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   Chapter 28 O DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING

Unfettered By Sutton E. Griggs Characters: 8568

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Dorlan had just drawn down the curtains to the windows of his room, thus bringing to a close the contest that the artificial light of the room was waging with the fading twilight, the last feeble protest of the sun, for that day deposed. He was standing before his desk which was strewn with books, pamphlets and newspaper clippings, bearing on the subject engaging his attention, when suddenly his door was thrust open.

Quickly turning to learn who his unceremonious visitor was, Dorlan saw the Hon. Hezekiah T. Bloodworth standing in the doorway pointing a pistol toward him. The pistol hand swayed to and fro, signifying the unsteadiness of a drunken man, while Bloodworth's bloated face and reddened eyes emphasized the fact of his debauchery.

"Oh-hic-yes-hic-I've got-hic-hic-hic you-hic. I'll-hic-kill-hic-hic-you-hic," stammered Bloodworth, attempting to impart force enough to his unsteady fingers to pull the trigger of the pistol.

Dorlan started in the direction of the drunken man intending to disarm him. Just then some one implanted a blow upon the base of Bloodworth's skull, which sent that gentleman to the floor in a sprawling attitude. The pistol which was in Bloodworth's hand exploded upon striking the floor, but no serious damage resulted.

A tall, somewhat slender white man had delivered the blow. This stranger now forced Bloodworth to rise and accompany him down the stairs. Bloodworth whined after the manner of a child, as he staggered along. The stranger hailed a passing policeman and handed Bloodworth over to him. He then returned to Dorlan's room. As he entered, Dorlan was struck with the look of sorrow so legibly written in the face of the man. Such utter woe Dorlan had never before seen depicted in a human countenance. The man, though invited to sit down, declined to do so.

Looking Dorlan in the face, the stranger said, "My name is Lemuel Dalton. I perceive that you glean from my countenance that fate has hurled its harpoon into my soul." Lemuel Dalton's frame shook as a tempest of emotions swept through him. "My wife," he continued, "the most beautiful, the most angelic, the most beloved woman of earth, has been needlessly slain."

Dorlan was listening with absorbing interest and evident sympathy.

"Circumstances killed my wife, sir. Circumstances-cold, cruel, circumstances." Lemuel Dalton paused as though desiring to give his words ample opportunity to convey their awful message. "It was on this wise," he resumed. "She met a Negro who was fleeing from justice. She had heard so much of late of the crimes of Negroes against white women that she was terribly frightened by the mere fact of seeing this Negro. The Negro was frightened over the consequences likely to ensue as a result of her fright. He sought to reassure her. She mistrusted him the more. To keep her from reaching me in time to institute a successful pursuit, the Negro killed the horse that she was riding. The horse in falling caught my wife partially under his huge frame. She was fatally injured."

Lemuel Dalton now turned away from Dorlan to hide the tears that had gathered in his eyes. "She died," said he, in broken tones. "On her dying bed she begged me to not prosecute the Negro on the charge of murder. In her last moments she said to me, 'Lemuel, good bye. Save other homes from a like fate. Dispel this atmosphere of suspicion in which I have been stifled unto my death.' I have obeyed her request with regard to the Negro. A careful investigation demonstrated that he had told my wife and me the truth in every detail. He is now in prison serving his sentence for the offenses committed prior to his chance meeting with my wife."

Pointing his finger at Dorlan he raised his tremulous voice and said in ringing tones, "Do you realize, sir, that the social fabric of which you are a part, furnished the viper that has stung me in a vital spot? Where, sir, are your churches, your school rooms, all of your influences that are supposed to produce worthy beings?" Lemuel Dalton's manner was so frantic that Dorlan began to feel that he was dangerously near insanity.

Lemuel Dalton divined the thought that was passing through Dorlan's mind and answered it, lowering his voice as he did so. "Oh, no! I am not at all unbalanced

. To show you that I am not I shall answer my own question. You Negroes need more from us Southern whites than a feeling of indifference, or a spirit of 'make it if you can.' I have come to learn at so sad a cost that the safety and happiness of my race is inexorably bound up with the virtue and well-being of your race." The look of intensity now faded from his face; a sort of vacant expression appeared.

As though listlessly looking at something in the distance, he said, half musingly, "Morlene Dalton sent me to you. I went to her because she told me years ago that I would come to this. I am here to-night to offer my help to your race, and to ask what you all desire of me." He spoke slowly and in solemn tones.

"But, hold! before you speak, let me tell you that about me which is subject to no compromise," he burst forth excitedly. Said he: "I am an exclusive; I want no mixture of blood, thought or activities with the Negro race. I want this white race to keep on manifesting its true inwardness to the world. I wish our whole civilization to be permeated with our own peculiar fragrance and that only. Whatever I can do for your people without jeopardy to this conception I stand ready to do. True, this means that I desire you to be an alien in our midst. But my present position is an improvement on my former, in that I am now willing to do all that can be done to make this alien, happy, prosperous and virtuous; but an alien ever, remember. Will you kindly point out to a white man standing on this platform what he may consistently do for the Negro?"

Lemuel Dalton ceased speaking and now sat in the chair which he had previously refused.

"I am grieved, profoundly grieved that your wife, who may be the prototype of hundreds, has been drawn into the awful vortex of this race trouble."

Lemuel Dalton arose from his seat and with glaring eyes looked down upon Dorlan intently.

Again the impression came to Dorlan that he was dealing with a mad man, and he began to ponder a line of action based on that thought.

"Tut, tut, you persist in thinking I am crazy," said Lemuel Dalton, again guessing Dorlan's thoughts and bringing his will to bear to cause a more calm expression to appear on his (Lemuel's) face.

Drawing near to Dorlan, he said: "I came to discuss the race question with you, but I am in no mood for that." He paused for an instant. Resuming in a lower tone of voice, he said, slowly, "You colored folks believe in God. I don't." Again he paused. "That is, I didn't. But the morning Eulalie, my wife, was brought home wounded, I called God's name for the first time since my early childhood." Here he paused again.

"Eulalie was a Christian," he said, looking into Dorlan's face piercingly. "Tell me the truth. Do you, do you," he asked falteringly. "Do you think that-" here a pause-"I shall meet-Eulalie again?" The last words were uttered in a loud screeching voice. Without waiting for an answer Lemuel Dalton turned away to hide his fast falling tears. Out of the room he walked, out into the darkness he went, alternately imploring and cursing the great force, whatever it might be, that was operating through all creation, and had suffered so terrible a load to fall upon his shoulders.

As for Dorlan, he sat far into the night musing on the occurrences of the evening. "To-night I have been confronted with an epitome of the situation of the Negro in this country," he said. "One white man comes who is angry because I will not be his tool. Then follows the exclusive, who feels that my touch is contaminating. Truly the Negro is between the upper and the nether millstones.

"Ah, Morlene what a task you have assigned unto this pilot, called by you to guide the bark of the Negro over this perilous sea. As I take my post, happy am I, that in my love of humanity I find my chart; in my love for my race I have a compass; and in my love for you I have a lighthouse on the shore.

"Shine on, sweet soul, that I may pilot this vessel through the breakers, above whose hidden heads the waves are ever chanting the solemn song of death."

Happy was Dorlan in this hour that his inherited riches would enable him to conquer ills which the poverty of the race had hitherto rendered insurmountable.

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