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   Chapter 18 WHO WINS

Unfettered By Sutton E. Griggs Characters: 9687

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


The night of the mass meeting came at last, and there was a tremendous outpouring of the Negroes, recruited mainly from the ranks of the toiling masses. Scattered here and there in the audience were a few of the educated Negroes, drawn to the meeting to see how Dorlan was to fare in his attempt to breast the current of Negro loyalty to the Republican party. The women in the audience outnumbered the men, a fact not to be wondered at, when it is known that the Negro women of the South are, perhaps, the most ardent and unyielding Republicans in the whole length and breadth of the land. Closely veiled, Morlene sat in the audience, the embodiment of anxiety. The moment for the supreme contest between herself on the one hand and Bloodworth and Harry on the other, for the life of Dorlan, was drawing frightfully near.

At the appointed hour Dorlan entered the building from the rear door, walked across the platform and took his seat. Somehow the world expects the body of a man to give some indication of the soul within; wherefore all pictures of Satan represent him as being ugly. Those who came to the meeting hating Dorlan felt a more kindly feeling creeping into their consciousness as they saw that heaven had thought kindly enough of him to grant unto him the form of a prince, an intellectual brow, a truly handsome face that wore a look of earnest, honest purpose.

As Dorlan scanned the audience his heart swelled with joy at its immense proportions. Wrong though they sometimes were, Dorlan had the most profound faith in the good intentions of the Negro masses. He held that the intentions of no people on earth were better, and that the sole need of the Negroes was proper light.

Dorlan's analysis of the situation was as follows: The feeling encountered was largely a religious one. The Negroes believed unqualifiedly in the direct interposition of God in the affairs of men. They believed in the personality, activity and insidiousness of the Devil. They believed that God had specifically created the Republican party to bring about their emancipation. On the other hand they regarded the Democratic party as the earthly abode of the devil, created specifically and solely for the purpose of harassing them. Thus, whoever opposed the Republican party was sinning against God; and whoever voted against that party was in league with the devil.

Such were the views held by the less enlightened, Dorlan felt. In order to meet the situation he had prepared a speech that traced from a human point of view the development of the two parties. Once disabuse their minds of the direct, specific heavenly origin of the Republican party, and the way would be open to show, that as men made it, men could improve upon its policies. So at the appointed hour he arose and began his speech. It riveted the attention of his hearers, and they listened with eager ears to Dorlan's recital of the workings of the forces and counter forces that brought about their emancipation. Freedom had burst upon them so suddenly, was so glorious a boon, that their simple minds readily concluded that it dropped bodily, as it were, from the skies. They were now glad to gain a clear understanding of that phenomenal happening. Their feelings of resentment died away entirely, and they who came to jeer, frequently broke forth into applause.

Dorlan closed his speech with a thrilling peroration, urging the Negroes to gird themselves for the holy task of carrying to the uttermost parts of the earth the doctrine of the inherent, inalienable equality of all men.

Morlene could scarcely repress tears of joy over the happy turn of events. But her joy was to be short lived.

Bloodworth had employed a number of viciously inclined Negroes to put out the lights, bar the doors and foment excitement. In the midst of the disturbance Harry was to effect the murder of Dorlan. Bigoted Harry had not been in the least affected, nor were his mercenary compatriots in any wise moved, by Dorlan's utterances. When the speech was finished, at a given signal the lights were extinguished and a tumult raised.

Harry had closely noted the position of Dorlan on the platform, and as soon as the lights were out began to make his way toward him. As there was no one on the platform but Dorlan, he did not fear making a mistake as to the man he was to assault.

Morlene had employed a young man of strength and courage to sit by and keep close watch on Harry to thwart any attempts he might make. As Harry made his way with eager cat-like tread, he was followed by the young man appointed to watch him. When near Dorlan, Harry drew his pistol but felt it wrenched from his hand by some one of superior strength. Discovering that he was followed, Harry turned and sought to mingle with the crowd in the hope of eluding his pursuer. In this he was s

uccessful.

