THE MAMELUKES OF THE AIR
The vice-president of the Brotherhood leaned forward and whispered to one of the secretaries, who, taking two men with him, left the room. A seat was given me. There was a pause of perhaps ten minutes. Not a whisper broke the silence. Then there came a rap at the door. The other secretary went to it. There was whispering and consultation; then the door opened and the secretary and his two companions entered, leading a large man, blindfolded. He wore a military uniform. They stopped in the middle of the room.
“General Jacob Quincy,” said the stern voice of the president, “before we remove the bandage from your eyes I ask you to repeat, in this presence, the pledge you made to the representative of the Brotherhood, who called upon you today.”
The man said:
“I was informed by your messenger that you had a communication to make to me which involved the welfare, and perhaps the lives, of the officers and men commanding and manning the air-vessels, or war-ships, called by the people ‘The Demons.’ You invited me here under a pledge of safe conduct; you left your messenger with my men, as hostage for my return; and I promised never to reveal to mortal ear anything that I might see or hear, except so far as it might be necessary, with your consent, to do so to warn my command of those dangers which you assure me threaten them. This promise I here renew, and swear by the Almighty God to keep it forever inviolate.”
“Remove his bandage,” said the president.
They did so, and there stood before me the handsome and intelligent officer whom I had seen last night in the Prince of Cabano’s council-chamber.
The president nodded to the cripple, as if by some pre-arrangement, and said, “Proceed.”
“General Jacob Quincy,” said the thin, penetrating voice of the vice-president of the Order, “you visited a certain house last night, on a matter of business, connected with your command. How many men knew of your visit?”
“Three,” said the general, with a surprised look. “I am to communicate the results to a meeting of my command tomorrow night; but I thought it better to keep the matter pretty much to myself until that time.”
“May I ask who were the men to whom you spoke of the matter?”
“I might object to your question,” he said, “but that I suppose something important lies behind it. The men were my brother, Col. Quincy; my adjutant-general, Captain Underwood, and my friend Major Hartwright.”
“Do you think any of these men would tell your story to any one else?”
“Certainly not. I would venture my life upon their prudence and secrecy, inasmuch as I asked them to keep the matter to themselves. But why do you ask such questions?”