THE MARROW OF TRADITION
by Charles W. Chestnutt
I. At Break of Day
II. The Christening Party
III. The Editor at Work
IV. Theodore Felix
V. A Journey Southward
VII. The Operation
VIII. The Campaign drags
IX. A White Man's "Nigger"
X. Delamere Plays a Trump
XI. The Baby and the Bird
XII. Another Southern Product
XIII. The Cakewalk
XIV. The Maunderings of Old Mrs. Ochiltree
XV. Mrs. Carteret Seeks an Explanation
XVI. Ellis Takes a Trick
XVII. The Social Aspirations of Captain McBane
XVIII. Sandy Sees His Own Ha'nt
XIX. A Midnight Walk
XX. A Shocking Crime
XXI. The Necessity of an Example
XXII. How Not to Prevent a Lynching
XXIV. Two Southern Gentlemen
XXV. The Honor of a Family
XXVI. The Discomfort of Ellis
XXVII. The Vagaries of the Higher Law
XXVIII. In Season and Out
XXIX. Mutterings of the Storm
XXX. The Missing Papers
XXXI. The Shadow of a Dream
XXXII. The Storm breaks
XXXIII. Into the Lion's Jaws
XXXIV. The Valley of the Shadow
XXXV. "Mine Enemy, O Mine Enemy!"
XXXVI. Fiat Justitia
XXXVII. The Sisters
The Marrow of Tradition
I like you and your book, ingenious Hone!
In whose capacious all-embracing leaves
The very marrow of tradition's shown.
To the Editor of the Every-Day Book
AT BREAK OF DAY
"Stay here beside her, major. I shall not he needed for an hour yet.
Meanwhile I'll go downstairs and snatch a bit of sleep, or talk to old
The night was hot and sultry. Though the windows of the chamber were
wide open, and the muslin curtains looped back, not a breath of air was
stirring. Only the shrill chirp of the cicada and the muffled croaking
of the frogs in some distant marsh broke the night silence. The heavy
scent of magnolias, overpowering even the strong smell of drugs in the
sickroom, suggested death and funeral wreaths, sorrow and tears, the
long home, the last sleep. The major shivered with apprehension as the
slender hand which he held in his own contracted nervously and in a
spasm of pain clutched his fingers with a viselike grip.
Major Carteret, though dressed in brown linen, had thrown off his coat
for greater comfort. The stifling heat, in spite of the palm-leaf fan
which he plied mechanically, was scarcely less oppressive than his own
thoughts. Long ago, while yet a mere boy in years, he had come back from
Appomattox to find his family, one of the oldest and proudest in the
state, hopelessly impoverished by the war,—even their ancestral home
swallowed up in the common ruin. His elder brother had sacrificed his
life on the bloody altar of the lost cause, and his father, broken and
chagrined, died not many years later, leaving the major the last of his
line. He had tried in various pursuits to gain a foothold in the new
life, but with indifferent success until he won the hand of Olivia
Merkell, whom he had seen grow from a small girl to glorious womanhood.
With her money he had founded the Morning Chronicle, which he had made
the leading organ of his party and the most influential paper in the
State. The fine old house in which they lived was hers. In this very
room she had first drawn the breath of life; it had been their nuptial
chamber; and here, too, within a few hours, she might die, for it seemed
impossible that one could long endure such frightful agony and live.
One cloud alone had marred the otherwise perfect serenity of their
happiness. Olivia was childless. To have children to perpetuate the name
of which he was so proud, to write it still higher on the roll of
honor, had been his dearest hope. His disappointment had been
proportionately keen. A few months ago this dead hope had revived, and
altered the whole aspect of their lives. But as time went on, his wife's
age had begun to tell upon her, until even Dr. Price, the most cheerful
and optimistic of physicians, had warned him, while hoping for the best,
to be prepared for the worst. To add to the danger, Mrs. Carteret had
only this day suffered from a nervous shock, which, it was feared, had
hastened by several weeks the expected event.
Dr. Price went downstairs to the library, where a dim light was
burning. An old black woman, dressed in a gingham frock, with a red
bandana handkerchief coiled around her head by way of turban, was seated
by an open window. She rose and curtsied as the doctor entered and
dropped into a willow rocking-chair near her own.
"How did this happen, Jane?" he asked in a subdued voice, adding, with
assumed severity, "You ought to have taken better care of your
"Now look a-hyuh, Doctuh Price," returned the old woman in an unctuous
whisper, "you don' wanter come talkin' none er yo' foolishness 'bout my
not takin' keer er Mis' 'Livy. She never would 'a' said sech a thing!
Seven er eight mont's ago, w'en she sent fer me, I says ter her, says
"'Lawd, Lawd, honey! You don' tell me dat after all dese long w'ary
years er waitin' de good Lawd is done heared yo' prayer an' is gwine ter
sen' you de chile you be'n wantin' so long an' so bad? Bless his holy
name! Will I come an' nuss yo' baby? Why, honey, I nussed you, an'
nussed yo' mammy thoo her las' sickness, an' laid her out w'en she died.
I wouldn' let nobody e'se nuss yo' baby; an' mo'over, I'm gwine ter
come an' nuss you too. You're young side er me, Mis' 'Livy, but you're
ove'ly ole ter be havin' yo' fus' baby, an' you'll need somebody roun',
honey, w'at knows all 'bout de fam'ly, an' deir ways an' deir
weaknesses, an' I don' know who dat'd be ef it wa'n't me.'
"''Deed, Mammy Jane,' says she, 'dere ain' nobody e'se I'd have but you.
You kin come ez soon ez you wanter an' stay ez long ez you mineter.'
"An hyuh I is, an' hyuh I'm gwine ter stay. Fer Mis' 'Livy is my ole
mist'ess's daughter, an' my ole mist'ess wuz good ter me, an' dey ain'
none er her folks gwine ter suffer ef ole Jane kin he'p it."
"Your loyalty does you credit, Jane," observed the doctor; "but you
haven't told me yet what happened to Mrs. Carteret to-day. Did the horse
run away, or did she see something that frightened her?"
"No, suh, de hoss didn' git skeered at nothin', but Mis' 'Livy did see
somethin', er somebody; an' it wa'n't no fault er mine ner her'n
neither,—it goes fu'ther back, suh, fu'ther dan dis day er dis year.
Does you 'member de time w'en my ole mist'ess, Mis' 'Livy upstairs's
mammy, died? No? Well, you wuz prob'ly 'way ter school den, studyin' ter
be a doctuh. But I'll tell you all erbout it.
"Wen my ole mist'ess, Mis' 'Liz'beth Merkell,—an' a good mist'ess she
wuz,—tuck sick fer de las' time, her sister Polly—ole Mis' Polly
Ochiltree w'at is now—come ter de house ter he'p nuss her. Mis' 'Livy
upstairs yander wuz erbout six years ole den, de sweetes' little angel
you ever laid eyes on; an' on her dyin' bed Mis' 'Liz'beth ax' Mis'
Polly fer ter stay hyuh an' take keer er her chile, an' Mis' Polly she
promise'. She wuz a widder fer de secon' time, an' didn' have no
child'en, an' could jes' as well come as not.
"But dere wuz trouble after de fune'al, an' it happen' right hyuh in dis
lib'ary. Mars Sam wuz settin' by de table, w'en Mis' Polly come
downstairs, slow an' solemn, an' stood dere in de middle er de flo', all
in black, till Mars Sam sot a cheer fer her.
"'Well, Samuel,' says she, 'now dat we've done all we can fer po'
'Liz'beth, it only 'mains fer us ter consider Olivia's future.'
"Mars Sam nodded his head, but didn' say nothin'.
"'I don' need ter tell you,' says she,' dat I am willin' ter carry out
de wishes er my dead sister, an' sac'ifice my own comfo't, an' make
myse'f yo' housekeeper an' yo' child's nuss, fer my dear sister's sake.
It wuz her dyin' wish, an' on it I will ac', ef it is also yo'n.'
"Mars Sam didn' want Mis' Polly ter come, suh; fur he didn' like Mis'
Polly. He wuz skeered er Miss Polly."
"I don't wonder," yawned the doctor, "if she was anything like she is
"Wuss, suh, fer she wuz younger, an' stronger. She always would have her
say, no matter 'bout what, an' her own way, no matter who 'posed her.
She had already be'n in de house fer a week, an' Mars Sam knowed ef she
once come ter stay, she'd be de mist'ess of eve'ybody in it an' him
too. But w'at could he do but say yas?
"'Den it is unde'stood, is it,' says Mis' Polly, w'en he had spoke, 'dat
I am ter take cha'ge er de house?'
"'All right, Polly,' says Mars Sam, wid a deep sigh.
"Mis' Polly 'lowed he wuz sighin' fer my po' dead mist'ess, fer she didn'
have no idee er his feelin's to'ds her,—she alluz did 'low dat all
de gent'emen wuz in love wid 'er.
"'You won' fin' much ter do,' Mars Sam went on, 'fer Julia is a good
housekeeper, an' kin ten' ter mos' eve'ything, under yo' d'rections.'
"Mis' Polly stiffen' up like a ramrod. 'It mus' be unde'stood, Samuel,'
says she, 'dat w'en I 'sumes cha'ge er yo' house, dere ain' gwine ter be
no 'vided 'sponsibility; an' as fer dis Julia, me an' her couldn' git
'long tergether nohow. Ef I stays, Julia goes.'
"Wen Mars Sam beared dat, he felt better, an' 'mence' ter pick up his
courage. Mis' Polly had showed her ban' too plain. My mist'ess hadn'
got col' yit, an' Mis' Polly, who'd be'n a widder fer two years dis
las' time, wuz already fig'rin' on takin' her place fer good, an' she
did n! want no other woman roun' de house dat Mars Sam might take a'
"'My dear Polly,' says Mars Sam, quite determine', 'I couldn' possibly
sen' Julia 'way. Fac' is, I couldn' git 'long widout Julia. She'd be'n
runnin' dis house like clockwo'k befo' you come, an' I likes her ways.
My dear, dead 'Liz'beth sot a heap er sto' by Julia, an' I'm gwine ter
keep her here fer 'Liz'beth's sake.'
"Mis' Polly's eyes flash' fire.
"'Ah,' says she,' I see—I see! You perfers her housekeepin' ter mine,
indeed! Dat is a fine way ter talk ter a lady! An' a heap er rispec' you
is got fer de mem'ry er my po' dead sister!'
"Mars Sam knowed w'at she 'lowed she seed wa'n't so; but he didn' let
on, fer it only made him de safer. He wuz willin' fer her ter 'magine w'at
she please', jes' so long ez she kep' out er his house an' let him
"'No, Polly,' says he, gittin' bolder ez she got madder, 'dere ain' no
use talkin'. Nothin' in de worl' would make me part wid Julia.'
"Mis' Polly she r'ared an' she pitch', but Mars Sam helt on like grim
death. Mis' Polly wouldn' give in neither, an' so she fin'lly went
away. Dey made some kind er 'rangement afterwa'ds, an' Miss Polly tuck
Mis' 'Livy ter her own house. Mars Sam paid her bo'd an' 'lowed Mis'
Polly somethin' fer takin' keer er her."
"And Julia stayed?"
"Julia stayed, suh, an' a couple er years later her chile wuz bawn,
right here in dis house."
"But you said," observed the doctor, "that Mrs. Ochiltree was in error
"Yas, suh, so she wuz, w'en my ole mist'ess died. But dis wuz two years
after,—an' w'at has ter be has ter be. Julia had a easy time; she had a
black gal ter wait on her, a buggy to ride in, an' eve'ything she
wanted. Eve'ybody s'posed Mars Sam would give her a house an' lot, er
leave her somethin' in his will. But he died suddenly, and didn' leave
no will, an' Mis' Polly got herse'f 'pinted gyardeen ter young Mis'
'Livy, an' driv Julia an' her young un out er de house, an' lived here
in dis house wid Mis' 'Livy till Mis' 'Livy ma'ied Majah Carteret."
"And what became of Julia?" asked Dr. Price.
Such relations, the doctor knew very well, had been all too common in
the old slavery days, and not a few of them had been projected into the
new era. Sins, like snakes, die hard. The habits and customs of a people
were not to be changed in a day, nor by the stroke of a pen. As family
physician, and father confessor by brevet, Dr. Price had looked upon
more than one hidden skeleton; and no one in town had had better
opportunities than old Jane for learning the undercurrents in the lives
of the old families.
"Well," resumed Jane, "eve'ybody s'posed, after w'at had happen', dat
Julia'd keep on livin' easy, fer she wuz young an' good-lookin'. But
she didn'. She tried ter make a livin' sewin', but Mis' Polly wouldn'
let de bes' w'ite folks hire her. Den she tuck up washin', but didn' do
no better at dat; an' bimeby she got so discourage' dat she ma'ied a
shif'less yaller man, an' died er consumption soon after,—an' wuz
'bout ez well off, fer dis man couldn' hardly feed her nohow."
"And the child?"
"One er de No'the'n w'ite lady teachers at de mission school tuck a
likin' ter little Janet, an' put her thoo school, an' den sent her off
ter de No'th fer ter study ter be a school teacher. W'en she come back,
'stead er teachin' she ma'ied ole Adam Miller's son."
"The rich stevedore's son, Dr. Miller?"
"Yas, suh, dat's de man,—you knows 'im. Dis yer boy wuz jes' gwine
'way fer ter study ter be a doctuh, an' he ma'ied dis Janet, an' tuck
her 'way wid 'im. Dey went off ter Europe, er Irope, er Orope, er
somewhere er 'nother, 'way off yander, an' come back here las' year an'
sta'ted dis yer horspital an' school fer ter train de black gals fer
"He's a very good doctor, Jane, and is doing a useful work. Your
chapter of family history is quite interesting,—I knew part of it
before, in a general way; but you haven't yet told me what brought on
Mrs. Carteret's trouble."
"I'm jes' comin' ter dat dis minute, suh,—w'at I be'n tellin' you is
all a part of it. Dis yer Janet, w'at's Mis' 'Livy's half-sister, is ez
much like her ez ef dey wuz twins. Folks sometimes takes 'em fer one
ernudder,—I s'pose it tickles Janet mos' ter death, but it do make Mis'
'Livy rippin'. An' den 'way back yander jes' after de wah, w'en de ole
Carteret mansion had ter be sol', Adam Miller bought it, an' dis yer
Janet an' her husban' is be'n livin' in it ever sence ole Adam died,
'bout a year ago; an' dat makes de majah mad, 'ca'se he don' wanter see
cullud folks livin' in de ole fam'ly mansion w'at he wuz bawn in. An'
mo'over, an' dat's de wust of all, w'iles Mis' 'Livy ain' had no
child'en befo', dis yer sister er her'n is got a fine-lookin' little
yaller boy, w'at favors de fam'ly so dat ef Mis' 'Livy'd see de chile
anywhere, it'd mos' break her heart fer ter think 'bout her not havin'
no child'en herse'f. So ter-day, w'en Mis' 'Livy wuz out ridin' an' met
dis yer Janet wid her boy, an' w'en Mis' 'Livy got ter studyin' 'bout
her own chances, an' how she mought not come thoo safe, she jes' had a
fit er hysterics right dere in de buggy. She wuz mos' home, an' William
got her here, an' you knows de res'."
Major Carteret, from the head of the stairs, called the doctor
"You had better come along up now, Jane," said the doctor.
For two long hours they fought back the grim spectre that stood by the
bedside. The child was born at dawn. Both mother and child, the doctor
said, would live.
"Bless its 'ittle hea't!" exclaimed Mammy Jane, as she held up the tiny
mite, which bore as much resemblance to mature humanity as might be
expected of an infant which had for only a few minutes drawn the breath
of life. "Bless its 'ittle hea't! it's de we'y spit an' image er its
The doctor smiled. The major laughed aloud. Jane's unconscious
witticism, or conscious flattery, whichever it might be, was a welcome
diversion from the tense strain of the last few hours.
"Be that as it may," said Dr. Price cheerfully, "and I'll not dispute
it, the child is a very fine boy,—a very fine boy, indeed! Take care of
it, major," he added with a touch of solemnity, "for your wife can never
With the child's first cry a refreshing breeze from the distant ocean
cooled the hot air of the chamber; the heavy odor of the magnolias, with
its mortuary suggestiveness, gave place to the scent of rose and lilac
and honeysuckle. The birds in the garden were singing lustily.
All these sweet and pleasant things found an echo in the major's heart.
He stood by the window, and looking toward the rising sun, breathed a
silent prayer of thanksgiving. All nature seemed to rejoice in sympathy
with his happiness at the fruition of this long-deferred hope, and to
predict for this wonderful child a bright and glorious future.
Old Mammy Jane, however, was not entirely at ease concerning the child.
She had discovered, under its left ear, a small mole, which led her to
fear that the child was born for bad luck. Had the baby been black, or
yellow, or poor-white, Jane would unhesitatingly have named, as his
ultimate fate, a not uncommon form of taking off, usually resultant upon
the infraction of certain laws, or, in these swift modern days, upon too
violent a departure from established social customs. It was manifestly
impossible that a child of such high quality as the grandson of her old
mistress should die by judicial strangulation; but nevertheless the
warning was a serious thing, and not to be lightly disregarded.
Not wishing to be considered as a prophet of evil omen, Jane kept her
own counsel in regard to this significant discovery. But later, after
the child was several days old, she filled a small vial with water in
which the infant had been washed, and took it to a certain wise old
black woman, who lived on the farther edge of the town and was well
known to be versed in witchcraft and conjuration. The conjure woman
added to the contents of the bottle a bit of calamus root, and one of
the cervical vertebrae from the skeleton of a black cat, with several
other mysterious ingredients, the nature of which she did not disclose.
Following instructions given her, Aunt Jane buried the bottle in
Carteret's back yard, one night during the full moon, as a good-luck
charm to ward off evil from the little grandson of her dear mistress, so
long since dead and gone to heaven.
THE CHRISTENING PARTY
They named the Carteret baby Theodore Felix. Theodore was a family name,
and had been borne by the eldest son for several generations, the major
himself being a second son. Having thus given the child two beautiful
names, replete with religious and sentimental significance, they called
The baby was christened some six weeks after its birth, by which time
Mrs. Carteret was able to be out. Old Mammy Jane, who had been brought
up in the church, but who, like some better informed people in all ages,
found religion not inconsistent with a strong vein of superstition, felt
her fears for the baby's future much relieved when the rector had made
the sign of the cross and sprinkled little Dodie with the water from the
carved marble font, which had come from England in the reign of King
Charles the Martyr, as the ill-fated son of James I. was known to St.
Andrew's. Upon this special occasion Mammy Jane had been provided with a
seat downstairs among the white people, to her own intense satisfaction,
and to the secret envy of a small colored attendance in the gallery, to
whom she was ostentatiously pointed out by her grandson Jerry, porter at
the Morning Chronicle office, who sat among them in the front row.
On the following Monday evening the major gave a christening party in
honor of this important event. Owing to Mrs. Carteret's still delicate
health, only a small number of intimate friends and family connections
were invited to attend. These were the rector of St. Andrew's; old Mrs.
Polly Ochiltree, the godmother; old Mr. Delamere, a distant relative and
also one of the sponsors; and his grandson, Tom Delamere. The major had
also invited Lee Ellis, his young city editor, for whom he had a great
liking apart from his business value, and who was a frequent visitor at
the house. These, with the family itself, which consisted of the major,
his wife, and his half-sister, Clara Pemberton, a young woman of about
eighteen, made up the eight persons for whom covers were laid.
Ellis was the first to arrive, a tall, loose-limbed young man, with a
slightly freckled face, hair verging on auburn, a firm chin, and honest
gray eyes. He had come half an hour early, and was left alone for a few
minutes in the parlor, a spacious, high-ceilinged room, with large
windows, and fitted up in excellent taste, with stately reminiscences of
a past generation. The walls were hung with figured paper. The ceiling
was whitewashed, and decorated in the middle with a plaster
centre-piece, from which hung a massive chandelier sparkling with
prismatic rays from a hundred crystal pendants. There was a handsome
mantel, set with terra-cotta tiles, on which fauns and satyrs, nymphs
and dryads, disported themselves in idyllic abandon. The furniture was
old, and in keeping with the room.
At seven o'clock a carriage drove up, from which alighted an elderly
gentleman, with white hair and mustache, and bowed somewhat with years.
Short of breath and painfully weak in the legs, he was assisted from the
carriage by a colored man, apparently about forty years old, to whom
short side-whiskers and spectacles imparted an air of sobriety. This
attendant gave his arm respectfully to the old gentleman, who leaned
upon it heavily, but with as little appearance of dependence as
possible. The servant, assuming a similar unconsciousness of the weight
resting upon his arm, assisted the old gentleman carefully up the steps.
"I'm all right now, Sandy," whispered the gentleman as soon as his feet
were planted firmly on the piazza. "You may come back for me at nine
Having taken his hand from his servant's arm, he advanced to meet a lady
who stood in the door awaiting him, a tall, elderly woman, gaunt and
angular of frame, with a mottled face, and high cheekbones partially
covered by bands of hair entirely too black and abundant for a person of
her age, if one might judge from the lines of her mouth, which are
rarely deceptive in such matters.
