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   Chapter 23 A STREET PARADE.

Unfettered By Sutton E. Griggs Characters: 11041

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


A band of Negro musicians playing a popular air, was passing through the street on which Dorlan resided. He was in the act of going out of the gate as the procession got opposite to him, and paused to allow it to pass. There was a great concourse of Negro boys and girls, men and women, following the band of musicians. Their clothes were unclean, ragged and ill-fitting. Their faces and hands were soiled and seemed not to have been washed for many a day. The motley throng seemed to be utterly oblivious of its gruesome appearance, and all were walking along in boldness and with good cheer.

"Now those Negroes are moulding sentiment against the entire race," thought Dorlan, as his eye scanned the unsightly mass. "Be the requirement just or unjust the polished Negro is told to return and bring his people with him, before coming into possession of that to which his attainments would seem to entitle him. It is my opinion that there must be developed within the race a stronger altruistic tie before it can push forward at a proper gait. The classes must love the masses, in spite of the bad name the race is given by the indolent, the sloven and the criminal element." Taking another survey of the throng he said, "Ah! the squalor and misery of my poor voiceless race! What we see here is but a bird's-eye view. The heart grows sick when it contemplates the plight of the Negroes of the cities."

Dorlan's eye now wandered from the people to the band. In the midst of the musicians he saw a cart pulled by five dogs hitched abreast. In the cart stood a man holding aloft a banner which bore a peculiar inscription.

Dorlan read the inscription on the banner and looked puzzled. Coming out of his gate he kept pace with the procession, never withdrawing his eye from the banner. He read it the second, third, fourth and fifth times. At length he called out, "Hold! here am I." The occupant of the cart leapt up and gazed wildly over the throng, endeavoring to see the person that had spoken.

"Here," said Dorlan. The man looked at Dorlan, jumped from his cart and rushed through the crowd and ran to Dorlan's side. Taking a knife from his pocket he quickly made a slit in Dorlan's clothes just over the muscular part of his left arm. The purposes of the man were so evidently amicable that Dorlan interposed no objection. The man seemed to be satisfied with what he saw. He now threw himself at Dorlan's feet and uttered loud exclamations of joy. Arising he turned to pay and dismiss the band.

The throng by this time was thoroughly excited over the curious antics of the stranger, and had clustered around Dorlan wondering what it was that had caused such an abrupt cessation of the open air concert which they were enjoying. The stranger now locked his arm in that of Dorlan and the two returned to Dorlan's home. The crowd followed and stood for a long time at Dorlan's gate hoping that the two would return and afford an explanation. As this did not happen, they at length dispersed.

When Dorlan and the stranger entered the former's room and were seated, they looked at each other in silence, Dorlan awaiting to be addressed and the stranger seeking to further assure himself that he was not mistaken. He arose and again looked at the markings on Dorlan's arm. He now spoke some words in a strange tongue. Dorlan readily replied in the same language.

The stranger now felt safe in beginning his narrative. Said he, in English, "My name is Ulbah Kumi. I hail from Africa. I am one of an army of commissioners sent out by our kingdom into all parts of the world where Negroes have been held in modern times as slaves. We are hunting for the descendants of a lost prince. This prince was the oldest son of our reigning king, and was taken captive in a battle fought with a rival kingdom. He was sold into slavery. The royal family had a motto and a family mark. You recognized the motto on the banner; you have the royal mark. You also look to be a prince. Tell me your family history and I will make to you further disclosures."

Dorlan now told of his father and his grandfather. His grandfather had always claimed to be the heir to an African throne, had imbued his, Dorlan's father, with that thought. The father had taught the same to Dorlan. A certain formula, said to be known to no others on earth, was cherished in their family.

"Now! Now!" said Kumi when Dorlan recited that fact. "That formula is no doubt a key that will unfold the hiding place of treasures that will make you the richest man in the world. Here is an inventory of what is to be found in that hiding place."

Dorlan took the reputed inventory. The enormous value of the items cited staggered his imagination. "This is incredulous," said Dorlan. "How could Africans, unlearned in the values of civilized nations, know how to store away these things."

"Easily explained," said Kumi. "A white explorer spent years in our kingdom collecting these things. We deemed them worthless, gave them to him readily and called him fool. He took sick in our country and saw that he was going to die. He called your great grandfather, our king, to his bedside, told him that civilization would make its way into Africa one day, and urged him at all hazards to preserve and secrete the treasures that he had collected. Our king was led to believe that these treasures would make him one of the greatest rulers of earth, and he obeyed the dying man's injunction. The white man left this inventory and a document giving the l

ocation of his European home, the names and family history of his kin, asking that our king remember them in the day of his affluence.

"Our king gave the formula that leads to the hiding place to your grandfather, your grandfather told it to your father, your father has, I see, no doubt, told it to you.

"As a further proof that I speak the truth I hand you now a few specimen stones that were reserved to prevent this affair from being classed as a myth." He now took from a pocket a box of costly stones and handed them to Dorlan.

"How these things would grace Morlene," thought Dorlan, as his eye passed from one sparkling jewel to another.

It now occurred to Dorlan that the acceptance of this fortune might entail upon him a sacrifice of which he was incapable. It might involve his leaving this country, a step that he could not even contemplate in view of the fact that Morlene was now free. The looming of this contingency before his mind caused him to drop the jewels as though they had suddenly become hot. Kumi looked up at him in great astonishment.

Dorlan's face now wore a pained expression. He had always been profoundly interested in Africa and was congratulating himself on the opportunity now offered to convert the proffered kingdom into an enlightened republic. It now seemed that his own interests and those of his ancestral home were about to clash. He cannot endure the thought of putting an ocean between Morlene and himself. Nor can he with equanimity think of allowing Africa to remain in her existing condition.

"When am I expected to go to Africa?" enquired Dorlan in serious tones.

"You may not have to come at all, and yet serve our purpose."

"How so?" asked Dorlan, arising and drawing near to Kumi.

The latter began: "We Africans are engaged in a sociological investigation of many questions. We are seeking to know definitely what part the climate, the surface, the flora and the fauna have played in keeping us in civilization's back yard. Huxley thinks that our woolly hair and black skins came to us only after our race took up its abode in Africa. He holds that it was nature's contribution to render us immune from the yellow fever germs so abundant in swampy regions.

"He thinks that those of our race who did not take on a dark hue and woolly texture of hair were the less adapted to life in the tropics and eventually died out, leaving those that were better adjusted to survive.

"He thinks that these beneficial modifications were preserved and transmitted with increasing strength from generation to generation until our hue and our hair or the physical attributes for which they stand rendered us immune from yellow fever. I may add that Livingstone says of us, 'Heat alone does not produce blackness of skin, but heat with moisture seems to insure the deepest hue.'

"Now, nature, in thus protecting us against yellow fever, by changing our color from the original, whatever it was, has painted upon us a sign that causes some races to think that there is a greater difference between us and them than there really is. So much for our color and the ills that it has entailed."

Dorlan interrupted Kumi to remark very feelingly:

"I am truly glad that you are not inoculated with that utterly nonsensical view to be met with in this country, which represents that the Negro's color is the result of a curse pronounced by Noah upon his recovery from a drunken stupor. Please proceed."

Kumi resumed his remarks. "Mr. Herbert Spencer holds that our comparative lack of energy is due to heat and moisture. He states that 'the earliest recorded civilization grew up in a hot and dry region-Egypt; and in hot and dry regions also arose the Babylonian, Assyrian and Ph?nician civilizations.' He points out that all 'the conquering races of the world have hailed from within or from the borders of the hot and dry region marked on the rain map 'rainless districts,' and extending across North Africa, Arabia, Persia, and on through Thibet into Mongolia.'

"He, therefore, would ascribe our backwardness principally to a woful lack of energy, a condition brought on by our hot and moist climate.

"When our investigation of these questions is complete," continued Kumi, "we will know just what has brought us where we are and can determine whether artificial appliances sufficient to counteract existing influences can be discovered and instituted.

"Mr. Benjamin Kidd seems to think that the tropics can never develop the highest type of civilization. In the event that the government of the tropics is to be conducted from the temperate zones, we tropical people will desire Negroes to remain in the temperate zones, to advocate such policies and form such alliances as shall be for our highest good.

"So, it may turn out to be the best for you, our king, to remain here, for our welfare, owing to our peculiar environments, depends, just now, as much upon what others think of us as upon what we ourselves may do. The question of your going to Africa is not, therefore, a pressing one, yet."

"That leaves me somewhat free to deal with a question that is pressing, and pressing hard," said Dorlan, clasping Kumi's hand in joy, now that the way was clear for him to serve without conflict his own heart and the home of his fathers.

Kumi looked at Dorlan puzzled as to what question it was that was pressing for a settlement. Dorlan did not enlighten him on the subject, however.

But we know, do we not, dear reader?

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