All that he had been able to do towards the attainment of this seemingly impossible project was crystallised in the document bequeathed to Olga and Serge. It was divided into three sections. The first of these was mostly of a personal nature, and contained details which it would serve no purpose of use or interest to reproduce here. It will therefore suffice to say, that it contained a list of the names and addresses of four hundred men and women scattered throughout Europe and America, each of whom was the descendant of some prince or noble, some great landowner or millionaire, who had suffered degradation or ruin at the hands of the Terrorists during the reorganisation of society, after the final triumph of the Anglo-Saxon Federation in The second section of the will was of a purely scientific and technical character.
It was a theoretical arsenal of weapons for the arming of those who, if they were to succeed at all, could only do so by bringing back that which it had cost such an awful expenditure of blood and suffering to banish from the earth in the days of the Terror. The designs of Paul Romanoff, and the vast aspirations of those to whom he had bequeathed the crown of the great Catherine, could have but one result if they ever passed from the realm of fancy to that of deeds. If the clock was to be put back, only the armed hand could do it, and that hand must be so armed that it could strike at first secretly, and yet with paralysing effect.
The few would have to array themselves against the many, and if they triumphed, it would have to be by the possession of some such means of terrorism and irresistible destruction as those who had accomplished the revolution of had wielded in their aerial fleet. By far the most important part of this section of the will consisted of plans and diagrams of various descriptions of airships and submarine vessels, accompanied by minute directions for building and working them. Most of these were from the hand of Vladimir Romanoff, Olga's father; but of infinitely more importance even than all these was a detailed description, on the last page but two of the section, of the solution of a problem which had been attempted in the last decade of the nineteenth century, but which was still unsolved so far as the world at large was concerned.
This was the direct transformation of the solar energy locked up in coal into electrical energy, without loss either by waste or transference. How vast and yet easily controlled a power this would be in the hands of those who were able to wield it, may be guessed from the fact that, in the present day, less than ten per cent. All the rest is wasted between the furnace of the steam-engine and the dynamo. It was to electrical power, obtained direct from coal and petroleum, that Vladimir Romanoff trusted for the motive force of his air-ships and submarine vessels, and which he had already employed with experimental success as regards the former, when his career was cut short by the swift and pitiless execution of the sentence of the Supreme Council.
The remainder of this section was occupied by a list of chemical formula for the most powerful explosives then known to science, and minute instructions for their preparation. At the bottom of the page which contained these, there was a little strip of parchment, fastened by one end to the binding of the other sheets, and covered with very small writing. Olga's eyes, wandering down over the maze of figures which crowded the page, reached it before Serge's did.
One quick glance told her that it was something very different to the rest. She laid one hand carelessly over it, and with the other softly caressed Serge's crisp, golden curls. As he looked round in response to the caress, their eyes met, and she said in her sweet, low, witching voice—. Speak, and you are obeyed. Have I not sworn obedience? You know my brain is not as strong as yours, and I feel a little bewildered with all the wonderful things that there are in this legacy of my father's father.
So suppose you go to your smoking- room for a little, and leave me to do so. I shall not take very long, and then we will go over the rest together. As he spoke, Serge's eyes never wavered for a moment from hers. Could he but have broken their spell, he might have seen that she was hiding something from him under her little, white hand and shapely arm. She brought her red, smiling lips still nearer to his as she almost whispered in reply—. Come, now, I will give you a kiss for twenty minutes' solitude, and when you come back, and we have finished our task, you shall have as many more as you like.
The sweet, tempting lips came closer still, and the witching spell of her great dusky eyes grew stronger as she spoke. How was he to know what was hanging in the balance in that fateful moment? He was but a hot-blooded youth of twenty, and he worshipped this lovely, girlish temptress, who had not yet seen seventeen summers, with an adoration that blinded him to all else but her and her intoxicating beauty. He drew her yielding form to him until he could feel her heart beating against his, and as their lips met, the promised kiss came from hers to his.
