanitarian commonplace
of a vanished age, but the conviction of his voice
touched it to vitality. He stated the case of the old
days to the people of the new age, to the woman at
his side. "I come out of the past to you," he said,
"with the memory of an age that hoped. My age was
an age of dreams -- of beginnings, an age of noble
hopes; throughout the world we had made an end of
slavery; throughout the world we had spread the desire
and anticipation that wars might cease, that all men
and women might live nobly, in freedom and peace.
. . . So we hoped in the days that are past. And
what of those hopes? How is it with man after two
"Great cities, vast powers, a collective greatness
beyond our dreams. For that we did not work, and
that has come. But how is it with the little lives that
make up this greater life? How is it with the common
lives? As it has ever been -- sorrow and labour, lives
cramped and unfulfilled, lives tempted by power,
tempted by wealth, and gone to waste and folly. The
old faiths have faded and changed, the new faith -- .
Is there a new faith?"
Things that he had long wished to believe, he found
that he believed. He plunged at belief and seized it,
and clung for a time at her level. He spoke gustily,
in broken incomplete sentences, but with all his heart
and strength, of this new faith within him. He spoke
of the greatness of self-abnegation, of his belief in an
immortal life of Humanity in which we live and move
and have our being. His voice rose and fell, and the
recording appliances hummed their hurried applause,
dim attendants watched him out of the shadow.
Through all those doubtful places his sense of that
silent spectator beside him sustained his sincerity.
For a few glorious moments he was carried away; he
felt no doubt of his heroic quality, no doubt of his
heroic words, he had it all straight and plain. His
eloquence limped no longer. And at last he made an
end to speaking. "Here and now," he cried, "I make
my will. All that is mine in the world I give to the
people of the world. All that is mine in the world I
give to the people of the world. I give it to you, and
myself I give to you. And as God wills, I will live for
you, or I will die."
He ended with a florid gesture and turned about.
He found the light of his present exaltation reflected
in the face of the girl. Their eyes met; her eyes were
swimming with tears of enthusiasm. They seemed to
be urged towards each other. They clasped hands
and stood gripped, facing one another, in an eloquent
silence. She whispered. "I knew," she whispered.
"I knew." He could not speak, he crushed her hand
in his. His mind was the theatre of gigantic passions.
The man in yellow was beside them. Neither had
noted his coming. He was saying that the south-west
wards were marching. "I never expected it so soon,"
he cried. "They have done wonders. You must send
them a word to help them on their way."
Graham dropped Helen's hand and stared at him
absent-mindedly. Then with a start he returned to
his previous preoccupation about the flying stages.
"Yes," he said. "That is good, that is good." He
weighed a message. "Tell them; -- well done South
He turned his eyes to Helen Wotton again. His
face expressed his struggle between conflicting ideas.
"We must capture the flying stages," he explained.
"Unless we can do that they will land negroes. At all
costs we must prevent that."
He felt even as he spoke that this was not what had
been in his mind before the interruption. He saw a
touch of surprise in her eyes. She seemed about to
speak and a shrill bell drowned her voice.
It occurred to Graham that she expected him to lead
these marching people, that that was the thing he had
to do. He made the offer abruptly. He addressed
the man in yellow, but he spoke to her. He saw her
face respond. "Here I am doing nothing," he said.
"It is impossible," protested the man in yellow.
"It is a fight in a warren. Your place is here."
He explained elaborately. He motioned towards
the room where Graham must wait, he insisted no other
course was possible. "We must know where you
are," he said. "At any moment a crisis may arise
needing your presence and decision. "The room was
a luxurious little apartment with news machines and
a broken mirror that had once been en _rapport_ with the
crow's nest specula. It seemed a matter of course to
Graham that Helen should stop with him.
A picture had drifted through his mind of such a
vast dramatic struggle as the masses in the ruins had
suggested. But here was no spectacular battle-field
such as he imagined. Instead was seclusion -- and suspense.
