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 incandescence.
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 hated enemy.
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 electric light.
Reassured a little, they descended to the very bottom of the first huge tank.
“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 cur!”