Caesar's Column, by Ignatius Donnelly

Chapter 15.

The Master of “The Demons”

The door, in a few minutes, opened, and closed behind a tall, handsome, military-looking man, in a bright uniform, with the insignia of a brigadier-general of the United States army on his shoulders.

The Prince greeted him respectfully and invited him to a seat.

“General Quincy,” said the Prince, “I need not introduce you to these gentlemen; you have met them all before. I have told them that you desired to speak to them about matters relating to your command; and they are ready to hear you.”

“Gentlemen,” said the General, rising to his feet, “I regret to have to approach you once more in reference to the pay of the officers and men of my command. I fear you will think them importunate, if not unreasonable. I am not here of my own volition, but as the mouthpiece of others. Neither have I incited them to make these demands for increased pay. The officers and men seem to have a high sense of their great importance in the present condition of public affairs. They openly declare that those they maintain in power are enjoying royal affluence, which they could not possess for a single day without their aid; and therefore they claim that they should be well paid.”

The General paused, and the Prince said, in his smoothest tones:

“That is not an unreasonable view to take of the matter. What do they ask?”

“I have here,” replied the General, drawing a paper from his pocket, “a schedule of their demands, adopted at their last meeting.” He handed it to the Prince.

“You will see,” he continued, “that it ranges from $5,000 per year, for the common soldiers, up through the different grades, to $25,000 per year for the commanding officer.”

Not a man at the Council table winced at this extraordinary demand. The Prince said:

“The salaries asked for are high; but they will come out of the public taxes and not from our pockets; and if you can assure me that your command, in view of this increase of compensation, will work with increased zeal, faithfulness and courage on behalf of law, order and society, I, for one, should be disposed to accede to the demand you make. What say you, gentlemen?”

There was a general expression of assent around the table.

The commander of the Demons thanked them, and assured them that the officers and men would be glad to hear that their request was granted, and that the Council might depend upon their valor and devotion in any extremity of affairs.

“Have you an abundant supply of the death-bombs on hand?” asked the Prince.

“Yes, many tons of them,” was the reply.

“Are they well guarded?”

“Yes, with the utmost care. A thousand men of my command watch over them constantly.”

“Your air-vessels are in perfect order?”

“Yes; we drill and exercise with them every day.”

“You anticipate an outbreak?”

“Yes; we look for it any hour.”

“Have you any further questions to ask General Quincy?” inquired the Prince.

“None.”

He was bowed out and the door locked behind him. The Prince returned to his seat.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “that matter is settled, and we are safe for the present. But you can see the ticklish ground we stand on. These men will not rest satisfied with the immense concessions we have made them; they will demand more and more as the consciousness of their power increases. They know we are afraid of them. In time they will assume the absolute control of the government, and our power will be at an end. If we resist them, they will have but to drop a few of their death-bombs through the roofs of our palaces, and it is all over with us.”

“What can we do?” asked two or three.

“We must have recourse to history,” he replied, “and profit by the experience of others similarly situated. In the thirteenth century the sultan of Egypt, Malek-ed-Adell the Second, organized a body of soldiery made up of slaves, bought from the Mongols, who had taken them in battle. They were called the Bahri Mamelukes. They formed the Sultan’s bodyguard. They were mounted on the finest horses in the world, and clad in the most magnificent dresses. They were of our own white race — Circassians. But Malek had unwittingly created, out of the slaves, a dangerous power. They, not many years afterward, deposed and murdered his son, and placed their general on the throne. For several generations they ruled Egypt. To circumscribe their power a new army of Mamelukes was formed, called the Borgis. But the cure was as bad as the disease. In 1382 the Borgi Mamelukes rose up, overthrew their predecessors, and made their leader, Barkok, supreme ruler. This dynasty held power until 1517, when the Ottoman Turks conquered Egypt. The Turks perceived that they must either give up Egypt or destroy the Mamelukes. They massacred them in great numbers; and, at last, Mehemet Ah beguiled four hundred and seventy of their leaders into the citadel of Cairo, and closed the gates, and ordered his mercenaries to fire upon them. But one man escaped. He leaped his horse from the ramparts and escaped unhurt, although the horse was killed by the prodigious fall.

“Now, let us apply this teaching of history. I propose that after this outbreak is over we shall order the construction of ten thousand more of these air-vessels, and this will furnish us an excuse for sending a large force of apprentices to the present command to learn the management of the ships. We will select from the circle of our relatives some young, able, reliable man to command these new troops. We will then seize upon the magazine of bombs and arrest the officers and men. We will charge them with treason. The officers we will execute, and the men we will send to prison for life; for it would not be safe, with their dangerous knowledge, to liberate them. After that we will keep the magazine of bombs and the secret of the poison in the custody of men of our own caste, so that the troops commanding the air-ships will never again feel that sense of power which now possesses them.”

These plans met with general approval.

“But what are we to do with the coming outbreak?” asked one of the councilors.

“I have thought of that, too,” replied the Prince. “It is our interest to make it the occasion of a tremendous massacre, such as the world has never before witnessed. There are too many people on the earth, anyhow. In this way we will strike such terror into the hearts of the canaille that they will remain submissive to our will, and the domination of our children, for centuries to come.”

“But how will you accomplish that?” asked one.

“Easily enough,” replied the Prince. “You know that the first step such insurgents usually take is to tear up the streets of the city and erect barricades of stones and earth and everything else they can lay their hands on. Heretofore we have tried to stop them. My advice is that we let them alone — let them build their barricades as high and as strong as they please, and if they leave any outlets unobstructed, let our soldiers close them up in the same way. We have then got them in a rat-trap, surrounded by barricades, and every street and alley outside occupied by our troops. If there are a million in the trap, so much the better. Then let our flock of Demons sail up over them and begin to drop their fatal bombs. The whole streets within the barricades will soon be a sea of invisible poison. If the insurgents try to fly they will find in their own barricades the walls of their prison-house; and if they attempt to scale them they will be met, face to face, with our massed troops, who will be instructed to take no prisoners. If they break into the adjacent houses to escape, our men will follow from the back streets and gardens and bayonet them at their leisure, or fling them back into the poison. If ten millions are slain all over the world, so much the better. There will be more room for what are left, and the world will sleep in peace for centuries.

“These plans will be sent out, with your approval, to all cities, and to Europe. When the rebellion is crushed in the cities, it will not take long to subdue it among the wretched peasants of the country, and our children will rule this world for ages to come.”

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37