It was only as the afternoon wore on that
he pieced together a truer picture of the fight that
was raging, inaudibly and invisibly, within four
miles of him, beneath the Roehampton stage. A
strange and unprecedented contest it was, a battle
that was a hundred thousand little battles, a battle
in a sponge of ways and channels, fought out
of sight of sky or sun under the electric glare,
fought out in a vast confusion by multitudes untrained
in arms, led chiefly by acclamation, multitudes
dulled by mindless labour and enervated by the
tradition of two hundred years of servile security
against multitudes demoralised by lives of venial privilege
and sensual indulgence. They had no artillery,
no differentiation into this force or that; the only
weapon on either side was the little green metal
carbine, whose secret manufacture and sudden
distribution in enormous quantities had been one of Ostrog's
culminating moves against the Council. Few had had
any experience with this weapon, many had never
discharged one, many who carried it came unprovided
with ammunition; never was wilder firing in the
history of warfare. It was a battle of amateurs, a
hideous experimental warfare, armed rioters fighting
armed rioters, armed rioters swept forward by the
words and fury of a song, by the tramping sympathy
of their numbers, pouring in countless myriads
towards the smaller ways, the disabled lifts, the
galleries slippery with blood, the halls and passages
choked with smoke, beneath the flying stages, to learn
there when retreat was hopeless the ancient mysteries
of warfare. And overhead save for a few sharpshooters
upon the roof spaces and for a few bands and
threads of vapour that multiplied and darkened towards
the evening, the day was a clear serenity. Ostrog it
seems had no bombs at command and in all the earlier
phases of the battle the aeropiles played no part. Not
the smallest cloud was there to break the empty
brilliance of the sky. It seemed as though it held itself
vacant until the aeroplanes should come.
Ever and again there was news of these, drawing
nearer, from this Mediterranean port and then that,
and presently from the south of France. But of the
new guns that Ostrog had made and which were known
to be in the city came no news in spite of Graham's
urgency, nor any report of successes from the dense
felt of fighting strands about the flying stages.
Section after section of the Labour Societies reported itself
assembled, reported itself marching, and vanished from
knowledge into the labyrinth of that warfare What
was happening there? Even the busy ward leaders did
not know. In spite of the opening and closing of
doors, the hasty messengers, the ringing of bells and
the perpetual clitter-clack of recording implements,
Graham felt isolated, strangely inactive, inoperative.
Their isolation seemed at times the strangest, the
most unexpected of all the things that had happened
since his awakening. It had something of the quality
of that inactivity that comes in dreams. A tumult, the
stupendous realisation of a world struggle between
Ostrog and himself, and then this confined quiet little
room with its mouthpieces and bells and broken
Now the door would be closed and they were alone
together; they seemed sharply marked off then from all
the unprecedented world storm that rushed together
without, vividly aware of one another, only concerned
with one another. Then the door would open again,
messengers would enter, or a sharp bell would stab
their quiet privacy, and it was like a window in a well
built brightly lit house flung open suddenly to a hurricane.
The dark hurry and tumult, the stress and
vehemence of the battle rushed in and overwhelmed
them. They were no longer persons but mere spectators,
mere impressions of a tremendous convulsion.
They became unreal even to themselves, miniatures of
personality, indescribably small, and the two antagonistic
realities, the only realities in being were first the
city, that throbbed and roared yonder in a belated
frenzy of defence and secondly the aeroplanes hurling
inexorably towards them over the round shoulder of
At first their mood had been one of exalted confidence,
a great pride had possessed them, a pride in
one another for the greatness of the issues they had
challenged. At first he had walked the room eloquent
with a transitory persuasion of his tremendous destiny.
But slowly uneasy intimations of their coming
defeat touched his spirit. There came a long period in
which they were alone. He changed his theme,
became egotistical, spoke of the wonder of his sleep, of
the little life of his memories, remote yet minute and
clear, like something seen through an inverted
opera-glass, and all the brief play of desires and errors that
had made his former life. She said little, but the emotion
in her face followed the tones in his voice, and it
seemed to him he had at last a perfect understanding.
He reverted from pure reminiscence to that sense of
greatness she imposed upon him. "And through it
all, this destiny was before me," he said; "this vast
inheritance of which I did not dream."
Insensibly their heroic preoccupation with the
revolutionary struggle passed to the question of their
relationship. He began to question her. She told him of
the days before his awakening, spoke with a brief
vividness of the girlish dreams that had given a bias
to her life, of the incredulous emotions his awakening
had aroused. She told him too of a tragic circumstance
of her girlhood that had darkened her life,
quickened her sense of injustice and opened her heart
prematurely to the wider sorrows of the world. For a
little time, so far as he was concerned, the great war
about them was but the vast ennobling background
to these personal things.
In an instant these personal relations were submerged.
There came messengers to tell that a great
fleet of aeroplanes was rushing between the sky and
Avignon. He went to the crystal dial in the corner
and assured himself that the thing was so. He went
to the chart room and consulted a map to measure the
distances of Avignon, New Arawan, and London. He
made swift calculations. He went to the room of the
Ward Leaders to ask for news of the fight for the
stages -- and there was no one there. After a time he
came back to her.
His face had changed. It had dawned upon him
that the struggle was perhaps more than half over,
that Ostrog was holding his own, that the arrival of
the aeroplanes would mean a panic that might leave
him helpless. A chance phrase in the message had
given him a glimpse of the reality that came. Each of
these soaring giants bore its thousand half savage
negroes to the death grapple of the city. Suddenly
his humanitarian enthusiasm showed flimsy. Only
two of the Ward Leaders were in their room, when
presently he repaired thither, the Hall of the Atlas
seemed empty. He fancied a change in the bearing
of the attendants in the outer rooms. A sombre
disillusionment darkened his mind. She looked at him
anxiously when he returned to her.
