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   Chapter 20 THE BYSTANDERS CHEER.

Unfettered By Sutton E. Griggs Characters: 8925

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


From his quest of Morlene, on the morning of her escape, Harry returned to his home in a sullen mood. Morlene's lack of appreciation of his disinterested patriotism which her course revealed to him, was a blow in itself, apart from his loss of her as a wife. The fact that he had lost his wife and had not slept any during the whole night did not, however, cause him to remain away from his accustomed labor that day. Cooking his own breakfast, he ate his solitary meal and went forth to his daily task. Anxious to learn what view others took of the happening of the previous night, he purchased a copy of a morning paper and read its comments thereon. It was the same paper that had commented so favorably upon what it termed the "Warthell Movement." Harry turned immediately to the editorial columns and read far enough to see that his act was being condemned. Thereupon he tore the paper into shreds, threw it to the ground and trampled upon it.

"Sure sign that I did right to attack that scoundrel Warthell, if it has made this old Democratic paper mad. Ha, ha, ha! Morlene thought I was doing wrong. I wasn't though, anybody can see, for what would this old Democratic paper be kicking about if what I did wasn't against it?" Thus muttered Harry to himself as he went on to his work.

"We'll hear a different tune when the Northern Republican papers begin to discuss our attempt to get rid of these Negro traitors who are plotting to undo all that the North has done for us. I take my medicine from the North; let the South go where it please. See? Any Negro that will stand up for the South against the North is an infernal, ungrateful, good for nothing rascal, and ought to be killed. Tell him I said so." These last words, addressed by Harry to himself, were accompanied with the shaking of a clenched fist at an imaginary foe. The more he pondered his course, the more he praised himself, and the more outrageous Morlene's desertion of him seemed. Eagerly he awaited the coming of the Northern papers that he might regard his vindication as complete.

Harry went about his daily task in a half cheerful, half moody frame of mind, pondering what steps to take with reference to his wife, but arriving at no definite conclusion.

After the lapse of a day or so the eagerly-looked-for Northern Republican paper came. Harry smiled with satisfaction, saying to himself: "Now we shall hear the thing talked about right."

The article was headed, "A Crime Against Freedom." Harry now thought that the article was going to gibbet Dorlan Warthell for having committed a crime against the freedom of the Negro by refusing to longer affiliate with the party that gave him freedom. He re-read the caption, "A Crime Against Freedom." "Yes, yes; only it ought to be 'An Unpardonable Crime,' for that is what it was." Eager to feast on the invectives to be hurled at Dorlan, he stood still on the street corner and began to read:

"The United States of America is a government ruled by the duly ascertained will of a majority of its citizens. Each qualified citizen has the right of casting one vote in support of whatever side of an issue that pleases him. Each citizen has the further right to use all legitimate means in his power to induce other citizens to cast their votes as he casts his.

"The right of advocacy is, if possible, more sacred than the right to vote, for the votes of fellow citizens go well nigh the whole length in shaping a man's environments. Since the votes of others are the majority influence in determining a man's environments, it is manifestly unjust to deny him the opportunity of influencing these votes. He who strikes at freedom of speech strikes at the corner-stone of our republic, and, to our view, commits the greatest crime that a citizen can commit against a government.

"It is well known that we are in full accord with the Republican party's policy with reference to the Philippine Islands. While we are firmly of the opinion that the party is right, we nevertheless strenuously insist that those who hold contrary views be accorded the right to advocate those views.

"Dorlan Warthell, a Negro in the South, has seen fit to publicly disapprove of a portion of the party's policy, whereupon a Negro Republican zealot has sought to take his life. The Republican party repudiates such vile methods and the man who resorts to them.

"Mr. Warthell has as much right to express his views, whatever they may

be, as the President of the nation. The fact that he is a member of a race that obtained its freedom through the instrumentality of the Republican party does not alter the matter in the least. The Republican party has no political slaves and desires none. It seeks to commend itself to the hearts and consciences of men, and spurns every semblance of coercion.

"The miscreant who sought to kill Mr. Warthell, because that individual dared to be a man, is unworthy of life. If the arms of justice are too short to reach him, it is hardly to be hoped that he will have the good sense to bring his own unprofitable existence to a close."

When Harry had finished he let the paper fall to the ground. He felt as though the very skies had fallen down upon him. To find the great Republican party lifting its voice in condemnation of his act was more than he could bear. Stooping down, he picked up the paper and re-read the closing paragraph.

"I can surprise them yet. They say 'It is hardly to be hoped that he will have the good sense to bring his own unprofitable existence to a close.' Aha! we shall see!" said Harry, a grim determination settling over his gloomy soul.

Deserted by Morlene, repudiated by the Republican party, which he had always regarded as the vicegerent of God, Harry decided to have his life come to a close in some way. He began to give earnest thought to the finding of the proper method of departure. In the matter of closing his earthly career, he was hampered by his religious views. He was a firm believer in Heaven and in a literal Hell. In common with many other Negroes, he believed that the Bible contained a specific declaration to the effect that all sins could be forgiven a man except the sin of self-murder.

To cause himself to die and yet escape Hell was the problem that now occupied Harry's mind. From day to day he deliberated on the matter. At one time he was attracted by the thought of laying down upon a railroad track in some isolated spot in the hope that he would fall asleep and fail to awake on the approach of a train. In case he did not awake, he thought that his death could properly be construed as an accident. Then he thought of becoming an attendant upon the sick, choosing such patients to serve as were afflicted with dangerous contagious diseases.

Months and months passed, summer and fall sped by and made way for winter, but Harry's purpose remained. The question of a way to die was at last solved for him in a most unexpected manner. One afternoon as he was returning from work, he saw far ahead of him, coming in his direction, a pair of runaway horses hitched to a double seated carriage. As the carriage came near he saw that the driver's seat was empty and that a white lady and three children were seated in the carriage in imminent peril of their lives. "Thank God!" Harry murmured, "the way appears." As the horses came galloping down the street, Harry stationed himself in such a position that he would be able to make an effort to intercept them.

"Get out of the way, you fool!" frantically shouted one after another of the bystanders. "Those horses will kill you." To all of this Harry paid no heed. Harry's sublime heroism stilled the shoutings of the multitude. The people stood mute gazing at Harry, so unflinchingly awaiting the coming of the runaways. When the horses came sweeping by, Harry leapt to the head of the one nearest him and grappled the bridle. The maddened horses bore him from his feet and onward, but Harry clung to the bridle. Unable to longer carry so heavy a weight clinging to his mouth, the horse to which Harry was holding checked his speed and brought his fellow to a stand. This result was not achieved, however, without fatal injuries to Harry.

Turning the bridle loose Harry fell at the feet of the horses, others now rushing forward to take charge of them. As Harry lay upon the ground covered with dust and blood, a crowd of citizens gathered about him. The lady whose life had been saved, the wife of a leading banker, got out of the carriage, and, elbowing her way through the crowd, stooped down to wipe the blood stains from Harry's face.

Harry who had been unconscious revived and smiled feebly in recognition of the kindness. The crowd that had witnessed his heroic deed now gave a mighty cheer, joyful that he was alive. Before the cheering subsided, the light of life died out of Harry's eyes and his soul had sped.

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