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   Chapter 17 CLANDESTINELY, YET IN HONOR.

Unfettered By Sutton E. Griggs Characters: 5673

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Returning to her home, Morlene sent the following note to Dorlan:

"Mr. Dorlan Warthell:

"Dear Sir-I have come into possession of information that renders an interview with you imperative. For reasons that are entirely satisfactory to my conscience, I desire that the interview be private. I assure you that nothing but the most desperate circumstances could influence me to take this step. Upon the peril of your life meet me at the end of the Broad Street car line promptly at eight o'clock.

"The Ardent Expansionist."

A few minutes before the appointed hour, Dorlan was at the place designated. A thickly-veiled lady stepped off of the eight o'clock car and her shapeliness told Dorlan that it was Morlene. The two walked onward together until they were at such a distance as not to encounter inquisitive passers-by.

"Mr. Warthell," began Morlene, "my first task is to impart to you certain information. There exists a conspiracy, the object of which is to effect your murder at the mass meeting which you are to hold."

"Nothing that happens in the South any longer excites surprise in me," said Dorlan, no trace of emotion in his voice. Not a muscle of his noble face twitched at the news.

Morlene resumed: "I have further to say, that the state of the public mind toward you is such as is calculated to encourage rather than to destroy criminal intentions directed against you. Enlightened or unenlightened, the forces in favor of the existing order of things regard you as a disturbing factor in the body politic. Your position is peculiarly dangerous in that the weaker minds will grow to regard your murder as a civic duty."

"No one can gainsay the elements of danger in the situation," said Dorlan.

"The police, I fear, will not furnish you the protection that you need," remarked Morlene.

"Perhaps not," responded Dorlan.

Morlene now threw back her veil and turned her anxious eyes full on Dorlan. "Mr. Warthell," she said, "the cool manner in which you receive the information which I give, indicates that you are not as regardful of your life as might be the case."

Dorlan replied: "My life has no charms for me, per se. I am wedded to certain purposes for which I have learned to live. I will gladly yield my life for their furtherance at any time that result can be achieved. If the ends for which I strive are found to be unattainable, life has no further interest for me."

"Mr. Warthell, the world needs your services," said Morlene in earnest tones.

"It may be that the world has a greater need for my death. I am enough of a fatalist to believe that whatever the world needs it gets. Note how opportune have been the great births and deaths of history," replied Dorlan.

"Mr. Warthell, I have not come here to theorize on the comparative value of life and death. I have come

to save your life. Have you any relatives living?"

"None," said Dorlan.

"Oh, that there was a mother or a sister to make the plea that I must make!" said Morlene, sorrowfully. "Wait," she said, as though a new idea had struck her. "Mr. Warthell, is there not somewhere in the world a noble girl whose heart you have won and who has accepted you as the companion by whose side she is to journey through life?"

"My life has not been altogether without love," said Dorlan, a trace of emotion appearing in his voice. "But it was a boyish love. The little girl fell asleep in her twelfth summer. Were she alive to-night there might be something to chain me to life. As it is my personal life is barren of inducements and I am free to offer myself upon the altar for the good of my country."

Morlene dropped upon her knees; tears had made their appearance in her eyes. With clasped hands and face upraised to his, she said: "Mr. Warthell, I beg of you, spare your life. Spare me the horror of knowing that you were foully murdered. You have no mother, no sister, no lover. I am only a stranger to you. Argument fails me and I can only plead."

Dorlan turned away, unable to look into that sweet, sorrowful face and say it nay. "It is best that I die," said Dorlan to himself. "If I lived I could not escape falling in love with this divine being." To Morlene he remarked, his head still averted, "Sweet is your voice and earnest your pleadings. Think it not ungallant in me to say that the stern voice of duty engrosses my ear and I obey its summons. If I die at my post of duty you will be one to revere my memory."

Morlene arose and moved around so as to be face to face with Dorlan who was seeking to avoid her gaze. "Answer one question for me, Mr. Warthell. Is there anything connected with your life that causes you to think that death would be a personal gain to you as well as a gain to your country? I do not ask out of curiosity, you must know. It behooves me to know all the factors to be reckoned with in my attempt to save your life."

"No personal considerations would induce me to seek to destroy my life. Let that information suffice," said Dorlan.

The very suppression manifest in Dorlan's reply and tone of voice revealed to Morlene that the full answer to her query was "Yes." She now ceased her pleading. She saw that the labor of saving Dorlan's life was more largely upon her than she had at first supposed. She had even his indifference to life to combat. Undaunted by this fresh complication she girded her spirit for the conflict.

In silence the two went toward the place where Morlene was to board the car to return to her home. When they arrived at the place of parting, Morlene said, "Remember, I say, you shall not die." Dorlan looked at her, smiled sadly, turned and walked away.

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