"No news," he said with an assumed carelessness
in answer to her eyes.
Then he was moved to frankness. "Or rather --
bad news. We are losing. We are gaining no ground
and the aeroplanes draw nearer and nearer."
He walked the length of the room and turned.
"Unless we can capture those flying stages in the
next hour -- there will be horrible things. We shall
"No!" she said. "We have justice -- we have the
people. We have God on our side."
"Ostrog has discipline -- he has plans. Do you
know, out there just now I felt -- . When I heard that
these aeroplanes were a stage nearer. I felt as if I
were fighting the machinery of fate."
She made no answer for a while. "We have done
right," she said at last.
He looked at her doubtfully. "We have done what
we could. But does this depend upon us? Is it not
an older sin, a wider sin?"
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"These blacks are savages, ruled by force, used as
force. And they have been under the rule of the
whites two hundred years. Is it not a race quarrel?
The race sinned -- the race pays."
"But these labourers, these poor people of
London -- !"
"Vicarious atonement. To stand wrong is to share
She looked keenly at him, astonished at the new
aspect he presented.
Without came the shrill ringing of a bell, the sound
of feet and the gabble of a phonographic message.
The man in yellow appeared. "Yes?" said Graham.
"They are at Vichy."
"Where are the attendants who were in the great
Hall of the Atlas?" asked Graham abruptly.
Presently the Babble Machine rang again. "We
may win yet," said the man in yellow, going out to it.
"If only we can find where Ostrog has hidden his
guns. Everything hangs on that now. Perhaps
Graham followed him. But the only news was of
the aeroplanes. They had reached Orleans.
Graham returned to Helen. "No news," he said
"And we can do nothing?"
He paced impatiently. Suddenly the swift anger
that was his nature swept upon him. "Curse this
complex world!" he cried, "and all the inventions of
men! That a man must die like a rat in a snare and
never see his foe! Oh, for one blow! . . ."
He turned with an abrupt change in his manner.
"That's nonsense," he said. "I am a savage."
He paced and stopped. "After all London and
Paris are only two cities. All the temperate zone has
risen. What if London is doomed and Paris
destroyed? These are but accidents. "Again came
the mockery of news to call him to fresh enquiries. He
returned with a graver face and sat down beside her.
"The end must be near," he said. "The people it
seems have fought and died in tens of thousands, the
ways about Roehampton must be like a smoked beehive.
And they have died in vain. They are still only
at the sub stage. The aeroplanes are near Paris.
Even were a gleam of success to come now, there
would be nothing to do, there would be no time to do
anything before they were upon us. The guns that
might have saved us are mislaid. Mislaid! Think of
the disorder of things! Think of this foolish tumult,
that cannot even find its weapons! Oh, for one
aeropile -- just one! For the want of that I am beaten.
Humanity is beaten and our cause is lost! My
kingship, my headlong foolish kingship will not last a
night. And I have egged on the people to fight -- ."
"They would have fought anyhow."
"I doubt it. I have come among them --"
"No," she cried," not that. If defeat comes -- if
you die -- . But even that cannot be, it cannot be,
after all these years."
"Ah! We have meant well. But -- do you indeed
believe -- ?"
"If they defeat you," she cried, "you have spoken.
Your word has gone like a great wind through the
world, fanning liberty into a flame. What if the flame
sputters a little! Nothing can change the spoken
word. Your message will have gone forth. .. ."
"To what end? It may be. It may be. You
know I said, when you told me of these things dear
God! but that was scarcely a score of hours ago! -- I
said that I had not your faith. Well -- at any rate
there is nothing to do now. . . ."
"You have not my faith! Do you mean -- ? You
"No," he said hurriedly, "no! Before God -- no!"
His voice changed. "But -- . I think -- I have been
indiscreet. I knew little -- I grasped too hastily.. .."
He paused. He was ashamed of this avowal.
"There is one thing that makes up for all. I have
known you. Across this gulf of time I have come to
you. The rest is done. It is done. With you, too,
it has been something more -- or something less --"
He paused with his face searching hers, and without
clamoured the unheeded message that the aeroplanes
were rising into the sky of Amiens.
She put her hand to her throat, and her lips were .
white. She stared before her as if she saw some
horrible possibility. Suddenly her features changed.
"Oh, but I have been honest!" she cried, and then,
"Have I been honest? I loved the world and freedom,
I hated cruelty and oppression. Surely it was
"Yes," he said, "yes. And we have done what it
lay in us to do. We have given our message, our
message! We have started Armageddon! But
now -- . Now that we have, it may be our last hour,
together, now that all these greater things are
done. . . ."
