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   Chapter 26 A MORNING RIDE.

Unfettered By Sutton E. Griggs Characters: 5183

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


We are at the Dalton house once more. It is the night on which we followed Tony Marshall to the gambling den, which we saw raided by the officers of the law. Under the window of Lemuel Dalton's bed room a dog had stationed himself, and throughout the night uttered long, loud and piteous howls.

Lemuel Dalton professed to be above superstition and detested that in the Negroes more than he did anything else, perhaps. While professing to the contrary, he was in reality superstitious to a marked degree, even against his own better sense. This semi-consciousness of the presence of a latent superstition in the crevices of his inner-self, no doubt served to intensify his antipathies against a people who had thus in spite of himself injected superstition into him; for he blamed the Negroes for the prevalence of superstition in the Southern States. So the howling of this homeless dog bothered Lemuel, although he sought to assure himself, over and over again, that it did not. He had arisen more than once and fired his pistol out of the window in order to stop the noise of the dog. The dog would quiet down for a brief period and then resume his canine lamentations. The howling of the dog, coupled with its persistence, produced in Lemuel Dalton a state of mind bordering on terror. The Negroes held that the howling of a dog beneath a window was a sure sign that an inmate of the house was soon to die.

Arising very early the next morning, Lemuel Dalton entered his library and took a seat. He wheeled his chair until it faced the east window and, tilting back in it, mechanically twirled his mustache, a look of deep meditation coming over his face. "Confound the people who first brought the Negroes to this country," he said. He was worried that he could not shake off the superstition as to death following the howling of a dog.

In the midst of his broodings Lemuel Dalton's pretty little wife (for he is married now) came dashing into the room attired in a riding habit. Lemuel Dalton wheeled around to meet her and her quick eye caught the cloud that was just vanishing from his face.

"Lemuel, my dear, what on earth are you allowing to trouble you?" she said, shaking her riding whip at him, playfully, while her eyes were shining with the love that she cherished for him.

"I may tell you when you return from your morning ride," he said, opening his arms to receive his wife.

"You naughty lad," she cried, looking into his eyes with mock earnestness. "When did you ever hear of a woman consenting to wait a moment to obtain a secret? Tell me now on pain of be

ing doomed to bear this burden, my humble self, in your arms for ever."

"The very penalty that you affix as a menace is an inducement for me to disobey. I resist the temptation, however, and tell you the subject of my thoughts. I was thinking of the Negroes."

A shiver ran over the frame of Mrs. Dalton and the cheerful smile died out of her face. "Lemuel, will you people of the South ever be rid of this eternal nightmare?" queried Mrs. Dalton, looking up into Lemuel's face.

Lemuel tenderly stroked her beautiful hair, but did not essay to answer her question. The fact of the matter was, he regarded the Negro problem as growing graver and more complicated as time wore on. The strenuous efforts of the Negro to rise and the decrease of the distance between the two races he viewed with alarm. He did not care to communicate his real feelings to his wife, so he said nothing.

Mrs. Dalton's nature was of a light and volatile kind and she thought of the Negroes only for an instant. Wresting herself out of her husband's arms, she skipped out of the room. She immediately reappeared at the door of the library and threw a kiss at Lemuel in girlish fashion and was soon mounted and riding out to get the benefit of the brisk morning air. As she saunters along, we may learn a few points in her history that bear upon the case unto which events are leading. She was born and reared in a section of the State of Maine where no Negroes whatever live. It was here that Lemuel Dalton found, wooed, and wedded her. She had read from time to time of the crimes of brutal Negroes and the summary punishments administered to them, and she had rather imperceptibly grown to regard the prevailing race type of the Negroes as being criminal. This opinion was not an unnatural outgrowth of the newspaper habit of giving unlimited space and flaming headlines to the vicious Negro, the exotic, while the many millions who day by day went uncomplainingly to their daily tasks and wrought worthily for the country's welfare, received but scant attention.

The opinion that this state of affairs caused Mrs. Dalton to imbibe, was the further fostered by the atmosphere of the Dalton house, which was so thoroughly hostile to the Negro. The whole of the Dalton place was now manned by white help, and Negroes would not so much as go there on errands of business. It was from such a home and under the conditions outlined that Mrs. Dalton went forth for her morning ride.

It was the noise of Mrs. Dalton's horse that caused Tony Marshall to pause in his attempt to kill the squirrel.

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