Caesar's Column, by Ignatius Donnelly

Chapter 30.

Upon the House-Top

A few days after our joint wedding Max came running in one day, and said:

“It is to be to-morrow.”

He gave each of us a red cross to sew upon our clothes. He was very much excited, and hurried out again.

I had said to him, the morning of our marriage, that I desired to return home before the outbreak came, for I was now responsible for Estella’s life and safety; and I feared that all communication of one part of the world with another would be cut off by the threatened revolution. He had begged me to remain. He said that at the interview with General Quincy it had been made a condition of the contract that each of the executive committee — Cæsar, the vice-president and himself — should have one of the flying air-ships placed at his disposal, after the outbreak, well manned and equipped with bombs and arms of all kinds. These “Demons” were to be subject to their order at any time, and to be guarded by the troops at their magazine in one of the suburbs until called for.

The committee had several reasons for making this arrangement: the outbreak might fail and they would have to fly; or the outbreak might succeed, but become ungovernable, and they would have to escape from the tempest they had themselves invoked. Max had always had a dream that after the Plutocracy was overthrown the insurgents would reconstruct a purer and better state of society; but of late my conversations with him, and his own observations, had begun to shake his faith in this particular.

He said to me that if I remained he would guarantee the safety of myself and wife, and after I had seen the outbreak he would send me home in his air-ship; and moreover, if he became satisfied that the revolution had passed beyond the control of himself and friends, he would, after rescuing his father from the prison where he was confined, accompany me with his whole family, and we would settle down together in my distant mountain home. He had, accordingly, turned all his large estate into gold and silver, which he had brought to the house; and I had likewise filled one large room full of a great library of books, which I had purchased to take with me — literature, science, art, encyclopedias, histories, philosophies, in fact all the treasures of the world’s genius — together with type, printing presses, telescopes, phonographs, photographic instruments, electrical apparatus, eclesions, phemasticons, and all the other great inventions which the last hundred years have given us. For, I said to myself, if civilization utterly perishes in the rest of the world, there, in the mountains of Africa, shut out from attack by rocks and ice-topped mountains, and the cordon of tropical barbarians yet surrounding us, we will wait until exhausted and prostrate mankind is ready to listen to us and will help us reconstruct society upon a wise and just basis.

In the afternoon Max returned, bringing with him Carl Jansen and all his family. A dozen men also came, bearing great boxes. They were old and trusted servants of his father’s family; and the boxes contained magazine rifles and pistols and fixed ammunition, together with hand-grenades. These were taken out, and we were all armed. Even the women had pistols, and knives strapped to their girdles. The men went out and again returned, bearing quantities of food, sufficient to last us during a siege, and also during our flight to my home. Water was also collected in kegs and barrels, for the supply might be cut of. Then Max came, and under his orders, as soon as night fell, the lower windows, the cellar openings and the front door were covered with sheathings of thick oak plank, of three thicknesses, strongly nailed; then the second story windows were similarly protected, loopholes being first bored, through which our rifles could be thrust, if necessary. Then the upper windows were also covered in the same way. The back door was left free for ingress and egress through the yard and back street, but powerful bars were arranged across it, and the oak plank left ready to board it up when required. The hand-grenades — there were a pile of them — were carried up to the flat roof. Then one of the men went out and painted red crosses on the doors and windows.

We ate our supper in silence. A feeling of awe was upon all of us. Every one was told to pack up his goods and valuables and be ready for instant flight when the word was given; and to each one were assigned the articles he or she was to carry.

About ten o’clock Max returned and told us all to come up to the roof. The house stood, as I have already said, upon a corner; it was in the older part of the city, and not far from where the first great battle would be fought. Max whispered to me that the blow would be struck at six o’clock in Europe and at twelve o’clock at night in America. The fighting therefore had already begun in the Old World. He further explained to me something of the plan of battle. The Brotherhood at twelve would barricade a group of streets in which were the Sub–Treasury of the United States, and all the principal banks, to wit: Cedar, Pine, Wall, Nassau, William, Pearl and Water Streets. Two hundred thousand men would be assembled to guard these barricades. They would then burst open the great moneyed institutions and blow up the safes with giant powder and Hecla powder. At daybreak one of Quincy’s air-ships would come and receive fifty millions of the spoils in gold, as their share of the plunder, and the price of their support. As soon as this was delivered, and carried to their armory, the whole fleet of air-vessels would come up and attack the troops of the Oligarchy. If, however, General Quincy should violate his agreement, and betray them, they had provided a large number of great cannon, mounted on high wheels, so that they could be fired vertically, and these were to be loaded with bombs of the most powerful explosives known to science, and so constructed with fulminating caps that, if they struck the air-ship at any point, they would explode and either destroy it or so disarrange its machinery as to render it useless. Thus they were provided, he thought, for every emergency.

At eleven he came to me and whispered that if anything happened to him he depended on me to take his wife and mother and his father, if possible, with me to Africa. I grasped his hand and assured him of my devotion. He then embraced Christina and his mother and left them, weeping bitterly, in each other’s arms.

There was a parapet around the roof. I went to the corner of it, and, leaning over, looked down into the street. Estella came and stood beside me. She was very calm and quiet. The magnetic lights yet burned, and the streets below me were almost as bright as day. There were comparatively few persons moving about. Here and there a carriage, or a man on horseback, dashed furiously past, at full speed; and I thought to myself, “The Oligarchy have heard of the tremendous outbreak in Europe, and are making preparations for another here.” It was a still, clear night; and the great solemn stars moved over the face of heaven unconscious or indifferent as to what was going forward on this clouded little orb.

I thought it must be nearly twelve. I drew out my watch to look at the time. It lacked one minute of that hour. Another instant, and the whole city was wrapped in profound darkness. Some of the workmen about the Magnetic Works were members of the Brotherhood, and, in pursuance of their orders, they had cut the connections of the works and blotted out the light.

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