His executioners, five in number, stood facing him, twenty paces away. They were commanded by Bernard, the President of the Imperium. Bernard gazed on Belton with eyes of love and admiration. He loved his friend but he loved his people more. He could not sacrifice his race for his dearest friend. Viola had taught him that lesson. Bernard’s eyes swam with tears as he said to Belton in a hoarse whisper: “Belton Piedmont, your last hour has come. Have you anything to say?”
“Tell posterity,” said Belton, in firm ringing tones that startled the birds into silence, “that I loved the race to which I belonged and the flag that floated over me; and, being unable to see these objects of my love engage in mortal combat, I went to my God, and now look down upon both from my home in the skies to bless them with my spirit.”
Bernard gave the word of command to fire, and Belton fell forward, a corpse. On the knoll where he fell he was buried, shrouded in an American flag.
I was a member of the Imperium that ordered Belton to be slain. It fell to my lot to be one of the five who fired the fatal shots and I saw him fall. Oh! that I could have died in his stead!
When he fell, the spirit of conservatism in the Negro race, fell with him. He was the last of that peculiar type of Negro heroes that could so fondly kiss the smiting hand.
His influence, which alone had just snatched us from the edge of the precipice of internecine war, from whose steep heights we had, in our rage, decided to leap into the dark gulf beneath, was now gone; his restraining hand was to be felt no more.
Henceforth Bernard Belgrave’s influence would be supreme. Born of distinguished parents, reared in luxury, gratified as to every whim, successful in every undertaking, idolized by the people, proud, brilliant, aspiring, deeming nothing impossible of achievement, with Viola’s tiny hand protruding from the grave pointing him to move forward, Bernard Belgrave, President of the Imperium In Imperio, was a man to be feared.
As Bernard stood by the side of Belton’s grave and saw the stiffened form of his dearest friend lowered to its last resting place, his grief was of a kind too galling for tears. He laughed a fearful, wicked laugh like unto that of a maniac, and said: “Float on proud flag, while yet you may. Rejoice, oh! ye Anglo-Saxons, yet a little while. Make my father ashamed to own me, his lawful son; call me a bastard child; look upon my pure mother as a harlot; laugh at Viola in the grave of a self-murderer; exhume Belton’s body if you like and tear your flag from around him to keep him from polluting it! Yes, stuff your vile stomachs full of all these horrors. You shall be richer food for the buzzards to whom I have solemnly vowed to give your flesh.”
These words struck terror to my soul. With Belton gone and this man at our head, our well-organized, thoroughly equipped Imperium was a serious menace to the peace of the world. A chance spark might at any time cause a conflagration, which, unchecked, would spread destruction, devastation and death all around.