"Perhaps you'd better not send your man away, Mr. Delamere," observed
the lady, in a high shrill voice, which grated upon the old gentleman's
ears. He was slightly hard of hearing, but, like most deaf people,
resented being screamed at. "You might need him before nine o'clock. One
never knows what may happen after one has had the second stroke. And
moreover, our butler has fallen down the back steps—negroes are so
careless!—and sprained his ankle so that he can't stand. I'd like to
have Sandy stay and wait on the table in Peter's place, if you don't
"I thank you, Mrs. Ochiltree, for your solicitude," replied Mr.
Delamere, with a shade of annoyance in his voice, "but my health is very
good just at present, and I do not anticipate any catastrophe which will
require my servant's presence before I am ready to go home. But I have
no doubt, madam," he continued, with a courteous inclination, "that
Sandy will be pleased to serve you, if you desire it, to the best of his
"I shill be honored, ma'am," assented Sandy, with a bow even deeper than
his master's, "only I'm 'feared I ain't rightly dressed fer ter wait on
table. I wuz only goin' ter pra'r-meetin', an' so I didn' put on my
bes' clo's. Ef Mis' Ochiltree ain' gwine ter need me fer de nex' fifteen
minutes, I kin ride back home in de ca'ige an' dress myse'f suitable fer
de occasion, suh."
"If you think you'll wait on the table any better," said Mrs.
Ochiltree, "you may go along and change your clothes; but hurry back,
for it is seven now, and dinner will soon be served."
Sandy retired with a bow. While descending the steps to the carriage,
which had waited for him, he came face to face with a young man just
entering the house.
"Am I in time for dinner, Sandy?" asked the newcomer.
"Yas, Mistuh Tom, you're in plenty er time. Dinner won't be ready till
I git back, which won' be fer fifteen minutes er so yit."
Throwing away the cigarette which he held between his fingers, the young
man crossed the piazza with a light step, and after a preliminary knock,
for an answer to which he did not wait, entered the house with the air
of one thoroughly at home. The lights in the parlor had been lit, and
Ellis, who sat talking to Major Carteret when the newcomer entered,
covered him with a jealous glance.
Slender and of medium height, with a small head of almost perfect
contour, a symmetrical face, dark almost to swarthiness, black eyes,
which moved somewhat restlessly, curly hair of raven tint, a slight
mustache, small hands and feet, and fashionable attire, Tom Delamere,
the grandson of the old gentleman who had already arrived, was easily
the handsomest young man in Wellington. But no discriminating observer
would have characterized his beauty as manly. It conveyed no impression
of strength, but did possess a certain element, feline rather than
feminine, which subtly negatived the idea of manliness.
He gave his hand to the major, nodded curtly to Ellis, saluted his
grandfather respectfully, and inquired for the ladies.
"Olivia is dressing for dinner," replied the major; "Mrs. Ochiltree is
in the kitchen, struggling with the servants. Clara—Ah, here she comes
Ellis, whose senses were preternaturally acute where Clara was
concerned, was already looking toward the hall and was the first to see
her. Clad in an evening gown of simple white, to the close-fitting
corsage of which she had fastened a bunch of pink roses, she was to
Ellis a dazzling apparition. To him her erect and well-moulded form was
the embodiment of symmetry, her voice sweet music, her movements the
perfection of grace; and it scarcely needed a lover's imagination to
read in her fair countenance a pure heart and a high spirit,—the
truthfulness that scorns a lie, the pride which is not haughtiness.
There were suggestive depths of tenderness, too, in the curl of her lip,
the droop of her long lashes, the glance of her blue eyes,—depths that
Ellis had long since divined, though he had never yet explored them. She
gave Ellis a friendly nod as she came in, but for the smile with which
she greeted Delamere, Ellis would have given all that he
possessed,—not a great deal, it is true, but what could a man do more?
"You are the last one, Tom," she said reproachfully. "Mr. Ellis has been
here half an hour."
Delamere threw a glance at Ellis which was not exactly friendly. Why
should this fellow always be on hand to emphasize his own shortcomings?
"The rector is not here," answered Tom triumphantly. "You see I am not
"The rector," replied Clara, "was called out of town at six o'clock this
evening, to visit a dying man, and so cannot be here. You are the last,
Tom, and Mr. Ellis was the first."
Ellis was ruefully aware that this comparison in his favor was the only
visible advantage that he had gained from his early arrival. He had not
seen Miss Pemberton a moment sooner by reason of it. There had been a
certain satisfaction in being in the same house with her, but Delamere
had arrived in time to share or, more correctly, to monopolize, the
sunshine of her presence.
Delamere gave a plausible excuse which won Clara's pardon and another
enchanting smile, which pierced Ellis like a dagger. He knew very well
that Delamere's excuse was a lie. Ellis himself had been ready as early
as six o'clock, but judging this to be too early, had stopped in at the
Clarendon Club for half an hour, to look over the magazines. While
coming out he had glanced into the card-room, where he had seen his
rival deep in a game of cards, from which Delamere had evidently not
been able to tear himself until the last moment. He had accounted for
his lateness by a story quite inconsistent with these facts.
The two young people walked over to a window on the opposite side of
the large room, where they stood talking to one another in low tones.
The major had left the room for a moment. Old Mr. Delamere, who was
watching his grandson and Clara with an indulgent smile, proceeded to
rub salt into Ellis's wounds.
"They make a handsome couple," he observed. "I remember well when her
mother, in her youth an ideally beautiful woman, of an excellent family,
married Daniel Pemberton, who was not of so good a family, but had made
money. The major, who was only a very young man then, disapproved of the
match; he considered that his mother, although a widow and nearly forty,
was marrying beneath her. But he has been a good brother to Clara, and a
careful guardian of her estate. Ah, young gentleman, you cannot
appreciate, except in imagination, what it means, to one standing on the
brink of eternity, to feel sure that he will live on in his children and
his children's children!"
Ellis was appreciating at that moment what it meant, in cold blood, with
no effort of the imagination, to see the girl whom he loved absorbed
completely in another man. She had looked at him only once since Tom
Delamere had entered the room, and then merely to use him as a spur with
which to prick his favored rival.
"Yes, sir," he returned mechanically, "Miss Clara is a beautiful young
"And Tom is a good boy—a fine boy," returned the old gentleman. "I am
very well pleased with Tom, and shall be entirely happy when I see them
Ellis could not echo this sentiment. The very thought of this marriage
made him miserable. He had always understood that the engagement was
merely tentative, a sort of family understanding, subject to
confirmation after Delamere should have attained his majority, which was
still a year off, and when the major should think Clara old enough to
marry. Ellis saw Delamere with the eye of a jealous rival, and judged
him mercilessly,—whether correctly or not the sequel will show. He did
not at all believe that Tom Delamere would make a fit husband for Clara
Pemberton; but his opinion would have had no weight,—he could hardly
have expressed it without showing his own interest. Moreover, there was
no element of the sneak in Lee Ellis's make-up. The very fact that he
might profit by the other's discomfiture left Delamere secure, so far as
he could be affected by anything that Ellis might say. But Ellis did not
shrink from a fair fight, and though in this one the odds were heavily
against him, yet so long as this engagement remained indefinite, so
long, indeed, as the object of his love was still unwed, he would not
cease to hope. Such a sacrifice as this marriage clearly belonged in the
catalogue of impossibilities. Ellis had not lived long enough to learn
that impossibilities are merely things of which we have not learned, or
which we do not wish to happen.
Sandy returned at the end of a quarter of an hour, and dinner was
announced. Mr. Delamere led the way to the dining-room with Mrs.
Ochiltree. Tom followed with Clara. The major went to the head of the
stairs and came down with Mrs. Carteret upon his arm, her beauty
rendered more delicate by the pallor of her countenance and more
complete by the happiness with which it glowed. Ellis went in alone. In
the rector's absence it was practically a family party which sat down,
with the exception of Ellis, who, as we have seen, would willingly have
placed himself in the same category.
The table was tastefully decorated with flowers, which grew about the
house in lavish profusion. In warm climates nature adorns herself with
true feminine vanity.
"What a beautiful table!" exclaimed Tom, before they were seated.
"The decorations are mine," said Clara proudly. "I cut the flowers and
arranged them all myself."
"Which accounts for the admirable effect," rejoined Tom with a bow,
before Ellis, to whom the same thought had occurred, was able to express
himself. He had always counted himself the least envious of men, but for
this occasion he coveted Tom Delamere's readiness.
"The beauty of the flowers," observed old Mr. Delamere, with sententious
gallantry, "is reflected upon all around them. It is a handsome
Mrs. Ochiltree beamed upon the table with a dry smile.
"I don't perceive any effect that it has upon you or me," she said; "And
as for the young people, 'Handsome is as handsome does.' If Tom here,
for instance, were as good as he looks"—
"You flatter me, Aunt Polly," Tom broke in hastily, anticipating the
crack of the whip; he was familiar with his aunt's conversational
"If you are as good as you look," continued the old lady, with a cunning
but indulgent smile, "some one has been slandering you."
"Thanks, Aunt Polly! Now you don't flatter me."
"There is Mr. Ellis," Mrs. Ochiltree went on, "who is not half so
good-looking, but is steady as a clock, I dare say."
"Now, Aunt Polly," interposed Mrs. Carteret, "let the gentlemen alone."
"She doesn't mean half what she says," continued Mrs. Carteret
apologetically, "and only talks that way to people whom she likes."
Tom threw Mrs. Carteret a grateful glance. He had been apprehensive,
with the sensitiveness of youth, lest his old great-aunt should make a
fool of him before Clara's family. Nor had he relished the comparison
with Ellis, who was out of place, anyway, in this family party. He had
never liked the fellow, who was too much of a plodder and a prig to make
a suitable associate for a whole-souled, generous-hearted young
gentleman. He tolerated him as a visitor at Carteret's and as a member
of the Clarendon Club, but that was all.
"Mrs. Ochiltree has a characteristic way of disguising her feelings,"
observed old Mr. Delamere, with a touch of sarcasm.
Ellis had merely flushed and felt uncomfortable at the reference to
himself. The compliment to his character hardly offset the reflection
upon his looks. He knew he was not exactly handsome, but it was not
pleasant to have the fact emphasized in the presence of the girl he
loved; he would like at least fair play, and judgment upon the subject
left to the young lady.
Mrs. Ochiltree was quietly enjoying herself. In early life she had been
accustomed to impale fools on epigrams, like flies on pins, to see them
wriggle. But with advancing years she had lost in some measure the
faculty of nice discrimination,—it was pleasant to see her victims
squirm, whether they were fools or friends. Even one's friends, she
argued, were not always wise, and were sometimes the better for being
told the truth. At her niece's table she felt at liberty to speak her
mind, which she invariably did, with a frankness that sometimes bordered
on brutality. She had long ago outgrown the period where ambition or
passion, or its partners, envy and hatred, were springs of action in her
life, and simply retained a mild enjoyment in the exercise of an old
habit, with no active malice whatever. The ruling passion merely grew
stronger as the restraining faculties decreased in vigor.
A diversion was created at this point by the appearance of old Mammy
Jane, dressed in a calico frock, with clean white neckerchief and apron,
carrying the wonderful baby in honor of whose naming this feast had been
given. Though only six weeks old, the little Theodore had grown rapidly,
and Mammy Jane declared was already quite large for his age, and
displayed signs of an unusually precocious intelligence. He was passed
around the table and duly admired. Clara thought his hair was fine.
Ellis inquired about his teeth. Tom put his finger in the baby's fist to
test his grip. Old Mr. Delamere was unable to decide as yet whether he
favored most his father or his mother. The object of these attentions
endured them patiently for several minutes, and then protested with a
vocal vigor which led to his being taken promptly back upstairs.
Whatever fate might be in store for him, he manifested no sign of weak
"Sandy," said Mrs. Carteret when the baby had retired, "pass that tray
standing upon the side table, so that we may all see the presents."
Mr. Delamere had brought a silver spoon, and Tom a napkin ring. Ellis
had sent a silver watch; it was a little premature, he admitted, but
the boy would grow to it, and could use it to play with in the mean
time. It had a glass back, so that he might see the wheels go round.
Mrs. Ochiltree's present was an old and yellow ivory rattle, with a
handle which the child could bite while teething, and a knob screwed on
at the end to prevent the handle from slipping through the baby's hand.
"I saw that in your cedar chest, Aunt Polly," said Clara, "when I was a
little girl, and you used to pull the chest out from under your bed to
get me a dime."
"You kept the rattle in the right-hand corner of the chest," said Tom,
"in the box with the red silk purse, from which you took the gold piece
you gave me every Christmas."
A smile shone on Mrs. Ochiltree's severe features at this appreciation,
like a ray of sunlight on a snowbank.
"Aunt Polly's chest is like the widow's cruse," said Mrs. Carteret,
"which was never empty."
"Or Fortunatus's purse, which was always full," added old Mr. Delamere,
who read the Latin poets, and whose allusions were apt to be classical
rather than scriptural.
"It will last me while I live," said Mrs. Ochiltree, adding cautiously,
"but there'll not be a great deal left. It won't take much to support
an old woman for twenty years."
Mr. Delamere's man Sandy had been waiting upon the table with the
decorum of a trained butler, and a gravity all his own. He had changed
his suit of plain gray for a long blue coat with brass buttons, which
dated back to the fashion of a former generation, with which he wore a
pair of plaid trousers of strikingly modern cut and pattern. With his
whiskers, his spectacles, and his solemn air of responsibility, he would
have presented, to one unfamiliar with the negro type, an amusingly
impressive appearance. But there was nothing incongruous about Sandy to
this company, except perhaps to Tom Delamere, who possessed a keen eye
for contrasts and always regarded Sandy, in that particular rig, as a
very comical darkey.
"Is it quite prudent, Mrs. Ochiltree," suggested the major at a moment
when Sandy, having set down the tray, had left the room for a little
while, "to mention, in the presence of the servants, that you keep money
in the house?"
"I beg your pardon, major," observed old Mr. Delamere, with a touch of
stiffness. "The only servant in hearing of the conversation has been my
own; and Sandy is as honest as any man in Wellington."
"You mean, sir," replied Carteret, with a smile, "as honest as any negro
"I make no exceptions, major," returned the old gentleman, with
emphasis. "I would trust Sandy with my life,—he saved it once at the
risk of his own."
"No doubt," mused the major, "the negro is capable of a certain doglike
fidelity,—I make the comparison in a kindly sense,—a certain personal
devotion which is admirable in itself, and fits him eminently for a
servile career. I should imagine, however, that one could more safely
trust his life with a negro than his portable property."
"Very clever, major! I read your paper, and know that your feeling is
hostile toward the negro, but"—
The major made a gesture of dissent, but remained courteously silent
until Mr. Delamere had finished.
"For my part," the old gentleman went on, "I think they have done very
well, considering what they started from, and their limited
opportunities. There was Adam Miller, for instance, who left a
comfortable estate. His son George carries on the business, and the
younger boy, William, is a good doctor and stands well with his
profession. His hospital is a good thing, and if my estate were clear, I
should like to do something for it."
"You are mistaken, sir, in imagining me hostile to the negro," explained
Carteret. "On the contrary, I am friendly to his best interests. I give
him employment; I pay taxes for schools to educate him, and for
court-houses and jails to keep him in order. I merely object to being
governed by an inferior and servile race."
Mrs. Carteret's face wore a tired expression. This question was her
husband's hobby, and therefore her own nightmare. Moreover, she had her
personal grievance against the negro race, and the names mentioned by
old Mr. Delamere had brought it vividly before her mind. She had no
desire to mar the harmony of the occasion by the discussion of a
Mr. Delamere, glancing at his hostess, read something of this thought,
and refused the challenge to further argument.
"I do not believe, major," he said, "that Olivia relishes the topic. I
merely wish to say that Sandy is an exception to any rule which you may
formulate in derogation of the negro. Sandy is a gentleman in ebony!"
Tom could scarcely preserve his gravity at this characterization of old
Sandy, with his ridiculous air of importance, his long blue coat, and
his loud plaid trousers. That suit would make a great costume for a
masquerade. He would borrow it some time,—there was nothing in the
world like it.
"Well, Mr. Delamere," returned the major good-humoredly, "no doubt Sandy
is an exceptionally good negro,—he might well be, for he has had the
benefit of your example all his life,—and we know that he is a faithful
servant. But nevertheless, if I were Mrs. Ochiltree, I should put my
money in the bank. Not all negroes are as honest as Sandy, and an
elderly lady might not prove a match for a burly black burglar."
"Thank you, major," retorted Mrs. Ochiltree, with spirit, "I'm not yet
too old to take care of myself. That cedar chest has been my bank for
forty years, and I shall not change my habits at my age."
At this moment Sandy reëntered the room. Carteret made a warning
gesture, which Mrs. Ochiltree chose not to notice.
"I've proved a match for two husbands, and am not afraid of any man
that walks the earth, black or white, by day or night. I have a
revolver, and know how to use it. Whoever attempts to rob me will do so
at his peril."
After dinner Clara played the piano and sang duets with Tom Delamere. At
nine o'clock Mr. Delamere's carriage came for him, and he went away
accompanied by Sandy. Under cover of the darkness the old gentleman
leaned on his servant's arm with frank dependence, and Sandy lifted him
into the carriage with every mark of devotion.
Ellis had already excused himself to go to the office and look over the
late proofs for the morning paper. Tom remained a few minutes longer
than his grandfather, and upon taking his leave went round to the
Clarendon Club, where he spent an hour or two in the card-room with a
couple of congenial friends. Luck seemed to favor him, and he went home
at midnight with a comfortable balance of winnings. He was fond of
excitement, and found a great deal of it in cards. To lose was only less
exciting than to win. Of late he had developed into a very successful
player,—so successful, indeed, that several members of the club
generally found excuses to avoid participating in a game where he made
THE EDITOR AT WORK
To go back a little, for several days after his child's birth Major
Carteret's chief interest in life had been confined to the four walls of
the chamber where his pale wife lay upon her bed of pain, and those of
the adjoining room where an old black woman crooned lovingly over a
little white infant. A new element had been added to the major's
consciousness, broadening the scope and deepening the strength of his
affections. He did not love Olivia the less, for maternity had crowned
her wifehood with an added glory; but side by side with this old and
tried attachment was a new passion, stirring up dormant hopes and
kindling new desires. His regret had been more than personal at the
thought that with himself an old name should be lost to the State; and
now all the old pride of race, class, and family welled up anew, and
swelled and quickened the current of his life.
Upon the major's first appearance at the office, which took place the
second day after the child's birth, he opened a box of cigars in honor
of the event. The word had been passed around by Ellis, and the whole
office force, including reporters, compositors, and pressmen, came in to
congratulate the major and smoke at his expense. Even Jerry, the colored
porter,—Mammy Jane's grandson and therefore a protégé of the
family,—presented himself among the rest, or rather, after the rest.
The major shook hands with them all except Jerry, though he acknowledged
the porter's congratulations with a kind nod and put a good cigar into
his outstretched palm, for which Jerry thanked him without manifesting
any consciousness of the omission. He was quite aware that under
ordinary circumstances the major would not have shaken hands with white
workingmen, to say nothing of negroes; and he had merely hoped that in
the pleasurable distraction of the moment the major might also overlook
the distinction of color. Jerry's hope had been shattered, though not
rudely; for the major had spoken pleasantly and the cigar was a good
one. Mr. Ellis had once shaken hands with Jerry,—but Mr. Ellis was a
young man, whose Quaker father had never owned any slaves, and he could
not be expected to have as much pride as one of the best "quality,"
whose families had possessed land and negroes for time out of mind. On
the whole, Jerry preferred the careless nod of the editor-in-chief to
the more familiar greeting of the subaltern.
Having finished this pleasant ceremony, which left him with a
comfortable sense of his new dignity, the major turned to his desk. It
had been much neglected during the week, and more than one matter
claimed his attention; but as typical of the new trend of his thoughts,
the first subject he took up was one bearing upon the future of his son.
Quite obviously the career of a Carteret must not be left to chance,—it
must be planned and worked out with a due sense of the value of good
There lay upon his desk a letter from a well-known promoter, offering
the major an investment which promised large returns, though several
years must elapse before the enterprise could be put upon a paying
basis. The element of time, however, was not immediately important. The
Morning Chronicle provided him an ample income. The money available for
this investment was part of his wife's patrimony. It was invested in a
local cotton mill, which was paying ten per cent., but this was a
beggarly return compared with the immense profits promised by the
offered investment,—profits which would enable his son, upon reaching
manhood, to take a place in the world commensurate with the dignity of
his ancestors, one of whom, only a few generations removed, had owned an
estate of ninety thousand acres of land and six thousand slaves.
