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A Honeymoon in Space by George Chetwynd Griffith

The Astronef stopped her descent instantly


The _Astronef_ stopped her descent instantly, and then she shot forward. The new greyhound was making her twenty-two and a half knots, hurling a broad white torrent of foam away from under her counters. But in half a minute the _Astronef_ was alongside her.

Redgrave ran the roll of bunting up to the top of the flagstaff, pulled one of the halliards, and the White Ensign of England floated out. Almost at the same moment the German flag went up to the staff at the stern of the _Deutschland_, and they heard a roar of cheers, mingled with cries of wonder, come up from her swarming decks.

Each flag was dipped thrice in due course. Redgrave took off his cap and bowed to the Captain on the bridge. Zaidie nodded and fluttered her handkerchief in reply to hundreds of others that were waving on the decks. Mrs. Van Stuyler woke up in wonder and waved hers instinctively, half longing to change crafts. In fact, if it hadn't been for her absolute devotion to the proprieties she would have obeyed her first impulse and asked Lord Redgrave to put her on board the steamer.

While the officers and crew and passengers of the _Deutschland_ were staring wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the graceful glittering shape of the _Astronef_, Redgrave touched the first button in the second row once, moved the 100-degree wheel on a few degrees, and then gave the other a quarter turn. Then he closed the window slide, and the next moment Zaidie saw the great liner sink down beneath them in a curious twisting sort of way. She seemed to stop still and then spin round on her centre, getting smaller and smaller every moment.

"What's the matter, Lenox?" she said, with a little gasp. "What's the _Deutschland_ doing? She seems to be spinning round on her own axis like a top."

"That's only the point of view, dear. She's just plugging along straight on her way to New York, and we've been making rings round her and going up all the time. But of course you don't notice the motion here any more than you would if you were in a balloon."

"But I thought you were going to speak them. Surely you don't mean to say that you intended that just as a little bit of showing off?"

"That's about what it comes to, I suppose, but you must not think it was altogether vanity. You see the German Government has bought Count Zeppelin's air-ship or steerable balloon, as it ought to be called, always supposing that they can steer it in a wind, and of course their idea is to make a fighting machine of it. Now Germany is engaged to stand by us in this trouble that's coming, and by way of cementing the alliance I thought it was just as well to let the wily Teuton know that there's something flying the British flag which could make very small mincemeat of their gas-bags."

"And what about Old Glory?" said Miss Zaidie. "The _Astronef_ was built with English money and English skill, but----"

"She is the creature of American genius. Of course she is. In fact she is the first concrete symbol of the Anglo-American Alliance, and when the daughter of her creator has gone into partnership with the man who made her we'll have two flagstaff's, and the Jack and Old Glory will float side by side."

"And meanwhile where are we going?" asked Zaidie, after a moment's interval. "Ah, there we are through the clouds again. What makes us rise? Is that the force that Pop told me he discovered?"


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