He stopped. She sat in silence. Her face was a
For a moment they heeded nothing of a sudden stir
outside, a running to and fro, and cries. Then
Helen started to an attitude of tense attention. "It
is -- ," she cried and stood up, speechless, incredulous,
triumphant. And Graham, too, heard. Metallic voices
were shouting "Victory!" Yes it was "Victory!"
He stood up also with the light of a desperate hope
in his eyes.
Bursting through the curtains appeared the man in
yellow, startled and dishevelled with excitement.
"Victory," he cried, "victory! The people are winning.
Ostrog's people have collapsed."
She rose. "Victory?" And her voice was hoarse
"What do you mean?" asked Graham. "Tell me!
"We have driven them out of the under galleries at
Norwood, Streatham is afire and burning wildly, and
Roehampton is ours. Ours! -- and we have taken the
aeropile that lay thereon."
For an instant Graham and Helen stood in silence,
their hearts were beating fast, they looked at one
another. For one last moment there gleamed in
Graham his dream of empire, of kingship, with Helen by
his side. It gleamed, and passed.
A shrill bell rang. An agitated grey-headed man
appeared from the room of the Ward Leaders." It is
all over," he cried.
"What matters it now that we have Roehampton?
The aeroplanes have been sighted at Boulogne!"
"The Channel!" said the man in yellow. He calculated
swiftly." Half an hour."
"They still have three of the flying stages," said the
"Those guns?" cried Graham.
"We cannot mount them -- in half an hour."
"Do you mean they are found?"
"Too late," said the old man.
"If we could stop them another hour!" cried the
man in yellow.
"Nothing can stop them now," said the old man.
they have near a hundred aeroplanes in the first
"Another hour?" asked Graham.
"To be so near!" said the Ward Leader. "Now
that we have found those guns. To be so near -- .
If once we could get them out upon the roof spaces."
"How long would that take?" asked Graham
"An hour -- certainly."
"Too late," cried the Ward Leader, "too late."
"Is it too late?" said Graham. "Even now -- .
He had suddenly perceived a possibility. He tried
to speak calmly, but his face was white. "There is
one chance. You said there was an aeropile -- ?"
"On the Roehampton stage, Sire."
"No. It is lying crossways to the carrier. It might
be got upon the guides -- easily. But there is no
aeronaut -- ."
Graham glanced at the two men and then at Helen.
He spoke after a long pause. "We have no
"The aeroplanes are clumsy," he said thoughtfully,
"compared with the aeropiles."
He turned suddenly to Helen. His decision was
made. "I must do it."
"Go to this flying stage -- to this aeropile."
"What do you mean?"
"I am an aeronaut. After all -- . Those days for
which you reproached me were not wasted."
He turned to the old man in yellow.
"Put the aeropile upon the guides."
The man in yellow hesitated.
"What do you mean to do?" cried Helen.
"This aeropile -- it is a chance -- ."
"You don't mean -- ?"
"To fight -- yes. To fight in the air. I have
thought before -- . An aeroplane is a clumsy thing.
A resolute man -- !"
"But -- never since flying began --" cried the man
"There has been no need. But now the time has
come. Tell them now -- send them my message -- to
put it upon the guides."
The old man dumbly interrogated the man in yellow,
nodded, and hurried out.
Helen made a step towards Graham. Her face was
white." But -- How can one fight? You will be
"Perhaps. Yet, not to do it -- or to let someone
else attempt it -- ."
He stopped, he could speak no more, he swept the
alternative aside by a gesture, and they stood looking
at one another.
"You are right," she said at last in a low tone.
"You are right. If it can be done. . .
Those days for
He moved a step towards her, and she stepped back,
her white face struggled against him and resisted him.
"No," she gasped. "I cannot bear -- . Go now."
He extended his hands stupidly. She clenched her
fists. "Go now," she cried. "Go now."
He hesitated and understood. He threw his hands
up in a queer half-theatrical gesture. He had no word
to say. He turned from her.
The man in yellow moved towards the door with
clumsy belated tact. But Graham stepped past him.
He went striding through the room where the Ward
Leader bawled at a telephone directing that the aeropile
should be put upon the guides.