This letter having been disposed of by an answer accepting the offer,
the major took up his pen to write an editorial. Public affairs in the
state were not going to his satisfaction. At the last state election his
own party, after an almost unbroken rule of twenty years, had been
defeated by the so-called "Fusion" ticket, a combination of Republicans
and Populists. A clean sweep had been made of the offices in the state,
which were now filled by new men. Many of the smaller places had gone to
colored men, their people having voted almost solidly for the Fusion
ticket. In spite of the fact that the population of Wellington was two
thirds colored, this state of things was gall and wormwood to the
defeated party, of which the Morning Chronicle was the acknowledged
organ. Major Carteret shared this feeling. Only this very morning, while
passing the city hall, on his way to the office, he had seen the steps
of that noble building disfigured by a fringe of job-hunting negroes,
for all the world—to use a local simile—like a string of buzzards
sitting on a rail, awaiting their opportunity to batten upon the
helpless corpse of a moribund city.
Taking for his theme the unfitness of the negro to participate in
government,—an unfitness due to his limited education, his lack of
experience, his criminal tendencies, and more especially to his hopeless
mental and physical inferiority to the white race,—the major had
demonstrated, it seemed to him clearly enough, that the ballot in the
hands of the negro was a menace to the commonwealth. He had argued, with
entire conviction, that the white and black races could never attain
social and political harmony by commingling their blood; he had proved
by several historical parallels that no two unassimilable races could
ever live together except in the relation of superior and inferior; and
he was just dipping his gold pen into the ink to indite his conclusions
from the premises thus established, when Jerry, the porter, announced
"Gin'l Belmont an' Cap'n McBane would like ter see you, suh."
"Show them in, Jerry."
The man who entered first upon this invitation was a dapper little
gentleman with light-blue eyes and a Vandyke beard. He wore a frock
coat, patent leather shoes, and a Panama hat. There were crow's-feet
about his eyes, which twinkled with a hard and, at times, humorous
shrewdness. He had sloping shoulders, small hands and feet, and walked
with the leisurely step characteristic of those who have been reared
under hot suns.
Carteret gave his hand cordially to the gentleman thus described.
"How do you do, Captain McBane," he said, turning to the second visitor.
The individual thus addressed was strikingly different in appearance
from his companion. His broad shoulders, burly form, square jaw, and
heavy chin betokened strength, energy, and unscrupulousness. With the
exception of a small, bristling mustache, his face was clean shaven,
with here and there a speck of dried blood due to a carelessly or
unskillfully handled razor. A single deep-set gray eye was shadowed by a
beetling brow, over which a crop of coarse black hair, slightly streaked
with gray, fell almost low enough to mingle with his black, bushy
eyebrows. His coat had not been brushed for several days, if one might
judge from the accumulation of dandruff upon the collar, and his
shirt-front, in the middle of which blazed a showy diamond, was
plentifully stained with tobacco juice. He wore a large slouch hat,
which, upon entering the office, he removed and held in his hand.
Having greeted this person with an unconscious but quite perceptible
diminution of the warmth with which he had welcomed the other, the major
looked around the room for seats for his visitors, and perceiving only
one chair, piled with exchanges, and a broken stool propped against the
wall, pushed a button, which rang a bell in the hall, summoning the
colored porter to his presence.
"Jerry," said the editor when his servant appeared, "bring a couple of
chairs for these gentlemen."
While they stood waiting, the visitors congratulated the major on the
birth of his child, which had been announced in the Morning Chronicle,
and which the prominence of the family made in some degree a matter of
"And now that you have a son, major," remarked the gentleman first
described, as he lit one of the major's cigars, "you'll be all the more
interested in doing something to make this town fit to live in, which is
what we came up to talk about. Things are in an awful condition! A negro
justice of the peace has opened an office on Market Street, and only
yesterday summoned a white man to appear before him. Negro lawyers get
most of the business in the criminal court. Last evening a group of
young white ladies, going quietly along the street arm-in-arm, were
forced off the sidewalk by a crowd of negro girls. Coming down the
street just now, I saw a spectacle of social equality and negro
domination that made my blood boil with indignation,—a white and a
black convict, chained together, crossing the city in charge of a negro
officer! We cannot stand that sort of thing, Carteret,—it is the last
straw! Something must be done, and that quickly!"
The major thrilled with responsive emotion. There was something
prophetic in this opportune visit. The matter was not only in his own
thoughts, but in the air; it was the spontaneous revulsion of white men
against the rule of an inferior race. These were the very men, above all
others in the town, to join him in a movement to change these degrading
General Belmont, the smaller of the two, was a man of good family, a
lawyer by profession, and took an active part in state and local
politics. Aristocratic by birth and instinct, and a former owner of
slaves, his conception of the obligations and rights of his caste was
nevertheless somewhat lower than that of the narrower but more sincere
Carteret. In serious affairs Carteret desired the approval of his
conscience, even if he had to trick that docile organ into
acquiescence. This was not difficult to do in politics, for he believed
in the divine right of white men and gentlemen, as his ancestors had
believed in and died for the divine right of kings. General Belmont was
not without a gentleman's distaste for meanness, but he permitted no
fine scruples to stand in the way of success. He had once been minister,
under a Democratic administration, to a small Central American state.
Political rivals had characterized him as a tricky demagogue, which may
of course have been a libel. He had an amiable disposition, possessed
the gift of eloquence, and was a prime social favorite.
Captain George McBane had sprung from the poor-white class, to which,
even more than to the slaves, the abolition of slavery had opened the
door of opportunity. No longer overshadowed by a slaveholding caste,
some of this class had rapidly pushed themselves forward. Some had made
honorable records. Others, foremost in negro-baiting and election
frauds, had done the dirty work of politics, as their fathers had done
that of slavery, seeking their reward at first in minor offices,—for
which men of gentler breeding did not care,—until their ambition began
to reach out for higher honors.
Of this class McBane—whose captaincy, by the way, was merely a polite
fiction—had been one of the most successful. He had held, until
recently, as the reward of questionable political services, a contract
with the State for its convict labor, from which in a few years he had
realized a fortune. But the methods which made his contract profitable
had not commended themselves to humane people, and charges of cruelty
and worse had been preferred against him. He was rich enough to escape
serious consequences from the investigation which followed, but when the
Fusion ticket carried the state he lost his contract, and the system of
convict labor was abolished. Since then McBane had devoted himself to
politics: he was ambitious for greater wealth, for office, and for
social recognition. A man of few words and self-engrossed, he seldom
spoke of his aspirations except where speech might favor them,
preferring to seek his ends by secret "deals" and combinations rather
than to challenge criticism and provoke rivalry by more open methods.
At sight, therefore, of these two men, with whose careers and characters
he was entirely familiar, Carteret felt sweep over his mind the
conviction that now was the time and these the instruments with which to
undertake the redemption of the state from the evil fate which had
Jerry, the porter, who had gone downstairs to the counting-room to find
two whole chairs, now entered with one in each hand. He set a chair for
the general, who gave him an amiable nod, to which Jerry responded with
a bow and a scrape. Captain McBane made no acknowledgment, but fixed
Jerry so fiercely with his single eye that upon placing the chair Jerry
made his escape from the room as rapidly as possible.
"I don' like dat Cap'n McBane," he muttered, upon reaching the hall.
"Dey says he got dat eye knock' out tryin' ter whip a cullud 'oman, when
he wuz a boy, an' dat he ain' never had no use fer niggers
sence,—'cep'n' fer what he could make outen 'em wid his convic' labor
contrac's. His daddy wuz a' overseer befo' 'im, an' it come nachul fer
him ter be a nigger-driver. I don' want dat one eye er his'n restin' on
me no longer 'n I kin he'p, an' I don' know how I'm gwine ter like dis
job ef he's gwine ter be comin' roun' here. He ain' nothin' but po'
w'ite trash nohow; but Lawd! Lawd! look at de money he's got,—livin'
at de hotel, wearin' di'mon's, an' colloguin' wid de bes' quality er dis
town! 'Pears ter me de bottom rail is gittin' mighty close ter de top.
Well, I s'pose it all comes f'm bein' w'ite. I wush ter Gawd I wuz
After this fervent aspiration, having nothing else to do for the time
being, except to remain within call, and having caught a few words of
the conversation as he went in with the chairs, Jerry, who possessed a
certain amount of curiosity, placed close to the wall the broken stool
upon which he sat while waiting in the hall, and applied his ear to a
hole in the plastering of the hallway. There was a similar defect in the
inner wall, between the same two pieces of studding, and while this
inner opening was not exactly opposite the outer, Jerry was enabled,
through the two, to catch in a more or less fragmentary way what was
going on within.
He could hear the major, now and then, use the word "negro," and
McBane's deep voice was quite audible when he referred, it seemed to
Jerry with alarming frequency, to "the damned niggers," while the
general's suave tones now and then pronounced the word "niggro,"—a sort
of compromise between ethnology and the vernacular. That the gentlemen
were talking politics seemed quite likely, for gentlemen generally
talked politics when they met at the Chronicle office. Jerry could hear
the words "vote," "franchise," "eliminate," "constitution," and other
expressions which marked the general tenor of the talk, though he could
not follow it all,—partly because he could not hear everything
distinctly, and partly because of certain limitations which nature had
placed in the way of Jerry's understanding anything very difficult or
He had gathered enough, however, to realize, in a vague way, that
something serious was on foot, involving his own race, when a bell
sounded over his head, at which he sprang up hastily and entered the
room where the gentlemen were talking.
"Jerry," said the major, "wait on Captain McBane."
"Yas, suh," responded Jerry, turning toward the captain, whose eye he
carefully avoided meeting directly.
"Take that half a dollar, boy," ordered McBane, "an' go 'cross the
street to Mr. Sykes's, and tell him to send me three whiskies. Bring
back the change, and make has'e."
The captain tossed the half dollar at Jerry, who, looking to one side,
of course missed it. He picked the money up, however, and backed out of
the room. Jerry did not like Captain McBane, to begin with, and it was
clear that the captain was no gentleman, or he would not have thrown the
money at him. Considering the source, Jerry might have overlooked this
discourtesy had it not been coupled with the remark about the change,
which seemed to him in very poor taste.
Returning in a few minutes with three glasses on a tray, he passed them
round, handed Captain McBane his change, and retired to the hall.
"Gentlemen," exclaimed the captain, lifting his glass, "I propose a
toast: 'No nigger domination.'"
"Amen!" said the others, and three glasses were solemnly drained.
"Major," observed the general, smacking his lips, "I should like to
use Jerry for a moment, if you will permit me."
Jerry appeared promptly at the sound of the bell. He had remained
conveniently near,—calls of this sort were apt to come in sequence.
"Jerry," said the general, handing Jerry half a dollar, "go over to Mr.
Brown's,—I get my liquor there,—and tell them to send me three glasses
of my special mixture. And, Jerry,—you may keep the change!"
"Thank y', gin'l, thank y', marster," replied Jerry, with unctuous
gratitude, bending almost double as he backed out of the room.
"Dat's a gent'eman, a rale ole-time gent'eman," he said to himself when
he had closed the door. "But dere's somethin' gwine on in dere,—dere
sho' is! 'No nigger damnation!' Dat soun's all right,—I'm sho' dere
ain' no nigger I knows w'at wants damnation, do' dere's lots of 'em w'at
deserves it; but ef dat one-eyed Cap'n McBane got anything ter do wid
it, w'atever it is, it don' mean no good fer de niggers,—damnation'd
be better fer 'em dan dat Cap'n McBane! He looks at a nigger lack he
could jes' eat 'im alive."
"This mixture, gentlemen," observed the general when Jerry had returned
with the glasses, "was originally compounded by no less a person than
the great John C. Calhoun himself, who confided the recipe to my father
over the convivial board. In this nectar of the gods, gentlemen, I drink
with you to 'White Supremacy!'"
"White Supremacy everywhere!" added McBane with fervor.
"Now and forever!" concluded Carteret solemnly.
When the visitors, half an hour later, had taken their departure,
Carteret, inspired by the theme, and in less degree by the famous
mixture of the immortal Calhoun, turned to his desk and finished, at a
white heat, his famous editorial in which he sounded the tocsin of a new
At noon, when the editor, having laid down his pen, was leaving the
office, he passed Jerry in the hall without a word or a nod. The major
wore a rapt look, which Jerry observed with a vague uneasiness.
"He looks jes' lack he wuz walkin' in his sleep," muttered Jerry
uneasily. "Dere's somethin' up, sho 's you bawn! 'No nigger damnation!'
Anybody'd 'low dey wuz all gwine ter heaven; but I knows better! W'en a
passel er w'ite folks gits ter talkin' 'bout de niggers lack dem in
yander, it's mo' lackly dey're gwine ter ketch somethin' e'se dan
heaven! I got ter keep my eyes open an' keep up wid w'at's happenin'. Ef
dere's gwine ter be anudder flood 'roun' here, I wants ter git in de
ark wid de w'ite folks,—I may haf ter be anudder Ham, an' sta't de
cullud race all over ag'in."
The young heir of the Carterets had thriven apace, and at six months old
was, according to Mammy Jane, whose experience qualified her to speak
with authority, the largest, finest, smartest, and altogether most
remarkable baby that had ever lived in Wellington. Mammy Jane had
recently suffered from an attack of inflammatory rheumatism, as the
result of which she had returned to her own home. She nevertheless came
now and then to see Mrs. Carteret. A younger nurse had been procured to
take her place, but it was understood that Jane would come whenever she
might be needed.
"You really mean that about Dodie, do you, Mammy Jane?" asked the
delighted mother, who never tired of hearing her own opinion confirmed
concerning this wonderful child, which had come to her like an angel
"Does I mean it!" exclaimed Mammy Jane, with a tone and an expression
which spoke volumes of reproach. "Now, Mis' 'Livy, what is I ever
uttered er said er spoke er done dat would make you s'pose I could tell
you a lie 'bout yo' own chile?"
"No, Mammy Jane, I'm sure you wouldn't."
"'Deed, ma'am, I'm tellin' you de Lawd's truf. I don' haf ter tell no
lies ner strain no p'ints 'bout my ole mist'ess's gran'chile. Dis yer
boy is de ve'y spit an' image er yo' brother, young Mars Alick, w'at
died w'en he wuz 'bout eight mont's ole, w'iles I wuz laid off havin' a
baby er my own, an' couldn' be roun' ter look after 'im. An' dis chile
is a rale quality chile, he is,—I never seed a baby wid sech fine hair
fer his age, ner sech blue eyes, ner sech a grip, ner sech a heft. W'y,
dat chile mus' weigh 'bout twenty-fo' poun's, an' he not but six mont's
ole. Does dat gal w'at does de nussin' w'iles I'm gone ten' ter dis
chile right, Mis' 'Livy?"
"She does fairly well, Mammy Jane, but I could hardly expect her to love
the baby as you do. There's no one like you, Mammy Jane."
"'Deed dere ain't, honey; you is talkin' de gospel truf now! None er
dese yer young folks ain' got de trainin' my ole mist'ess give me. Dese
yer new-fangle' schools don' l'arn 'em nothin' ter compare wid it. I'm
jes' gwine ter give dat gal a piece er my min', befo' I go, so she'll
ten' ter dis chile right."
The nurse came in shortly afterwards, a neat-looking brown girl, dressed
in a clean calico gown, with a nurse's cap and apron.
"Look a-here, gal," said Mammy Jane sternly, "I wants you ter understan'
dat you got ter take good keer er dis chile; fer I nussed his mammy
dere, an' his gran'mammy befo' 'im, an' you is got a priv'lege dat mos'
lackly you don' 'preciate. I wants you to 'member, in yo' incomin's an'
outgoin's, dat I got my eye on you, an' am gwine ter see dat you does
yo' wo'k right."
"Do you need me for anything, ma'am?" asked the young nurse, who had
stood before Mrs. Carteret, giving Mammy Jane a mere passing glance, and
listening impassively to her harangue. The nurse belonged to the
younger generation of colored people. She had graduated from the mission
school, and had received some instruction in Dr. Miller's class for
nurses. Standing, like most young people of her race, on the border line
between two irreconcilable states of life, she had neither the
picturesqueness of the slave, nor the unconscious dignity of those of
whom freedom has been the immemorial birthright; she was in what might
be called the chip-on-the-shoulder stage, through which races as well as
individuals must pass in climbing the ladder of life,—not an
interesting, at least not an agreeable stage, but an inevitable one, and
for that reason entitled to a paragraph in a story of Southern life,
which, with its as yet imperfect blending of old with new, of race with
race, of slavery with freedom, is like no other life under the sun.
Had this old woman, who had no authority over her, been a little more
polite, or a little less offensive, the nurse might have returned her a
pleasant answer. These old-time negroes, she said to herself, made her
sick with their slavering over the white folks, who, she supposed,
favored them and made much of them because they had once belonged to
them,—much the same reason why they fondled their cats and dogs. For
her own part, they gave her nothing but her wages, and small wages at
that, and she owed them nothing more than equivalent service. It was
purely a matter of business; she sold her time for their money. There
was no question of love between them.
Receiving a negative answer from Mrs. Carteret, she left the room
without a word, ignoring Mammy Jane completely, and leaving that
venerable relic of ante-bellum times gasping in helpless astonishment.
"Well, I nevuh!" she ejaculated, as soon as she could get her breath,
"ef dat ain' de beatinis' pe'fo'mance I ever seed er heared of! Dese yer
young niggers ain' got de manners dey wuz bawned wid! I don' know w'at
dey're comin' to, w'en dey ain' got no mo' rispec' fer ole age—I don'
know—I don' know!"
"Now what are you croaking about, Jane?" asked Major Carteret, who came
into the room and took the child into his arms.
Mammy Jane hobbled to her feet and bobbed a curtsy. She was never
lacking in respect to white people of proper quality; but Major
Carteret, the quintessence of aristocracy, called out all her reserves
of deference. The major was always kind and considerate to these old
family retainers, brought up in the feudal atmosphere now so rapidly
passing away. Mammy Jane loved Mrs. Carteret; toward the major she
entertained a feeling bordering upon awe.
"Well, Jane," returned the major sadly, when the old nurse had related
her grievance, "the old times have vanished, the old ties have been
ruptured. The old relations of dependence and loyal obedience on the
part of the colored people, the responsibility of protection and
kindness upon that of the whites, have passed away forever. The young
negroes are too self-assertive. Education is spoiling them, Jane; they
have been badly taught. They are not content with their station in life.
Some time they will overstep the mark. The white people are patient, but
there is a limit to their endurance."
"Dat's w'at I tells dese young niggers," groaned Mammy Jane, with a
portentous shake of her turbaned head, "w'en I hears 'em gwine on wid
deir foolishniss; but dey don' min' me. Dey 'lows dey knows mo' d'n I
does, 'ca'se dey be'n l'arnt ter look in a book. But, pshuh! my ole
mist'ess showed me mo' d'n dem niggers 'll l'arn in a thousan' years! I
's fetch' my gran'son' Jerry up ter be 'umble, an' keep in 'is place.
An' I tells dese other niggers dat ef dey'd do de same, an' not crowd
de w'ite folks, dey'd git ernuff ter eat, an' live out deir days in
peace an' comfo't. But dey don' min' me—dey don' min' me!"
"If all the colored people were like you and Jerry, Jane," rejoined the
major kindly, "there would never be any trouble. You have friends upon
whom, in time of need, you can rely implicitly for protection and
succor. You served your mistress faithfully before the war; you remained
by her when the other negroes were running hither and thither like sheep
without a shepherd; and you have transferred your allegiance to my wife
and her child. We think a great deal of you, Jane."
"Yes, indeed, Mammy Jane," assented Mrs. Carteret, with sincere
affection, glancing with moist eyes from the child in her husband's arms
to the old nurse, whose dark face was glowing with happiness at these
expressions of appreciation, "you shall never want so long as we have
anything. We would share our last crust with you."
"Thank y', Mis' 'Livy," said Jane with reciprocal emotion, "I knows who
my frien's is, an' I ain' gwine ter let nothin' worry me. But fer de
Lawd's sake, Mars Philip, gimme dat chile, an' lemme pat 'im on de back,
er he'll choke hisse'f ter death!"
The old nurse had been the first to observe that little Dodie, for some
reason, was gasping for breath. Catching the child from the major's
arms, she patted it on the back, and shook it gently. After a moment of
this treatment, the child ceased to gasp, but still breathed heavily,
with a strange, whistling noise.
"Oh, my child!" exclaimed the mother, in great alarm, taking the baby in
her own arms, "what can be the matter with him, Mammy Jane?"
"Fer de Lawd's sake, ma'am, I don' know, 'less he's swallered
somethin'; an' he ain' had nothin' in his han's but de rattle Mis' Polly
Mrs. Carteret caught up the ivory rattle, which hung suspended by a
ribbon from the baby's neck.
"He has swallowed the little piece off the end of the handle," she
cried, turning pale with fear, "and it has lodged in his throat.
Telephone Dr. Price to come immediately, Philip, before my baby chokes
to death! Oh, my baby, my precious baby!"
An anxious half hour passed, during which the child lay quiet, except
for its labored breathing. The suspense was relieved by the arrival of
Dr. Price, who examined the child carefully.
"It's a curious accident," he announced at the close of his inspection.
"So far as I can discover, the piece of ivory has been drawn into the
trachea, or windpipe, and has lodged in the mouth of the right bronchus.
I'll try to get it out without an operation, but I can't guarantee the
At the end of another half hour Dr. Price announced his inability to
remove the obstruction without resorting to more serious measures.
"I do not see," he declared, "how an operation can be avoided."