Morlene, thickly veiled, had been sitting in a corner of the auditorium throughout the meeting. In a satchel she had brought along a small lighted lantern. She knew the building well, and even in the midst of the hubbub and excitement incident to the putting out of the lights, had made her way to the platform whereon was Dorlan. Now handling her lantern so that it guided her directly to Dorlan, without informing others of her movements, she crept to his side. She found him seated, his head bent forward resting on his hand. Even now his first thought was of the future of the race, seeking to keep alive in his bosom to the moment of death, the hope that it would rise in spite of the unthinking element that now sought his life.

Morlene whispered into his ear, "Mr. Warthell, do not die here. As a friend, a sincere friend, I plead with you to live for all our sakes." The presence of Morlene in such a dangerous situation thoroughly aroused Dorlan. He sprang to his feet determined to live until she was out of danger, at least. "Here is a lantern," said she, handing it to him.

"Keep close to me," said Dorlan to Morlene. To the throng he said: "Gentlemen, vacate the aisle to the extreme right. Whoever obstructs that pathway to the door, does so at the peril of his life. I have given fair warning and hold you accountable for whatever results from your failure to obey." His voice was so commanding and he spoke with such self-assurance, that the movement to clear the aisle designated began at once; but the words had scarcely escaped his lips when he was stabbed from the rear. Turning upon his assailant, he felled him to the floor with a powerful blow. Flashing the light across the face of the fallen man, Dorlan and Morlene both saw that it was Harry.

"My duty is here," said Morlene, as she stooped and took Harry's head upon her lap.

"Good-bye. I must go. I am wounded," said Dorlan to Morlene, as he started for the door.

Morlene assured herself that Harry was not seriously hurt, and administered restoratives which she had been thoughtful enough to bring along. She was the while experiencing anxious thoughts as to the dangerousness of Dorlan's wound. At the earliest possible moment Morlene left Harry, (who was now reviving) and went to telephone for the ambulance. It came and, with the aid of lanterns, following a trail of blood, they came upon Dorlan, unconscious, the wondering stars peeping down upon his upturned face.

* * *

Morlene reached home on that eventful night some time before Harry. After his murderous assault on Dorlan, having recovered from the stunning effects of the blow that had felled him, he had gone from saloon to saloon, drinking and very hilarious over his night's work. At three o'clock in the morning he reached his home in a half-drunken state. Morlene had been anxiously awaiting his coming.

As Harry stepped into the room, one glance at Morlene's face had the effect of somewhat sobering him. Her face, her eyes, her attitude and, when she spoke, her voice, conveyed to the half-drunken Harry her feelings of utter scorn and indignation. He dropped into a chair. His eyes were bleared, his lips slightly ajar and his hands limp at his side, as he looked at the wrathful Morlene.

"Harry Dalton," said she, "You are to all intents and purposes a villainous murderer. I know of your nefarious plottings and I witnessed your cowardly attempt to assassinate Mr. Warthell, a man, the latchet of whose shoes the possessor of a heart like yours is unworthy to unloose. But your intended victim shall not die, unless an evil genius presides over the affairs of men. I have only waited here to tell you how I loathe your crime and that I exhausted every known means to thwart you. Now I leave you!"

Morlene started toward the door through which Harry had just come and which led into the hallway. Harry, who had taken a seat not far from the door, arose as if to intercept her.

"Stand back from that door, Harry," said Morlene pulling a pistol from her pocket and pointing it at him. Morlene had been careful to see that every chamber of the pistol was empty, so that no actual physical harm would result from the drawing of it.

Harry knew that Morlene, when a country girl, had learned to shoot well, and her angry looks made him feel that her knowledge as to how to shoot was supplemented with a determination to shoot if he disobeyed her. Lifting his hands as if imploring her not to shoot, Harry recoiled and Morlene glided out of the room, locking the door behind her.

For some time Harry stood in the floor bewildered by the sudden and most unexpected turn of events. At length he aroused himself and succeeded in breaking out of the room. It was too late, however, to find any trace of Morlene. She had made good her escape.

* * *

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