The man in yellow glanced at Helen's still figure,
hesitated and hurried after him. Graham did not once
look back, he did not speak until the curtain of the
ante-chamber of the great hall fell behind him. Then
he turned his head with curt swift directions upon his
THE COMING OF THE AEROPLANES
Two men in pale blue were lying in the irregular
line that stretched along the edge of the captured
Roehampton stage from end to end, grasping their
carbines and peering into the shadows of the stage called
Wimbledon Park. Now and then they spoke to one
another. They spoke the mutilated English of their
class and period. The fire of the Ostrogites had
dwindled and ceased, and few of the enemy had been
seen for some time. But the echoes of the fight that
was going on now far below in the lower galleries of
that stage, came every now and then between the
staccato of shots from the popular side. One of these
men was describing to the other how he had seen a
man down below there dodge behind a girder, and had
aimed at a guess and hit him cleanly as he dodged too
far "He's down there still," said the marksman.
"See that little patch. Yes. Between those bars."
A few yards behind them lay a dead stranger, face
upward to the sky, with the blue canvas of his jacket
smoldering in a circle about the neat bullet hole on
his chest. Close beside him a wounded man, with a
leg swathed about, sat with an expressionless face and
watched the progress of that burning. Gigantic behind
them, athwart the carrier lay the captured aeropile.
"I can't see him now," said the second man in a ton
The marksman became foul-mouthed and high-voiced in
his earnest endeavour to make things plain
And suddenly, interrupting him, came a noisy
shouting from the substage.
"What's going on now," he said, and raised himself
on one arm to stare at the stairheads in the central
groove of the stage. A number of blue figures were
coming up these, and swarming across the stage to the
"We don't want all these fools," said his friend.
"They only crowd up and spoil shots. What are they
"Ssh! -- they're shouting something."
The two men listened. The swarming new-comers
had crowded densely about the aeropile. Three Ward
Leaders, conspicuous by their black mantles and
badges, clambered into the body and appeared above
it. The rank and file flung themselves upon the vans,
gripping hold of the edges, until the entire outline of
the thing was manned, in some places three deep. One
of the marksmen knelt up. "They're putting it on the
carrier -- that's what they're after."
He rose to his feet, his friend rose also. "What's
the good?" said his friend. "We've got no aeronauts."
"That's what they're doing anyhow." He looked at
his rifle, looked at the struggling crowd, and suddenly
turning to the wounded man. "Mind these, mate," he
said, handing his carbine and cartridge belt; and in a
moment he was running towards the aeropile. For a
quarter of an hour he was a perspiring Titan, lugging,
thrusting, shouting and heeding shouts, and then the
thing was done, and he stood with a multitude of
others cheering their own achievement. By this time
he knew, what indeed everyone in the city knew, that
the Master, raw learner though he was, intended to fly
this machine himself, was coming even now to take
control of it, would let no other man attempt it. "He
who takes the greatest danger, he who bears the
heaviest burden, that man is King," so the Master
was reported to have spoken. And even as this
man cheered, and while the beads of sweat still
chased one another from the disorder of his hair, he
heard the thunder of a greater tumult, and in fitful
snatches the beat and impulse of the revolutionary
song. He saw through a gap in the people that a thick
stream of heads still poured up the stairway. "The
Master is coming," shouted voices, "the Master is
coming," and the crowd about him grew denser and
denser. He began to thrust himself towards the
central groove. "The Master is coming!" "The Sleeper,
the Master!" "God and the Master!" roared the
And suddenly quite close to him were the black uniforms
of the revolutionary guard, and for the first and
last time in his life he saw Graham, saw him quite
nearly. A tall, dark man in a flowing black robe, with
a white, resolute face and eyes fixed steadfastly before
him; a man who for all the little things about him
held neither ears nor eyes nor thoughts. . . . For
all his days that man remembered the passing of
Graham's bloodless face. In a moment it had gone and
he was fighting in the swaying crowd. A lad weeping
with terror thrust against him, pressing towards
the stairways, yelling "Clear for the aeropile!" The
bell that clears the flying stage became a loud
With that clanging in his ears Graham drew near
the aeropile, marched into the shadow of its tilting
wing. He became aware that a number of people
about him were offering to accompany him, and waved
their offers aside. He wanted to think how one
started the engine. The bell clanged faster and faster,
and the feet of the retreating people roared faster and
louder. The man in yellow was assisting him to mount
through the ribs of the body. He clambered into the
aeronaut's place, fixing himself very carefully and
deliberately. What was it? The man in yellow was
pointing to two aeropiles driving upward in the
southern sky. No doubt they were looking for the coming
aeroplanes. That -- presently -- the thing to do now
was to start. Things were being shouted at him,
questions, warnings. They bothered him. He wanted to
think about the aeropile, to recall every item of his
previous experience. He waved the people from him,
saw the man in yellow dropping off through the ribs,
saw the crowd cleft down the line of the girders by his
For a moment he was motionless, staring at the
levers, the wheel by which the engine shifted, and all
the delicate appliances of which he knew so little. His
eye caught a spirit level with the bubble towards him,
and he remembered something, spent a dozen seconds
in swinging the engine forward until the bubble floated
in the centre of the tube. He noted that the people
were not shouting, knew they watched his deliberation.
