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   Chapter 22 EXCUSABLE RUDENESS.

Unfettered By Sutton E. Griggs Characters: 8970

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


We left Dorlan sorely wounded on the night of the mass meeting. Though he was immediately furnished with the best available medical attention, it did not prevent the setting in of a species of blood poisoning which rendered his condition peculiarly precarious. As soon as it was deemed advisable, he was carried North and placed under the care of an eminent specialist.

Dorlan began to slowly improve, but at such a rate that he now saw that he was to be a mere onlooker to the presidential campaign in which he had hoped to be the determining factor. On the day of the election his interest was so great that he got out of bed and sat at his window, eagerly scanning the faces of the voters as they went, and came from the polls, hoping, it seemed, to tell from their countenances what verdicts they were rendering. He had made arrangements with a newsboy to bring him a copy of the first "Extra" to be issued giving information as to how the conflict had terminated.

At a comparatively early hour of the night the newsboy knocked on Dorlan's door. "Come in," called out Dorlan. The boy poked his head in the door, cast a quick glance about, then entered. "Here's your paper, Mister. Good news for you," said he, smiling as he handed the paper to Dorlan.

"How do you know that it contains news pleasing to me?" inquired Dorlan, looking at the boy earnestly.

"'Cause you are a colored man," responded the boy, with an air of complete assurance. Having been paid, he now hurried out to proceed on his route.

"Even the children feel that they know the politics of every Negro by glancing at his skin. Too bad! I suppose the boy means to say the Republicans have won," mused Dorlan. He now looked at his paper and soon was convinced that the Republicans had won an overwhelming victory.

Dorlan was stunned. "What!" he exclaimed, "Has a reaction against that idealism which has hitherto been its chief glory really set in in the Anglo-Saxon race? Has commercialism really throttled altruism? Has the era of the recognition of the inherent rights of men come to a close? Has our government lent its sanction to the code of international morals that accords the strong the right to rule the weak, brushing aside by the force of arms every claim of the weak? Alas! Alas!"

For many days Dorlan was very, very despondent. The North had voted to re-enthrone the Republican party without exacting of it a specific promise as to the regard to be had to the claims of the Filipinos to inherent equality. This amazed him. But as the political excitement subsided and he could feel the pulse of the American people apart from the influence of partizan zeal, he was the better able to analyze their verdict.

First, the failure to declare as to the ultimate status of the Filipinos was in a measure due to the politicians whose uniform policy is to postpone action on new problems until public sentiment has had time to crystallize. They were not quite certain as to what was the full import of the new national appetite and they were avoiding specific declarations until they could find out.

Secondly, the people of the North were in no mood to be hurried as to their policy with regard to the Filipinos. They had before them the example of Negroes of the South even then calling upon the North to return and set them free again. With this example of imperfect work before them the people of the North refused to be wrought up into a great frenzy of excitement over giving titular independence to the Filipinos.

Thirdly, Dorlan discovered that the election, instead of revealing a decline in altruism, on the contrary, gave evidence of the broadening and deepening of that spirit. He now saw in the verdict of the North the high resolve to begin at the very foundation and actually lift the Filipinos to such a plane that they would not only have freedom, but the power to properly exercise and preserve the same. Instead of losing its position as the teacher of nations, our government was, he saw, to confirm its title to that proud position. So nobly, so thoroughly, was it to do its work of leading the Filipinos into all the blessings of higher civilization, that other nations in contact with weaker peoples might find here a guide for their statesmen to follow. Thus he found written in the hearts of the noble people of the North the plank which provided adequately for the ultimate status of the Filipinos, which plank he had earnestly longed to see appear in th

e platforms of all political parties aspiring for the control of the government.

His faith in the people did not, however, influence him to forget that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." He was still of the opinion that the nation needed a balance wheel, needed a free lance ready to bear down upon all who, drunk with the wine of prosperity or maddened by greed for gain, might seek to lure the American people from the faith of the fathers.

Thus Dorlan, intending to begin anew his movement which we saw so tragically interrupted, returned to R--, only to suffer a second interruption in a manner now to be detailed.

One afternoon as Dorlan sat in his room in the city of R--, musing on the task before him, his elbows on the table and his noble, handsome face resting in his hands, rich music, as on a former occasion more than a year ago, came floating up to him. The music revealed the touch and the voice of Morlene. He had not seen nor heard from her since that eventful night on which she labored so valiantly to save his life.

Dorlan arose and went down stairs with a view to renewing his acquaintance with Morlene. He knew nothing whatever of Harry's death, which had transpired in his absence. Dorlan entered the room where Morlene was playing. She turned to receive the new comer whoever it might be. A joyful exclamation escaped her lips when she perceived that it was Dorlan.

"Mr. Warthell, I am so very glad to see you alive and well. How often have I subjected my actions to the closest scrutiny, disposed to accuse myself of not doing all that might have been done to prevent that dastardly assault upon you."

Dorlan was so entranced with Morlene's loveliness that he did not catch the full purport of what she was saying. Morlene was clad in mourning and Dorlan was drinking in the beauty of her loveliness in this new combination.

When Morlene finished her sentence and it was incumbent upon Dorlan to reply, he was momentarily embarrassed, not knowing what to say, having lost what Morlene was saying by absorption in contemplating her great beauty. It was tolerably clear to him that her remark was one of solicitous interest in himself, and after a very brief pause he said:

"Excuse me for not desiring to give attention to myself, in view of the fact that I am but now made aware by your mourning that some dear one has passed away."

"You have not heard, then," said Morlene, a look of sadness creeping over her face. She sat down on the piano stool whence she had arisen. "I have lost my husband. He was killed in the act of stopping some runaway horses more than a year ago."

Immediately there burst upon Dorlan's consciousness the thought that Morlene was free and that he might aspire for her hand. So great a hope thrust upon him so suddenly bewildered him by its very glory. Ordinarily imperturbable, even in the face of unexpected situations, he was now visibly agitated. He knew that he ought to frame words of condolence, but the new hope, springing from the secret chambers of his heart where he had long kept it in absolute bondage, clamored so loudly for a hearing that he could not deploy enough of his wits to speak in keeping with the amenities of the situation.

"Excuse me for a few moments, Mrs. Dalton," asked Dorlan, leaving the room. He went up the stairs leading to his room, taking two steps at a bound. Entering, he locked his door. Thrusting his hands into his pockets, he gazed abstractedly at the floor for a moment, then up at the ceiling. The word which as a boy he had used to denote great astonishment now came unbidden to his lips.

"Gee-whillikens!" he exclaimed. "And that divine woman is free! Thought, I wish you would sink into my consciousness at once," said Dorlan, apostrophizing. A few moments succeeded in imparting to him an outward look of calm. He then returned and expressed his feelings of condolence in words that suggested themselves to him as being appropriate. He soon excused himself from Morlene's presence with a view to rearranging his whole system of thinking so as to be in keeping with the new conditions with which he was thus unexpectedly confronted. "I have a little problem of desired expansion on my own hands, and I fear the government will have to wag along without me the best way it can for a while," said Dorlan to himself.

The ultimate status of Morlene Dalton was now of more importance to him than the ultimate status of the Filipinos.

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