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   Chapter 3 A FALLEN MAN SHOOTS.

Unfettered By Sutton E. Griggs Characters: 7560

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


About one dozen years prior to the time of the beginning of our story, Lemuel Dalton, then a lad, was fishing on the banks of a body of water known as "Murray's Pond." The scene surrounding it was one of extreme loveliness, and Lemuel, though a child, was yet poet enough to be silent while nature was speaking to him so eloquently and yet so soothingly. There was the shining sun above bathing the scene with its summer warmth. There were the trees standing around, lazily luxuriant, surfeited. Wild flowers of varied hues were present in great profusion, as much as to say, "See, this is not so bad a world after all, else we could not be here." The trees that stood near to the pond cast their shadows upon its clear waters and saw with satisfaction themselves mirrored therein. A few cows had come to the pond and stood in one section thereof, the embodiment of contentment, leisurely tinkling their bells. Lemuel was absorbed in the contemplation of this scene.

A Negro boy, about Lemuel's age, but much larger, was fishing on the other side of the pond. The scenery had no charms for this boy, who, tiring of the monotony of unsuccessful angling, decided to leave his side of the pond and engage in a conversation with Lemuel.

When he drew near, Lemuel paid no attention to him, not so much as casting a glance in his direction.

Nothing daunted by this seeming indifference, the Negro boy attempted to start up a conversation. "Good place to fish, ain't it?" he said.

Not a muscle in Lemuel's face moved.

Drawing a little closer, the Negro boy touched Lemuel on the shoulder, and with a smile said, "Good place to fish, ain't it?"

Lemuel moved away, neither speaking to nor looking at the boy.

The Negro boy now got angry, and, throwing his fishing pole across his shoulder, started away, saying with a sort of lilt that resembled singing:

"I like sugar,

I like hash,

I'd rather be a nigger

Than poor white trash."

This was the taunting reply used by Negro children to avenge insults, real or imaginary, coming from white children. It was tantamount to a declaration of war, and was everywhere regarded as a casus belli, and Lemuel Dalton accepted it as such. He sprang to his feet and was soon engaged in a fisticuff with the Negro boy, who, however, proved to be his superior and signally defeated him.

Lemuel Dalton, the man, is on his way to see this Negro, now also a man. It is his purpose to settle this old score before assuming charge of his estate on the morrow. We shall now acquaint you more fully with his prospective antagonist.

There lived on the Dalton estate a Negro of middle age and medium height, who bore the name of Stephen Dalton. In his youth he was a slave of the Dalton's and remained on the place after the coming of freedom. Sober, industrious, thrifty, thoroughly honest, peaceably inclined, he enjoyed to a remarkable degree the esteem of the white and colored people of all classes.

Maurice Dalton was only nominally the head of the Dalton estate, the practical operations of his farming affairs being entrusted to the care of this Negro, Stephen Dalton.

Stephen Dalton's household consisted of himself, a son and a daughter, his wife being dead. It was this son, who years ago, had had the fight with Lemuel Dalton. Harry Dalton, for such was the son's name, was now a very handsome, vigorous looking young man. He was conscious of his acceptable personal appearance and was somewhat vain. This vanity was not lessened, of course, by his knowledge of the fact that he was the best farm hand in all that section of country. He was, however, very companionable, and his uniformly cheerful disposition made him a sort of favorite with all, in spite of his touch of vanity. He had attended the publ

ic school located in his vicinity, and while not very proficient, had succeeded in mastering about all that the teacher could impart.

On this particular day Harry has abandoned his field duties, and, watched by his very devoted sister, Beulah, is engaged in practice in order that he may be in prime condition for the sports incident to the coming of an excursion from the neighboring city to a nearby grove. Harry was the champion runner, jumper, boxer and baseball player, and was quite eager to maintain his proud distinction.

Beulah, who stood in the doorway of the three-room farm house in which they lived, said to Harry, "Look behind you! Yonder comes old Lemuel Dalton!"

Harry glanced over his shoulder, but did not desist from his practice.

Lemuel Dalton rode up to where Harry was, dismounted, hitched his horse, and came directly in front of Harry.

Since their fight at Murray's Pond the two had not spoken to each other, and both now understood that a fight was to ensue. In a biting tone Lemuel Dalton began:

"I suppose you know that I am owner of this place. I have come to lay down my law to you. You are the leading sport on the place. Regardless of the condition of crops you quit to go to picnics, shows, dances, camp meetings, funerals, and on every excursion that comes along. Your example is demoralizing to the whole farm. I assume charge of this place to-morrow, and I want you to understand that you cannot go to the picnic scheduled for that day."

Harry was fairly enraged that a white man should speak to him as though he were a slave. Before he could suppress his anger enough to trust himself to speak, Beulah cried out from the door:

"Don't that beat you? Some poor white trash that gets places by the death of their uncles don't know that Grant whipped Lee and Jeff Davis was hung to a sour apple tree."

Quivering with rage, Lemuel Dalton said to Harry: "You apologize for what that girl has said."

"She has spoken my sentiments," said Harry.

The two now began to prepare for battle. Lemuel Dalton advanced toward Harry and began the conflict with a stinging blow on Harry's left cheek. The battle was then on in earnest. Harry had the advantage in point of native strength. Lemuel's reach was longer than that of Harry, and he was by far the more skillful. He had for years been taking boxing lessons secretly, that he might be prepared for this very occasion. Lemuel Dalton had the further advantage of coolness. Harry, allowing his emotions of anger to influence him too largely, struck out wildly and thus dissipated much of his strength. Lemuel's wariness in evading Harry's onslaughts and skill in delivering blows added to Harry's irritation.

As the battle progressed it began to dawn on Harry that somehow he had met with more than his match. The thought of being defeated by Lemuel and in the presence of Beulah was too galling, and Harry determined to prevent such an outcome at all hazards. In a fit of exasperation, and in return for a well aimed blow from Lemuel, Harry delivered a powerful kick in his abdomen. Lemuel staggered backward and fell to the ground, Harry rushing toward him.

"Is that your game?" shouted Lemuel. Half raising himself by means of his left elbow, with his right hand he drew his pistol in time to shoot Harry just as the latter was about to throw himself upon him. Harry now fell to the ground seriously wounded.

Beulah came rushing to Harry's side screaming loudly.

"That comes of insulting poor white trash," said Lemuel Dalton, as he mounted his horse. As he turned to go he cast a look of triumph and contempt at the wounded Negro and his screaming sister. Beulah's cries brought help from the field near by, and strong hands bore Harry into the house.

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