“But death,” he said, “is nothing; it is the mere end of life—perhaps of consciousness; and that is no atonement for years of suffering, every day of which was full of more agony than death itself can wring from the human heart.”
“I will not argue with you, Max,” I replied, “for you are wrong, and I love you; but do you not see, when a heart, the kindest in the world, could conceive and execute such a terrible revenge, that the condition of the mind is abnormal? But let us change the gloomy subject. The dreadful time has put ‘tricks of desperation’ in your brain. And it is not the least of the crimes of the Oligarchy that it could thus pervert honest and gentle natures, and turn them into savages. And that is what it has done with millions. It has fought against goodness, and developed wickedness.”
CAESAR ERECTS HIS MONUMENT
“What other news have you?” I asked.
“The strangest you ever heard,” replied Max.
“What is it?”
“Caesar,” said Max, “has fallen upon a scheme of the most frenzied and extraordinary kind.”
“Are the members of the Executive Committee all going crazy together?” I asked.
“Surely,” replied Max, “the terrible events we are passing through would be our excuse if we did. But you shall hear. After I had avenged my father I proceeded to find Caesar. I heard from members of the Brotherhood, whom I met on the streets, that he was at Prince Cabano’s palace. I hurried there, as it was necessary I should confer with him on some matters. A crowd had reassembled around the building, which had become in some sort a headquarters; and, in fact, Caesar has confiscated it to his own uses, and intends to keep it as his home hereafter. I found him in the council-chamber. You never saw such a sight. He was so black with dust and blood that he looked like a negro. He was hatless, and his mat of hair rose like a wild beast’s mane. He had been drinking; his eyes were wild and rolling; the great sword he held in his right hand was caked with blood to the hilt. He was in a fearful state of excitement, and roared when he spoke. A king-devil, come fresh out of hell, could scarcely have looked more terrible. Behind him in one corner, crouching and crying together, were a bevy of young and handsome women. The Sultan had been collecting his harem. When he caught sight of me he rushed forward and seized my hand, and shouted out:
“’Hurrah, old fellow! This is better than raising potatoes on the Saskatchewan, or hiding among the niggers in Louis—hic—iana. Down with the Oligarchy. To hell with them. Hurrah! This is my palace. I am a king! Look-a-there,’ he said, with a roll and a leer, pointing over his shoulder at the shrinking and terrified women; ’ain’t they beauties,—hic—all mine—every one of ’em.’
“Here one of his principal officers came up, and the following dialogue occurred: