The Air Trust
George Allan England
Part 5 out of 6
follow. They're already having their domestic-service apparatus
manufactured--their cold-pipe radiators, meters, evaporators and
respirators. I tell you, comrades, this thing is close upon us, not as a
theory, now, but as a terrible, an inconceivably ghastly reality!
"Even as we talk this thing over, those devils in human form are at
work impoverishing the atmosphere, the very basis of all life. My
oxymeter, today, showed a diminution of .047 per cent. in the amount of
free oxygen in the air right on this mountain. And their plant is hardly
running yet! Wait till they get it under full swing--wait till their
pipe-lines and tanks and instruments and all their vast, infernal
apparatus of exploitation and enslavement are in operation! Even in a
week from now, or less, by the time you issue the call, Gabriel, you may
see wretches gasping in vain for breath, in some dark alley of Niagara
where the air is being drained!"
"Oh, devilish and infernal plot against the world!" said Gabriel,
bitterly. "Yet in essence, after all, no different from the system of
ten years ago, which kept food and shelter, light and fuel, under lock
and key--and made the dollar the only key to fit the lock! Yet this
seems worse, somehow; and though I die for it, my last supreme blow
shall be against such unutterable, such murderous villainy! So then,
He paused, suddenly, as Kate laid a hand on his arm.
"Hark! What's that?" she whispered.
Outside, somewhere, a sound had made itself heard. Then on the porch, a
loose board creaked.
Gabriel sprang to his feet. The others stood up and faced the door.
"In heaven's name, what's that outside?" demanded Craig.
On the instant, a heavy foot crashed through the panels of their door.
The door, burst open, flew back.
In the aperture, stood a man, in aviator's dress, with another dimly
visible behind him. Both these men held long, blue-nosed,
oxygen-bullet-shooting revolvers levelled at the little group around the
"My God! Air Trust spies!" cried Grantham, pale as death.
"Hands up, you!" shouted the man in the doorway, with a wild triumph in
his voice. "You're caught, all of you! Not a move, you ---- ---- ----!
Quick as thought, at sound of the imperative summons and sight of the
levelled weapons, Gabriel swept up most of the papers and crammed them
into the breast of his loose flannel shirt, then dashed the lamp to the
floor, extinguishing it. The room grew dark, for now the fire had burned
down to hardly more than glowing coals.
There was no panic; the men did not curse, neither did the women scream.
As though the tactic had already been agreed on, Craig tipped the table
up, making a kind of barricade; and over it Grantham's revolver,
snatched from his belt, spat viciously.
It all happened in a moment.
The foremost spy grunted, coughed and plunged forward. As he fell, he
fired his terrible weapon.
The bullet--a small, thin metal shell, filled with a secret chemical and
liquid oxygen--went wild. It struck the wall, some feet to the left of
the fireplace, and instantly the wood burst into vivid flame. Flesh
would crisp to nothing, solid stone would crumble, metal would gutter
and run down, under that awful incandescence.
Again Grantham's revolver barked, while Bevard tugged at his own, which
had unaccountably got stuck in its holster. But this second shot missed.
And even as Grantham's bullet snicked a long splinter from the
door-jamb, the second spy fired.
Brevard's choking cry died as the gushing flame enveloped him. He
staggered, flung up both arms and fell stone dead, the life seared clean
out of him, as a lamp sears a moth.
Gasping, blinded, the others scattered; and for the third time--while
the room now glowed with this unquenchable blossoming of flame--Grantham
The spy's body burst into a sheaf of fire. Up past the lintel streamed
the burning swirl. Mute and annihilated, his charred body dropped beside
that of his mate.
The total time from challenge to complete victory had not exceeded ten
"I exploded some of his cartridges!" choked Grantham. shielding his wife
from the glare, while Gabriel protected Catherine.
"His--his cartridge belt!" gasped Craig.
"Yes! And now, out--out of here!"
"Brevard? We must save his body!" cried Gabriel, pointing.
"Impossible!" shouted Grantham. "That hellish compound will burn for
hours! And in three minutes this whole place will be a roaring furnace!
Out of here--out--away! We must save the hangar, at all hazards!"
Against their will, but absolutely unable to approach the now
wildly-roaring fire on the floor that marked the spot where Brevard had
fallen in the Battle with Plutocracy, the comrades quickly retreated.
Raging fire now hemmed them on three sides. Their only avenue of escape
was through the eastern windows, eight or ten feet above the ground.
Hastily snatching up such of the plans and papers as he had not already
secured--and some of these already were beginning to smoke and turn
brown, in the infernal heat--Gabriel shielded Catherine's retreat. The
Craig and Grantham first jumped from the windows, then caught Mrs.
Grantham and Catherine as Gabriel helped them to escape. He himself was
the last to leave the room, now a raging furnace. Together they all ran
from the building, and none too soon; for suddenly the roof collapsed, a
tremendous burst of crackling flames and sheaved sparks leaped high
above the tree-tops, and the walls came crashing in.
In the welter of incandescence, where now only the stone chimney
stood--and this, too, was already cracking and swaying--Brevard had
found his tomb, together with the two Air Trust spies. All that
pleasant, necessary place was now a mass of white-hot ruin; all those
books and pictures now had turned to ash.
The five remaining comrades paused by the hangar, and looked mournfully
back at the still-leaping volcano of destruction.
"Poor Brevard! Poor old chap!" said Craig. He peered at the women.
Neither one was crying--they were not that type--but both were pale.
"I don't feel that way," said Gabriel. "Brevard is not to be pitied.
He's to be envied! He died in the noblest war we can conceive--the war
for the human race! And his last act was to take part in a battle that
stamped out two vipers, Air Trust spies, who would have joyed to burn us
[Illustration: The spy's body burst into a sheaf of fire.]
"Thank God, I got the Hell-hounds!" muttered Craig. "Two less of Slade's
infamous army, anyhow." Though Gabriel knew it not, the first one to
fall was the same who had battled with him in the trap at Rochester, the
same who had trailed him when he, Gabriel, had left the Federal pen. So
one score, at least, was settled.
"They're gone, anyhow," said Gabriel, "and five of us still live--and
I've still got the plans and all. Moreover, the monoplanes are safe. The
quicker we get away from here, now, the better. Away, and to our last
remaining refuge near Port Colborne, on the shores of Lake Erie. Other
Air Trust forces may be here, before morning. We must get away!"
A frightful shock awaited them when, entering the hangar--eager now to
escape at once from the scene of the tragedy--they beheld their
By the ruddy light which shone in through the wide doors, from the fire,
they saw long strips and tatters of canvas hanging from the 'planes.
"Smashed! Broken! Wrecked!" cried Gabriel, starting back aghast.
The others stared. Only too true; the monoplanes were practically
destroyed. Not only had the spies, before attacking the refuge, slashed
the 'planes to rags, but they had also partly dismantled the motors.
Bits of machinery lay scattered on the floor of the hangar.
Stunned and unable to gather speech or coherent thought, the five
Socialists stood staring. Then, after a moment, Craig made shift to
"A good job, all right! The curs must have got in at the window, and
spent an hour in this work. Whatever happened, they didn't intend we
should have any means of retreat--for of course it's out of the question
for anybody to get away from here through the forest over the ridges
and down the cliffs!"
"They meant to trap us, this way, that's certain," added Gabriel. "There
surely will be others of the same breed, here before morning. They must
not find us here!"
"But Gabriel, how shall we escape?" asked Catherine, her face illumined
by the leaping flames of the bungalow.
"How! In their own machine! The machine that Slade and the Air Trust
secret-service gave them, to come here and catch or murder us!"
"By the Almighty! So we will!" cried Grantham. "Come on, let's find it!"
The little party hurried off toward the landing-ground, a cleared and
levelled space further up the mountainside. The light of the burning
bungalow helped show them their path; and Craig had also taken an
electric flash-lamp from the hangar. With this he led the way.
"Right! There it is!" suddenly exclaimed Gabriel, pointing. Craig
painted a brush of electric light over the vague outlines of the Air
Trust machine, a steel racer of the latest kind.
"A Floriot biplane," said he. "Will hold two and a passenger. Familiar
type. I guess all of us, here, can operate it."
They all--even the women--could. For you must understand that after the
Great Massacres had foreshown the only possible trend the Movement could
take, practically all the leaders in the work had studied aeronautics,
also chemistry, as most essential branches of knowledge in the
"Two, and a passenger," repeated Gabriel, as though echoing Craig's
words. "Who goes first?"
"You!" said Grantham. "You and Catherine, with Craig to bring the
machine back. You're needed, now, at the front--imperatively needed.
Freda and I," gesturing at his wife, "will hold the fort, here--will
keep watch over our dead, over poor old Brevard, the first to fall in
this great, final battle!"
A spirited argument followed. Gabriel insisted on being left for the
second trip. A compromise was made by having him get the two women out
of danger, at once, leaving Craig and Grantham on the mountain.
"I'll send Hazen or Keyes back with the 'plane, for you," said he, as he
climbed into the driving seat, after the passengers had been stowed.
"That will be tomorrow night. Of course, we daren't fly by day. And
mind," he added, adjusting his spark and throttle, "mind you meet me
with this very same machine, safe and sound, at the Lake Erie refuge!"
"Why this same machine?" inquired Craig.
"Why? Because I intend to use this, and no other, in the final attack.
Could poetic justice be finer than that the Air Trust works be destroyed
with the help of one of their own 'planes?"
No more was said, save brief good-byes. Those were times when
demonstrativeness, whether in life or death, was at a discount. A
hand-clasp and a few last instructions as to the time and place of
meeting, sufficed. Then Gabriel pressed the button of the self-starter
and opened the throttle.
With a sudden gusty chatter, the engine caught. A great wind sprang up,
from the roaring, whirling blades. The Floriot rolled easily forward,
speeded up, and gathered headway.
Gabriel suddenly rotated the rising-plane. The great gull soared,
careened and took the air with majestic power. The watchers on the
mountain-side saw its hooded lights, that glowed upon its compass and
barometric-gauge, slowly spiralling upward, ever upward, as Gabriel
climbed with his two passengers.
