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Unfettered By Sutton E. Griggs Characters: 5192

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

When a few hours later Morlene arrived at her home in R--, she found crepe on the door, and was told by a neighbor that was just leaving, that Harry had died that day. She stood as if rooted to the spot, her beautiful eyes recording the storm of pity that was rising in her bosom. Mechanically she turned and placed one foot on the step to the porch, as if to leave. "Horror! Horror! Horror everywhere!" she cried out. "But why am I fleeing? It is abroad in the whole expanse of earth. If Harry was to die, tell me, tell me, why he could not have awaited to carry my forgiveness with him." In that moment, looking back upon her whole career since the death of Maurice Dalton, she felt her faith in the benevolent character of the arbiter of human destinies rudely shaken. Her body recoiled in response to a like impulse of her soul that shrank from the benumbing misanthropism that sought to lay its cold dead fingers on her heart. In one last supreme effort to retain her faith she burst forth into song. In tones angelic, from a heaving bosom, she poured forth the following words:

"Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens-Lord, with me abide!

When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless,-O abide with me!"

When Morlene began to sing her eyes glistened with tears; but these now disappeared as a look of submission stole therein. Again humbly obedient to the forces that were guiding her life, she entered her home, knelt and gazed long at the features of Harry, her spirit seeking to unravel that mystic smile that his face was wearing even in death.

* * *

Two days later the business men of R-- swore, the housewives grew red in the face, but it was all of no avail. The Negro laboring men and cooks were determined upon going to Harry's funeral, even if it cost them their jobs. So, business was partially paralyzed and the white women of fashionable circles had to enter their own kitchens while the Negroes thronged to the church wherein the funeral services were to be held.

Though the funeral was to take place at two o'clock, the edifice was crowded at twelve, those anxious for seats rushing there thus early. According to the custom of the church to which Harry belonged, his body had lain therein all the night previous and his brethren and sisters of the church had assembled and conducted a song and prayer service over his remains. When the hour for the funeral arrived, the pulpit was full of ministers of various denominations.

Harry had, according to the custom prevailing, chosen the hymns to be sung at his

funeral, the text from which the funeral sermon was to be preached, the ministers who were to officiate-in fact, had arranged for every detail of the occasion. Everything was done according to his wishes.

The services were at last brought to a close and the funeral procession was formed. The hearse led the way being followed by the great concourse of the members of the church, walking en masse and chanting mournful dirges as they proceeded. Following the throng came the carriage containing Morlene and Stephen Dalton, Harry's father. The old man's form is now bent, his short hair white and he is sad at heart that it is Harry's funeral and not his own. Following this carriage containing Morlene and Stephen Dalton was that of the banker, who with his wife and children had come to pay this tribute of respect to the memory of Harry. When the procession reached the cemetery, twilight had come to render the interment peculiarly solemn.

Harry was lowered to his last resting place and each one of his immediate friends picked up a clod and cast it into the open grave, the good-bye salutation for the dead. All staid until the grave was covered over, then turned to leave.

The cemetery in which Harry had been laid to rest was upon an elevation. When the carriage containing Morlene had proceeded homeward for some distance and was at the point where the slowly declining elevation had reached a level with the lower lands, she caused the driver to stop for a few minutes while she and Stephen Dalton alighted. The two stood and looked for awhile in silence toward the cemetery above them, the lighted lamps burning dimly among the trees up there. One solitary star peered out of the eastern sky. Its lonely light, like words spoken in the hour of grief, evidently sought to cheer, but only served to make the feeling of sadness deepen.

By and by in tones soft and low and earnest, Morlene broke the silence, saying: "Father, Harry's body lies up yonder, and, behold, the place is lighted. May we not hope that his spirit, in spite of his weaknesses, has gone upward, and may we not also hope that there the spirit, too, has light, more light than came to it in this darkened world?" Stephen Dalton made no reply. The only thing that he now cared to answer was the final summons. He regarded himself as an alien on earth. The two re-entered the carriage and drove to the city.

The next day, Morlene repaired to the Dalton estate and buried at the designated spot the box that Aunt Catherine had entrusted to her care. Thus came to close one epoch in Morlene's life.

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