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   Chapter 29 IN THE BALANCES.

Unfettered By Sutton E. Griggs Characters: 6636

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


At last the day came on which Dorlan was to submit his plan to Morlene.

He arose early that morning, packed his trunk, boxed up his most important papers and wrote out instructions as to the disposition to be made of his other possessions. These preparations completed, he walked down town to the post office and sent his plan to Morlene as registered matter. Having done this, Dorlan returned to his boarding place and bade all a sorrowful good-bye, stating that a great deal of uncertainty was attendant upon his journey, and that he knew not whether he would ever return to R--. Going down to the depot, he was soon aboard a train speeding away.

In the meanwhile Morlene had received the documents sent to her. In addition to the plan, Dorlan had sent a personal letter, on the envelope of which were written these words, "Please do not read the enclosed letter until you have read and passed upon the plan." Morlene lifted the envelope to her lips, kissed it, and laid it away, intending to read the letter after her study of the plan, in keeping with Dorlan's wishes.

Morlene was deeply conscious as to how much depended upon her verdict on Dorlan's plan. Her own and the happiness of Dorlan were involved. The suffering, restless Negroes were to be offered a panacea and she was their representative to accept or reject the proffered medicine. The welfare of the South and the peace of the nation were at stake. Upon the outcome of the race question in America the hopes of the darker races of the world depended. Even the cause of popular government was involved, she felt, for it was to be seen whether a republic could deal with a race problem of so virulent a type. Thus, with the eyes of the world upon her, Morlene unfolded the manuscript and began its study.

As the document was somewhat voluminous, and as the issues involved were of such grave import to the cause of humanity, Morlene decided that she would proceed about her task with much deliberation. Had she known the contents of Dorlan's personal letter she would have proceeded with more dispatch. This Dorlan knew, and not desiring the personal element to appear in her study of the plan enjoined that she should pursue her work without being influenced by what was contained in his letter.

So, after reading a while, Morlene laid the manuscript aside and spent the remainder of the day in meditating on what she had read. The second day she did likewise. Morlene began to be much elated, for, as the paper progressed, she saw that Dorlan was treating the subject in a most comprehensive way. Thus, from day to day, she read and pondered, her hopes rising higher and higher.

Sometimes when Dorlan would enter upon the discussion of some particularly difficult question, her old feeling of fear would return, but when in a most masterly manner he would sweep away the seeming difficulties just as though they were so many cobwebs, her heart would leap joyfully. By and by, after the lapse of many days Morlene drew near to the close of the document. When, on the last day of her perusal, she read the last words of the last page, and her mind flashed back to the beginning and surveyed in general outline the whole, her enthusiasm knew no bounds. In quavering tones the sweet voice of this girl, charged and surcharged with love

and patriotism, murmured the words, "Columbia is saved. Let all mankind henceforth honor the name of Dorlan, the hero of humanity." She now secured Dorlan's letter, broke the seal and read as follows, a look of pain deepening on her beautiful face as she read.

THE LETTER.

"Dear Morlene:

"As best I could, heaven knows, I have wrestled with the problem assigned to me by you, the queen of my heart. Some one has said that the most sublime incident in all of human history was Martin Luther's standing alone before the Diet of Worms. Side by side with that statement let all men now write that my situation is the most excruciatingly painful one that a human being has ever been called upon to endure. When I first met you, circumstances forced me to stifle the love that was ready to burst into a flame. Subsequently, fate decreed that you should be free, and my heart ran riot.

"But fate was determined that one so beautiful and so worthy as yourself should not be won until the wooer appeared in some degree worthy of the lady whose hand was desired.

"Now, dear Morlene, tell me by what process, human or divine, I could be made in any measure worthy of you? If this plan is supposed to achieve that result, is supposed to mark me as worthy of your hand, it has failure written on its face. This conclusion would seem to be beyond the realm of debate. And yet my reason tells me that the plan must of necessity succeed; that, being based upon incontrovertible laws there is no way for it to fail.

"Now, Morlene, my darling, with my powers of intuition telling me that I must fail of winning your hand and with my reason telling me I have successfully performed the task assigned me, what must I do? Hope and Fear have come to terms in my bosom, and one occupies the throne one minute and the other the next. They alternate thus by day and by night. In my dreams I am sometimes as happy as the angels are reputed to be-happier than they, I should say. But the joy is short-lived, and in my dreams I find myself tumbling over precipices and wading through miry swamps.

"I could not stay in R--, and in quietness await your verdict. I have had to travel, to lessen, if possible, the strain of anxiety upon my mind. So, when you find yourself reading this letter, I shall be hundreds of miles away at Galveston, Texas, on the beach of the great Gulf. I am here awaiting your verdict. If it is favorable, I shall return to you forthwith. If unfavorable, I am at a port where ships are daily leaving for all parts of the world. Enough for that.

"Finally, dear one, if the scheme which I submitted to you affords the necessary assurance that the problem will be solved, telegraph to me the one word, 'Unfettered.' If it does not afford such assurance, let your message be 'Fettered still.'

"Am I yours,

Forever or Never?

"Dorlan Warthell."

When Morlene finished reading the letter it was covered with the tears that had sped down her cheeks. "Dear, dear boy! how much he must have suffered, if he loves me thus!" So saying, she arose and hastened toward the telegraph office for the purpose of sending a message to Dorlan.

"Suppose my delay has begotten in Dorlan the recklessness of despair," thought Morlene, and fear born of the terrible thought seemed to lend her wings.

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