Then the lights sped forward, northward, in a long tangent, and, as they
swiftly diminished to mere specks, the echo of a farewell hail drifted
downward from the black and star-dusted emptiness above.
Craig turned to Grantham, when the last gleam of light had faded in a
"God grant they reach the last remaining refuge safely!" said he, with
deep emotion. "And may their flight be quick and sure! For the fate of
the world, its hope and its salvation from infinite enslavement, are
whirling through the trackless wastes of air, to-night!"
The first intimation that Flint and Waldron had of any opposition to
their plans, of any revolt, of any danger, was at quarter past three on
the afternoon of October 8th, 1925. All that afternoon, busy with their
final plans for the immediate extension of their system, they had been
going over certain data with Herzog, receiving reports from branch
managers and conferring with the Congressional committee that--together
with Dillon Slade, their secret-service tool, now also President
Supple's private secretary--they had peremptorily summoned from
Washington to receive instructions.
In the more than four years that had passed since they had put Gabriel
behind bars--years fruitful in strikes and lockouts, in prostitutions of
justice, in sluggings and crude massacres--both men had altered notably.
Though the National Censorship now no longer permitted any cartooning of
a "seditious" nature, i.e., representing any of the Air Trust notables,
old Flint's features tempted the artist's pencil more than ever. Save
for a little white fringe of hair at the back of his head, he had become
almost bald, thus adding greatly to his strong suggestion of a vulture.
His face was now more yellow and shrunken than ever, due to a rather
heavier consumption of his favorite drug, morphine; his nose had hooked
more strongly, and his one gold tooth of other days now had two more to
bear it company. His eyes, too, behind his thick pince-nez, had grown
more shifty, cold and cruelly calculating. If it be possible to conceive
a fox, a buzzard and a jackal merged in one, old Isaac Flint today
represented that unnatural and hideous hybrid.
Now, as he stood facing "Tiger" Waldron, in the inner and sancrosanct
office of the Air Trust plant at Niagara--the office that even the
President of these United States approached with deference and due
humility--the snarl on his face revealed the beast-soul of the man.
"Damnation!" he was saying, as he shook a newly-received aerogram at his
partner. "What's this, I'd like to know? What does this mean? All
telegraphic communication west of Chicago has suddenly stopped, and from
half a dozen points in the Southern States news is coming in that
railway service is being interrupted! See here, Waldron, this won't do!
Your part of the business has always been to carry on the publicity end,
the newspaper end, the moulding of public opinion and political thought,
_and_ the maintenance of free, clear rail and aero communication
everywhere, all over the world. But now, all at once, see here?"
Waldron raised red, bleared eyes at his irate partner. He, too, was more
the beast than four years ago. No less the tiger, now, but more the pig.
High, evil living had done its work on him. An unhealthy purple suffused
his heavily-jowled face. Beneath his eyes, sodden bags of flesh hung
pendant. His lips, loose and lascivious, now sucked indolently at the
costly cigar he was smoking as he sat leaning far back in his
desk-chair. And so those two, angry accuser and indifferent accused,
faced each other for a moment; while, incessant, dull, mighty, the
thunders of the giant cataract mingled with the trembling diapason of
the stupendous turbines in the rock-hewn caverns where old Niagara now
toiled in fetters, to swell their power and fling gold into their
"See here!" Flint repeated angrily, once more shaking the dispatches at
his mate. "Even our wireless system, all over the west and southwest,
has quit working! And you sit there staring at me like--like--"
"That'll do, Flint!" the younger man retorted in a rough, hoarse voice.
"If there's any trouble, I'll find it and repair it. Very well. But I'll
not be talked to in any such way. Damn it, you can't speak to me Flint,
as if I were one of the people! If you own half the earth, I'll have you
understand I own the other half. So go easy, Flint--go damned easy!"
Malevolently he eyed the old man's beast-like face. The scorn and
dislike he had conceived for Flint, years ago, when Flint had failed to
win back Catherine to him, had long grown keener and more bitter.
Waldron took it as a personal affront that Flint, apparently so worn and
feeble, could still hang on to life and brains enough to dominate the
enterprise. A thousand times, if once, he had wished Flint well dead and
buried and out of the way, so that he, Waldron, could grasp the whole
circle of the stupendous Air Trust. This, his supreme ambition, had been
constantly curbed by Flint's survival; and as the months and years had
passed, his hate had grown more deep, more ugly, more venomous.
"Why, curse it," Waldron often thought, "the old dope has taken enough
morphine in his lifetime to have killed a hundred ordinary men! And yet
he still clings on, and withers, and grows yellow like an old dead leaf
that will not drop from the tree! When _will_ he drop? When _will_
Father Time pick the despicable antique? My God, is the man immortal?"
Such being the usual tenor of his thoughts, concerning Flint, small
wonder that he took the old man's chiding with an ill grace, and warned
him pointedly not to continue it. Now, facing the Billionaire, he fairly
stared him out of countenance. An awkward silence followed. Both heard,
with relief, a rapping at the office door.
"Come!" snapped Flint.
A clerk appeared, with a yellow envelope in hand.
"Another wireless, sir," said he.
Flint snatched it from him.
"Send Herzog and Slade, at once," he commanded, as he ripped the
"Well, more trouble?" insolently drawled "Tiger" happy in the paling of
the old man's face and the sudden look of apprehension there.
For all answer, Flint handed him the message. Waldron read:
Southern and Gulf States all seemingly cut off from every kind of
communication this P.M. Can get no news. Is this according to your
orders? If not, can you inform me probable cause? I ask
Silence, a minute, then Waldron whistled, and began pulling at his thick
lower lip, a sure sign of perturbation.
"By the Almighty, Flint" said he. "I--maybe I was wrong just now, to be
so confoundedly touchy about--about what you said. This--certainly looks
odd, doesn't it? It _can't_ be a series of coincidences! There must be
something back of it, all. But--but _what_? Rebellion is out of the
question, now, and has been for a long time. Revolution? The way we're
organized, the very idea's an absurdity! But, if not these, what?"
Flint stared at him with drug-contracted eyes.
"Yes, that's the question," he rapped out. "What can it mean? Ah,
perhaps Slade can tell us," he added, as the secret-service man quietly
entered through a private door at the rear of the office.
"Tell you what, gentlemen?" asked Slade, smirking and rubbing his hands.
"The meaning of that, and that, and _that_!" snapped old Flint,
thrusting the telegrams at the newcomer.
"Hm!" grunted the secret-service man, as he glanced them over. "That's
damned odd! But it's of no real moment. If--if there's really any
trouble, any outbreak or what not, of course it can't amount to
anything. All you have to do is order the President to call out the
"Yes, I can order him, all right," snarled Flint, "but in case all our
wires are down and all our wireless plants put out of commission, to say
nothing of our transport service interrupted, what then? There's no
doubt in _my_ mind, Slade, that another upheaval is upon us. The fact
that we stamped out the 1918 and 1922 uprisings, and that rivers ran red
and city streets were flushed with blood, apparently hasn't made any
impression on the cattle! Damn it all, I say, _can't_ you keep things
quiet? _Can't_ you?"
In a very frenzy he paced the office, his face twitching, his bony
fingers snapping with the extremity of his agitation. Suddenly he faced
"See here, you!" he exclaimed. "This certainly means another uprising.
It can't mean anything else! And you've allowed it, you hear? No, no,
don't deny the fact!" he cried, as the detective tried to oppose a word
of self-defense. "It's your fault, at last analysis; and if anything
happens, you and the President, Supple, have got to answer to me,
personally, do you hear? You've got to pay!"
"Pay, and with devilish big interest, too!" growled "Tiger," fixing his
bleared, savage eyes on Slade.
"What did I make that man President for, anyhow?" snarled Flint, "if not
to do my bidding and keep things still? Why did I put you in as his
private secretary, if not to have you watch him and see that he _did_ do
my bidding? Why did I have Congress pass all those bills and things,
except to give you the weapons and tools to hold the lid on?
"You've had a huge army and a conscripted militia given you; and
hundreds of wireless plants, and military roads and war-equipment beyond
all calculating. You've had thousands of spies organized and put under
your control. At your suggestion I've had all political power taken away
from the dogs--and everything done that you've asked for--and this,
_this_ is the kind of work you do!"
Livid with rage, the old Billionaire stood there shaking by his desk,
his face a fearful mask of passions and evil lusts for vengeance and
power. Slade, recognizing his master, even as President Supple on more
than one occasion had been forced in terrible personal interviews to
recognize him, said no word; but in the secret-service man's eyes a
brutal gleam flashed its message of hate and loathing. Foul as Slade
was, he balked at times, in face of this man's cruel and naked savagery.
"I tell you," continued Flint, now having recovered his breath, "I tell
you, you're worse than useless, you and your President, ha!
ha!--President Puppet, indeed! Take that great Smoky Mountain clue, for
instance! On the rumor that the ring-leaders of the swine were up there,
somewhere, in the North Carolina mountains, you sent your two best men.
And what's the latest news? What have you to tell me? _You_ know! Other
airmen of yours have just reported that nothing can be found but ruins
of the Socialist refuge, there--nothing but those, and the half-melted
vanadium steel identification-tags of your best scouts! _And_ their
machine is gone--and with it, the birds we wanted! Then, close on the
heels of this, all wires go flat, all wireless breaks down, all rails
are interrupted, and--and Hell's to pay!" Fair in Slade's face he shook
his trembling first.
"Urrh! You devilish, impotent faker! You four-flusher! You toy
detective! You and your President, too, aren't worth the liquid oxygen
to blow you to Hades! See here, Slade, you get out on this job, now, and
do it damned quick, you understand, or there'll be _some_ shake-up in
your office and in the White House, too. When I buy and pay for tools, I
insist that the tools work. If they don't--!"
He snatched up a pencil from the desk, broke it in half and threw the
pieces on the floor.
"Like that!" said he, and stamped on them.
Waldron nodded approval.
