“I shall go with you most willingly,” I said. “To tell you the truth,” I added, “While I cannot approve of your terrible Brotherhood, nevertheless what I have seen and heard tonight satisfies me that the Plutocrats should no longer cumber the earth with their presence. Men who can coolly plot, amid laughter, the death of ten million human beings, for the purpose of preserving their ill-gotten wealth and their ill-used power, should be exterminated from the face of the planet as enemies of mankind—as poisonous snakes—vermin.”
He grasped my hand and thanked me.
It was pleasant to think, that night, that Estella loved me; that I had saved her; that we were under the same roof; and I wove visions in my brain brighter than the dreams of fairyland; and Estella moved everywhere amid them, a radiant angel.
“Now, Gabriel,” said Max, “I will have to blindfold you—not that I mistrust you, but that I have to satisfy the laws of our society and the scruples of others.”
This was said just before we opened the door. He folded a silk handkerchief over my face, and led me down the steps and seated me in a carriage. He gave some whispered directions to the driver, and away we rolled. It was a long drive. At last I observed that peculiar salty and limy smell in the air, which told me we were approaching the river. The place was very still and solitary. There were no sounds of vehicles or foot-passengers. The carriage slowed up, and we stopped.
“This way,” said Max, opening the door of the carriage, and leading me by the hand. We walked a few steps; we paused; there were low whisperings. Then we descended a long flight of steps; the air had a heavy and subterranean smell; we hurried forward through a large chamber. I imagined it to be the cellar of some abandoned warehouse; the light came faintly through the bandage over my face, and I inferred that a guide was carrying a lantern before us. Again we stopped. There was more whispering and the rattle of paper, as if the guards were examining some document. The whispering was renewed; then we entered and descended again a flight of steps, and again went forward for a short distance. The air was very damp and the smell earthy. Again I heard the whispering and the rattling of paper. There was delay. Some one within was sent for and came out. Then the door was flung open, and we entered a room in which the air appeared to be drier than in those we had passed through, and it seemed to be lighted up. There were little movements and stirrings of the atmosphere which indicated that there were a number of persons in the room. I stood still.
Then a stern, loud voice said:
“Gabriel Weltstein, hold up your right hand.”
I did so. The voice continued:
“You do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that the statements you are about to make are just and true; that you are incited to make them neither by corruption, nor hate, nor any other unworthy motive; and that you will tell the truth and all the truth; and to this you call all the terrors of the unknown world to witness; and you willingly accept death if you utter anything that is false.”