"Will it be dangerous?" inquired the major anxiously, while Mrs.
Carteret shivered at the thought.
"It will be necessary to cut into his throat from the outside. All such
operations are more or less dangerous, especially on small children. If
this were some other child, I might undertake the operation unassisted;
but I know how you value this one, major, and I should prefer to share
the responsibility with a specialist."
"Is there one in town?" asked the major.
"No, but we can get one from out of town."
"Send for the best one in the country," said the major, "who can be got
here in time. Spare no expense, Dr. Price. We value this child above any
"The best is the safest," replied Dr. Price. "I will send for Dr. Burns,
of Philadelphia, the best surgeon in that line in America. If he can
start at once, he can reach here in sixteen or eighteen hours, and the
case can wait even longer, if inflammation does not set in."
The message was dispatched forthwith. By rare good fortune the eminent
specialist was able to start within an hour or two after the receipt of
Dr. Price's telegram. Meanwhile the baby remained restless and uneasy,
the doctor spending most of his time by its side. Mrs. Carteret, who had
never been quite strong since the child's birth, was a prey to the most
Mammy Jane, while not presuming to question the opinion of Dr. Price,
and not wishing to add to her mistress's distress, was secretly
oppressed by forebodings which she was unable to shake off. The child
was born for bad luck. The mole under its ear, just at the point where
the hangman's knot would strike, had foreshadowed dire misfortune. She
had already observed several little things which had rendered her
For instance, upon one occasion, on entering the room where the baby had
been left alone, asleep in his crib, she had met a strange cat hurrying
from the nursery, and, upon examining closely the pillow upon which the
child lay, had found a depression which had undoubtedly been due to the
weight of the cat's body. The child was restless and uneasy, and Jane
had ever since believed that the cat had been sucking little Dodie's
breath, with what might have been fatal results had she not appeared
just in the nick of time.
This untimely accident of the rattle, a fatality for which no one could
be held responsible, had confirmed the unlucky omen. Jane's duties in
the nursery did not permit her to visit her friend the conjure woman;
but she did find time to go out in the back yard at dusk, and to dig up
the charm which she had planted there. It had protected the child so
far; but perhaps its potency had become exhausted. She picked up the
bottle, shook it vigorously, and then laid it back, with the other side
up. Refilling the hole, she made a cross over the top with the thumb of
her left hand, and walked three times around it.
What this strange symbolism meant, or whence it derived its origin, Aunt
Jane did not know. The cross was there, and the Trinity, though Jane was
scarcely conscious of these, at this moment, as religious emblems. But
she hoped, on general principles, that this performance would strengthen
the charm and restore little Dodie's luck. It certainly had its moral
effect upon Jane's own mind, for she was able to sleep better, and
contrived to impress Mrs. Carteret with her own hopefulness.
A JOURNEY SOUTHWARD
As the south-bound train was leaving the station at Philadelphia, a
gentleman took his seat in the single sleeping-car attached to the
train, and proceeded to make himself comfortable. He hung up his hat and
opened his newspaper, in which he remained absorbed for a quarter of an
hour. When the train had left the city behind, he threw the paper aside,
and looked around at the other occupants of the car. One of these, who
had been on the car since it had left New York, rose from his seat upon
perceiving the other's glance, and came down the aisle.
"How do you do, Dr. Burns?" he said, stopping beside the seat of the
The gentleman looked up at the speaker with an air of surprise, which,
after the first keen, incisive glance, gave place to an expression of
"Why, it's Miller!" he exclaimed, rising and giving the other his hand,
"William Miller—Dr. Miller, of course. Sit down, Miller, and tell me
all about yourself,—what you're doing, where you've been, and where
you're going. I'm delighted to meet you, and to see you looking so
well—and so prosperous."
"I deserve no credit for either, sir," returned the other, as he took
the proffered seat, "for I inherited both health and prosperity. It is a
fortunate chance that permits me to meet you."
The two acquaintances, thus opportunely thrown together so that they
might while away in conversation the tedium of their journey,
represented very different and yet very similar types of manhood. A
celebrated traveler, after many years spent in barbarous or savage
lands, has said that among all varieties of mankind the similarities are
vastly more important and fundamental than the differences. Looking at
these two men with the American eye, the differences would perhaps be
the more striking, or at least the more immediately apparent, for the
first was white and the second black, or, more correctly speaking,
brown; it was even a light brown, but both his swarthy complexion and
his curly hair revealed what has been described in the laws of some of
our states as a "visible admixture" of African blood.
Having disposed of this difference, and having observed that the white
man was perhaps fifty years of age and the other not more than thirty,
it may be said that they were both tall and sturdy, both well dressed,
the white man with perhaps a little more distinction; both seemed from
their faces and their manners to be men of culture and accustomed to the
society of cultivated people. They were both handsome men, the elder
representing a fine type of Anglo-Saxon, as the term is used in speaking
of our composite white population; while the mulatto's erect form, broad
shoulders, clear eyes, fine teeth, and pleasingly moulded features
showed nowhere any sign of that degeneration which the pessimist so
sadly maintains is the inevitable heritage of mixed races.
As to their personal relations, it has already appeared that they were
members of the same profession. In past years they had been teacher and
pupil. Dr. Alvin Burns was professor in the famous medical college
where Miller had attended lectures. The professor had taken an interest
in his only colored pupil, to whom he had been attracted by his
earnestness of purpose, his evident talent, and his excellent manners
and fine physique. It was in part due to Dr. Burns's friendship that
Miller had won a scholarship which had enabled him, without drawing too
heavily upon his father's resources, to spend in Europe, studying in the
hospitals of Paris and Vienna, the two most delightful years of his
life. The same influence had strengthened his natural inclination toward
operative surgery, in which Dr. Burns was a distinguished specialist of
Miller's father, Adam Miller, had been a thrifty colored man, the son of
a slave, who, in the olden time, had bought himself with money which he
had earned and saved, over and above what he had paid his master for his
time. Adam Miller had inherited his father's thrift, as well as his
trade, which was that of a stevedore, or contractor for the loading and
unloading of vessels at the port of Wellington. In the flush turpentine
days following a few years after the civil war, he had made money. His
savings, shrewdly invested, had by constant accessions become a
competence. He had brought up his eldest son to the trade; the other he
had given a professional education, in the proud hope that his children
or his grandchildren might be gentlemen in the town where their
ancestors had once been slaves.
Upon his father's death, shortly after Dr. Miller's return from Europe,
and a year or two before the date at which this story opens, he had
promptly spent part of his inheritance in founding a hospital, to which
was to be added a training school for nurses, and in time perhaps a
medical college and a school of pharmacy. He had been strongly tempted
to leave the South, and seek a home for his family and a career for
himself in the freer North, where race antagonism was less keen, or at
least less oppressive, or in Europe, where he had never found his color
work to his disadvantage. But his people had needed him, and he had
wished to help them, and had sought by means of this institution to
contribute to their uplifting. As he now informed Dr. Burns, he was
returning from New York, where he had been in order to purchase
equipment for his new hospital, which would soon be ready for the
reception of patients.
"How much I can accomplish I do not know," said Miller, "but I'll do
what I can. There are eight or nine million of us, and it will take a
great deal of learning of all kinds to leaven that lump."
"It is a great problem, Miller, the future of your race," returned the
other, "a tremendously interesting problem. It is a serial story which
we are all reading, and which grows in vital interest with each
successive installment. It is not only your problem, but ours. Your race
must come up or drag ours down."
"We shall come up," declared Miller; "slowly and painfully, perhaps, but
we shall win our way. If our race had made as much progress everywhere
as they have made in Wellington, the problem would be well on the way
"Wellington?" exclaimed Dr. Burns. "That's where I'm going. A Dr. Price,
of Wellington, has sent for me to perform an operation on a child's
throat. Do you know Dr. Price?"
"Quite well," replied Miller, "he is a friend of mine."
"So much the better. I shall want you to assist me. I read in the
Medical Gazette, the other day, an account of a very interesting
operation of yours. I felt proud to number you among my pupils. It was a
remarkable case—a rare case. I must certainly have you with me in this
"I shall be delighted, sir," returned Miller, "if it is agreeable to all
Several hours were passed in pleasant conversation while the train sped
rapidly southward. They were already far down in Virginia, and had
stopped at a station beyond Richmond, when the conductor entered the
"All passengers," he announced, "will please transfer to the day coaches
ahead. The sleeper has a hot box, and must be switched off here."
Dr. Burns and Miller obeyed the order, the former leading the way into
the coach immediately in front of the sleeping-car.
"Let's sit here, Miller," he said, having selected a seat near the rear
of the car and deposited his suitcase in a rack. "It's on the shady
Miller stood a moment hesitatingly, but finally took the seat indicated,
and a few minutes later the journey was again resumed.
When the train conductor made his round after leaving the station, he
paused at the seat occupied by the two doctors, glanced interrogatively
at Miller, and then spoke to Dr. Burns, who sat in the end of the seat
nearest the aisle.
"This man is with you?" he asked, indicating Miller with a slight side
movement of his head, and a keen glance in his direction.
"Certainly," replied Dr. Burns curtly, and with some surprise. "Don't
you see that he is?"
The conductor passed on. Miller paid no apparent attention to this
little interlude, though no syllable had escaped him. He resumed the
conversation where it had been broken off, but nevertheless followed
with his eyes the conductor, who stopped at a seat near the forward end
of the car, and engaged in conversation with a man whom Miller had not
As this passenger turned his head and looked back toward Miller, the
latter saw a broad-shouldered, burly white man, and recognized in his
square-cut jaw, his coarse, firm mouth, and the single gray eye with
which he swept Miller for an instant with a scornful glance, a
well-known character of Wellington, with whom the reader has already
made acquaintance in these pages. Captain McBane wore a frock coat and a
slouch hat; several buttons of his vest were unbuttoned, and his
solitaire diamond blazed in his soiled shirt-front like the headlight of
The conductor in his turn looked back at Miller, and retraced his steps.
Miller braced himself for what he feared was coming, though he had
hoped, on account of his friend's presence, that it might be avoided.
"Excuse me, sir," said the conductor, addressing Dr. Burns, "but did I
understand you to say that this man was your servant?"
"No, indeed!" replied Dr. Burns indignantly. "The gentleman is not my
servant, nor anybody's servant, but is my friend. But, by the way, since
we are on the subject, may I ask what affair it is of yours?"
"It's very much my affair," returned the conductor, somewhat nettled at
this questioning of his authority. "I'm sorry to part friends, but the
law of Virginia does not permit colored passengers to ride in the white
cars. You'll have to go forward to the next coach," he added, addressing
Miller this time.
"I have paid my fare on the sleeping-car, where the separate-car law
does not apply," remonstrated Miller.
"I can't help that. You can doubtless get your money back from the
sleeping-car company. But this is a day coach, and is distinctly marked
'White,' as you must have seen before you sat down here. The sign is put
there for that purpose."
He indicated a large card neatly framed and hung at the end of the car,
containing the legend, "White," in letters about a foot long, painted in
white upon a dark background, typical, one might suppose, of the
distinction thereby indicated.
"You shall not stir a step, Miller," exclaimed Dr. Burns wrathfully.
"This is an outrage upon a citizen of a free country. You shall stay
"I'm sorry to discommode you," returned the conductor, "but there's no
use kicking. It's the law of Virginia, and I am bound by it as well as
you. I have already come near losing my place because of not enforcing
it, and I can take no more such chances, since I have a family to
"And my friend has his rights to maintain," returned Dr. Burns with
determination. "There is a vital principle at stake in the matter."
"Really, sir," argued the conductor, who was a man of peace and not fond
of controversy, "there's no use talking—he absolutely cannot ride in
"How can you prevent it?" asked Dr. Burns, lapsing into the
"The law gives me the right to remove him by force. I can call on the
train crew to assist me, or on the other passengers. If I should choose
to put him off the train entirely, in the middle of a swamp, he would
have no redress—the law so provides. If I did not wish to use force, I
could simply switch this car off at the next siding, transfer the white
passengers to another, and leave you and your friend in possession until
you were arrested and fined or imprisoned."
"What he says is absolutely true, doctor," interposed Miller at this
point. "It is the law, and we are powerless to resist it. If we made any
trouble, it would merely delay your journey and imperil a life at the
other end. I'll go into the other car."
"You shall not go alone," said Dr. Burns stoutly, rising in his turn. "A
place that is too good for you is not good enough for me. I will sit
wherever you do."
"I'm sorry again," said the conductor, who had quite recovered his
equanimity, and calmly conscious of his power, could scarcely restrain
an amused smile; "I dislike to interfere, but white passengers are not
permitted to ride in the colored car."
"This is an outrage," declared Dr. Burns, "a d——d outrage! You are
curtailing the rights, not only of colored people, but of white men as
well. I shall sit where I please!"
"I warn you, sir," rejoined the conductor, hardening again, "that the
law will be enforced. The beauty of the system lies in its strict
impartiality—it applies to both races alike."
"And is equally infamous in both cases," declared Dr. Burns. "I shall
immediately take steps"—
"Never mind, doctor," interrupted Miller, soothingly, "it's only for a
little while. I'll reach my destination just as surely in the other car,
and we can't help it, anyway. I'll see you again at Wellington."
Dr. Burns, finding resistance futile, at length acquiesced and made way
for Miller to pass him.
The colored doctor took up his valise and crossed the platform to the
car ahead. It was an old car, with faded upholstery, from which the
stuffing projected here and there through torn places. Apparently the
floor had not been swept for several days. The dust lay thick upon the
window sills, and the water-cooler, from which he essayed to get a
drink, was filled with stale water which had made no recent acquaintance
with ice. There was no other passenger in the car, and Miller occupied
himself in making a rough calculation of what it would cost the Southern
railroads to haul a whole car for every colored passenger. It was
expensive, to say the least; it would be cheaper, and quite as
considerate of their feelings, to make the negroes walk.
The car was conspicuously labeled at either end with large cards,
similar to those in the other car, except that they bore the word
"Colored" in black letters upon a white background. The author of this
piece of legislation had contrived, with an ingenuity worthy of a better
cause, that not merely should the passengers be separated by the color
line, but that the reason for this division should be kept constantly in
mind. Lest a white man should forget that he was white,—not a very
likely contingency,—these cards would keep him constantly admonished of
the fact; should a colored person endeavor, for a moment, to lose sight
of his disability, these staring signs would remind him continually that
between him and the rest of mankind not of his own color, there was by
law a great gulf fixed.
Having composed himself, Miller had opened a newspaper, and was deep in
an editorial which set forth in glowing language the inestimable
advantages which would follow to certain recently acquired islands by
the introduction of American liberty, when the rear door of the car
opened to give entrance to Captain George McBane, who took a seat near
the door and lit a cigar. Miller knew him quite well by sight and by
reputation, and detested him as heartily. He represented the aggressive,
offensive element among the white people of the New South, who made it
hard for a negro to maintain his self-respect or to enjoy even the
rights conceded to colored men by Southern laws. McBane had undoubtedly
identified him to the conductor in the other car. Miller had no desire
to thrust himself upon the society of white people, which, indeed, to
one who had traveled so much and so far, was no novelty; but he very
naturally resented being at this late day—the law had been in operation
only a few months—branded and tagged and set apart from the rest of
mankind upon the public highways, like an unclean thing. Nevertheless,
he preferred even this to the exclusive society of Captain George
"Porter," he demanded of the colored train attaché who passed through
the car a moment later, "is this a smoking car for white men?"
"No, suh," replied the porter, "but they comes in here sometimes, when
they ain' no cullud ladies on the kyar."
"Well, I have paid first-class fare, and I object to that man's smoking
in here. You tell him to go out."
"I'll tell the conductor, suh," returned the porter in a low tone. "I
'd jus' as soon talk ter the devil as ter that man."
The white man had spread himself over two seats, and was smoking
vigorously, from time to time spitting carelessly in the aisle, when the
conductor entered the compartment.
"Captain," said Miller, "this car is plainly marked 'Colored.' I have
paid first-class fare, and I object to riding in a smoking car."
"All right," returned the conductor, frowning irritably. "I'll speak to
He walked over to the white passenger, with whom he was evidently
acquainted, since he addressed him by name.
"Captain McBane," he said, "it's against the law for you to ride in the
"Who are you talkin' to?" returned the other. "I'll ride where I damn
"Yes, sir, but the colored passenger objects. I'm afraid I'll have to
ask you to go into the smoking-car."
"The hell you say!" rejoined McBane. "I'll leave this car when I get
good and ready, and that won't be till I've finished this cigar. See?"
He was as good as his word. The conductor escaped from the car before
Miller had time for further expostulation. Finally McBane, having thrown
the stump of his cigar into the aisle and added to the floor a finishing
touch in the way of expectoration, rose and went back into the white
Left alone in his questionable glory, Miller buried himself again in his
newspaper, from which he did not look up until the engine stopped at a
tank station to take water.
As the train came to a standstill, a huge negro, covered thickly with
dust, crawled off one of the rear trucks unobserved, and ran round the
rear end of the car to a watering-trough by a neighboring well. Moved
either by extreme thirst or by the fear that his time might be too short
to permit him to draw a bucket of water, he threw himself down by the
trough, drank long and deep, and plunging his head into the water, shook
himself like a wet dog, and crept furtively back to his dangerous perch.
Miller, who had seen this man from the car window, had noticed a very
singular thing. As the dusty tramp passed the rear coach, he cast toward
it a glance of intense ferocity. Up to that moment the man's face, which
Miller had recognized under its grimy coating, had been that of an
ordinarily good-natured, somewhat reckless, pleasure-loving negro, at
present rather the worse for wear. The change that now came over it
suggested a concentrated hatred almost uncanny in its murderousness.
With awakened curiosity Miller followed the direction of the negro's
glance, and saw that it rested upon a window where Captain McBane sat
looking out. When Miller looked back, the negro had disappeared.
At the next station a Chinaman, of the ordinary laundry type, boarded
the train, and took his seat in the white car without objection. At
another point a colored nurse found a place with her mistress.
"White people," said Miller to himself, who had seen these passengers
from the window, "do not object to the negro as a servant. As the
traditional negro,—the servant,—he is welcomed; as an equal, he is
Miller was something of a philosopher. He had long ago had the
conclusion forced upon him that an educated man of his race, in order to
live comfortably in the United States, must be either a philosopher or
a fool; and since he wished to be happy, and was not exactly a fool, he
had cultivated philosophy. By and by he saw a white man, with a dog,
enter the rear coach. Miller wondered whether the dog would be allowed
to ride with his master, and if not, what disposition would be made of
him. He was a handsome dog, and Miller, who was fond of animals, would
not have objected to the company of a dog, as a dog. He was nevertheless
conscious of a queer sensation when he saw the porter take the dog by
the collar and start in his own direction, and felt consciously relieved
when the canine passenger was taken on past him into the baggage-car
ahead. Miller's hand was hanging over the arm of his seat, and the dog,
an intelligent shepherd, licked it as he passed. Miller was not entirely
sure that he would not have liked the porter to leave the dog there; he
was a friendly dog, and seemed inclined to be sociable.
Toward evening the train drew up at a station where quite a party of
farm laborers, fresh from their daily toil, swarmed out from the
conspicuously labeled colored waiting-room, and into the car with
Miller. They were a jolly, good-natured crowd, and, free from the
embarrassing presence of white people, proceeded to enjoy themselves
after their own fashion. Here an amorous fellow sat with his arm around
a buxom girl's waist. A musically inclined individual—his talents did
not go far beyond inclination—produced a mouth-organ and struck up a
tune, to which a limber-legged boy danced in the aisle. They were noisy,
loquacious, happy, dirty, and malodorous. For a while Miller was amused
and pleased. They were his people, and he felt a certain expansive
warmth toward them in spite of their obvious shortcomings. By and by,
however, the air became too close, and he went out upon the platform.
For the sake of the democratic ideal, which meant so much to his race,
he might have endured the affliction. He could easily imagine that
people of refinement, with the power in their hands, might be tempted to
strain the democratic ideal in order to avoid such contact; but
personally, and apart from the mere matter of racial sympathy, these
people were just as offensive to him as to the whites in the other end
of the train. Surely, if a classification of passengers on trains was at
all desirable, it might be made upon some more logical and considerate
basis than a mere arbitrary, tactless, and, by the very nature of
things, brutal drawing of a color line. It was a veritable bed of
Procrustes, this standard which the whites had set for the negroes.
Those who grew above it must have their heads cut off, figuratively
speaking,—must be forced back to the level assigned to their race;
those who fell beneath the standard set had their necks stretched,
literally enough, as the ghastly record in the daily papers gave
Miller breathed more freely when the lively crowd got off at the next
station, after a short ride. Moreover, he had a light heart, a
conscience void of offense, and was only thirty years old. His
philosophy had become somewhat jaded on this journey, but he pulled it
together for a final effort. Was it not, after all, a wise provision of
nature that had given to a race, destined to a long servitude and a slow
emergence therefrom, a cheerfulness of spirit which enabled them to
catch pleasure on the wing, and endure with equanimity the ills that
seemed inevitable? The ability to live and thrive under adverse
circumstances is the surest guaranty of the future. The race which at
the last shall inherit the earth—the residuary legatee of
civilization—will be the race which remains longest upon it. The negro
was here before the Anglo-Saxon was evolved, and his thick lips and
heavy-lidded eyes looked out from the inscrutable face of the Sphinx
across the sands of Egypt while yet the ancestors of those who now
oppress him were living in caves, practicing human sacrifice, and
painting themselves with woad—and the negro is here yet.
"'Blessed are the meek,'" quoted Miller at the end of these consoling
reflections, "'for they shall inherit the earth.' If this be true, the
negro may yet come into his estate, for meekness seems to be set apart
as his portion."
The journey came to an end just as the sun had sunk into the west.
Simultaneously with Miller's exit from the train, a great black figure
crawled off the trucks of the rear car, on the side opposite the station
platform. Stretching and shaking himself with a free gesture, the black
man, seeing himself unobserved, moved somewhat stiffly round the end of
the car to the station platform.
"'Fo de Lawd!" he muttered, "ef I hadn' had a cha'm' life, I'd 'a'
never got here on dat ticket, an' dat's a fac'—it sho' am! I kind er
'lowed I wuz gone a dozen times, ez it wuz. But I got my job ter do in
dis worl', an' I knows I ain' gwine ter die 'tel I've 'complished it. I
jes' want one mo' look at dat man, an' den I'll haf ter git somethin'
ter eat; fer two raw turnips in twelve hours is slim pickin's fer a man
er my size!"
As the train drew up at the station platform, Dr. Price came forward
from the white waiting-room, and stood expectantly by the door of the
white coach. Miller, having left his car, came down the platform in time
to intercept Burns as he left the train, and to introduce him to Dr.
"My carriage is in waiting," said Dr. Price. "I should have liked to
have you at my own house, but my wife is out of town. We have a good
hotel, however, and you will doubtless find it more convenient."
"You are very kind, Dr. Price. Miller, won't you come up and dine with
"Thank you, no," said Miller, "I am expected at home. My wife and child
are waiting for me in the buggy yonder by the platform."
"Oh, very well; of course you must go; but don't forget our appointment.
Let's see, Dr. Price, I can eat and get ready in half an hour—that will
"I have asked several of the local physicians to be present at eight
o'clock," said Dr. Price. "The case can safely wait until then."
"Very well, Miller, be on hand at eight. I shall expect you without
fail. Where shall he come, Dr. Price?"
"To the residence of Major Philip Carteret, on Vine Street."
"I have invited Dr. Miller to be present and assist in the operation,"
Dr. Burns continued, as they drove toward the hotel. "He was a favorite
pupil of mine, and is a credit to the profession. I presume you saw his
article in the Medical Gazette?"
"Yes, and I assisted him in the case," returned Dr. Price. "It was a
colored lad, one of his patients, and he called me in to help him. He is
a capable man, and very much liked by the white physicians."
Miller's wife and child were waiting for him in fluttering anticipation.
He kissed them both as he climbed into the buggy.
"We came at four o'clock," said Mrs. Miller, a handsome young woman, who
might be anywhere between twenty-five and thirty, and whose complexion,
in the twilight, was not distinguishable from that of a white person,
"but the train was late two hours, they said. We came back at six, and
have been waiting ever since."
"Yes, papa," piped the child, a little boy of six or seven, who sat
between them, "and I am very hungry."
Miller felt very much elated as he drove homeward through the twilight.
By his side sat the two persons whom he loved best in all the world. His
affairs were prosperous. Upon opening his office in the city, he had
been received by the members of his own profession with a cordiality
generally frank, and in no case much reserved. The colored population of
the city was large, but in the main poor, and the white physicians were
not unwilling to share this unprofitable practice with a colored doctor
worthy of confidence. In the intervals of the work upon his hospital, he
had built up a considerable practice among his own people; but except in
the case of some poor unfortunate whose pride had been lost in poverty
or sin, no white patient had ever called upon him for treatment. He knew
very well the measure of his powers,—a liberal education had given him
opportunity to compare himself with other men,—and was secretly
conscious that in point of skill and knowledge he did not suffer by
comparison with any other physician in the town. He liked to believe
that the race antagonism which hampered his progress and that of his
people was a mere temporary thing, the outcome of former conditions, and
bound to disappear in time, and that when a colored man should
demonstrate to the community in which he lived that he possessed
character and power, that community would find a way in which to enlist
his services for the public good.
He had already made himself useful, and had received many kind words and
other marks of appreciation. He was now offered a further confirmation
of his theory: having recognized his skill, the white people were now
ready to take advantage of it. Any lurking doubt he may have felt when
first invited by Dr. Burns to participate in the operation, had been
dispelled by Dr. Price's prompt acquiescence.
On the way homeward Miller told his wife of this appointment. She was
greatly interested; she was herself a mother, with an only child.
Moreover, there was a stronger impulse than mere humanity to draw her
toward the stricken mother. Janet had a tender heart, and could have
loved this white sister, her sole living relative of whom she knew. All
her life long she had yearned for a kind word, a nod, a smile, the least
thing that imagination might have twisted into a recognition of the tie
between them. But it had never come.
And yet Janet was not angry. She was of a forgiving temper; she could
never bear malice. She was educated, had read many books, and
appreciated to the full the social forces arrayed against any such
recognition as she had dreamed of. Of the two barriers between them a
man might have forgiven the one; a woman would not be likely to overlook
either the bar sinister or the difference of race, even to the slight
extent of a silent recognition. Blood is thicker than water, but, if it
flow too far from conventional channels, may turn to gall and wormwood.
Nevertheless, when the heart speaks, reason falls into the background,
and Janet would have worshiped this sister, even afar off, had she
received even the slightest encouragement. So strong was this weakness
that she had been angry with herself for her lack of pride, or even of a
decent self-respect. It was, she sometimes thought, the heritage of her
mother's race, and she was ashamed of it as part of the taint of
slavery. She had never acknowledged, even to her husband, from whom she
concealed nothing else, her secret thoughts upon this lifelong sorrow.
This silent grief was nature's penalty, or society's revenge, for
whatever heritage of beauty or intellect or personal charm had come to
her with her father's blood. For she had received no other inheritance.
Her sister was rich by right of her birth; if Janet had been fortunate,
her good fortune had not been due to any provision made for her by her
She knew quite well how passionately, for many years, her proud sister
had longed and prayed in vain for the child which had at length brought
joy into her household, and she could feel, by sympathy, all the
sickening suspense with which the child's parents must await the result
of this dangerous operation.
"O Will," she adjured her husband anxiously, when he had told her of the
engagement, "you must be very careful. Think of the child's poor mother!
Think of our own dear child, and what it would mean to lose him!"
Dr. Price was not entirely at ease in his mind as the two doctors drove
rapidly from the hotel to Major Carteret's. Himself a liberal man, from
his point of view, he saw no reason why a colored doctor might not
operate upon a white male child,—there are fine distinctions in the
application of the color line,—but several other physicians had been
invited, some of whom were men of old-fashioned notions, who might not
relish such an innovation.
This, however, was but a small difficulty compared with what might be
feared from Major Carteret himself. For he knew Carteret's unrelenting
hostility to anything that savored of recognition of the negro as the
equal of white men. It was traditional in Wellington that no colored
person had ever entered the front door of the Carteret residence, and
that the luckless individual who once presented himself there upon
alleged business and resented being ordered to the back door had been
unceremoniously thrown over the piazza railing into a rather thorny
clump of rosebushes below. If Miller were going as a servant, to hold a
basin or a sponge, there would be no difficulty; but as a surgeon—well,
he wouldn't borrow trouble. Under the circumstances the major might
yield a point.
But as they neared the house the major's unyielding disposition loomed
up formidably. Perhaps if the matter were properly presented to Dr.
Burns, he might consent to withdraw the invitation. It was not yet too,
late to send Miller a note.
"By the way, Dr. Burns," he said, "I'm very friendly to Dr. Miller, and
should personally like to have him with us to-night. But—I ought to
have told you this before, but I couldn't very well do so, on such
short notice, in Miller's presence—we are a conservative people, and
our local customs are not very flexible. We jog along in much the same
old way our fathers did. I'm not at all sure that Major Carteret or the
other gentlemen would consent to the presence of a negro doctor."
"I think you misjudge your own people," returned Dr. Burns, "they are
broader than you think. We have our prejudices against the negro at the
North, but we do not let them stand in the way of anything that we
want. At any rate, it is too late now, and I will accept the
responsibility. If the question is raised, I will attend to it. When I
am performing an operation I must be aut Caesar, aut nullus."
Dr. Price was not reassured, but he had done his duty and felt the
reward of virtue. If there should be trouble, he would not be
responsible. Moreover, there was a large fee at stake, and Dr. Burns was
not likely to prove too obdurate.
They were soon at Carteret's, where they found assembled the several
physicians invited by Dr. Price. These were successively introduced as
Drs. Dudley, Hooper, and Ashe, all of whom were gentlemen of good
standing, socially and in their profession, and considered it a high
privilege to witness so delicate an operation at the hands of so eminent
a member of their profession.
Major Carteret entered the room and was duly presented to the famous
specialist. Carteret's anxious look lightened somewhat at sight of the
array of talent present. It suggested, of course, the gravity of the
impending event, but gave assurance of all the skill and care which
science could afford.
Dr. Burns was shown to the nursery, from which he returned in five
"The case is ready," he announced. "Are the gentlemen all present?"
"I believe so," answered Dr. Price quickly.
Miller had not yet arrived. Perhaps, thought Dr. Price, a happy
accident, or some imperative call, had detained him. This would be
fortunate indeed. Dr. Burns's square jaw had a very determined look. It
would be a pity if any acrimonious discussion should arise on the eve of
a delicate operation. If the clock on the mantel would only move faster,
the question might never come up.
"I don't see Dr. Miller," observed Dr. Burns, looking around the room.
"I asked him to come at eight. There are ten minutes yet."
Major Carteret looked up with a sudden frown.
"May I ask to whom you refer?" he inquired, in an ominous tone.
The other gentlemen showed signs of interest, not to say emotion. Dr.
Price smiled quizzically.
"Dr. Miller, of your city. He was one of my favorite pupils. He is also
a graduate of the Vienna hospitals, and a surgeon of unusual skill. I
have asked him to assist in the operation."
Every eye was turned toward Carteret, whose crimsoned face had set in a
look of grim determination.
"The person to whom you refer is a negro, I believe?" he said.
"He is a colored man, certainly," returned Dr. Burns, "though one would
never think of his color after knowing him well."
"I do not know, sir," returned Carteret, with an effort at self-control,
"what the customs of Philadelphia or Vienna may be; but in the South we
do not call negro doctors to attend white patients. I could not permit a
negro to enter my house upon such an errand."
"I am here, sir," replied Dr. Burns with spirit, "to perform a certain
operation. Since I assume the responsibility, the case must be under my
entire control. Otherwise I cannot operate."
"Gentlemen," interposed Dr. Price, smoothly, "I beg of you both—this is
a matter for calm discussion, and any asperity is to be deplored. The
life at stake here should not be imperiled by any consideration of minor
"Your humanity does you credit, sir," retorted Dr. Burns. "But other
matters, too, are important. I have invited this gentleman here. My
professional honor is involved, and I merely invoke my rights to
maintain it. It is a matter of principle, which ought not to give way to
a mere prejudice."
"That also states the case for Major Carteret," rejoined Dr. Price,
suavely. "He has certain principles,—call them prejudices, if you
like,—certain inflexible rules of conduct by which he regulates his
life. One of these, which he shares with us all in some degree, forbids
the recognition of the negro as a social equal."
"I do not know what Miller's social value may be," replied Dr. Burns,
stoutly, "or whether you gain or lose by your attitude toward him. I
have invited him here in a strictly professional capacity, with which
his color is not at all concerned."
"Dr. Burns does not quite appreciate Major Carteret's point of view,"
said Dr. Price. "This is not with him an unimportant matter, or a mere
question of prejudice, or even of personal taste. It is a sacred
principle, lying at the very root of our social order, involving the
purity and prestige of our race. You Northern gentlemen do not quite
appreciate our situation; if you lived here a year or two you would act
as we do. Of course," he added, diplomatically, "if there were no
alternative—if Dr. Burns were willing to put Dr. Miller's presence on
the ground of imperative necessity"—
"I do nothing of the kind, sir," retorted Dr. Burns with some heat. "I
have not come all the way from Philadelphia to undertake an operation
which I cannot perform without the aid of some particular physician. I
merely stand upon my professional rights."
Carteret was deeply agitated. The operation must not be deferred; his
child's life might be endangered by delay. If the negro's presence were
indispensable he would even submit to it, though in order to avoid so
painful a necessity, he would rather humble himself to the Northern
doctor. The latter course involved merely a personal sacrifice—the
former a vital principle. Perhaps there was another way of escape.
Miller's presence could not but be distasteful to Mrs. Carteret for
other reasons. Miller's wife was the living evidence of a painful
episode in Mrs. Carteret's family, which the doctor's presence would
inevitably recall. Once before, Mrs. Carteret's life had been endangered
by encountering, at a time of great nervous strain, this ill-born
sister and her child. She was even now upon the verge of collapse at the
prospect of her child's suffering, and should be protected from the
intrusion of any idea which might add to her distress.
"Dr. Burns," he said, with the suave courtesy which was part of his
inheritance, "I beg your pardon for my heat, and throw myself upon your
magnanimity, as between white men"—
"I am a gentleman, sir, before I am a white man," interposed Dr. Burns,
slightly mollified, however, by Carteret's change of manner.
"The terms should be synonymous," Carteret could not refrain from
saying. "As between white men, and gentlemen, I say to you, frankly,
that there are vital, personal reasons, apart from Dr. Miller's color,
why his presence in this house would be distasteful. With this
statement, sir, I throw myself upon your mercy. My child's life is worth
more to me than any earthly thing, and I must be governed by your
Dr. Burns was plainly wavering. The clock moved with provoking slowness.
Miller would be there in five minutes.
"May I speak with you privately a moment, doctor?" asked Dr. Price.
They withdrew from the room and were engaged in conversation for a few
moments. Dr. Burns finally yielded.
"I shall nevertheless feel humiliated when I meet Miller again," he
said, "but of course if there is a personal question involved, that
alters the situation. Had it been merely a matter of color, I should
have maintained my position. As things stand, I wash my hands of the
whole affair, so far as Miller is concerned, like Pontius Pilate—yes,
indeed, sir, I feel very much like that individual."
"I'll explain the matter to Miller," returned Dr. Price, amiably, "and
make it all right with him. We Southern people understand the negroes
better than you do, sir. Why should we not? They have been constantly
under our interested observation for several hundred years. You feel
this vastly more than Miller will. He knows the feeling of the white
people, and is accustomed to it. He wishes to live and do business here,
and is quite too shrewd to antagonize his neighbors or come where he is
not wanted. He is in fact too much of a gentleman to do so."
"I shall leave the explanation to you entirely," rejoined Dr. Burns, as
they reëntered the other room.
Carteret led the way to the nursery, where the operation was to take
place. Dr. Price lingered for a moment. Miller was not likely to be
behind the hour, if he came at all, and it would be well to head him off
before the operation began.
Scarcely had the rest left the room when the doorbell sounded, and a
servant announced Dr. Miller.
Dr. Price stepped into the hall and met Miller face to face.
He had meant to state the situation to Miller frankly, but now that the
moment had come he wavered. He was a fine physician, but he shrank from
strenuous responsibilities. It had been easy to theorize about the
negro; it was more difficult to look this man in the eyes—whom at this
moment he felt to be as essentially a gentleman as himself—and tell him
the humiliating truth.
As a physician his method was to ease pain—he would rather take the
risk of losing a patient from the use of an anaesthetic than from the
shock of an operation. He liked Miller, wished him well, and would not
wittingly wound his feelings. He really thought him too much of a
gentleman for the town, in view of the restrictions with which he must
inevitably be hampered. There was something melancholy, to a cultivated
mind, about a sensitive, educated man who happened to be off color. Such
a person was a sort of social misfit, an odd quantity, educated out of
his own class, with no possible hope of entrance into that above it. He
felt quite sure that if he had been in Miller's place, he would never
have settled in the South—he would have moved to Europe, or to the West
Indies, or some Central or South American state where questions of color
were not regarded as vitally important.
Dr. Price did not like to lie, even to a negro. To a man of his own
caste, his word was his bond. If it were painful to lie, it would be
humiliating to be found out. The principle of noblesse oblige was also
involved in the matter. His claim of superiority to the colored doctor
rested fundamentally upon the fact that he was white and Miller was not;
and yet this superiority, for which he could claim no credit, since he
had not made himself, was the very breath of his nostrils,—he would not
have changed places with the other for wealth untold; and as a
gentleman, he would not care to have another gentleman, even a colored
man, catch him in a lie. Of this, however, there was scarcely any
danger. A word to the other surgeons would insure their corroboration of
whatever he might tell Miller. No one of them would willingly wound Dr.
Miller or embarrass Dr. Price; indeed, they need not know that Miller
had come in time for the operation.
"I'm sorry, Miller," he said with apparent regret, "but we were here
ahead of time, and the case took a turn which would admit of no delay,
so the gentlemen went in. Dr. Burns is with the patient now, and asked
me to explain why we did not wait for you."
"I'm sorry too," returned Miller, regretfully, but nothing doubting. He
was well aware that in such cases danger might attend upon delay. He had
lost his chance, through no fault of his own or of any one else.
"I hope that all is well?" he said, hesitatingly, not sure whether he
would be asked to remain.
"All is well, so far. Step round to my office in the morning, Miller, or
come in when you're passing, and I'll tell you the details."
This was tantamount to a dismissal, so Miller took his leave. Descending
the doorsteps, he stood for a moment, undecided whether to return home
or to go to the hotel and await the return of Dr. Burns, when he heard
his name called from the house in a low tone.
He stepped back toward the door, outside of which stood the colored
servant who had just let him out.
"Dat's all a lie, doctuh," he whispered, "'bout de operation bein'
already pe'fo'med. Dey-all had jes' gone in de minute befo' you
come—Doctuh Price hadn' even got out 'n de room. Dey be'n quollin'
'bout you fer de las' ha'f hour. Majah Ca'te'et say he wouldn' have
you, an' de No'then doctuh say he wouldn't do nothin' widout you, an'
Doctuh Price he j'ined in on bofe sides, an' dey had it hot an' heavy,
nip an' tuck, till bimeby Majah Ca'te'et up an' say it wa'n't altogether
yo' color he objected to, an' wid dat de No'then doctuh give in. He's
a fine man, suh, but dey wuz too much fer 'im!"
"Thank you, Sam, I'm much obliged," returned Miller mechanically. "One
likes to know the truth."
Truth, it has been said, is mighty, and must prevail; but it sometimes
leaves a bad taste in the mouth. In the ordinary course of events Miller
would not have anticipated such an invitation, and for that reason had
appreciated it all the more. The rebuff came with a corresponding shock.
He had the heart of a man, the sensibilities of a cultivated gentleman;
the one was sore, the other deeply wounded. He was not altogether sure,
upon reflection, whether he blamed Dr. Price very much for the amiable
lie, which had been meant to spare his feelings, or thanked Sam a great
deal for the unpalatable truth.
Janet met him at the door. "How is the baby?" she asked excitedly.
"Dr. Price says he is doing well."
"What is the matter, Will, and why are you back so soon?"
He would have spared her the story, but she was a woman, and would have
it. He was wounded, too, and wanted sympathy, of which Janet was an
exhaustless fountain. So he told her what had happened. She comforted
him after the manner of a loving woman, and felt righteously indignant
toward her sister's husband, who had thus been instrumental in the
humiliation of her own. Her anger did not embrace her sister, and yet
she felt obscurely that their unacknowledged relationship had been the
malignant force which had given her husband pain, and defeated his
honorable ambition. When Dr. Price entered the nursery, Dr. Burns was
leaning attentively over the operating table. The implements needed for
the operation were all in readiness—the knives, the basin, the sponge,
the materials for dressing the wound—all the ghastly paraphernalia of
Mrs. Carteret had been banished to another room, where Clara vainly
attempted to soothe her. Old Mammy Jane, still burdened by her fears,
fervently prayed the good Lord to spare the life of the sweet little
grandson of her dear old mistress.
Dr. Burns had placed his ear to the child's chest, which had been bared
for the incision. Dr. Price stood ready to administer the anaesthetic.
Little Dodie looked up with a faint expression of wonder, as if dimly
conscious of some unusual event. The major shivered at the thought of
what the child must undergo.
"There's a change in his breathing," said Dr. Burns, lifting his head.
"The whistling noise is less pronounced, and he breathes easier. The
obstruction seems to have shifted."
Applying his ear again to the child's throat, he listened for a moment
intently, and then picking the baby up from the table, gave it a couple
of sharp claps between the shoulders. Simultaneously a small object shot
out from the child's mouth, struck Dr. Price in the neighborhood of his
waistband, and then rattled lightly against the floor. Whereupon the
baby, as though conscious of his narrow escape, smiled and gurgled, and
reaching upward clutched the doctor's whiskers with his little hand,
which, according to old Jane, had a stronger grip than any other
infant's in Wellington.
THE CAMPAIGN DRAGS
The campaign for white supremacy was dragging. Carteret had set out, in
the columns of the Morning Chronicle, all the reasons why this movement,
inaugurated by the three men who had met, six months before, at the
office of the Chronicle, should be supported by the white public. Negro
citizenship was a grotesque farce—Sambo and Dinah raised from the
kitchen to the cabinet were a spectacle to make the gods laugh. The laws
by which it had been sought to put the negroes on a level with the
whites must be swept away in theory, as they had failed in fact. If it
were impossible, without a further education of public opinion, to
secure the repeal of the fifteenth amendment, it was at least the solemn
duty of the state to endeavor, through its own constitution, to escape
from the domination of a weak and incompetent electorate and confine the
negro to that inferior condition for which nature had evidently designed
In spite of the force and intelligence with which Carteret had expressed
these and similar views, they had not met the immediate response
anticipated. There were thoughtful men, willing to let well enough
alone, who saw no necessity for such a movement. They believed that
peace, prosperity, and popular education offered a surer remedy for
social ills than the reopening of issues supposed to have been settled.
There were timid men who shrank from civic strife. There were busy men,
who had something else to do. There were a few fair men, prepared to
admit, privately, that a class constituting half to two thirds of the
population were fairly entitled to some representation in the law-making
bodies. Perhaps there might have been found, somewhere in the state, a
single white man ready to concede that all men were entitled to equal
rights before the law.
That there were some white men who had learned little and forgotten
nothing goes without saying, for knowledge and wisdom are not
impartially distributed among even the most favored race. There were
ignorant and vicious negroes, and they had a monopoly of neither
ignorance nor crime, for there were prosperous negroes and
poverty-stricken whites. Until Carteret and his committee began their
baleful campaign the people of the state were living in peace and
harmony. The anti-negro legislation in more southern states, with large
negro majorities, had awakened scarcely an echo in this state, with a
population two thirds white. Even the triumph of the Fusion party had
not been regarded as a race issue. It remained for Carteret and his
friends to discover, with inspiration from whatever supernatural source
the discriminating reader may elect, that the darker race, docile by
instinct, humble by training, patiently waiting upon its as yet
uncertain destiny, was an incubus, a corpse chained to the body politic,
and that the negro vote was a source of danger to the state, no matter
how cast or by whom directed.
To discuss means for counteracting this apathy, a meeting of the "Big
Three," as they had begun to designate themselves jocularly, was held at
the office of the "Morning Chronicle," on the next day but one after
little Dodie's fortunate escape from the knife.
"It seems," said General Belmont, opening the discussion, "as though we
had undertaken more than we can carry through. It is clear that we must
reckon on opposition, both at home and abroad. If we are to hope for
success, we must extend the lines of our campaign. The North, as well as
our own people, must be convinced that we have right upon our side. We
are conscious of the purity of our motives, but we should avoid even the
appearance of evil."
McBane was tapping the floor impatiently with his foot during this
"I don't see the use," he interrupted, "of so much beating about the
bush. We may as well be honest about this thing. We are going to put the
niggers down because we want to, and think we can; so why waste our time
in mere pretense? I'm no hypocrite myself,—if I want a thing I take it,
provided I'm strong enough."
"My dear captain," resumed the general, with biting suavity, "your
frankness does you credit,—'an honest man's the noblest work of
God,'—but we cannot carry on politics in these degenerate times without
a certain amount of diplomacy. In the good old days when your father was
alive, and perhaps nowadays in the discipline of convicts, direct and
simple methods might be safely resorted to; but this is a modern age,
and in dealing with so fundamental a right as the suffrage we must
profess a decent regard for the opinions of even that misguided portion
of mankind which may not agree with us. This is the age of crowds, and
we must have the crowd with us." The captain flushed at the allusion
to his father's calling, at which he took more offense than at the
mention of his own. He knew perfectly well that these old aristocrats,
while reaping the profits of slavery, had despised the instruments by
which they were attained—the poor-white overseer only less than the
black slave. McBane was rich; he lived in Wellington, but he had never
been invited to the home of either General Belmont or Major Carteret,
nor asked to join the club of which they were members. His face,
therefore, wore a distinct scowl, and his single eye glowed ominously.
He would help these fellows carry the state for white supremacy, and
then he would have his innings,—he would have more to say than they
dreamed, as to who should fill the offices under the new deal. Men of no
better birth or breeding than he had represented Southern states in
Congress since the war. Why should he not run for governor,
representative, whatever he chose? He had money enough to buy out half a
dozen of these broken-down aristocrats, and money was all-powerful.
"You see, captain," the general went on, looking McBane smilingly and
unflinchingly in the eye, "we need white immigration—we need Northern
capital. 'A good name is better than great riches,' and we must prove
our cause a righteous one."
"We must be armed at all points," added Carteret, "and prepared for
defense as well as for attack,—we must make our campaign a national
"For instance," resumed the general, "you, Carteret, represent the
Associated Press. Through your hands passes all the news of the state.
What more powerful medium for the propagation of an idea? The man who
would govern a nation by writing its songs was a blethering idiot beside
the fellow who can edit its news dispatches. The negroes are playing
into our hands,—every crime that one of them commits is reported by us.
With the latitude they have had in this state they are growing more
impudent and self-assertive every day. A yellow demagogue in New York
made a speech only a few days ago, in which he deliberately, and in cold
blood, advised negroes to defend themselves to the death when attacked
by white people! I remember well the time when it was death for a negro
to strike a white man."
"It's death now, if he strikes the right one," interjected McBane,
restored to better humor by this mention of a congenial subject.
The general smiled a fine smile. He had heard the story of how McBane
had lost his other eye.
"The local negro paper is quite outspoken, too," continued the general,
"if not impudent. We must keep track of that; it may furnish us some
good campaign material."
"Yes," returned Carteret, "we must see to that. I threw a copy into the
waste-basket this morning, without looking at it. Here it is now!"
A WHITE MAN'S "NIGGER"
Carteret fished from the depths of the waste-basket and handed to the
general an eighteen by twenty-four sheet, poorly printed on cheap paper,
with a "patent" inside, a number of advertisements of proprietary
medicines, quack doctors, and fortune-tellers, and two or three columns
of editorial and local news. Candor compels the admission that it was
not an impressive sheet in any respect, except when regarded as the
first local effort of a struggling people to make public expression of
their life and aspirations. From this point of view it did not speak at
all badly for a class to whom, a generation before, newspapers, books,
and learning had been forbidden fruit.
"It's an elegant specimen of journalism, isn't it?" laughed the general,
airily. "Listen to this 'ad':—
"'Kinky, curly hair made straight by one application of our specific.
Our face bleach will turn the skin of a black or brown person four or
five shades lighter, and of a mulatto perfectly white. When you get the
color you wish, stop using the preparation.'
"Just look at those heads!—'Before using' and 'After using.' We'd
better hurry, or there'll be no negroes to disfranchise! If they don't
stop till they get the color they desire, and the stuff works according
to contract, they'll all be white. Ah! what have we here? This looks as
though it might be serious." Opening the sheet the general read aloud
an editorial article, to which Carteret listened intently, his
indignation increasing in strength from the first word to the last,
while McBane's face grew darkly purple with anger.
The article was a frank and somewhat bold discussion of lynching and its
causes. It denied that most lynchings were for the offense most
generally charged as their justification, and declared that, even of
those seemingly traced to this cause, many were not for crimes at all,
but for voluntary acts which might naturally be expected to follow from
the miscegenation laws by which it was sought, in all the Southern
States, to destroy liberty of contract, and, for the purpose of
maintaining a fanciful purity of race, to make crimes of marriages to
which neither nature nor religion nor the laws of other states
interposed any insurmountable barrier. Such an article in a Northern
newspaper would have attracted no special attention, and might merely
have furnished food to an occasional reader for serious thought upon a
subject not exactly agreeable; but coming from a colored man, in a
Southern city, it was an indictment of the laws and social system of the
South that could not fail of creating a profound sensation.
"Infamous—infamous!" exclaimed Carteret, his voice trembling with
emotion. "The paper should be suppressed immediately."
"The impudent nigger ought to be horsewhipped and run out of town,"
"Gentlemen," said the general soothingly, after the first burst of
indignation had subsided, "I believe we can find a more effective use
for this article, which, by the way, will not bear too close
analysis,—there's some truth in it, at least there's an argument."
"That is not the point," interrupted Carteret.
"No," interjected McBane with an oath, "that ain't at all the point.
Truth or not, no damn nigger has any right to say it."
"This article," said Carteret, "violates an unwritten law of the South.
If we are to tolerate this race of weaklings among us, until they are
eliminated by the stress of competition, it must be upon terms which we
lay down. One of our conditions is violated by this article, in which
our wisdom is assailed, and our women made the subject of offensive
comment. We must make known our disapproval."
"I say lynch the nigger, break up the press, and burn down the newspaper
office," McBane responded promptly.
"Gentlemen," interposed the general, "would you mind suspending the
discussion for a moment, while I mind Jerry across the street? I think I
can then suggest a better plan."
Carteret rang the bell for Jerry, who answered promptly. He had been
expecting such a call ever since the gentlemen had gone in.
"Jerry," said the general, "step across to Brown's and tell him to send
me three Calhoun cocktails. Wait for them,—here's the money."
"Yas, suh," replied Jerry, taking the proffered coin.
"And make has'e, charcoal," added McBane, "for we're gettin' damn dry."
A momentary cloud of annoyance darkened Carteret's brow. McBane had
always grated upon his aristocratic susceptibilities. The captain was an
upstart, a product of the democratic idea operating upon the poor white
man, the descendant of the indentured bondservant and the socially
unfit. He had wealth and energy, however, and it was necessary to make
use of him; but the example of such men was a strong incentive to
Carteret in his campaign against the negro. It was distasteful enough to
rub elbows with an illiterate and vulgar white man of no ancestry,—the
risk of similar contact with negroes was to be avoided at any cost. He
could hardly expect McBane to be a gentleman, but when among men of that
class he might at least try to imitate their manners. A gentleman did
not order his own servants around offensively, to say nothing of
The general had observed Carteret's annoyance, and remarked pleasantly
while they waited for the servant's return:—
"Jerry, now, is a very good negro. He's not one of your new negroes,
who think themselves as good as white men, and want to run the
government. Jerry knows his place,—he is respectful, humble, obedient,
and content with the face and place assigned to him by nature."
"Yes, he's one of the best of 'em," sneered McBane. "He'll call any man
'master' for a quarter, or 'God' for half a dollar; for a dollar he'll
grovel at your feet, and for a cast-off coat you can buy an option on
his immortal soul,—if he has one! I've handled niggers for ten years,
and I know 'em from the ground up. They're all alike,—they're a scrub
race, an affliction to the country, and the quicker we're rid of 'em
all the better."
Carteret had nothing to say by way of dissent. McBane's sentiments, in
their last analysis, were much the same as his, though he would have
expressed them less brutally. "The negro," observed the general,
daintily flicking the ash from his cigar, "is all right in his place and
very useful to the community. We lived on his labor for quite a long
time, and lived very well. Nevertheless we are better off without
slavery, for we can get more out of the free negro, and with less
responsibility. I really do not see how we could get along without the
negroes. If they were all like Jerry, we'd have no trouble with them."
Having procured the drinks, Jerry, the momentary subject of the race
discussion which goes on eternally in the South, was making his way back
across the street, somewhat disturbed in mind.
"O Lawd!" he groaned, "I never troubles trouble till trouble troubles
me; but w'en I got dem drinks befo', Gin'l Belmont gimme half a dollar
an' tol' me ter keep de change. Dis time he didn' say nothin' 'bout de
change. I s'pose he jes' fergot erbout it, but w'at is a po' nigger
gwine ter do w'en he has ter conten' wid w'ite folks's fergitfulniss? I
don' see no way but ter do some fergittin' myse'f. I'll jes' stan'
outside de do' here till dey gits so wrop' up in deir talk dat dey won'
'member nothin' e'se, an' den at de right minute I'll ban' de glasses
'roun, an' moa' lackly de gin'l 'll fergit all 'bout de change."
While Jerry stood outside, the conversation within was plainly audible,
and some inkling of its purport filtered through his mind.
"Now, gentlemen," the general was saying, "here's my plan. That
editorial in the negro newspaper is good campaign matter, but we should
reserve it until it will be most effective. Suppose we just stick it in
a pigeon-hole, and let the editor,—what's his name?"
"The nigger's name is Barber," replied McBane. "I'd like to have him
under me for a month or two; he'd write no more editorials."
"Let Barber have all the rope he wants," resumed the general, "and
he'll be sure to hang himself. In the mean time we will continue to work
up public opinion,—we can use this letter privately for that
purpose,—and when the state campaign opens we'll print the editorial,
with suitable comment, scatter it broadcast throughout the state, fire
the Southern heart, organize the white people on the color line, have a
little demonstration with red shirts and shotguns, scare the negroes
into fits, win the state for white supremacy, and teach our colored
fellow citizens that we are tired of negro domination and have put an
end to it forever. The Afro-American Banner will doubtless die about the
"And so will the editor!" exclaimed McBane ferociously; "I'll see to
that. But I wonder where that nigger is with them cocktails? I'm so
thirsty I could swallow blue blazes."
"Here's yo' drinks, gin'l," announced Jerry, entering with the glasses
on a tray.
The gentlemen exchanged compliments and imbibed—McBane at a gulp,
Carteret with more deliberation, leaving about half the contents of his
The general drank slowly, with every sign of appreciation. "If the
illustrious statesman," he observed, "whose name this mixture bears, had
done nothing more than invent it, his fame would still deserve to go
thundering down the endless ages."
"It ain't bad liquor," assented McBane, smacking his lips.
Jerry received the empty glasses on the tray and left the room. He had
scarcely gained the hall when the general called him back.
"O Lawd!" groaned Jerry, "he's gwine ter ax me fer de change. Yas, suh,
yas, suh; comin', gin'l, comin', suh!"
"You may keep the change, Jerry," said the general.
Jerry's face grew radiant at this announcement. "Yas, suh, gin'l; thank
y', suh; much obleedzed, suh. I wuz jus' gwine ter fetch it in, suh,
w'en I had put de tray down. Thank y', suh, truly, suh!"
Jerry backed and bowed himself out into the hall.
"Dat wuz a close shave," he muttered, as he swallowed the remaining
contents of Major Carteret's glass. "I 'lowed dem twenty cents wuz gone
dat time,—an' whar I wuz gwine ter git de money ter take my gal ter de
chu'ch festibal ter-night, de Lawd only knows!—'less'n I borried it
offn Mr. Ellis, an' I owes him sixty cents a'ready. But I wonduh w'at
dem w'ite folks in dere is up ter? Dere's one thing sho',—dey're
gwine ter git after de niggers some way er 'nuther, an' w'en dey does,
whar is Jerry gwine ter be? Dat's de mos' impo'tantes' question. I'm
gwine ter look at dat newspaper dey be'n talkin' 'bout, an' 'less'n my
min' changes might'ly, I'm gwine ter keep my mouf shet an' stan' in wid
de Angry-Saxon race,—ez dey calls deyse'ves nowadays,—an' keep on de
right side er my bread an' meat. Wat nigger ever give me twenty cents in
all my bawn days?"
"By the way, major," said the general, who lingered behind McBane as
they were leaving, "is Miss Clara's marriage definitely settled upon?"
"Well, general, not exactly; but it's the understanding that they will
marry when they are old enough."
"I was merely thinking," the general went on, "that if I were you I'd
speak to Tom about cards and liquor. He gives more time to both than a
young man can afford. I'm speaking in his interest and in Miss
Clara's,—we of the old families ought to stand together."
"Thank you, general, for the hint. I'll act upon it."
This political conference was fruitful in results. Acting upon the plans
there laid out, McBane traveled extensively through the state, working
up sentiment in favor of the new movement. He possessed a certain
forceful eloquence; and white supremacy was so obviously the divine
intention that he had merely to affirm the doctrine in order to secure
General Belmont, whose business required him to spend much of the winter
in Washington and New York, lost no opportunity to get the ear of
lawmakers, editors, and other leaders of national opinion, and to
impress upon them, with persuasive eloquence, the impossibility of
maintaining existing conditions, and the tremendous blunder which had
been made in conferring the franchise upon the emancipated race.
Carteret conducted the press campaign, and held out to the Republicans
of the North the glittering hope that, with the elimination of the negro
vote, and a proper deference to Southern feeling, a strong white
Republican party might be built up in the New South. How well the bait
took is a matter of history,—but the promised result is still in the
future. The disfranchisement of the negro has merely changed the form of
the same old problem. The negro had no vote before the rebellion, and
few other rights, and yet the negro question was, for a century, the
pivot of American politics. It plunged the nation into a bloody war,
and it will trouble the American government and the American conscience
until a sustained attempt is made to settle it upon principles of
justice and equity.
The personal ambitions entertained by the leaders of this movement are
but slightly involved in this story. McBane's aims have been touched
upon elsewhere. The general would have accepted the nomination for
governor of the state, with a vision of a senatorship in the future.
Carteret hoped to vindicate the supremacy of his race, and make the
state fit for his son to live in, and, incidentally, he would not refuse
any office, worthy of his dignity, which a grateful people might thrust
So powerful a combination of bigot, self-seeking demagogue, and astute
politician was fraught with grave menace to the peace of the state and
the liberties of the people,—by which is meant the whole people, and
not any one class, sought to be built up at the expense of another.
DELAMERE PLAYS A TRUMP
Carteret did not forget what General Belmont had said in regard to Tom.
The major himself had been young, not so very long ago, and was inclined
toward indulgence for the foibles of youth. A young gentleman should
have a certain knowledge of life,—but there were limits. Clara's future
happiness must not be imperiled.
The opportunity to carry out this purpose was not long delayed. Old Mr.
Delamere wished to sell some timber which had been cut at Belleview, and
sent Tom down to the Chronicle office to leave an advertisement. The
major saw him at the desk, invited him into his sanctum, and delivered
him a mild lecture. The major was kind, and talked in a fatherly way
about the danger of extremes, the beauty of moderation, and the value of
discretion as a rule of conduct. He mentioned collaterally the
unblemished honor of a fine old family, its contemplated alliance with
his own, and dwelt upon the sweet simplicity of Clara's character. The
major was a man of feeling and of tact, and could not have put the
subject in a way less calculated to wound the amour propre of a very
Delamere had turned red with anger while the major was speaking. He was
impulsive, and an effort was required to keep back the retort that
sprang once or twice to his lips; but his conscience was not clear, and
he could not afford hard words with Clara's guardian and his
grandfather's friend. Clara was rich, and the most beautiful girl in
town; they were engaged; he loved her as well as he could love anything
of which he seemed sure; and he did not mean that any one else should
have her. The major's mild censure disturbed slightly his sense of
security; and while the major's manner did not indicate that he knew
anything definite against him, it would be best to let well enough
"Thank you, major," he said, with well-simulated frankness. "I realize
that I may have been a little careless, more from thoughtlessness than
anything else; but my heart is all right, sir, and I am glad that my
conduct has been brought to your attention, for what you have said
enables me to see it in a different light. I will be more careful of my
company hereafter; for I love Clara, and mean to try to be worthy of
her. Do you know whether she will be at home this evening?"
"I have heard nothing to the contrary," replied the major warmly. "Call
her up by telephone and ask—or come up and see. You're always welcome,
Upon leaving the office, which was on the second floor, Tom met Ellis
coming up the stairs. It had several times of late occurred to Tom that
Ellis had a sneaking fondness for Clara. Panoplied in his own
engagement, Tom had heretofore rather enjoyed the idea of a hopeless
rival. Ellis was such a solemn prig, and took life so seriously, that it
was a pleasure to see him sit around sighing for the unattainable. That
he should be giving pain to Ellis added a certain zest to his own
enjoyment. But this interview with the major had so disquieted him
that upon meeting Ellis upon the stairs he was struck by a sudden
suspicion. He knew that Major Carteret seldom went to the Clarendon
Club, and that he must have got his information from some one else.
Ellis was a member of the club, and a frequent visitor. Who more likely
than he to try to poison Clara's mind, or the minds of her friends,
against her accepted lover? Tom did not think that the world was using
him well of late; bad luck had pursued him, in cards and other things,
and despite his assumption of humility, Carteret's lecture had left him
in an ugly mood. He nodded curtly to Ellis without relaxing the scowl
that disfigured his handsome features.
"That's the damned sneak who's been giving me away," he muttered. "I'll
get even with him yet for this."
Delamere's suspicions with regard to Ellis's feelings were not, as we
have seen, entirely without foundation. Indeed, he had underestimated
the strength of this rivalry and its chances of success. Ellis had been
watching Delamere for a year. There had been nothing surreptitious about
it, but his interest in Clara had led him to note things about his
favored rival which might have escaped the attention of others less
Ellis was an excellent judge of character, and had formed a very decided
opinion of Tom Delamere. To Ellis, unbiased by ancestral traditions,
biased perhaps by jealousy, Tom Delamere was a type of the degenerate
aristocrat. If, as he had often heard, it took three or four generations
to make a gentleman, and as many more to complete the curve and return
to the base from which it started, Tom Delamere belonged somewhere on
the downward slant, with large possibilities of further decline. Old
Mr. Delamere, who might be taken as the apex of an ideal aristocratic
development, had been distinguished, during his active life, as Ellis
had learned, for courage and strength of will, courtliness of bearing,
deference to his superiors, of whom there had been few, courtesy to his
equals, kindness and consideration for those less highly favored, and
above all, a scrupulous sense of honor; his grandson Tom was merely the
shadow without the substance, the empty husk without the grain. Of grace
he had plenty. In manners he could be perfect, when he so chose. Courage
and strength he had none. Ellis had seen this fellow, who boasted of his
descent from a line of cavaliers, turn pale with fright and spring from
a buggy to which was harnessed a fractious horse, which a negro
stable-boy drove fearlessly. A valiant carpet-knight, skilled in all
parlor exercises, great at whist or euchre, a dream of a dancer,
unexcelled in Cakewalk or "coon" impersonations, for which he was in
large social demand, Ellis had seen him kick an inoffensive negro out of
his path and treat a poor-white man with scant courtesy. He suspected
Delamere of cheating at cards, and knew that others entertained the same
suspicion. For while regular in his own habits,—his poverty would not
have permitted him any considerable extravagance,—Ellis's position as a
newspaper man kept him in touch with what was going on about town. He
was a member, proposed by Carteret, of the Clarendon Club, where cards
were indulged in within reasonable limits, and a certain set were known
to bet dollars in terms of dimes.
Delamere was careless, too, about money matters. He had a habit of
borrowing, right and left, small sums which might be conveniently
forgotten by the borrower, and for which the lender would dislike to
ask. Ellis had a strain of thrift, derived from a Scotch ancestry, and a
tenacious memory for financial details. Indeed, he had never had so much
money that he could lose track of it. He never saw Delamere without
being distinctly conscious that Delamere owed him four dollars, which he
had lent at a time when he could ill afford to spare it. It was a
prerogative of aristocracy, Ellis reflected, to live upon others, and
the last privilege which aristocracy in decay would willingly
relinquish. Neither did the aristocratic memory seem able to retain the
sordid details of a small pecuniary transaction.
No doubt the knowledge that Delamere was the favored lover of Miss
Pemberton lent a touch of bitterness to Ellis's reflections upon his
rival. Ellis had no grievance against the "aristocracy" of Wellington.
The "best people" had received him cordially, though his father had not
been of their caste; but Ellis hated a hypocrite, and despised a coward,
and he felt sure that Delamere was both. Otherwise he would have
struggled against his love for Clara Pemberton. His passion for her had
grown with his appreciation of Delamere's unworthiness. As a friend of
the family, he knew the nature and terms of the engagement, and that if
the marriage took place at all, it would not be for at least a year.
This was a long time,—many things might happen in a year, especially to
a man like Tom Delamere. If for any reason Delamere lost his chance,
Ellis meant to be next in the field. He had not made love to Clara, but
he had missed no opportunity of meeting her and making himself quietly
and unobtrusively agreeable.
On the day after this encounter with Delamere on the stairs of the
Chronicle office, Ellis, while walking down Vine Street, met old Mrs.
Ochiltree. She was seated in her own buggy, which was of ancient build
and pattern, driven by her colored coachman and man of all work.
"Mr. Ellis," she called in a shrill voice, having directed her coachman
to draw up at the curb as she saw the young man approaching, "come here.
I want to speak to you."
Ellis came up to the buggy and stood uncovered beside it.
"People are saying," said Mrs. Ochiltree, "that Tom Delamere is drinking
hard, and has to be carried home intoxicated, two or three times a week,
by old Mr. Delamere's man Sandy. Is there any truth in the story?"
"My dear Mrs. Ochiltree, I am not Tom Delamere's keeper. Sandy could
tell you better than I."
"You are dodging my question, Mr. Ellis. Sandy wouldn't tell me the
truth, and I know that you wouldn't lie,—you don't look like a liar.
They say Tom is gambling scandalously. What do you know about that?"
"You must excuse me, Mrs. Ochiltree. A great deal of what we hear is
mere idle gossip, and the truth is often grossly exaggerated. I'm a
member of the same club with Delamere, and gentlemen who belong to the
same club are not in the habit of talking about one another. As long as
a man retains his club membership, he's presumed to be a gentleman. I
wouldn't say anything against Delamere if I could."
"You don't need to," replied the old lady, shaking her finger at him
with a cunning smile. "You are a very open young man, Mr. Ellis, and I
can read you like a book. You are much smarter than you look, but you
can't fool me. Good-morning."
Mrs. Ochiltree drove immediately to her niece's, where she found Mrs.
Carteret and Clara at home. Clara was very fond of the baby, and was
holding him in her arms. He was a fine baby, and bade fair to realize
the bright hopes built upon him.
"You hold a baby very naturally, Clara," chuckled the old lady. "I
suppose you are in training. But you ought to talk to Tom. I have just
learned from Mr. Ellis that Tom is carried home drunk two or three times
a week, and that he is gambling in the most reckless manner imaginable."
Clara's eyes flashed indignantly. Ere she could speak, Mrs. Carteret
"Why, Aunt Polly! did Mr. Ellis say that?"
"I got it from Dinah," she replied, "who heard it from her husband, who
learned it from a waiter at the club. And"—
"Pshaw!" said Mrs. Carteret, "mere servants' gossip."
"No, it isn't, Olivia. I met Mr. Ellis on the street, and asked him
point blank, and he didn't deny it. He's a member of the club, and
ought to know."
"Well, Aunt Polly, it can't be true. Tom is here every other night, and
how could he carry on so without showing the signs of it? and where
would he get the money? You know he has only a moderate allowance."
"He may win it at cards,—it's better to be born lucky than rich,"
returned Mrs. Ochiltree. "Then he has expectations, and can get credit.
There's no doubt that Tom is going on shamefully." Clara's
indignation had not yet found vent in speech; Olivia had said all that
was necessary, but she had been thinking rapidly. Even if all this had
been true, why should Mr. Ellis have said it? Or, if he had not stated
it directly, he had left the inference to be drawn. It seemed a most
unfair and ungentlemanly thing. What motive could Ellis have for such an
She was not long in reaching a conclusion which was not flattering to
Ellis. Mr. Ellis came often to the house, and she had enjoyed his
society in a friendly way. That he had found her pleasant company had
been very evident. She had never taken his attentions seriously,
however, or regarded his visits as made especially to her, nor had the
rest of the family treated them from that point of view. Her engagement
to Tom Delamere, though not yet formally ratified, was so well
understood by the world of Wellington that Mr. Ellis would, scarcely
have presumed to think of her as anything more than a friend.
This revelation of her aunt's, however, put a different face upon his
conduct. Certain looks and sighs and enigmatical remarks of Ellis, to
which she had paid but casual attention and attached no particular
significance, now recurred to her memory with a new meaning. He had now
evidently tried, in a roundabout way, to besmirch Tom's character and
undermine him in her regard. While loving Tom, she had liked Ellis well
enough, as a friend; but he had abused the privileges of friendship, and
she would teach him a needed lesson.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Ochiltree's story had given Clara food for thought.
She was uneasily conscious, after all, that there might be a grain of
truth in what had been said, enough, at least, to justify her in
warning Tom to be careful, lest his enemies should distort some amiable
weakness into a serious crime.
She put this view of the case to Tom at their next meeting, assuring
him, at the same time, of her unbounded faith and confidence. She did
not mention Ellis's name, lest Tom, in righteous indignation, might do
something rash, which he might thereafter regret. If any subtler or more
obscure motive kept her silent as to Ellis, she was not aware of it; for
Clara's views of life were still in the objective stage, and she had not
yet fathomed the deepest recesses of her own consciousness.
Delamere had the cunning of weakness. He knew, too, better than any one
else could know, how much truth there was in the rumors concerning him,
and whether or not they could be verified too easily for him to make an
indignant denial. After a little rapid reflection, he decided upon a
"Clara," he said with a sigh, taking the hand which she generously
yielded to soften any suggestion of reproach which he may have read into
her solicitude, "you are my guardian angel. I do not know, of course,
who has told you this pack of lies,—for I can see that you have heard
more than you have told me,—but I think I could guess the man they came
from. I am not perfect, Clara, though I have done nothing of which a
gentleman should be ashamed. There is one sure way to stop the tongue of
calumny. My home life is not ideal,—grandfather is an old, weak man,
and the house needs the refining and softening influence of a lady's
presence. I do not love club life; its ideals are not elevating. With
you by my side, dearest, I should be preserved from every influence
except the purest and the best. Don't you think, dearest, that the major
might be induced to shorten our weary term of waiting?"
"Oh, Tom," she demurred blushingly, "I shall be young enough at
eighteen; and you are barely twenty-one."
But Tom proved an eloquent pleader, and love a still more persuasive
advocate. Clara spoke to the major the same evening, who looked grave at
the suggestion, and said he would think about it. They were both very
young; but where both parties were of good family, in good health and
good circumstances, an early marriage might not be undesirable. Tom was
perhaps a little unsettled, but blood would tell in the long run, and
marriage always exercised a steadying influence.
The only return, therefore, which Ellis received for his well-meant
effort to ward off Mrs. Ochiltree's embarrassing inquiries was that he
did not see Clara upon his next visit, which was made one afternoon
while he was on night duty at the office. In conversation with Mrs.
Carteret he learned that Clara's marriage had been definitely agreed
upon, and the date fixed,—it was to take place in about six months.
Meeting Miss Pemberton on the street the following day, he received the
slightest of nods. When he called again at the house, after a week of
misery, she treated him with a sarcastic coolness which chilled his
"How have I offended you, Miss Clara?" he demanded desperately, when
they were left alone for a moment.
"Offended me?" she replied, lifting her eyebrows with an air of puzzled
surprise. "Why, Mr. Ellis! What could have put such a notion into your
head? Oh dear, I think I hear Dodie,—I know you'll excuse me, Mr.
Ellis, won't you? Sister Olivia will be back in a moment; and we're
expecting Aunt Polly this afternoon,—if you'll stay awhile she'll be
glad to talk to you! You can tell her all the interesting news about
THE BABY AND THE BIRD
When Ellis, after this rebuff, had disconsolately taken his leave,
Clara, much elated at the righteous punishment she had inflicted upon
the slanderer, ran upstairs to the nursery, and, snatching Dodie from
Mammy Jane's arms, began dancing gayly with him round the room.
"Look a-hyuh, honey," said Mammy Jane, "you better be keerful wid dat
chile, an' don' drap 'im on de flo'. You might let him fall on his head
an' break his neck. My, my! but you two does make a pretty pictur'!
You'll be wantin' ole Jane ter come an' nuss yo' child'en some er dese
days," she chuckled unctuously.
Mammy Jane had been very much disturbed by the recent dangers through
which little Dodie had passed; and his escape from strangulation, in the
first place, and then from the knife had impressed her as little less
than miraculous. She was not certain whether this result had been
brought about by her manipulation of the buried charm, or by the prayers
which had been offered for the child, but was inclined to believe that
both had cooperated to avert the threatened calamity. The favorable
outcome of this particular incident had not, however, altered the
general situation. Prayers and charms, after all, were merely temporary
things, which must be constantly renewed, and might be forgotten or
overlooked; while the mole, on the contrary, neither faded nor went
away. If its malign influence might for a time seem to disappear, it was
merely lying dormant, like the germs of some deadly disease, awaiting
its opportunity to strike at an unguarded spot.
Clara and the baby were laughing in great glee, when a mockingbird,
perched on the topmost bough of a small tree opposite the nursery
window, burst suddenly into song, with many a trill and quaver. Clara,
with the child in her arms, sprang to the open window.
"Sister Olivia," she cried, turning her face toward Mrs. Carteret, who
at that moment entered the room, "come and look at Dodie."
The baby was listening intently to the music, meanwhile gurgling with
delight, and reaching his chubby hands toward the source of this
pleasing sound. It seemed as though the mockingbird were aware of his
appreciative audience, for he ran through the songs of a dozen different
birds, selecting, with the discrimination of a connoisseur and entire
confidence in his own powers, those which were most difficult and most
Mrs. Carteret approached the window, followed by Mammy Jane, who waddled
over to join the admiring party. So absorbed were the three women in the
baby and the bird that neither one of them observed a neat top buggy,
drawn by a sleek sorrel pony, passing slowly along the street before the
house. In the buggy was seated a lady, and beside her a little boy,
dressed in a child's sailor suit and a straw hat. The lady, with a
wistful expression, was looking toward the party grouped in the open
Mrs. Carteret, chancing to lower her eyes for an instant, caught the
other woman's look directed toward her and her child. With a glance of
cold aversion she turned away from the window.
Old Mammy Jane had observed this movement, and had divined the reason
for it. She stood beside Clara, watching the retreating buggy.
"Uhhuh!" she said to herself, "it's huh sister Janet! She ma'ied a
doctuh, an' all dat, an' she lives in a big house, an' she's be'n roun'
de worl' an de Lawd knows where e'se: but Mis' 'Livy don' like de sight
er her, an' never will, ez long ez de sun rises an' sets. Dey ce't'nly
does favor one anudder,—anybody mought 'low dey wuz twins, ef dey didn'
know better. Well, well! Fo'ty yeahs ago who'd 'a' ever expected ter
see a nigger gal ridin' in her own buggy? My, my! but I don' know,—I
don' know! It don' look right, an' it ain' gwine ter las'!—you can't
make me b'lieve!"
Meantime Janet, stung by Mrs. Carteret's look,—the nearest approach she
had ever made to a recognition of her sister's existence,—had turned
away with hardening face. She had struck her pony sharply with the whip,
much to the gentle creature's surprise, when the little boy, who was
still looking back, caught his mother's sleeve and exclaimed
"Look, look, mamma! The baby,—the baby!"
Janet turned instantly, and with a mother's instinct gave an involuntary
cry of alarm.
At the moment when Mrs. Carteret had turned away from the window, and
while Mammy Jane was watching Janet, Clara had taken a step forward, and
was leaning against the window-sill. The baby, convulsed with delight,
had given a spasmodic spring and slipped from Clara's arms.
Instinctively the young woman gripped the long skirt as it slipped
through her hands, and held it tenaciously, though too frightened for an
instant to do more. Mammy Jane, ashen with sudden dread, uttered an
inarticulate scream, but retained self-possession enough to reach down
and draw up the child, which hung dangerously suspended, head downward,
over the brick pavement below.
"Oh, Clara, Clara, how could you!" exclaimed Mrs. Carteret
reproachfully; "you might have killed my child!"
She had snatched the child from Jane's arms, and was holding him closely
to her own breast. Struck by a sudden thought, she drew near the window
and looked out. Twice within a few weeks her child had been in serious
danger, and upon each occasion a member of the Miller family had been
involved, for she had heard of Dr. Miller's presumption in trying to
force himself where he must have known he would be unwelcome.
Janet was just turning her head away as the buggy moved slowly off.
Olivia felt a violent wave of antipathy sweep over her toward this
baseborn sister who had thus thrust herself beneath her eyes. If she had
not cast her brazen glance toward the window, she herself would not have
turned away and lost sight of her child. To this shameless intrusion,
linked with Clara's carelessness, had been due the catastrophe, so
narrowly averted, which might have darkened her own life forever. She
took to her bed for several days, and for a long time was cold toward
Clara, and did not permit her to touch the child.
Mammy Jane entertained a theory of her own about the accident, by which
the blame was placed, in another way, exactly where Mrs. Carteret had
laid it. Julia's daughter, Janet, had been looking intently toward the
window just before little Dodie had sprung from Clara's arms. Might she
not have cast the evil eye upon the baby, and sought thereby to draw him
out of the window? One would not ordinarily expect so young a woman to
possess such a power, but she might have acquired it, for this very
purpose, from some more experienced person. By the same reasoning, the
mockingbird might have been a familiar of the witch, and the two might
have conspired to lure the infant to destruction. Whether this were so
or not, the transaction at least wore a peculiar look. There was no use
telling Mis' 'Livy about it, for she didn't believe, or pretended not
to believe, in witchcraft and conjuration. But one could not be too
careful. The child was certainly born to be exposed to great
dangers,—the mole behind the left ear was an unfailing sign,—and no
precaution should be omitted to counteract its baleful influence.
While adjusting the baby's crib, a few days later, Mrs. Carteret found
fastened under one of the slats a small bag of cotton cloth, about half
an inch long and tied with a black thread, upon opening which she found
a few small roots or fibres and a pinch of dried and crumpled herbs. It
was a good-luck charm which Mammy Jane had placed there to ward off the
threatened evil from the grandchild of her dear old mistress. Mrs.
Carteret's first impulse was to throw the bag into the fire, but on
second thoughts she let it remain. To remove it would give unnecessary
pain to the old nurse. Of course these old negro superstitions were
absurd,—but if the charm did no good, it at least would do no harm.
ANOTHER SOUTHERN PRODUCT
One morning shortly after the opening of the hospital, while Dr. Miller
was making his early rounds, a new patient walked in with a smile on his
face and a broken arm hanging limply by his side. Miller recognized in
him a black giant by the name of Josh Green, who for many years had
worked on the docks for Miller's father,—and simultaneously identified
him as the dust-begrimed negro who had stolen a ride to Wellington on
the trucks of a passenger car.
"Well, Josh," asked the doctor, as he examined the fracture, "how did
you get this? Been fighting again?"
"No, suh, I don' s'pose you could ha'dly call it a fight. One er dem
dagoes off'n a Souf American boat gimme some er his jaw, an' I give 'im
a back answer, an' here I is wid a broken arm. He got holt er a
belayin'-pin befo' I could hit 'im."
"What became of the other man?" demanded Miller suspiciously. He
perceived, from the indifference with which Josh bore the manipulation
of the fractured limb, that such an accident need not have interfered
seriously with the use of the remaining arm, and he knew that Josh had a
reputation for absolute fearlessness.
"Lemme see," said Josh reflectively, "ef I kin 'member w'at did become
er him! Oh, yes, I 'member now! Dey tuck him ter de Marine Horspittle
in de amberlance, 'cause his leg wuz broke, an' I reckon somethin' must
'a' accident'ly hit 'im in de jaw, fer he wuz scatt'rin' teeth all de
way 'long de street. I didn' wan' ter kill de man, fer he might have
somebody dependin' on 'im, an' I knows how dat'd be ter dem. But no man
kin call me a damn' low-down nigger and keep on enjoyin' good health
"It was considerate of you to spare his life," said Miller dryly, "but
you'll hit the wrong man some day. These are bad times for bad negroes.
You'll get into a quarrel with a white man, and at the end of it there'll
be a lynching, or a funeral. You'd better be peaceable and endure a
little injustice, rather than run the risk of a sudden and violent
"I expec's ter die a vi'lent death in a quarrel wid a w'ite man,"
replied Josh, in a matter-of-fact tone, "an' fu'thermo', he's gwine ter
die at the same time, er a little befo'. I be'n takin' my own time 'bout
killin' 'im; I ain' be'n crowdin' de man, but I'll be ready after a
w'ile, an' den he kin look out!"
"And I suppose you're merely keeping in practice on these other fellows
who come your way. When I get your arm dressed, you'd better leave town
till that fellow's boat sails; it may save you the expense of a trial
and three months in the chain-gang. But this talk about killing a man is
all nonsense. What has any man in this town done to you, that you should
thirst for his blood?"
"No, suh, it ain' nonsense,—it's straight, solem' fac'. I'm gwine ter
kill dat man as sho' as I'm settin' in dis cheer; an' dey ain' nobody
kin say I ain' got a right ter kill 'im. Does you 'member de Ku-Klux?"
"Yes, but I was a child at the time, and recollect very little about
them. It is a page of history which most people are glad to forget."
"Yas, suh; I was a chile, too, but I wuz right in it, an' so I 'members
mo' erbout it 'n you does. My mammy an' daddy lived 'bout ten miles f'm
here, up de river. One night a crowd er w'ite men come ter ou' house an'
tuck my daddy out an' shot 'im ter death, an' skeered my mammy so she
ain' be'n herse'f f'm dat day ter dis. I wa'n't mo' 'n ten years ole at
de time, an' w'en my mammy seed de w'ite men comin', she tol' me ter
run. I hid in de bushes an' seen de whole thing, an' it wuz branded on
my mem'ry, suh, like a red-hot iron bran's de skin. De w'ite folks had
masks on, but one of 'em fell off,—he wuz de boss, he wuz de head man,
an' tol' de res' w'at ter do,—an' I seen his face. It wuz a easy face
ter 'member; an' I swo' den, 'way down deep in my hea't, little ez I
wuz, dat some day er 'nother I'd kill dat man. I ain't never had no
doubt erbout it; it's jus' w'at I'm livin' fer, an' I know I ain' gwine
ter die till I've done it. Some lives fer one thing an' some fer
another, but dat's my job. I ain' be'n in no has'e, fer I'm not ole
yit, an' dat man is in good health. I'd like ter see a little er de
worl' befo' I takes chances on leavin' it sudden; an', mo'over,
somebody's got ter take keer er de ole 'oman. But her time'll come some
er dese days, an den his time'll be come—an' prob'ly mine. But I
ain' keerin' 'bout myse'f: w'en I git thoo wid him, it won' make no
diff'ence 'bout me."