"Just like that," he echoed, "and then some!"
"Go, now!" Flint commanded, pointing at the door. "Inside an hour, I
want some reports, and I want them to be satisfactory. If you and Supple
can't get things open again, and start the troops and machine-guns
before then, look out! That's all I've got to say. Now, _go_!"
"NOW COMES THE HOUR SUPREME."
Hardly had the secret-service man taken his leave, slinking away like a
whipped cur, yet with an ugly snarl that presaged evil, when Herzog
"Come here," said Flint, curtly, heated with his burst of passion.
"Yes, sir," the scientist replied, approaching. "What is it, sir?"
Still shifty and cringing was he, in presence of the masters; though
with the men beneath him, at the vast plant--and now his importance had
grown till he controlled more than eight thousand--rumor declared him an
"Tell me, Herzog, what's the condition of the plant, at this present
"Just how do you mean, sir?"
"Suppose there were to be trouble, of any kind, how are we fixed for it?
How's the oxygen supply, and--and everything? Good God, man, unlimber!
You're paid to know things and tell 'em. Now, talk."
Thus adjured, Herzog washed his hands with imaginary soap and in a
deprecating voice began:
"Trouble, sir? What trouble could there be? There's not the faintest
sign of any organization among the men. They're submissive as so many
rabbits, sir, and--"
"Damn you, shut up!" roared Flint. "I didn't summon you to come up here
and give me a lecture on labor conditions at the works! The trouble I
refer to is possible outside interference. Maybe some kind of wild-eyed
Socialist upheaval, or attack, or what not. In case it comes, what's our
condition? Tell me, in a few words, and for God's sake keep to the
point! The way you wander, and always have, gives me the creeps!"
Herzog ventured nothing in reply to this outburst, save a conciliatory
leer. Then, collecting his thoughts, he began:
"Well, sir, in a general way, our condition is perfect. We've got two
regiments of rifle and machine gunmen, half of them equipped with the
oxygen bullets. I guarantee that I could have them away from their
benches and machines, and on the fortifications, inside of fifteen
minutes. Slade's armed guards, 2,500 or so, are all ready, too.
"Then, beside that, there are eight 'planes in the hangars, and plenty
of men to take them up. If you wish, sir, I can have others brought in.
The aerial-bomb guns are ready. As for the oxygen supply, Tanks F and L
are full, K is half filled, and N and Q each have about 6,000 gallons,
making a total of--let's see, sir--a total of just about 755,000
"How protected? Have you got those bomb-proof overhead nets on, yet?"
"Not yet, sir. That is, not over all the lines of tanks. We ran short of
steel wire, last week, and have only got eight of the tanks under
netting. But the work is going on fast, sir, and--"
"Rush it! At all hazards, get nets over the rest of the tanks. If
anything happens, through this delay, remember, Herzog, I shall hold
you personally responsible, and it will go hard with you!"
"Yes, sir; thank you, sir," murmured the servile wretch. "Anything else,
Flint thought a moment, glaring at Herzog with angry eyes, then shook
his head in negation.
"Very well, sir," said Herzog, withdrawing. "I'll go to work at once. By
tomorrow, everything will be safe, I guarantee."
He closed the door softly--as softly as he had spoken--as softly as he
always did everything.
Flint glared at the door.
"The sneaking whelp!" he murmured. "He makes my very flesh crawl. I wish
to heaven he weren't so essential to us; we'd let him go, damned quick!"
"You forget," put in Tiger, "that he knows too much to be let go, ever.
No, he's a fixture. And now, dismiss him from your mind, and let's go
over those telegrams and radiograms again. If there _is_ a new Socialist
revolt under way--and I admit it certainly begins to look like it--we've
got to understand the situation. Slade will have some more reports for
us, in an hour or so. Till then, these must suffice."
Flint, curbing his agitation, sat down at the big table and turned on
the vacuum-glow light, for the October afternoon was foggy--a fog that
mingled with the spray of the vast Falls and hung heavy over the
world--and already daylight was beginning to fail.
"Fools!" he muttered to himself. "Fools, to think they can rebel against
_us_! Ants would have just as much show of success, charging elephants,
as _they_ have against the Air Trust! By tomorrow they'll be wiped out,
smeared out, shattered and annihilated, whoever and wherever they are.
By tomorrow, at the latest. Again I say, blind, suicidal fools!"
"Right you are," assented Waldron, drawing up his chair. "They don't
seem to realize, even yet, that we own the whole round earth and all
that is in it. They don't understand that their rebelling is like a
tribe of naked savages going against a modern army with explosive
bullets. Ah, well, let them learn, let them learn! It takes a whip to
teach a cur. Let them feel the lash, and learn!..."
At this same hour, in the last retreat, near Port Colborne, in the State
of Ontario--once a province of Canada--half a dozen grim and determined
men were gathered together. We already recognize Craig, Grantham and
Gabriel. The other three, like them, all wore the Socialist button and
the little tab of red ribbon that marked them as members of the Fighting
"Tonight," Gabriel was saying, as he stood there in the gathering
dusk--they dared not show a light, even behind the drawn curtains of
their refuge--"tonight, comrades, the final die is cast. Everything is
ready, or as nearly ready as we shall ever be able to make it. Our
reports already show that every line of communication has been broken by
one swift, sharp blow. True, in a few hours all these avenues can be
opened up again. By morning, the Niagara works will be in receipt of
messages; trains will be running; the troop-planes will be carrying
their hordes at the command of Flint. By morning, yes. But in the
He spread his fingers, upward, with an expressive gesture.
"By morning," Craig mumbled, "what will there be left to protect?"
A little silence followed. Each was busy with his own thoughts.
All at once, one of the three newcomers spoke--a tall, light-haired
fellow, he seemed, in that dim light, with a strong Southern accent.
"Pardon me for asking, Gabriel," said he, removing a pipe from his
mouth, "or for discussing details familiar to you all. But, coming as I
_have_ come direct from the New Orleans refuge--they blew it up, last
week, you know--of course I haven't got things as clearly in mind yet,
as you-all have. Now, as I understand it, while we manoeuvre over the
plant, blow up the barricades and, if possible, 'get' the oxygen-tanks,
our men on the ground will pour in through the gaps and storm the place,
under the command of Edward Hargreaves. Is that the idea?"
"Exactly, Comrade Marion," answered Gabriel. "You've hit it to a T."
Craig laughed grimly, as he drew at his pipe.
"Just as we're going to hit those big tanks!" said he. "It's tonight or
never, comrades. They're putting steel nets over them, already. By
tomorrow the whole place will be protected by huge grill-work fully a
hundred feet above the tops of the tanks. Oh, they seem to have thought
of everything, those plutes! But they'll be just a shade too late, this
time; just a shade too late!"
Another silence, broken again by the tall Southerner.
"Just let me get this thing quite clear," said he. "We're to start at
5:30, you say, walk past the Welland Canal Feeder out to the Monck
Aviation Grounds, and find everything ready there?"
"Correct," said Gabriel. "All six of us. That's our part of the program.
Comrades you don't know, out there--comrades in the employ of the Air
Trust itself--will have six machines ready. One of them will be the very
machine that they tried to get us with, in the Great Smokies! So you
see, we're going to use the Air Trust equipment, their field and even
their own telenite, to put them out of business forever and to free the
"Poetic justice, all right enough!" laughed Marion. "At the same time
that we're attacking from an elevation of perhaps three thousand feet,
the lateral attack will be delivered. About how many men do you count,
on, for that?"
"Well," judged Gabriel, "within a ten-mile radius of the plant, at least
a hundred thousand men are waiting, this very instant, with every nerve
keyed up to fighting tension. Scattered in a vast variety of ingenious
and cleverly-devised hiding places, with their chlorine grenades and
their revolvers shooting little hydrocyanic acid gas bullets, they're
waiting the signal--a rocket in mid-heaven."
"Hydrocyanic acid gas!" exclaimed Marion, forgetting to smoke. "Why, one
whiff of that is death!"
"It is," agreed Gabriel. "Remember, this is a war of extermination. It's
a case of _them_ or _us_! And if we're worsted, the whole world loses;
while if they are, then liberty is born! That's why this gas is
justifiable. They'll try to use oxygen-bullets on us, never fear. But
where they can kill ten, with those, we can annihilate a hundred with
our kind. Swine, they have called us, and fools and apes. Well, we
shall see, we shall see, when it comes to an out-and-out fight between
Plutocrat and Proletarian, who is the better man!"
Again came silence. And this time it was Grantham who broke it.
"Comrades," said he, "after you've seen as many Socialists shot down as
_I_ have--shot down and burned, as Brevard was--you'll lose any
lingering ideas of civilized warfare you may still retain. They hunt us
like beasts, prison us in foul traps, ride us down, crush us, break and
tear us, and burn us alive, because we struggle to be free men and
women, not slaves. Now that our hour has struck, now that their lines of
communication and defense are breached, and they--though they still
don't fully understand it--are penned there in their heaven-offending,
monstrous, horrible plant at the Falls, no true man can hesitate to
smash them down with no more compunction than as though they were so
many rattlesnakes or scorpions!
"This isn't 1915, when political and civil rights still existed, and we
weren't hunted outlaws. This is 1925, and conditions are all different.
It's war, war, war to the death, now; and if war is Hell, then _they_
are going to get Hell this time, not we."
Nobody spoke, for a little while; but Marion and Craig smoked
contemplatively, and the others sat there in the dusk, sunk in thought.
All at once a door opened, and the vague form of a woman became visible.
"Comrades, you must go," said she. "It's nearly half past five. By the
time you've got everything in readiness, you'll have no time to lose."
"Right, Catherine," answered Gabriel. "Come, comrades! Up and at it!"
Ten minutes later they all issued forth into the soft gloom. All were in
aviator's dress, and each carried a parcel by a handle held with stout
straps. Had you seen them, you would have noticed they took particular
pains not to jar or shake these parcels, or approach unduly near each
At the door of the refuge, Catherine said good-bye to each, and added
some brave word of cheer. Her farewell to Gabriel was longer than to the
others; and for a moment their hands met and clung.
"Go," she whispered, "go, and God bless you! Go even though it be to
death! Their airmen will take toll of some of the attackers, Gabriel.
Not all the Comrades will return. Oh, may _you_--may _you_!"
"What is written on the Book of Fate, will be," he answered. "Our petty
hopes and fears are nothing, Catherine. If death awaits me, it will be
sweet; for it will come, tonight, in the supreme service of the human
With a sudden motion, the girl took his face between her hands, and
kissed his forehead. For all her courage and strength, he sensed her
heart wildly beating and he felt her tears.
"Good-bye, Gabriel," she breathed. "Would I might go with you! Would
that my duty did not hold me here! Good-bye!"
Then he was gone, gone with the others, into the thickening obscurity of
the fog-shrouded evening. Now Catherine stood there alone, head bowed
and wet face hidden in both hands.
As the little fighting band disappeared, back to the girl drifted a few
words of song, soft-hummed through the dusk--the deathless chorus of the
"Now comes the hour supreme!
To arms, each in his place!
The new dawn's International
Shall be the human race!..."
"Halt! Who goes there?"
The challenge rang sharply on the night air, outside a small gate in the
barricade of the Monck Aviation Grounds.
"Liberty!" answered Gabriel, pausing as he gave the password.
"All right, come on," said a vague figure at the gate. The little group
approached. The gate opened. Silently they entered the enclosure.
Another man stepped from a hangar. In his hand he held an electric
flash, which he threw upon the newcomers, one by one.
"Right!" he commented, and took Gabriel by the hand. "This way!"
Ten minutes later, all of them were in the air, save only Gabriel, who
insisted on staying till his entire squad had made a clean getaway. Then
he too rose; and now in a long, swift line, the fighting squadron
straightened away to north-eastward, on the twenty-mile run to Niagara.
The night was foggy, chill and dark. All the aviators had instructions
to fly not less than 2,500 feet high, to keep a careful lookout lest
they collide, and to steer by the lights of the great Air Trust plant.
For, misty though the heavens were, still Gabriel could see the dim glow
of the tremendous aerial search-lights dominating Goat Island--lights
of 5,000,000 candle-power, maintained by current from the Falls,
incessantly sweeping the sky on the lookout for just such perils as now,
indeed, were drawing near.
Momently, as he flew, Gabriel perceived these huge lights growing
brighter, through the mist, and apprehension won upon him.
"Incredibly strong!" he muttered to himself, as he glanced from his
barometer to the shining fog ahead. "Even though the mist will be
thicker over the Falls than anywhere else, there's a good possibility
they may pierce it and pick us up--and _then_, look out for their
'planes and swift, fighting dirigibles!"
He rotated the rising-plane, and now soared to 2,800 feet. Below and on
either side of him, nothing but tenuous fog. Ahead, the
swiftly-approaching fan of radiance, white, dazzling, beautiful, that
seemed to gush from earth so far below and to the eastward. Already the
thunders of the Falls were audible.
"Where are the others?" Gabriel wondered, his thoughts seeming to hum
and roar in his head, in harmony with the shuddering diapason of the
muffler-deadened exhaust. "No way of telling, now. Each man for
himself--and each to do his best!"
And then his thoughts reverted to Catherine; and round his heart a
sudden yearning seemed to strengthen his stern, indomitable
resolve--"Victory or death!"
But now there was scant time for thought. The moment of action was
already close at hand. Far below there, hidden by night and dark and
mist, Gabriel knew a hundred thousand comrades, of the Fighting
Sections, were lying hidden, waiting for the signal to advance.
"And it's time, now!" he said aloud, thrilled by a wondrous sense of
vast responsibility--a sense that on this moment hung the fate of the
world. "It's time for the signal. Now then, up and at them!"
Taking the rocket--a powerful affair, capable of casting an intense,
calcium light--he touched the fuse to a bit of smouldering punk fastened
in a metal cup at his right hand. Then, as it flared, he launched the
rocket far into the void.
Below, came a quick spurt of radiance, in a long, vivid streak that shot
away with incredible rapidity. Gabriel followed it a moment, with his
gaze, then smiled.
"The Rubicon is crossed," said he. "The gates of the Temple of Janus are
open wide--and now comes War!"
He rose again, skimming to a still higher altitude as the glare of the
great Works drew closer and closer underneath. The wind roared in his
ears, louder than the whirling propellers. The whole fabric of the
aeroplane quivered as it climbed, up, up above the rushing, bellowing
"Where are the others?" thought he, and reached for a thanatos
projectile, in the rack near the metal cup where the punk still
All at once, a glare of light burst upward through the white-glowing
mist; and the 'plane reeled with the air-wave, as now a thunderous
concussion boomed across the empty spaces of the sky.
At the same moment, a faint, ripping noise mounted to Gabriel--a sound
for all the world like the tearing of stout canvas. Then followed a
chattering racket, something like distant mowing-machines at work; and
now all blent to a steady, determined uproar. Gabriel almost thought to
hear, as he launched his own projectile, far sounds as of the shouts and
cries of men; but of this he could not make sure.
"They're at it, anyhow!" he exulted. "At it, at last! By the way our men
have launched the attack, the first explosion must have breached a wall!
God! What wouldn't I give to be down there, in the thick of it, rather
than here! I--"
Again a spouting geyser of light and uproar burst into mid-air.
"That was _my_ thanatos speaking!" cried Gabriel. "Now for another!"
Before he could drop it, as he circled round and round, directly over
the great, flailing beams of the Air Trust search-lights, a third
detonation shattered the heavens, nearly unseating him. Up sprang the
roar, with wonderful intensity, reflected from the earth as from a giant
sounding-board. And Gabriel noted, with keen satisfaction, that one of
the huge light-beams had gone dark.
"Put out _one_ of them, anyway, so far!" thought he, and swung again to
westward, and once more dropped a messenger of death to tyranny.
Now the bombardment became general. Trust aerial-gun projectiles began
bursting all about. Every second or two, terrible concussions leaped
toward the zenith; and the earth, hidden somewhere down there below the
fog-blanket, seemed flaming upward like a huge volcano. One by one the
search-lights, whipping the sky, went black; and now the glow of them
was fast diminishing, only to be replaced by a ruddier and more
"The plant's burning, at last," thought Gabriel. "Heaven grant the fire
may spread to the oxygen-tanks! If we can only get _those_--!"
Again he launched a projectile, and again he circled over the doomed
A swift black shape swooped by him. He had just time to exchange a yell
of warning, when it was gone. The near peril gripped his heart, but did
not shake it.
"Close call!" said he.
If that machine and his had met, good-bye forever! But after all, the
danger of collision in mid-air, or of being struck by a projectile from
some other machine, above, was no greater than his comrades on the
ground were facing. Not so great, perhaps. Many a one would meet his
death from the aerial attack. In a war like this, a thousand perils
threatened. Gabriel only hoped that Hargreaves, down below there, could
hold them back, away, till the walls should have been destroyed.
Circling, ever circling, now hearing some echoes of the earth-battle,
some grenade-volleys and rapid-fire clattering, now deafened and all but
blinded by the vast, up-belching explosions of the thanatos projectiles,
Gabriel flew among the drifting mists and vapors. Still was he guided by
one or two search-lights; but most of these were gone, now. Yet the
glare of the conflagration, below, was luridly shuddering through the
fog, painting it all a dull and awful red.
Red! Suddenly words came into Gabriel's mind--the words of his own poem:
... Red as blood, red as blood! The blood of the shattered miner,
Blood of the boy in the rifle pits, blood of the coughing child-slave,
Blood of the mangled trainman, blood that the Carpenter shed!
"For your sake! For the world's sake, this!" he cried, and hurled
another thanatos. "If ever war of liberation was holy, this is that
Suddenly, through all the turmoil of shattering explosions, tossing
air-currents and drifting, acrid smoke, he became conscious of a sudden,
By the light of the burning Plant, down there somewhere in the vapors of
the thunderous Falls, he saw a hawk-like 'plane that swooped toward him
with incredible velocity, savage and lean and black.
Off to the right, a sudden spattering of shots in mid-air told him the
battle in the sky was likewise being engaged. He saw vague, veiled
explosions, there, then a swift, falling trail of flame. A pang shot
through his heart. Had one of his companions fallen and been dashed to
death? He could not tell--he had no time to wonder, even, for already
the attacker was upon him, the swift Air Trust _epervier,_ one of the
dreaded air-fleet of the world-monopoly!
Gabriel had just time to swerve from the attack, and swoop
aloft--dropping his next to last projectile as he did so--when the
whirling shape zoomed past, swung round and once more charged. He saw,
vaguely, two men sat in it. One was the pilot, a "Gray" or Cosmos
mercenary. The other--could it be? Yes, there was no mistaking! The
other was Slade himself, commander of the hireling army of Plutocracy!
Out from the attacking 'plane jetted sadden spurts of fire. Gabriel
heard the zip-zip-zip of bullets; heard a ripping tear, as one of his
canvas wings was punctured--God help him, had that explosive bullet
struck a wire or a stay!
Then, maddened to despair; and burning with fierce rage against this
monster of the upper air that now was hurling death at him, he once more
"banked," brought his machine sharp round, and charged, full drive, at
This tactic for a second must have disconcerted the Air Trust
mercenaries. Gabriel's speed was terrific. With stupefying suddenness,
the _epervier_ loomed up ahead of him.
"Now!" he shouted. "Take this, from me!"
Half rising from his seat, he hurled his last remaining projectile full
at Slade, then wrenched his own 'plane off sharply to the left.
A thunderous concussion and a dazzling burst of light told him his
chance shot had been effective.
He got a second's vision of a shattered black mass, a tangle of girders,
wires, collapsed planes, that seemed to hang a moment in midair--of
whirling bodies--of wreckage indescribable. Then the broken debris
plunged with awful speed and vanished through the red-glowing mist.
Even as he shuddered, sickened at the terrible, though necessary deed,
the deed which alone could save him from swift death, an overwhelming
air-wave from the terrible explosion struck his speeding machine, the
machine captured in the Great Smokies from the Air Trust itself.
It heeled over like an unballasted yacht under the lash of a hurricane.
Vainly Gabriel jerked at wheel and levers; he could not right it.
As it seemed to come under control, a stay snapped. The 'plane swooped,
yawned forward and stuck its nose into an air-hole, caused by the vast,
uprising smoke and heat of the huge conflagration beneath.
Then, lost and beyond all guidance, it somersaulted, slid away down a
long drop and, whirling wildly over and over, plunged with Gabriel into
the glowing, smoking, detonating void!
TERROR AND RETREAT.
When, despite Flint's imperative orders, Slade failed to reopen the
lines of communication for him, before nightfall, and when President
Supple wired in code for a little more time in obeying Air Trust orders,
the Billionaire recognized that something of terrible menace now had
suddenly broken in upon his dream of universal power.
He summoned Waldron and Herzog for another conference and together they
feverishly planned to put the works under defense, until such time as
troops could be got through to them.
The plant regiment was mustered and the Cosmos mercenaries and scabs
were made ready. The machine-guns were unlimbered for action and large
quantities of ammunition were delivered to them and to the aerial-bomb
guns, as nightfall lowered. Herzog set eight hundred men to work
covering all the tanks possible, with wire netting of heavy steel. The
search-lights were all ordered into use; steam and electrical
connections were made, the air-fleet was manned, and everything was done
that unlimited wealth and bitter hate of the Workers could suggest.
With curses on the fog, which hid the upper air from view, the old man
now stood at one of the west windows of his inner office--the office on
the top floor of the main Administration Building, overlooking nearly
the whole Plant.
"Damn the weather!" he snarled, his gold teeth glinting. "In addition to
all this mist from the Falls, there's a regular cloud-bank settling
down, tonight! Under cover of it, what may not happen? Nothing could
have been worse, Waldron. Though we shall soon control the air, that
won't be enough, so long as fogs and mists escape us. Our next
problem--hello! Now what the devil's _that_?"
"What's what?" retorted Waldron, testily. He had been drinking rather
more heavily than usual, that day, both because of the dull weather and
because the Falls invariably got on his nerves, during his brief
sojourns there. Away from New York and his favorite haunts, Waldron was
lost. "What's what?" he repeated with an ugly look. "This roaring,
glaring, trembling place gives me--"
"That! That light in the sky!" cried Flint, excitedly pointing. "See?
No--it's gone now! But it looked like--like a rocket! A signal, of some
kind, thrown from an aeroplane! A--"
Waldron laughed harshly.
"Seeing things, eh?" he sneered, coming across to the window, himself,
and peering out. "_I_ don't see anything! Nothing here to worry about,
Flint. With all these walls and guns, and netting, and air-ships and a
private army and all, what more do you want? Not getting nervous in your
old age, are you, eh?" he gibed bitterly. "Or is your conscience
beginning to wake up, as the graveyard becomes more a probability
"Enough!" Flint snapped at him. "When you drink, Waldron, you're an
idiot! Now, forget all this, and let's get down to work. I tell you, I
just now saw a signal-light up there in the mist. There's trouble coming
tonight, as sure as we own the earth. Trouble, maybe big trouble.
Merciful God, I--I rather think we oughtn't to be here, in person, eh?
We'd be much better off out of here. If there--there should be any
fighting, you know--"
His voice broke in a falsetto pipe. Waldron laughed brutally.
"Bravo!" cried he, with flushed and mottled face. "You'll do, Flint! I
see, right now, the firing-line is the life for you! Well, let the row
come, and devil take it, say I. Better anything than--"
The sentence was never finished, For suddenly a shattering explosion
hurled a vast section of the western encircling wall outward, out into
the River, and, where but a moment before, the partners had been gazing
at a high concrete-and-steel barrier, with electric lights on top, now
only a huge gap appeared, through which the foam-tossed current could be
seen leaping swiftly onward toward the Falls.
Hurled back from the window by the force of the explosion, both men were
struck dumb with terror and amaze. Flint rallied first, and with a cry
of rage, inarticulate as a beast's howl, sprang to the window again.
Outside, a scene of desolation and wild activity was visible. The great,
paved courtyard, flanked by the turbine houses and the wall, on one
hand, and on the other by the oxygen tanks' huge bulk that loomed
vaguely through the electric-lighted mist, now had begun to swarm with
Flint saw a few forms lying prone under the hard glare of the arcs and
vacuum lights. Others were crawling, writhing, making strange
contortions. Here, there, men with rifles were running to take their
posts. Hoarse orders were shouted, and shrill replies rang back.
Then, all at once, a kind of sputtering series of small explosions began
to rip along the edge of the south wall. And now, machine-guns began to
talk, with a dry, hard metallic clatter. And--though whence these came,
Flint could not see--grenades began flying over the wall and bursting in
the court. Though unwounded, men fell everywhere these gas-projectiles
exploded--fell, stone dead and stiffening at once--fell, in strange,
monstrous, awful attitudes of death.
Steam began billowing up; and crackling electrical discharges leaped
along the naked wires of the outer barricades.
The whole Plant shook and rattled with the violent concussions of the
aerial-bomb guns, already searching the upper air with shrapnel.
Somewhere, out of the range of vision, another terrible shock made the
building tremble to its nethermost foundation; and wild yells and cries,
as of a charge, a repulse, a savage and determined rush, echoed through
the vast enclosure. Came a third detonation--and, blinding in its
intensity, a globe of fire burst almost beneath the window, five stories
The partners, shaking and pale, retreated hastily. A swift,
upward-rising shape swept over the courtyard and was gone--one of the
air-fleet now launched to meet the attackers.
Far below a sudden crumbling shudder of masonry told the Billionaire
not a moment was to be lost, for already one wing of the Administration
Building was swaying to its fall.
"Quick, Waldron! Quick!" he shouted, in the shrill treble of senility,
and ran into the corridor that led to the north wing. Waldron, suddenly
sobered, followed; and from the offices, where the night-shift of clerks
were laboring (or had been, till the first explosion), came crowding
pale and frightened men. Not the fighting cast of Air Trust slaves,
these, but the anaemic chemists and experimenters and clerical workers,
scabs, to a man. Now, in the common sentiment of fear, they jostled
Flint and Waldron, as though these plutocrats had been but common clay.
And in the corridor a babel rose, through which fresh volleys and ever
more and more violent explosions ripped and thundered.
Flint struck savagely at some who barred his way; and Waldron elbowed
through, with curses.
"Get out of the way, you swine!" shrilled the old Billionaire. "Make
way, there! Way!"
The two men reached a door that led by a private passage, through to the
"Here, this way, Flint!" shouted Waldron. "If those Hell-devils drop a
bomb on us, this building will cave in like jackstraws! Our only safety
is here, _here_!"
Thoroughly cowed now, with all the brutal bluster and half-drunken
swagger gone, Waldron whipped out a bunch of keys, tremblingly unlocked
the door and blundered through. Flint followed. Behind them, others
tried to press, on toward the armored laboratories; but with vile
blasphemies the plutocrats beat them back and slammed the door.
"To Hell with _them_!" shouted Flint, perfectly ashen now and shaking
like a leaf, the fear of death strong on his withered soul. "We've got
all we can do to look after ourselves! Quick, Waldron, quick!"
Both men, sick with panic, with fear of the unknown terror from above,
stumbled rather than ran along the passage, and presently reached the
Here Waldron unlocked another door, this time a steel one, and--as they
both crowded through--pressed a hand to his dizzy head.
"Safe!" he gulped, slamming the door again. "They can't get us _here_,
at any rate, no matter what happens! This place is like a fort, and--"
His speech was interrupted by a dazing, deafening tumult of sound. The
earth trembled, and the laboratory, steel though it was, with concrete
facing, rocked on its foundation. A glare through the windows, quickly
fading, told them the building they had just quitted was now but a
smoking pile of ruin.
Flint gasped, unable to speak. Waldron, shaking and cowed, tried to
moisten his dry lips with a thick tongue.
"We--we weren't any too soon!" he gulped, without one thought of the
doomed scabs in the Administration Building. Stern justice was now
overtaking these wretches. False to the working-class, and eager to
serve the Air Trust--not only eager to serve, but zealous in any attack
on the proletariat, and by their very employment serving to rivet the
shackles on the world--now they were abandoned by their masters.
Between upper and nether millstone, moving with neither, they were
caught and crushed. And as the great building quivered, gaped wide
open, swayed and came thundering down in a vast pile of flame-lit ruin,
whence a volcanic burst of fire, smoke and dust arose, they perished
miserably, time-servers, cowards and self-seekers to the last.
But Flint and Waldron still survived. Though the very earth shook and
trembled with the roar of bombs, the crumbling of massive walls, the
rattle of volley-fire and the crashing of the terrible grenades that
mowed down hundreds as they spread their poisonous gas abroad--though
the shriek of projectiles, the thunder of the air-ship guns now sweeping
the sky in blind endeavor to shatter the attackers all swelled the
tumult to a frightful storm of terror and of death; they still lived,
cowered and cringed there in the bomb-proof steel-and-concrete of the
"Come, come!" Flint quavered, peering about him at the deserted room,
still glaring with electric light--the room now abandoned by all its
workers, who, members of Herzog's regiment, had run to take their posts
at the first signal of attack. "Come--this isn't safe enough, even here.
He pointed toward a vault-like door, leading to the subterranean steel
chambers where Herzog eventually counted on storing some hundreds of
thousands of tons of liquid oxygen--the reserve-chambers, impregnable to
lightning, fire, frost or storm, to man's attacks or nature's--the
chambers blasted from the living rock, deep as the Falls themselves,
vacuum-lined, wondrous achievement of the highest engineering skill the
world could boast.
"There! There!" repeated Flint, plucking at the dazed Waldron's sleeve.
"Tool-steel and concrete, twenty-five feet thick--and vacuum chambers
all about--_there_ we can hide! There's safety! Come, come quick!"