A bullet smashed on the bar above his head. Who
fired? Was the line clear of people? He stood up to
see and sat down again.
In another second the propeller was spinning, and
he was rushing down the guides. He gripped the
wheel and swung the engine back to lift the stem.
Then it was the people shouted. In a moment he was
throbbing with the quiver of the engine, and the shouts
dwindled swiftly behind, rushed down to silence.
The wind whistled over the edges of the screen, and
the world sank away from him very swiftly.
Throb, throb, throb -- throb, throb, throb; up he
drove. He fancied himself free of all excitement, felt
cool and deliberate. He lifted the stem still more,
opened one valve on his left wing and swept round and
up. He looked down with a steady head, and up. One
of the Ostrogite aeropiles was driving across his course,
so that he drove obliquely towards it and would pass
below it at a steep angle. Its little aeronauts were
peering down at him. What did they mean to do?
His mind became active. One, he saw held a weapon
pointing, seemed prepared to fire. What did they
think he meant to do? In a moment he understood
their tactics, and his resolution was taken. His
momentary lethargy was past. He opened two more
valves to his left, swung round, end on to this hostile
machine, closed his valves, and shot straight at it, stem
and wind-screen shielding him from the shot. They
tilted a little as if to clear him. He flung up his stem.
Throb, throb, throb -- pause -- throb, throb --
he set his teeth, his face into an involuntary grimace,
and crash! He struck it! He struck upward beneath
the nearer wing.
Very slowly the wing of his antagonist seemed to
broaden as the impetus of his blow turned it up. He
saw the full breadth of it and then it slid downward out
of his sight.
He felt his stem going down, his hands tightened on
the levers, whirled and rammed the engine back. He
felt the jerk of a clearance, the nose of the machine
jerked upward steeply, and for a moment he seemed
to be lying on his back. The machine was reeling and
staggering, it seemed to be dancing on its screw. He
made a huge effort, hung for a moment on the levers,
and slowly the engine came forward again. He
was driving upward but no longer so steeply. He
gasped for a moment and flung himself at the
levers again. The wind whistled about him. One
further effort and he was almost level. He could
breathe. He turned his head for the first time to see
what had become of his antagonists. Turned back to
the levers for a moment and looked again. For a
moment he could have believed they were annihilated.
And then he saw between the two stages to the east
was a chasm, and down this something, a slender edge,
fell swiftly and vanished, as a sixpence falls down a
At first he did not understand, and then a wild joy
possessed him. He shouted at the top of his voice, an
inarticulate shout, and drove higher and higher up the
sky. Throb, throb, throb, pause, throb, throb, throb.
"Where was the other aeropile?" he thought. "They
too -- ." As he looked round the empty heavens he
had a momentary fear that this machine had risen
above him, and then he saw it alighting on the
Norwood stage. They had meant shooting. To risk being
rammed headlong two thousand feet in the air was
beyond their latter-day courage. The combat was
For a little while he circled, then swooped in a steep
descent towards the westward stage. Throb throb
throb, throb throb throb. The twilight was creeping
on apace, the smoke from the Streatham stage that had
been so dense and dark, was now a pillar of fire, and
all the laced curves of the moving ways and the
translucent roofs and domes and the chasms between the
buildings were glowing softly now, lit by the tempered
radiance of the electric light that the glare of the
way overpowered. The three efficient stages that the
Ostrogites held -- for Wimbledon Park was useless
because of the fire from Roehampton, and Streatham
was a furnace -- were glowing with guide lights for
the coming aeroplanes. As he swept over the Roehampton
stage he saw the dark masses of the people
thereon. He heard a clap of frantic cheering, heard a
bullet from the Wimbledon Park stage tweet through
the air, and went beating up above the Surrey wastes.
He felt a breath of wind from the south-west, and
lifted his westward wing as he had learnt to do, and
so drove upward heeling into the rare swift upper air.
Throb throb throb -- throb throb throb.
Up he drove and up, to that pulsating rhythm, until
the country beneath was blue and indistinct, and London
spread like a little map traced in light, like the
mere model of a city near the brim of the horizon.
The south-west was a sky of sapphire over the
shadowy rim of the world, and ever as he drove upward the
multitude of stars increased.
And behold! In the southward, low down and
glittering swiftly nearer, were two little patches of
nebulous light. And then two more, and then a nebulous
glow of swiftly driving shapes. Presently he
could count them. There were four and twenty. The
first fleet of aeroplanes had come! Beyond appeared
a yet greater glow.