He returned it threefold, and then his arm slipped from her shoulder to her waist, and he lifted her like a child from her chair, and carried her, half laughing and half protesting, to the door, claimed and took another kiss before he released her, and then put her down and left her alone without another word. Before, I saw that you were my equal and helpmate, now you and all other men —yes, not even excepting he who seems so far above me now— shall be my slaves and do my bidding, so blindly that they shall not even know they are doing it.
In half an hour Serge came back to finish the reading of the will with her. The little slip of paper had been removed so skilfully that it would have been impossible for him to have even guessed that it had ever been attached to the parchment or that it was now lying hidden in the bosom of the girl who would have killed him without the slightest scruple to gain the unsuspected possession of it.
Petersburg, to convey his ashes to their last resting-place in the Cathedral of SS. The intense love of the Russians for their country had survived the tremendous change that had passed over the face of society, and it was still the custom to bring the ashes of those who claimed noble descent and deposit them in one of their national churches, even when they had died in distant countries.
The station from which they started was a splendid structure of marble, glass, and aluminium steel, standing in the midst of a vast, abundantly-wooded garden, which occupied the region that had once been made hideous by the slums and sweating-dens of Southwark.
The ground floor was occupied by waiting-rooms, dining-saloons, conservatories, and winter-gardens, for the convenience and enjoyment of travellers; and from these lifts rose to the upper storey, where the platforms and lines lay under an immense crystal arch. Twelve lines ran out of the station, divided into three sets of four each.
Olga Romanoff Or, the Syren of the Skies - George Griffith - Google книги
Of these, the centre set was entirely devoted to continental traffic, and the lines of this system stretched without a break from London to Pekin. The cars ran suspended on a single rail upheld by light, graceful arches of a practically unbreakable alloy of aluminium, steel, and zinc, while about a fifth of their weight was borne by another single insulating rail of forged glass,—the rediscovery of the lost art of making which had opened up immense possibilities to the engineers of the twenty-first century.
Along this lower line the train ran, not on wheels, but on lubricated bearings, which glided over it with no more friction than that of a steel skate on ice. On the upper rail ran double-flanged wheels with ball-bearings, and this line also conducted the electric current from which the motive-power was derived.
The two inner lines of each set were devoted to long-distance, express traffic, and the two outer to intermediate transit, corresponding to the ordinary trains of the present day. The usual speed of the expresses was a hundred and fifty miles an hour, rising to two hundred on the long runs; and that of the ordinary trains, from a hundred to a hundred and fifty.
Higher speeds could of course be attained on emergencies, but these had been found to be quite sufficient for all practical purposes. The cars were not unlike the Pullmans of the present day, save that they were wider and roomier, and were built not of wood and iron, but of aluminium and forged glass. Their interiors were, of course, absolutely impervious to wind and dust, even at the highest speed of the train, although a perfect system of ventilation kept their atmosphere perfectly fresh.
Olga Romanoff; or, The syren of the skies. A sequel to The angel of the revolution
The long-distance trains were fitted up exactly as moving hotels, and the traveller, from London to Pekin or Montreal, was not under the slightest necessity of leaving the train, unless he chose to do so, from end to end of the journey. One more advantage of railway travelling in the twenty-first century may be mentioned here.
It was entirely free, both for passengers and baggage. Easy and rapid transit being considered an absolute necessity of a high state of civilisation, just as armies and navies had once been thought to be, every self- supporting person paid a small travelling tax, in return for which he or she was entitled to the freedom of all the lines in the area of the Federation. In addition to this tax, the municipality of every city or town through which the lines passed, set apart a portion of their rent-tax for the maintenance of the railways, in return for the advantages they derived from them.
Under this reasonable condition of affairs, therefore, all that an intending traveller had to do was to signify the date of his departure and his destination to the superintendent of the nearest station, and send his heavier baggage on in advance by one of the trains devoted to the carriage of freight. A place was then allotted to him, and all he had to do was to go and take possession of it. The Continental Station was comfortably full of passengers when Olga and Serge reached it, about fifteen minutes before the departure of the Eastern express; for people were leaving the Capital of the World in thousands just then, to spend Christmas and New Year with friends in the other cities of Europe, and especially to attend the great Winter Festival that was held every year in St.