Staring, white-faced (he who had been so red!) and dumb, Waldron
yielded. Together, furtive as the criminals they were, these two
world-masters slunk toward the steel door, while without, their empire
was crashing down in smoke, and flame, and blood!
They had almost reached it when a smash of glass at the far end of the
laboratory whipped them round, in keener terror.
Staring, wild-eyed, they beheld the crouching figure of Herzog. Running,
even as he cringed, he had upset a glass retort, which had shattered on
the concrete floor. And as he ran, he screamed:
"_They're in! They're coming! Quick--the steel vaults! Let me in, there!
Let me in!_"
The coward was now a maniac with terror, his face perfectly white,
writhen with panic, and with staring eyes that gleamed horribly under
the greenish vacuum-lights.
"Back, you! Get out!" roared Waldron, raising a fist. "We--"
A sudden belch of flame, outside, split the night with terrible
virescence. The whole steel building trembled and swayed. Some of its
girders buckled; and the east wall, nearest the oxygen-tanks, caved
inward as a mass of many tons was hurled against it.
A stunning concussion flung all three men to the floor; and, as they
fell, a withering heat-wave quivered through the place.
"The oxygen-tanks!" gasped Flint. "They're blown up--they're
burning--God help us!"
Scorching, yet still eager to live, he crawled on hands and knees toward
the steel door. Waldron dragged himself along, half-dead with terror.
Now, dripping gouts of inextinguishable fire were raining on the roof of
the building. A whirlwind of flame was sweeping all its eastern side;
and a glare like that of Hell itself seared the eyes of the fugitives.
Quivering, trembling, slavering, the old man and Waldron wrenched the
steel door open.
"_Me! Me! Let me in! Me! Save me!_" howled Herzog, dragging himself
They only laughed derisively, with howls of demoniacal scorn.
"You slave! You cur!" shouted Waldron, and spat at him as he drew the
vault door shut. "You cringing dog--stay there, now, and face it!"
The great door boomed shut. In the cool of the winding stairway of steel
which led, lighted by electricity, to the trap-door and the ladder down
into the tremendous vaults, the world-masters breathed deeply once more,
respited from death.
Herzog, screaming like a fiend in torment, clawed at the impenetrable
steel door, raved, begged, entreated, and tore his fingers on the lock.
No answer, save the muffled echo of a jeer, from within.
What was that?
Mad with terror though he was, he whirled about, and faced the room now
quivering with heat.
Even as he looked, a great gap yawned in the western wall, farthest from
the flame-belching oxygen-tank that had been struck.
Through this gap, pouring irresistibly as the sea, swept a tide of
attackers, storming the inner citadel of the infernal, world-strangling
At the head of this victorious army, this flood triumphant of the
embattled proletaire, Herzog's staring eyes caught a moment's glimpse of
a dreaded face--the face of Gabriel Armstrong.
Gasping, the coward and tool of the world-masters made one supreme
decision. Close by, a rack of vials stood. He whirled to it, snatched
out a tiny bottle and waiting not even to draw the cork--craunched the
bottle, glass and all, in his fang-like, uneven teeth.
An instant change swept over him. His staring eyes closed, his head fell
forward, his whole body collapsed like an empty sack. He fell, twitched
once or twice, and was dead--dead ere the attackers could reach the door
of steel where his bestial masters had betrayed him.
Thus perished Herzog, coward and tool, a victim of the very forces he
himself had helped create.
And at the moment of his death, the masters he had cringed to and had
served, sneering with scorn at him even in their mortal terror, were
tremblingly descending the long metal ladder to the impregnable vaults
of steel below.
THE STORMING OF THE WORKS.
Plunged into the abyss of mist and flame by the attack of the Air Trust
_epervier_, Gabriel had abandoned himself for lost. Death, mercifully
swift, he had felt could be his only fate; and with this thought had
come no fear, but only a wild joy that he had shared this glorious
battle, sure to end in victory! This was his only thought--this, and a
quick vision of Catherine.
Then, as he hurtled down and over, whirling drunkenly in the void, all
clear perception left him. Everything became a swift blur, a rushing
confusion of terrible wind, and lurid light, and the wild roar of myriad
Came a shock, a sudden checking of the plunge, a long and rapid glide,
as the DeVreeland stabilizer of the machine, asserting its automatic
action, brought it to a level keel once more.
But now the engine was stopped. Gabriel, realizing that some chance
still existed to save his life, wrenched madly at his levers.
"If I can volplane down!" he panted, sick and dizzy, "there may yet be
Hope! Yes, but how tenuous! What chance had he, coasting to earth at
that low level, to avoid the detonating bombs, the aerial shrapnel being
hurled aloft, the poisonous gas, the surface-fire?
Here, there and yonder, terrific explosions were shattering the echoes,
as the Air Trust batteries swept the fog with their aeroplane-destroying
missiles. Whither should he steer? He knew not. All sense of direction
was lost, nor could the compass tell him anything. A glance at the
barometric gauge showed him an altitude of but 850 feet, and this was
decreasing with terrible rapidity.
Strive as he might, he could not check the swift descent.
"God send me a soft place to fall on!" he thought, grimly, still
clinging to his machine and laboring to jockey it under control.
Close by, a thunderous detonation crashed through the mist. His machine
reeled and swerved, then plunged more swiftly still. All became vague,
to Gabriel--a dream--a nightmare!
Flung from the seat, he sprawled through treetops, caught himself, fell
to a lower limb, slid off and landed among thick bushes; and through
these came to earth.
The wrecked 'plane, whirling away and down, fell crashing into the river
that rushed cascading by, and vanished in the firelit mist.
Stunned, yet half-conscious, Gabriel presently sat up and pressed his
right hand to his head. His left arm felt numb and useless; and when he
tried to raise it, he found it refused his will.
"Where am I, now, I'd like to know?" he muttered. "Not dead, anyhow--not
A continuous roar of explosions shuddered the air, mingled with the
booming of the mighty Falls. Shouts and cheers and the rattle of
machine-guns assailed his ear. The glare of the search-lights, through
the mist and steam, was darkened momentarily by thick, greasy coils of
smoke, shot through by violent flashes of light as explosions took
Gabriel struggled to his feet, and peered about him,
"Still alive!" said he. "And I must get back into the fight! That's all
that matters, now--the fight!"
He knew not, yet, where he was; but this mattered nothing. His machine
had, in fact, fallen near the river bank, in the eastern section of
Prospect Park, beyond the Goat Island bridge--this region of the Park
having been left outside the fortifications, in the extension of the Air
The trees, here, had saved his life. Had he smashed to earth a hundred
yards further north, he would have been shattered against high walls and
Still giddy, but sensing no pain from his injured left arm, Gabriel made
way toward the scene of conflict. He knew nothing of how the tide of
battle was going; nothing of his position; nothing as to what men he
would first meet, his comrades or the enemy.
But for these considerations he had no thought. His only idea, fixed and
grim, was "The fight!" Dazed though he still was, he nerved himself for
And so, pressing onward through the livid glare, through the night
shattered by stupendous detonations, he drew his revolver and broke into
Strange evidences of the battle now became evident. He saw an unexploded
grenade lying beside a wounded man who grasped at him and moaned with
pain. Over a wrecked motor-car, greasy smoke was rising, as it burned.
Louder shouting drew him down a path to the left. Masses of moving
figures became dimly visible, through the mist. And now, stabs of fire
pierced the confusion and clamorous night.
Gabriel jerked up his revolver, as he ran, the terrible weapon shooting
bullets charged with hydrocyanic-acid gas.
A man rose before him, shouting.
Gabriel levelled the weapon; but a glimpse of red ribbon in the other's
coat brought it down again.
"Comrade!" cried he. "Where's the attack?"
The other pointed.
"Gabriel! Is that you?" he gasped, staring.
"Yes! I fell--machine smashed--come on!"
"No! Arm, maybe. No matter! God! What's this?"
Toward them a sudden swirl of men came sweeping, stumbling, shouting, in
"Our men!" cried Gabriel, starting forward again. "We're being driven!
Rally, here! Rally!"
Beyond, a louder crackling sounded. Here, there, men plunged down. The
retreat was becoming a rout!
Yelling, Gabriel flung himself upon the men.
"Back there!" he vociferated. "Back, and at the walls! Come on, boys,
now! Come on!"
His voice, well known to nearly all, thrilled them again with new
determination. A shout rose up; it swelled, deepened, roared to majestic
Then the tide turned.
Back went the fighting men of the great Revolution. back at the
machine-guns, mounted in the breached walls.
Gabriel was caught and whirled along in that living tide. He found
himself at its crest, its foremost wave. Behind him, a roaring, rushing
river of men. Before the Inner Citadel.
Gathering speed and weight as it rolled up, the wave broke like an ocean
surge over a crumbling dyke.
Down went the Air Trust gunners and the guns, down, down to
Through the breach, foaming and swelling with irresistible power burst
the tides of victory.
Silenced now were the Trust guns. The steam-jets had none to man them.
Far aloft, a last explosion told the death story of the final
Here and there, from windows and corners of the wrecked and blazing
plant, a little intermittent firing still continued; but now the hearts
of these Air Trust defenders--scabs, thugs and scourings of the
slum--had turned to water, in face of the triumphant army of the working
They fled, those mercenaries, and all the ways and inner
strongholds--such as still were left--now lay open to Gabriel and his
Lighted by the blazing buildings and the vast fire torch of an
oxygen-tank off to eastward, they stormed the final citadel, the steel
and concrete laboratories, heart and soul and center of the hellish
Stormed it, as it began to blaze and crumble; stormed it, in search of
Flint and Waldron, would-be murderers of the world.
Stormed it, only to see Herzog gnash his teeth upon the flask, and
fall, and die; only to know that there, within the rock-hewn,
steel-lined tanks, below, their enemies had still outwitted them!
The swift onrush of the fire drove the victors back.
"_Out, comrades! Out of here_!" shouted Gabriel, facing the attackers.