He swept round in a half circle, staring at this advancing
fleet. It flew in a wedge-like shape, a triangular flight
of gigantic phosphorescent shapes sweeping
nearer through the lower air. He made a swift calculation
of their pace, and spun the little wheel
that brought the engine forward. He touched
a lever and the throbbing effort of the engine
ceased. He began to fall, fell swifter and swifter. He
aimed at the apex of the wedge. He dropped like a
stone through the whistling air. It seemed scarce a
second from that soaring moment before he struck the
No man of all that black multitude saw the coming
of his fate, no man among them dreamt of the hawk
that struck downward upon him out of the sky. Those
who were not limp in the agonies of air-sickness, were
craning their black necks and staring to see the filmy
city that was rising out of the haze, the rich and
splendid city to which "Massa Boss" had brought
their obedient muscles. Bright teeth gleamed and the
glossy faces shone. They had heard of Paris. They
knew they were to have lordly times among the "poor
white" trash. And suddenly Graham struck them.
He had aimed at the body of the aeroplane, but at
the very last instant a better idea had flashed into his
mind. He twisted about and struck near the edge of
the starboard wing with all his accumulated weight.
He was jerked back as he struck. His prow went
gliding across its smooth expanse towards the rim.
He felt the forward rush of the huge fabric sweeping
him and his aeropile along with it, and for a moment
that seemed an age he could not tell what was happening.
He heard a thousand throats yelling, and
perceived that his machine was balanced on the edge
of the gigantic float, and driving down, down; glanced
over his shoulder and saw the backbone of the
aeroplane and the opposite float swaying up. He had
a vision through the ribs of sliding chairs, staring
faces, and hands clutching at the tilting guide bars.
The fenestrations in the further float flashed open as
the aeronaut tried to right her. Beyond, he saw a
second aeroplane leaping steeply to escape the whirl
of its heeling fellow. The broad area of swaying
wings seemed to jerk upward. He felt his aeropile
had dropped clear, that the monstrous fabric, clean
overturned, hung like a sloping wall above him.
He did not clearly understand that he had struck
the side float of the aeroplane and slipped off, but he
perceived that he was flying free on the down glide
and rapidly nearing earth. What had he done? His
heart throbbed like a noisy engine in his throat and
for a perilous instant he could not move his levers
because of the paralysis of his hands. He wrenched
the levers to throw his engine back, fought for two
seconds against the weight of it, felt himself righting
driving horizontally, set the engine beating again.
He looked upward and saw two aeroplanes glide
shouting far overhead, looked back, and saw the main
body of the fleet opening out and rushing upward and . .
outward; saw the one he had struck fall edgewise on
and strike like a gigantic knife-blade along the wind-wheels below it.
He put down his stern and looked again. He drove
up heedless of his direction as he watched. He saw
the wind-vanes give, saw the huge fabric strike the
earth, saw its downward vans crumple with the weight
of its descent, and then the whole mass turned over
and smashed, upside down, upon the sloping wheels.
Throb, throb, throb, pause. Suddenly from the heaving
wreckage a thin tongue of white fire licked up
towards the zenith. And then he was aware of a
huge mass flying through the air towards him, and
turned upwards just in time to escape the charge -- if
it was a charge -- of a second aeroplane. It whirled
by below, sucked him down a fathom, and nearly
turned him over in the gust of its close passage.
He became aware of three others rushing towards
him, aware of the urgent necessity of beating above
them. Aeroplanes were all about him, circling wildly
to avoid him, as it seemed. They drove past him,
above, below, eastward and westward. Far away to
the westward was the sound of a collision, and two
falling flares. Far away to the southward a second
squadron was coming. Steadily he beat upward.
Presently all the aeroplanes were below him, but for a
moment he doubted the height he had of them, and did
not swoop again. And then he came down upon a
second victim and all its load of soldiers saw him coming.
The big machine heeled and swayed as the fear maddened
men scrambled to the stern for their
weapons. A score of bullets sung through the air, and
there flashed a star in the thick glass wind-screen
that protected him. The aeroplane slowed and
dropped to foil his stroke, and dropped too low. Just
in time he saw the wind-wheels of Bromley hill rushing
up towards him, and spun about and up as the
aeroplane he had chased crashed among them. All its
voices wove into a felt of yelling. The great fabric
seemed to be standing on end for a second among the
heeling and splintering vans, and then it flew to pieces.
Huge splinters came flying through the air, its engines
burst like shells. A hot rush of flame shot overhead
into the darkling sky.
"_Two!_" he cried, with a bomb from overhead bursting
as it fell, and forthwith he was beating up again.
A glorious exhilaration possessed him now, a giant
activity. His troubles about humanity, about his
inadequacy, were gone for ever. He was a man in battle
rejoicing in his power. Aeroplanes seemed radiating
from him in every direction, intent only upon avoiding
him, the yelling of their packed passengers came in
short gusts as they swept by. He chose his third
quarry, struck hastily and did but turn it on edge. It
escaped him, to smash against the tall cliff of London
wall. Flying from that impact he skimmed the darkling
ground so nearly he could see a frightened rabbit
bolting up a slope. He jerked up steeply, and found
himself driving over south London with the air about
him vacant. To the right of him a wild riot of signal
rockets from the Ostrogites banged tumultuously in
the sky. To the south the wreckage of half a dozen
air ships flamed, and east and west and north the air
ships fled before him. They drove away to the east
and north, and went about in the south, for they could
not pause in the air. In their present confusion any
attempt at evolution would have meant disastrous
collisions. He could scarcely realize the thing he had
done. In every quarter aeroplanes were receding.
They were receding. They dwindled smaller and
smaller. They were in flight!
He passed two hundred feet or so above the Roehampton
stage. It was black with people and noisy
with their frantic shouting. But why was the Wimbledon
Park stage black and cheering, too? The
smoke and flame of Streatham now hid the three further
stages. He curved about and rose to see them
and the northern quarters. First came the square
masses of Shooter's Hill into sight from behind the
smoke, lit and orderly with the aeroplane that had
landed and its disembarking negroes. Then came
Blackheath, and then under the corner of the reek the
Norwood stage. On Blackheath no aeroplane had
landed but an aeropile lay upon the guides. Norwood
was covered by a swarm of little figures running
to and fro in a passionate confusion. Why? Abruptly
he understood. The stubborn defence of the flying
stages was over, the people were pouring into the
under-ways of these last strongholds of Ostrog's
usurpation. And then, from far away on the northern
border of the city, full of glorious import to him, came
a sound, a signal, a note of triumph, the leaden thud
of a gun. His lips fell apart, his face was disturbed
He drew an immense breath. "They win," he
shouted to the empty air; "the people win!" The
sound of a second gun came like an answer. And
then he saw the aeropile on Blackheath was running
down its guides to launch. It lifted clean and rose.
It shot up into the air, driving straight southward and
away from him.
In an instant it came to him what this meant. It
must needs be Ostrog in flight. He shouted and
dropped towards it. He had the momentum of his
elevation and fell slanting down the air and very
swiftly. It rose steeply at his approach. He allowed
for its velocity and drove straight upon it.
It suddenly became a mere flat edge, and behold! he
was past it, and driving headlong down with all the
force of his futile blow.
He was furiously angry. He reeled the engine back
along its shaft and went circling up. He saw Ostrog's
machine beating up a spiral before him. He rose
straight towards it, won above it by virtue of the
impetus of his swoop and by the advantage and
weight of a man. He dropped headlong -- dropped
and missed again! As he rushed past he saw the face
of Ostrog's aeronaut confident and cool and in
Ostrog's attitude a wincing resolution. Ostrog was
looking steadfastly away from him -- to the south.
He realized with a gleam of wrath how bungling his
flight must be. Below he saw the Croyden hills. He
jerked upward and once more he gained on his enemy.
He glanced over his shoulder and his attention was
arrested by a strange thing. The eastward stage, the
one on Shooter's Hill, appeared to lift; a flash
changing to a tall grey shape, a cowled figure of smoke and
dust, jerked into the air. For a moment this cowled
figure stood motionless, dropping huge masses of
metal from its shoulders, and then it began to uncoil a
dense head of smoke. The people had blown it up,
aeroplane and all! As suddenly a second flash and
grey shape sprang up from the Norwood stage. And
even as he stared at this came a dead report, and the
air wave of the first explosion struck him. He was
flung up and sideways.
For a moment the aeropile fell nearly edgewise with
her nose down, and seemed to hesitate whether to
overset altogether. He stood on his wind-shield
wrenching the wheel that swayed up over his head.
And then the shock of the second explosion took his
He found himself clinging to one of the ribs of his
machine, and the air was blowing past him and
upward. He seemed to be hanging quite still in the
air, with the wind blowing up past him. It occurred
to him that he was falling. Then he was sure that he
was falling. He could not look down.
He found himself recapitulating with incredible
swiftness all that had happened since his awakening,
the days of doubt the days of Empire, and at last the
tumultuous discovery of Ostrog's calculated treachery.
he was beaten but London was saved. London was
The thought had a quality of utter unreality. Who
was he? Why was he holding so tightly with his
hands? Why could he not leave go? In such a fall as
this countless dreams have ended. But in a moment
he would wake....
His thoughts ran swifter and swifter. He wondered
if he should see Helen again. It seemed so unreasonable
that he should not see her again. It _must_ be a
dream! Yet surely he would meet her. She at least
was real. She was real. He would wake and meet
Although he could not look at it, he was suddenly
aware that the earth was very near.