Petersburg in celebration of the anniversary of Russian freedom. Ten minutes before the express started, they ascended in one of the lifts to the platform, and went to find their seats. As they walked along the train, Olga suddenly stopped and said, almost with a gasp—. The son of the Romanoffs hated the very name of the Aerians, so bitterly that even the mere suspicion that his idolised betrothed should have so much as spoken to one of them was enough to rouse his anger.
Paul's, when they were foolish enough to relinquish the throne of the world in obedience to an old man's whim. Do you see now why it is necessary that we should—well, I will say, make friends of those two handsome lads? Olga spoke rapidly and in Russian, a tongue then scarcely ever heard and very little understood even among educated people, who, whatever their nationality, made English their language of general intercourse. The words "handsome lads" had grated harshly upon Serge's ears, but he saw the force of Olga's question at once, and strove hard to stifle the waking demon of jealousy that had been roused more by her tone and the quick bright flush on her cheek than by her words, as he answered—.
Their hundred years of peace have not tamed my Russian blood enough to let me look upon my enemies without anger. Ah, the Fates are kind!
There is Alderman 1 Heatherstone talking to them. I suppose he has come to see them off; for no doubt they have been the guests of the City during the Festival. Come, he will very soon make us known to each other. A couple of minutes later the Alderman, who had been an old friend of Paul Ivanitch, the famous sculptor, had cordially greeted them and introduced them to the two Aerians, whose names he gave as Alan Arnoldson, the son of the President of the late Supreme Council, and Alexis Masarov, a descendant of the Alexis Mazanoff who had played such a conspicuous part in the war of the Terror.
They were just starting on the tour of the world, and were bound for St. Petersburg to witness the Winter Festival. Olga had been more than justified in speaking of them as she had done. Both in face and form, they were the very ideal of youthful manhood. Both of them stood over six feet in the long, soft, white leather boots which rose above their knees meeting their close-fitting, grey tunics of silk-embroidered cloth, confined at the waist by belts curiously fashioned of flat links of several different metals, and fastened in front by heavy buckles of gold studded with great, flashing gems.
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From their broad shoulders hung travelling-cloaks of fine, blue cloth, lined with silver fur and kept in place across the breast by silver chains and clasps of a strange, blue metal whose lustre seemed to come from within like that of a diamond or a sapphire. On their heads they wore no other covering than their own thick, curling hair, which they wore somewhat in the picturesque style of the fourteenth century, and a plain, broad band of the gleaming blue metal, from which rose above the temples a pair of marvellously-chased, golden wings about four inches high—the insignia of the Empire of the Air, and the sign which distinguished the Aerians from all the other peoples of the earth.
As Olga shook hands with Alan, she looked up into his dark-blue eyes, with a glance such as he had never received from a woman before—a glance in which he seemed instinctively to read at once love and hate, frank admiration and equally undisguised defiance.
Their eyes held each other for a moment of mutual fascination which neither could resist, and then the dark- fringed lids fell over hers, and a faint flush rose to her cheeks as she replied to his words of salutation—. For my own part, I seem to remind myself somewhat of one of the daughters of men whom the Sons of the Gods"—. She stopped short in the middle of her daring speech, and looked up at him again as much as to say—. Let the Fates finish it!
A couple of minutes after they had taken their seats, the train drew out of the station with an imperceptible, gliding motion, so smooth and frictionless that it seemed rather as though the people standing on the platform were sliding backwards than that the train was moving forward. The speed increased rapidly, but so evenly that, almost before they were well aware of it, the passengers were flying over the snow-covered landscape, under the bright, heatless sun and pale, steel-blue sky of a perfect winter's morning, at a hundred miles an hour, the speed ever increasing as they sped onward.
The line followed the general direction of the present route to Dover, which was reached in about half an hour.