None too soon. Hardly had they beaten a retreat, back into the vast
courtyard again, strewn with the dead, when a second oxygen tank
exploded, overwhelming the laboratory building with tons of flying
Leaping toward the zenith, a giant tongue of flame roared heavenward. So
intense the heat had now become, that the solid brick and concrete
walls, exposed to the direct verberation of the flame, began to crack
Gabriel ordered a general retreat of the attacking army. Victory was
won; and to stay near that gushing tornado of flame, with new explosions
bound to occur as the other oxygen tanks let go, must mean annihilation.
So the triumphant Army of the Proletaire fell back and back still
further, out into the wrecked and trampled Park, and all through the
city, where shattered buildings, many of them ablaze, and broken trees,
dead bodies, smashed ordnance and chaos absolute told something of the
story of that brief but terrible war.
Ringed round the perishing ruins of the Air Trust they stood, these
mute, thrilled thousands. Silence fell, now, as they watched the
roaring, ever-mounting flames that, whipped by the breeze, crashed
upward in long and cadenced tourbillions of white, of awful
And the river, ever-hurrying, always foaming on and downward to its
titanic plunge, sparkled with eerie lights in that vast glow. Its voice
of thunder seemed to chant the passing and the requiem of the Curse of
the World, Capitalism.
DEATH IN THE PIT OF STEEL.
And Flint, now, what of him! And Waldron?
While the Air Trust plant was burning, crumbling, smashing down, what of
its masters, the masters of the world?
A sense of vast relief possessed them both, at first, as the steel door
clanged after them.
Now, for a time at least, they realized that they were safe, safe from
the People, safe from the awakened and triumphant Proletariat. Even now,
had they surrendered, they would have been spared; but nothing was
further from their thoughts than any treating with the despised and
Foremost in the mind of each, now, was the thought that if they could
but stand siege, a day or so, the troops of the government--their
government and their troops, their own personal property--would
inevitably rescue them.
With this comforting belief, together they descended the long steel
staircase to the trap-door, passed through this, and climbed down the
metal ladder to the vast storage-vaults.
Here, everything was cool and quiet and well-lighted. Not yet had the
electric-generating plant been put out of action. Though all its workers
had either been drafted into the ranks of the Cosmos mercenaries, or
Herzog's regiments, or else had fled to hiding, still the huge turbines
and enormous dynamos were whirling, unattended. Thus, for the first few
minutes, in their living tomb, down over which the ruins of the now
white-hot laboratory-building had crashed, the world-masters had
Reassured a little, they descended to the very bottom of the first huge
"God!" snarled Flint, as he breathed deeply and glared about him. "The
curs! The swine! To think of this, _this_ really happening! And to think
that if we hadn't got here just in time, they'd actually have--have used
violence on _us_--"
Waldron laughed brutally, his body still trembling and his face chalky.
His laugh echoed, hollowly, from the metal walls.
"You old fool!" he spat. "Canting old hypocrite to the last, eh?
Violence? What the devil do you expect? Rosewater and confetti? Violence
was all that ever held 'em, wasn't it? And when they slipped the leash,
naturally they retorted--that's all! Violence? You make me sick! Damned
lucky for us if we get through this yet, without violence, you whining
Flint, for the first time hearing Waldron's honest opinion of him,
failed even to note it. All his panic-stricken ear had caught was the
note of hope, of survival.
Clutching eagerly at Waldron's sleeve, he cackled:
"If we get through? If we get through, you say? Then, in your opinion,
there _is_ a chance to get through? They can't get us here? We surely
shall be rescued?"
"Bah!" Waldron flung at him, some latent spark of courage still
smouldering in his sodden breast, whereas old Flint was craven to the
marrow. "You nauseate me! Afraid to die, eh? Well, so am I; but not so
damned paralyzed and sick with panic as all that! If you'd taken less
dope, the last twenty years, you'd have more nerve now, to face the
music! World-master, you? Eh? Playing the biggest game on earth--and
now, when things break bad, you squeal! Arrrh! You called me a quitter
once, you mealy-mouthed old Pecksniff! We'll see, now, who quits! We'll
see, at a show-down, who can face it, you or I!"
[Illustration: His fingers lost their hold--he dropped like a Plummet.]
Waldron's brutality, the hard, savage quality that all his life had made
him "Tiger" Waldron, now was beginning to reassert itself. His first
sheer panic over, a little manhood was returning. But as for Flint, no
manhood dwelt in him to be awakened. Instead, each moment found him more
abject and more pitiable. Like an old woman he now wrung his hands and
groaned, hysterically; and now he paced the steel floor of the vault
that was destined to be his tomb; and now he stopped again and stared
about him with wild eyes.
On all sides, sheer up a hundred feet or more, the smooth steel sides of
the vast oxygen tank rose, studded with long lines of rivets.
Near the top a dark aperture showed where the six-inch pipe joined the
tank; the pipe destined to fill it, when Herzog's last process--never,
now, to be completed--should have been done.
The huge floor, 150 feet in diameter, sloped gently downward toward the
center; and here yawned another pipe, covered by a grating--the pipe to
drain the liquid oxygen out to the pumping station.
So deeply set in the rock of the Niagara cliff was this stupendous
tank, and so cunningly surrounded by vacuum-chambers, that now no
faintest sound of the Falls was audible. All that betrayed the nearness
of the cataract was a faint, incessant trembling of the metal walls, as
though the solid ribs of Earth herself were shuddering with the impact
of the plunge.
Old Flint surveyed this extraordinary chamber with mingled feelings. It
surely offered absolute protection, for the present--or seemed to--but
his distressed mind conjured alarming pictures of the future, in case no
rescue came. Death by starvation, thirst and madness loomed before him.
Nervously he recommenced his pacing. Another terribly serious factor was
to be considered. He had now been three hours without his dose of
morphia, and his nerves were calling, tugging insistently for it.
"Rotten luck," he grumbled, "that I've got none with me!" Even there, in
the imminent presence of disaster and death, his mind reverted to the
poison, more necessary to him than food.
Waldron now had grown fairly calm. He stood leaning against the steel
ladder, down which they had descended. Choosing a cigar, he proceeded to
"Might as well be comfortable while we wait," said he. "I only wish we
had a couple of chairs, down here. Oversight on our part that we didn't
have some steel ones put in, and a line of canned goods and a few quarts
of Scotch. The floor's a bit damp and cold to sit on, and I want a drink
Flint swung about and faced him, pale and shaking, tortured with fear
and with longing for his dope.
"You--you don't think it _will_ be long, eh, do you?" he demanded. "Not
long before we're taken out?"
Waldron shrugged his shoulders and blew a long, thin arrow of smoke
athwart the brightly-lighted air.
"Search me!" he exclaimed. "To judge by what was happening when we made
our exit, the Plant must be a mess, by this time. We seem to have been
checked, even if not mated, Flint. I must admit they caught us by
surprise. Caught us napping, damn them, after all! They were stronger
than we thought, Flint, and cleverer, and better organized. And so--"
"Don't say 'we,' curse you!" snarled Flint. "Blame yourself, if you want
to, but leave me out! _I_ knew there was trouble due, I tell you. _I_
saw it coming! Who's been trying to crush the swine completely, if not
I? Who's worked night and day to have those bills put through, and who
had the army increased, and conscription started? Who's driven the
President to back all sorts of things? Who's forced them? Who made the
National Mounted Police a reality, if not I? Damn you, don't include
_me_ in your blame!"
Waldron shrugged his shoulders, and smoked contemplatively.
"Suit yourself," he answered. "If we both die, down here, it won't
matter much either way."
"Die?" quavered the old jackal, suddenly forgetting his rage and peering
about with furtive eyes. "Did you say die, Wally? No, no! You didn't say
that! You didn't mean that, surely!"
Waldron smiled, evilly, joying in this abject fear of his hated partner.
"Oh, yes, I did, though," he retorted. "It's quite possible, you know.
In case our government--yours, if you prefer--can't get troops through,
here, or a big general revolution sweeps things, inside a day or two,
we're done. We'll starve and stifle, here, sure as shooting!"
"No, no, no! Not that, not _that_!" whimpered Flint, shuddering. "I
can't die, yet. I--I'm not ready for it! There's all that missionary
work of mine not yet done, and my huge international Sunday School
League to perfect; and there's the tremendous ten-million-dollar
Cathedral of Saint Luke the Pious that I'm having built on Riverside
Drive, and there's--"
"Cut it!" gibed Waldron, spitting with very disgust. "If your time's
come, Flint, you'll die, cathedrals or no cathedrals. Your Sunday
schools won't save you any more than my investments will--which have
largely been wine, women and song. As a matter of fact, if it comes to
starvation, if we aren't rescued and taken out from under the red-hot
wreckage that's on top of us, I'll outlive _you_! I can exist on my
surplus adipose tissue, for a while; but you--_you're_ nothing but skin
and bone. You'll starve far quicker than I will, old man."
"Don't! Don't!" implored the shaking wretch, covering his eyes with both
"Moral, you oughtn't to have been a dope-fiend, all these years,"
continued Waldron, cuttingly, determined that now, once for all, his
despised partner should hear the truth. "How you've lived so long, as it
is, I don't understand. When I tried to marry Kate, and failed, I
reckoned you'd pass over in almost no time--and, by the way, that's why
I was so insistent. But you've disappointed me, Flint. Disappointed me
sorely. You still live. It won't be long, however. Down here, you know,
you simply can't get any dope. In a little while you'll begin to suffer
the torments of Hell. You'll die of starvation and drug 'yen,' Flint,
and you'll die mad, mad, _mad_! Understand me! Mad, for morphine! And I,
I shall watch you, and exult!"
Flint cringed, shuddering and stopped his ears. His partner, gloating
over him, smoked faster now. A strange light shone in his eyes. His
pulse beat faster than usual, and a certain extravagance of thought and
speech had become manifest in him.
He tried to compose himself, feeling that he must not push the cowardly
Flint too far, but his ideas refused to flow in orderly sequence.
Wonderingly he stared at his cigar, the tip of which was now glowing
more brightly than before.
