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    Chapter 55

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    Chapter 55
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    I ran down the stairs, and peered through the doorway, and sure enough, there were four or five automobiles stopped before the headquarters, having approached from opposite direction. I stood just long enough to see a crowd of men in khaki uniforms jumping out; then I ran back, and leaving Old Joe and Lynch to keep guard at the top of the stairs, I walked in and greeted Carpenter.

    He expressed no surprise at seeing me. Evidently his thoughts were on other things. For my part, I was trembling with excitement, so that my knees would barely hold me. How long would it be before T-S and his crowd appeared? I could figure the time it should take them to drive from Eternal City; but suppose something held them up? How long would the ex-service men stay out on the street, waiting for Hamby to answer their signal? Surely not many minutes! They would storm the place, and hunt out their victim for themselves. And suppose they should carry him off before the others arrived?

    I had Hamby's two revolvers in my pocket. Should we use them, or not? The thought hit me all of a sudden; and apparently it hit Old Joe at the same moment. "Give me those guns, Billy," he whispered, and I put them obediently into his hands, and he went quickly into the rear rooms. At the end of a minute, he returned, saying, "I unloaded them and threw them out of the back window." And even as he spoke, the silence of the night outside was shattered by the scream of that siren, which served to warn people out of the way when T-S was moving his companies about "on location."

    I went up to Carpenter. I didn't enjoy telling him a lie; in fact, I had an idea that one couldn't lie to him successfully. But I tried it. "Mr. Carpenter, Hamby left a message; he had to go downstairs, and said he wanted to see you. Would you come down and meet him?"

    "Ah, yes!" said Carpenter. And he walked to the door and down the stairs without another word. The rest of us followed him; Abell and Moneta first, they being innocent and unsuspicious; and then Lynch, and then Joe and I.

    The prophet stepped out to the street, and was instantly surrounded by a group of a dozen ex-service men, two of whom grasped him by the arms. He did not lift a hand, nor even make a sound. Comrade Abell, of course, started to cry out in protest; Moneta, the Mexican, reverted to his ancestors. His hand flashed to an inside pocket, and a knife leaped out. A soldier had hold of him, and Moneta shouted, "Stand back, or I cut off your ears." At which Carpenter turned, and in a stern, commanding voice proclaimed: "Let no man use force in my behalf! They who use force shall perish by force." Moneta stood still; and of course Lynch and Old Joe and I stood still; and the dozen men about Carpenter started to lead him away to their automobiles.

    But they did not get very far. Upon the silence of the street a voice rang out. Ordinarily, one would have known it was the voice of a woman; but in this place, under these exciting circumstances, it seemed the voice of a supernatural being. It almost sang the words; it was like a silver bugle calling across a battle-field--glorious, thrilling, hypnotic. "Make way-y-y-y for the Grand Imperial Kle-e-e-agle of the Ku-u Klux Klan!" Every one was startled; but I think I was startled more that the rest, for I knew the voice! Mary Magna had taken another speaking part!

    I was on the steps of the building, so I could see over the heads of the crowd. There were four of the big busses from Eternal City, two having approached from each direction. Some fifty figures had descended from them, and others were still descending, each one clad in a voluminous white robe, with a white hood over the head, and two black holes for eyes, and another for the nose. These figures had spread out in a half moon, entirely surrounding the little mob of ex-service men, and penning them against the wall of the building. In the center of the half moon, standing a few feet in advance, was the figure of the "Grand Imperial Kleagle," with a red star upon the forehead of the white hood, and shrouded white arms stretched out, and in one hand a magic wand with a red light on the end. This wand was waving over the Brigade members, and had apparently its full supernatural effect, for one and all they stood rooted to the spot, staring with wide-open eyes.
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