And then, suddenly sniffing the air he understood. His eyes widened with
horror absolute. He started forward, gasped and cried:
"_Flint! Flint! The oxygen is coming in!_"
Uncomprehending, the old man still stood there, mumbling to himself. His
face was now tinged with unusual color, and his heart, too, was thumping
"_Oxygen_!" shouted Waldron, shaking him by the shoulder. "It--it's
leaking in, here, somewhere! If we can't stop it--_we're dead men_!"
"Eh? _What_?" stammered the Billionaire, staring at him with eyes of
half-intoxicated fear. "What d'you mean, the oxygen? In--in here?"
"_In here_!" cried "Tiger," casting a wild and terrible gaze about him
at the vast, empty trap of steel. "Can't you smell it? That ozone
smell? My God, we're lost! We're lost!"
"You're crazy!" retorted Flint, with vigor. "Nothing of the sort could
happen!" His head was held high, now, and new life seemed surging
through that spent and drug-wrecked body. "There's no way those curs
could have turned on any gas, here. You're crazy, ha! ha! ha! Insane,
eh? A good joke--capital joke, that! I must tell it at the Union League
Club! 'Tiger' Waldron, suddenly insane, and--ha! ha! ha!"
He burst into a long, shrill cacchination. Already his face was scarlet
and his mind a whirl. Though neither man understood the reason, yet the
fact remained that one of the last great explosions had ruptured a
subterranean check-valve closing the six-inch pipe that was to feed the
storage-tanks; and now a swift, huge stream of pure oxygen gas was
rushing at tremendous velocity into the vast chamber of steel.
Waldron, his heart leaping as though it would burst his ribs, raised a
fist to strike down his insulter; then, with drunken indecision, joined
in the maniacal laughter of the staggering old man.
In their ears a strange, wild humming now became audible. Lights danced
before their eyes; their senses reeled, and violent, extravagant ideas
surged through their drunken brains.
"_Ha! Ha! Ha!_" rang Waldron's crazy laughter, echoing the old man's.
All at once, his cigar broke into flame. Cursing, he hurled it away,
staggering back against the ladder and stood there swaying, clutching it
to hold himself from falling.
There he stood, and stared at Flint, with eyes that started from his
head, with panting breath and crimson face.
The old man, in a sudden revulsion of terror, was now grovelling along
the floor, by one of the massive walls, clawing at the steel with
impotent hands and screaming mingled prayers and oaths. His ravings,
horrible to hear, echoed through the great tank, now swiftly filling
"Help! Help!" he screamed. "Save me--my God--save me--. Let me out, let
me out! A million, if you let me out! A billion--_the whole world_! The
world, ha! ha! ha! Damn it to Hell--the world, I say! I'll give the
world to be let out! It's mine--I own it--_all, all mine!_ Ha! Dogs! You
would rise up against your master and your God, would you? But it's no
use--we'll beat you yet--out! _out_!--the world--I own it! All this
plant--this gas, all mine! My oxygen--ah! it chokes me! _Help!
Help!_--Swine! I'll scourge you yet--_absolute power_--_the world_--!"
With one final spark of energy, panting, his heart flailing itself to
death under the pitiless urge of the oxygen, old Flint sprang up, ran
wildly, blindly straight across the steel floor, and, screaming
blasphemies like a soul in Hell, dashed into the opposite wall.
He recoiled, staggered, spun round and fell sprawling most
Waldron, at sight of this awful end, felt an uncontrollable terror sweep
over his drunk and maddened senses. Though all his blood was leaping in
his arteries, and his breath coming so fast it choked him, yet a
moment's seeming sanity possessed his reeling brain.
"The door! The door, up there!" he screamed, with a wild, terrible
Then, turning toward the ladder, in spite of his fat and flabby muscles
quivering in terrible spasms, he ran up the long steel structure with a
supreme and ape-like agility.
Fifty feet he made, seventy-five, ninety--
But, all at once, something seemed to break in his overtaxed heart.
A blackness swam before his dazzled eyes. His head fell back. Unnerved,
his fingers lost their hold. And, whirling over and over in midair, he
dropped like a plummet.
By one wall lay Flint's body. At the foot of the ladder, like a crushed
sack of bones, sprawled the corpse of "Tiger" Waldron.
And still the rushing oxygen, with which they two had hoped to dominate
the world, poured through the six-inch main, far, far above--senseless
matter, blindly avenging itself upon the rash and evil men who impiously
had sought to cage and master it!
Thus perished Flint and Waldron, scourges of the earth. Thus they died,
slain by the very force which they had planned would betray mankind and
deliver it into their chains. Thus vanished, forever, the most sinister
and cruel minds ever evolved upon this planet; the greatest menace the
human race had ever known; the evil Masters of the World.
And as they died, massed around their perished Air Trust plant, a throng
of silent, earnest watchers stood, with faces illumined by the symbolic,
sacrificial flames--a throng of emancipated workers, of toilers from
whose bowed shoulders now forever had been lifted the frightful menace
of a universal bondage.
Explosion after explosion burst from the tortured Inferno of the vast
plant. Buildings came crashing, reeling, thundering down; walls fell,
amid vast, belching clouds of dust and smoke; a white, consuming sheet
of flame crackled across the sinister and evil place; and in its wake
glowed incandescent ruins.
Then, in one final burst of thunderous tumult, the hugest tank of all,
exploding with a roar like that of Doom itself, hurled belching flames
For many miles--in Buffalo, Rochester, Toronto and scores of cities on
both sides of the Great Lakes--silent multitudes watched the glare
against the midnight sky; and many wept for joy; and many prayed. All
understood the meaning of that sight. The light upon the heavens seemed
a signal and a beacon--a promise that the Old Times had passed away
forever--a covenant of the New.
And, as the final explosion shattered the Temple of Bondage to wreckage,
flung it far into the rushing river and swept it over the leaping,
thundering Falls, the news flashed on a thousand wires, to all cities
and all lands; and though the mercenaries of the two dead world-masters
still might struggle and might strive to beat the toilers back to
slavery again, their days were numbered and their powers forever broken.
Together in the doorway of the refuge at Port Colborne, Catherine stood
with Gabriel, watching the beacon of liberty upon the heavens. The
light, a halo round her eager face, showed his powerful figure and the
smile of triumph in his eyes. His left arm, broken by the fall in the
aeroplane, now rested in a sling. His right, protecting in its strength,
was round the girl. And as her head found shelter and rest, at length,
upon his shoulder, she, too, smiled; and her eyes seemed to see visions
in the glory of the sky.
"Visions!" said she, softly, as though voicing a universal thought. "Do
you behold them, too?"
"Yes," he answered, "and they are beautiful and sweet and pure!"
"Visions that we now shall surely see?"
"Shall surely see!" he echoed; and a little silence fell. Far off, they
seemed to hear a vast and thousand-throated cheering, that the
night-wind brought to them in long and heart-inspiring cadences.
"Gabriel," she said, at last.
"I wish _he_ might have seen them, and have understood! In spite of all
he did, and was, he was my father!"
"Yes," answered Gabriel, sensing her grief. "But would you have had him
live through this? Live, with the whole world out of his grasp, again?
Live, with all his plans wrecked and broken? Live on in this new time,
where he could have comprehended nothing? Live on, in misery and rage
"Your father was an old man, Catherine. You know as well as I
do--better, perhaps--the whole trend of his life's thought and ambition.
Even if he'd lived, he couldn't have changed, now, at his age. It would
have been an utter impossibility. Why say more?"
Catherine made no reply; but in her very attitude of trust and
confidence, Gabriel knew he read the comfort he had given her.
Silence, a while. At last she spoke.
"Visions!" she whispered. "Wonderful visions of the glad, new time! How
do you see them, Gabriel?"
"How do I see them?" His face seemed to glow with inspiration under the
shining light in the far heavens. "I see them as the realization of a
time, now really close at hand, when this old world of ours shall be, as
it never yet has been, in truth civilized, emancipated, free. When the
night of ignorance, kingcraft, priestcraft, servility and prejudice,
bigotry and superstition shall be forever swept away by the dawn of
intelligence and universal education, by scientific truth and light--by
understanding and by fearlessness.
"When Science shall no longer be 'the mystery of a class,' but shall
become the heritage of all mankind. When, because much is known by all,
nothing shall be dreaded by any. When all mankind shall be absolutely
its own master, strong, and brave, and free!"
"Like you, Gabriel!" the girl exclaimed, from her heart.
"Don't say that!" he disclaimed. "Don't--"
She put her hand over his mouth.
"Shhhh!" she forbade him. "You mustn't argue, now, because your arm's
just been set and we don't want any fever. If my dreams include you,
too, Gabriel, don't try to tell me I'm mistaken--because I'm not, to
begin with, and I _know_ I'm not!"
He laughed, and shook his head.
"Do you realize," said he, "that when it comes to bravery, and strength,
and the splendid freedom of an emancipated soul, I must look to _you_
for light and leading?"
"Don't!" she whispered. "Look only to the future--to the newer, better
world now coming to birth! The time which is to know no poverty, no
crime, no children's blood wrung out for dividends!
"The future when no longer Idleness can enslave Labor to its tasks. When
every man who will, may labor freely, whether with hand or brain, and
receive the full value of his toil, undiminished by any theft or
"The future," he continued, as she paused, "when crowns, titles, swords,
rifles and dreadnaughts shall be known only by history. When the earth
and the fulness thereof shall belong to all Earth's people; and when its
soil need be no longer fertilized with human blood, its crops no longer
be brought forth watered by sweat and tears.
"Such have been my visions and my dreams, Catherine--a few of them. Now
they are coming true! And other dreams and other visions--dreams of you
and visions of our life together--what of them?"
"Why need you ask, Gabriel?" she answered, raising her lips to his.
The sound of singing, a triumphal chorus of the accomplished Revolution,
a vast and million-throated song, seemed wafted to them on the wings of
And the pure stars, witnessing their love and troth, looked down upon
them from the heavens where shone the fire-glow of the Great
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