Josh was evidently in dead earnest. Miller recalled, very vividly, the
expression he had seen twice on his patient's face, during the journey
He had often seen Josh's mother, old Aunt Milly,—"Silly Milly," the
children called her,—wandering aimlessly about the street, muttering to
herself incoherently. He had felt a certain childish awe at the sight of
one of God's creatures who had lost the light of reason, and he had
always vaguely understood that she was the victim of human cruelty,
though he had dated it farther back into the past. This was his first
knowledge of the real facts of the case.
He realized, too, for a moment, the continuity of life, how inseparably
the present is woven with the past, how certainly the future will be but
the outcome of the present. He had supposed this old wound healed. The
negroes were not a vindictive people. If, swayed by passion or emotion,
they sometimes gave way to gusts of rage, these were of brief duration.
Absorbed in the contemplation of their doubtful present and their
uncertain future, they gave little thought to the past,—it was a dark
story, which they would willingly forget. He knew the timeworn
explanation that the Ku-Klux movement, in the main, was merely an
ebullition of boyish spirits, begun to amuse young white men by playing
upon the fears and superstitions of ignorant negroes. Here, however, was
its tragic side,—the old wound still bleeding, the fruit of one
tragedy, the seed of another. He could not approve of Josh's application
of the Mosaic law of revenge, and yet the incident was not without
significance. Here was a negro who could remember an injury, who could
shape his life to a definite purpose, if not a high or holy one. When
his race reached the point where they would resent a wrong, there was
hope that they might soon attain the stage where they would try, and, if
need be, die, to defend a right. This man, too, had a purpose in life,
and was willing to die that he might accomplish it. Miller was willing
to give up his life to a cause. Would he be equally willing, he asked
himself, to die for it? Miller had no prophetic instinct to tell him how
soon he would have the opportunity to answer his own question. But he
could not encourage Josh to carry out this dark and revengeful purpose.
Every worthy consideration required him to dissuade his patient from
such a desperate course.
"You had better put away these murderous fancies, Josh," he said
seriously. "The Bible says that we should 'forgive our enemies, bless
them that curse us, and do good to them that despitefully use us.'"
"Yas, suh, I've l'arnt all dat in Sunday-school, an' I've heared de
preachers say it time an' time ag'in. But it 'pears ter me dat dis
fergitfulniss an' fergivniss is mighty one-sided. De w'ite folks don'
fergive nothin' de niggers does. Dey got up de Ku-Klux, dey said, on
'count er de kyarpit-baggers. Dey be'n talkin' 'bout de kyarpit-baggers
ever sence, an' dey 'pears ter fergot all 'bout de Ku-Klux. But I ain'
fergot. De niggers is be'n train' ter fergiveniss; an' fer fear dey
might fergit how ter fergive, de w'ite folks gives 'em somethin' new
ev'y now an' den, ter practice on. A w'ite man kin do w'at he wants ter
a nigger, but de minute de nigger gits back at 'im, up goes de nigger,
an' don' come down tell somebody cuts 'im down. If a nigger gits a'
office, er de race 'pears ter be prosperin' too much, de w'ite folks up
an' kills a few, so dat de res' kin keep on fergivin' an' bein' thankful
dat dey're lef alive. Don' talk ter me 'bout dese w'ite folks,—I knows
'em, I does! Ef a nigger wants ter git down on his marrow-bones, an' eat
dirt, an' call 'em 'marster,' he's a good nigger, dere's room fer
him. But I ain' no w'ite folks' nigger, I ain'. I don' call no man
'marster.' I don' wan' nothin' but w'at I wo'k fer, but I wants all er
dat. I never moles's no w'ite man, 'less 'n he moles's me fus'. But w'en
de ole 'oman dies, doctuh, an' I gits a good chance at dat w'ite
man,—dere ain' no use talkin', suh!—dere's gwine ter be a mix-up, an'
a fune'al, er two fune'als—er may be mo', ef anybody is keerliss enough
to git in de way."
"Josh," said the doctor, laying a cool hand on the other's brow, "you
're feverish, and don't know what you're talking about. I shouldn't
let my mind dwell on such things, and you must keep quiet until this arm
is well, or you may never be able to hit any one with it again."
Miller determined that when Josh got better he would talk to him
seriously and dissuade him from this dangerous design. He had not asked
the name of Josh's enemy, but the look of murderous hate which the
dust-begrimed tramp of the railway journey had cast at Captain George
McBane rendered any such question superfluous. McBane was probably
deserving of any evil fate which might befall him; but such a revenge
would do no good, would right no wrong; while every such crime,
committed by a colored man, would be imputed to the race, which was
already staggering under a load of obloquy because, in the eyes of a
prejudiced and undiscriminating public, it must answer as a whole for
the offenses of each separate individual. To die in defense of the right
was heroic. To kill another for revenge was pitifully human and weak:
"Vengeance is mine, I will repay," saith the Lord.
Old Mr. Delamere's servant, Sandy Campbell, was in deep trouble.
A party of Northern visitors had been staying for several days at the
St. James Hotel. The gentlemen of the party were concerned in a
projected cotton mill, while the ladies were much interested in the
study of social conditions, and especially in the negro problem. As soon
as their desire for information became known, they were taken
courteously under the wing of prominent citizens and their wives, who
gave them, at elaborate luncheons, the Southern white man's views of the
negro, sighing sentimentally over the disappearance of the good old
negro of before the war, and gravely deploring the degeneracy of his
descendants. They enlarged upon the amount of money the Southern whites
had spent for the education of the negro, and shook their heads over the
inadequate results accruing from this unexampled generosity. It was sad,
they said, to witness this spectacle of a dying race, unable to
withstand the competition of a superior type. The severe reprisals taken
by white people for certain crimes committed by negroes were of course
not the acts of the best people, who deplored them; but still a certain
charity should be extended towards those who in the intense and
righteous anger of the moment should take the law into their own hands
and deal out rough but still substantial justice; for no negro was ever
lynched without incontestable proof of his guilt. In order to be
perfectly fair, and give their visitors an opportunity to see both sides
of the question, they accompanied the Northern visitors to a colored
church where they might hear a colored preacher, who had won a jocular
popularity throughout the whole country by an oft-repeated sermon
intended to demonstrate that the earth was flat like a pancake. This
celebrated divine could always draw a white audience, except on the days
when his no less distinguished white rival in the field of
sensationalism preached his equally famous sermon to prove that hell was
exactly one half mile, linear measure, from the city limits of
Wellington. Whether accidentally or not, the Northern visitors had no
opportunity to meet or talk alone with any colored person in the city
except the servants at the hotel. When one of the party suggested a
visit to the colored mission school, a Southern friend kindly
volunteered to accompany them.
The visitors were naturally much impressed by what they learned from
their courteous hosts, and felt inclined to sympathize with the Southern
people, for the negro is not counted as a Southerner, except to fix the
basis of congressional representation. There might of course be things
to criticise here and there, certain customs for which they did not
exactly see the necessity, and which seemed in conflict with the highest
ideals of liberty but surely these courteous, soft-spoken ladies and
gentlemen, entirely familiar with local conditions, who descanted so
earnestly and at times pathetically upon the grave problems confronting
them, must know more about it than people in the distant North, without
their means of information. The negroes who waited on them at the hotel
seemed happy enough, and the teachers whom they had met at the mission
school had been well-dressed, well-mannered, and apparently content with
their position in life. Surely a people who made no complaints could not
be very much oppressed.
In order to give the visitors, ere they left Wellington, a pleasing
impression of Southern customs, and particularly of the joyous,
happy-go-lucky disposition of the Southern darky and his entire
contentment with existing conditions, it was decided by the hotel
management to treat them, on the last night of their visit, to a little
diversion, in the shape of a genuine negro cakewalk.
On the afternoon of this same day Tom Delamere strolled into the hotel,
and soon gravitated to the bar, where he was a frequent visitor. Young
men of leisure spent much of their time around the hotel, and no small
part of it in the bar. Delamere had been to the club, but had avoided
the card-room. Time hanging heavy on his hands, he had sought the hotel
in the hope that some form of distraction might present itself.
"Have you heard the latest, Mr. Delamere?" asked the bartender, as he
mixed a cocktail for his customer.
"No, Billy; what is it?"
"There's to be a big cakewalk upstairs to-night. The No'the'n gentlemen
an' ladies who are down here to see about the new cotton fact'ry want to
study the nigger some more, and the boss has got up a cakewalk for 'em,
'mongst the waiters and chambermaids, with a little outside talent."
"Is it to be public?" asked Delamere.
"Oh, no, not generally, but friends of the house won't be barred out.
The clerk 'll fix it for you. Ransom, the head waiter, will be floor
Delamere was struck with a brilliant idea. The more he considered it,
the brighter it seemed. Another cocktail imparted additional brilliancy
to the conception. He had been trying, after a feeble fashion, to keep
his promise to Clara, and was really suffering from lack of excitement.
He left the bar-room, found the head waiter, held with him a short
conversation, and left in his intelligent and itching palm a piece of
The cakewalk was a great success. The most brilliant performer was a
late arrival, who made his appearance just as the performance was about
to commence. The newcomer was dressed strikingly, the conspicuous
features of his attire being a long blue coat with brass buttons and a
pair of plaid trousers. He was older, too, than the other participants,
which made his agility the more remarkable. His partner was a new
chambermaid, who had just come to town, and whom the head waiter
introduced to the newcomer upon his arrival. The cake was awarded to
this couple by a unanimous vote. The man presented it to his partner
with a grandiloquent flourish, and returned thanks in a speech which
sent the Northern visitors into spasms of delight at the quaintness of
the darky dialect and the darky wit. To cap the climax, the winner
danced a buck dance with a skill and agility that brought a shower of
complimentary silver, which he gathered up and passed to the head
Ellis was off duty for the evening. Not having ventured to put in an
appearance at Carteret's since his last rebuff, he found himself
burdened with a superfluity of leisure, from which he essayed to find
relief by dropping into the hotel office at about nine o'clock. He was
invited up to see the cakewalk, which he rather enjoyed, for there was
some graceful dancing and posturing. But the grotesque contortions of
one participant had struck him as somewhat overdone, even for the
comical type of negro. He recognized the fellow, after a few minutes'
scrutiny, as the body-servant of old Mr. Delamere. The man's present
occupation, or choice of diversion, seemed out of keeping with his
employment as attendant upon an invalid old gentleman, and strangely
inconsistent with the gravity and decorum which had been so noticeable
when this agile cakewalker had served as butler at Major Carteret's
table, upon the occasion of the christening dinner. There was a vague
suggestion of unreality about this performance, too, which Ellis did not
attempt to analyze, but which recurred vividly to his memory upon a
Ellis had never pretended to that intimate knowledge of negro thought
and character by which some of his acquaintances claimed the ability to
fathom every motive of a negro's conduct, and predict in advance what
any one of the darker race would do under a given set of circumstances.
He would not have believed that a white man could possess two so widely
varying phases of character; but as to negroes, they were as yet a crude
and undeveloped race, and it was not safe to make predictions concerning
them. No one could tell at what moment the thin veneer of civilization
might peel off and reveal the underlying savage.
The champion cakewalker, much to the surprise of his sable companions,
who were about equally swayed by admiration and jealousy, disappeared
immediately after the close of the performance. Any one watching him on
his way home through the quiet streets to old Mr. Delamere's would have
seen him now and then shaking with laughter. It had been excellent fun.
Nevertheless, as he neared home, a certain aspect of the affair,
hitherto unconsidered, occurred to him, and it was in a rather serious
frame of mind that he cautiously entered the house and sought his own
* * * * *
The cakewalk had results which to Sandy were very serious. The following
week he was summoned before the disciplinary committee of his church and
charged with unchristian conduct, in the following particulars, to wit:
dancing, and participating in a sinful diversion called a cakewalk,
which was calculated to bring the church into disrepute and make it the
mockery of sinners.
Sandy protested his innocence vehemently, but in vain. The proof was
overwhelming. He was positively identified by Sister 'Manda Patterson,
the hotel cook, who had watched the whole performance from the hotel
corridor for the sole, single, solitary, and only purpose, she averred,
of seeing how far human wickedness could be carried by a professing
Christian. The whole thing had been shocking and offensive to her, and
only a stern sense of duty had sustained her in looking on, that she
might be qualified to bear witness against the offender. She had
recognized his face, his clothes, his voice, his walk—there could be no
shadow of doubt that it was Brother Sandy. This testimony was confirmed
by one of the deacons, whose son, a waiter at the hotel, had also seen
Sandy at the cakewalk.
Sandy stoutly insisted that he was at home the whole evening; that he
had not been near the hotel for three months; that he had never in his
life taken part in a cakewalk, and that he did not know how to dance.
It was replied that wickedness, like everything else, must have a
beginning; that dancing was an art that could be acquired in secret, and
came natural to some people. In the face of positive proof, Sandy's
protestations were of no avail; he was found guilty, and suspended from
church fellowship until he should have repented and made full
Sturdily refusing to confess a fault of which he claimed to be innocent,
Sandy remained in contumacy, thereby falling somewhat into disrepute
among the members of his church, the largest in the city. The effect of
a bad reputation being subjective as well as objective, and poor human
nature arguing that one may as well have the game as the name, Sandy
insensibly glided into habits of which the church would not have
approved, though he took care that they should not interfere with his
duties to Mr. Delamere. The consolation thus afforded, however, followed
as it was by remorse of conscience, did not compensate him for the loss
of standing in the church, which to him was a social club as well as a
religious temple. At times, in conversation with young Delamere, he
would lament his hard fate.
Tom laughed until he cried at the comical idea which Sandy's plaint
always brought up, of half-a-dozen negro preachers sitting in solemn
judgment upon that cakewalk,—it had certainly been a good
cakewalk!—and sending poor Sandy to spiritual Coventry.
"Cheer up, Sandy, cheer up!" he would say when Sandy seemed most
depressed. "Go into my room and get yourself a good drink of liquor. The
devil's church has a bigger congregation than theirs, and we have the
consolation of knowing that when we die, we'll meet all our friends on
the other side. Brace up, Sandy, and be a man, or, if you can't be a
man, be as near a man as you can!"
Hoping to revive his drooping spirits, Sandy too often accepted the
THE MAUNDERINGS OF OLD MRS. OCHILTREE
When Mrs. Carteret had fully recovered from the shock attendant upon the
accident at the window, where little Dodie had so narrowly escaped death
or serious injury, she ordered her carriage one afternoon and directed
the coachman to drive her to Mrs. Ochiltree's.
Mrs. Carteret had discharged her young nurse only the day before, and
had sent for Mammy Jane, who was now recovered from her rheumatism, to
stay until she could find another girl. The nurse had been ordered not
to take the child to negroes' houses. Yesterday, in driving past the old
homestead of her husband's family, now occupied by Dr. Miller and his
family, Mrs. Carteret had seen her own baby's carriage standing in the
When the nurse returned home, she was immediately discharged. She
offered some sort of explanation, to the effect that her sister worked
for Mrs. Miller, and that some family matter had rendered it necessary
for her to see her sister. The explanation only aggravated the offense:
if Mrs. Carteret could have overlooked the disobedience, she would by no
means have retained in her employment a servant whose sister worked for
the Miller woman.
Old Mrs. Ochiltree had within a few months begun to show signs of
breaking up. She was over seventy years old, and had been of late, by
various afflictions, confined to the house much of the time. More than
once within the year, Mrs. Carteret had asked her aunt to come and live
with her; but Mrs. Ochiltree, who would have regarded such a step as an
acknowledgment of weakness, preferred her lonely independence. She
resided in a small, old-fashioned house, standing back in the middle of
a garden on a quiet street. Two old servants made up her modest
This refusal to live with her niece had been lightly borne, for Mrs.
Ochiltree was a woman of strong individuality, whose comments upon her
acquaintance, present or absent, were marked by a frankness at times no
less than startling. This characteristic caused her to be more or less
avoided. Mrs. Ochiltree was aware of this sentiment on the part of her
acquaintance, and rather exulted in it. She hated fools. Only fools ran
away from her, and that because they were afraid she would expose their
folly. If most people were fools, it was no fault of hers, and she was
not obliged to indulge them by pretending to believe that they knew
anything. She had once owned considerable property, but was reticent
about her affairs, and told no one how much she was worth, though it was
supposed that she had considerable ready money, besides her house and
some other real estate. Mrs. Carteret was her nearest living relative,
though her grand-nephew Tom Delamere had been a great favorite with her.
If she did not spare him her tongue-lashings, it was nevertheless
expected in the family that she would leave him something handsome in
Mrs. Ochiltree had shared in the general rejoicing upon the advent of
the Carteret baby. She had been one of his godmothers, and had hinted at
certain intentions held by her concerning him. During Mammy Jane's
administration she had tried the old nurse's patience more or less by
her dictatorial interference. Since her partial confinement to the
house, she had gone, when her health and the weather would permit, to
see the child, and at other times had insisted that it be sent to her in
charge of the nurse at least every other day.
Mrs. Ochiltree's faculties had shared insensibly in the decline of her
health. This weakness manifested itself by fits of absent-mindedness, in
which she would seemingly lose connection with the present, and live
over again, in imagination, the earlier years of her life. She had
buried two husbands, had tried in vain to secure a third, and had never
borne any children. Long ago she had petrified into a character which
nothing under heaven could change, and which, if death is to take us as
it finds us, and the future life to keep us as it takes us, promised
anything but eternal felicity to those with whom she might associate
after this life. Tom Delamere had been heard to say, profanely, that if
his Aunt Polly went to heaven, he would let his mansion in the skies on
a long lease, at a low figure.
When the carriage drove up with Mrs. Carteret, her aunt was seated on
the little front piazza, with her wrinkled hands folded in her lap,
dozing the afternoon away in fitful slumber.
"Tie the horse, William," said Mrs. Carteret, "and then go in and wake
Aunt Polly, and tell her I want her to come and drive with me."
Mrs. Ochiltree had not observed her niece's approach, nor did she look
up when William drew near. Her eyes were closed, and she would let her
head sink slowly forward, recovering it now and then with a spasmodic
"Colonel Ochiltree," she muttered, "was shot at the battle of Culpepper
Court House, and left me a widow for the second time. But I would not
have married any man on earth after him."
"Mis' Ochiltree!" cried William, raising his voice, "oh, Mis'
"If I had found a man,—a real man,—I might have married again. I did
not care for weaklings. I could have married John Delamere if I had
wanted him. But pshaw! I could have wound him round"—
"Go round to the kitchen, William," interrupted Mrs. Carteret
impatiently, "and tell Aunt Dinah to come and wake her up."
William returned in a few moments with a fat, comfortable looking black
woman, who curtsied to Mrs. Carteret at the gate, and then going up to
her mistress seized her by the shoulder and shook her vigorously.
"Wake up dere, Mis' Polly," she screamed, as harshly as her mellow voice
would permit. "Mis' 'Livy wants you ter go drivin' wid 'er!"
"Dinah," exclaimed the old lady, sitting suddenly upright with a defiant
assumption of wakefulness, "why do you take so long to come when I call?
Bring me my bonnet and shawl. Don't you see my niece waiting for me at
"Hyuh dey is, hyuh dey is!" returned Dinah, producing the bonnet and
shawl, and assisting Mrs. Ochiltree to put them on.
Leaning on William's arm, the old lady went slowly down the walk, and
was handed to the rear seat with Mrs. Carteret.
"How's the baby to-day, Olivia, and why didn't you bring him?"
"He has a cold to-day, and is a little hoarse," replied Mrs. Carteret,
"so I thought it best not to bring him out. Drive out the Weldon road,
William, and back by Pine Street."
The drive led past an eminence crowned by a handsome brick building of
modern construction, evidently an institution of some kind, surrounded
on three sides by a grove of venerable oaks.
"Hugh Poindexter," Mrs. Ochiltree exclaimed explosively, after a
considerable silence, "has been building a new house, in place of the
old family mansion burned during the war."
"It isn't Mr. Poindexter's house, Aunt Polly. That is the new colored
hospital built by the colored doctor."
"The new colored hospital, indeed, and the colored doctor! Before the
war the negroes were all healthy, and when they got sick we took care of
them ourselves! Hugh Poindexter has sold the graves of his ancestors to
a negro,—I should have starved first!"
"He had his grandfather's grave opened, and there was nothing to remove,
except a few bits of heart-pine from the coffin. All the rest had
crumbled into dust."
"And he sold the dust to a negro! The world is upside down."
"He had the tombstone transferred to the white cemetery, Aunt Polly, and
he has moved away."
"Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. When I die, if you
outlive me, Olivia, which is not likely, I shall leave my house and
land to this child! He is a Carteret,—he would never sell them to a
negro. I can't trust Tom Delamere, I'm afraid."
The carriage had skirted the hill, passing to the rear of the new
"Turn to the right, William," ordered Mrs. Carteret, addressing the
coachman, "and come back past the other side of the hospital."
A turn to the right into another road soon brought them to the front of
the building, which stood slightly back from the street, with no
intervening fence or inclosure. A sorrel pony in a light buggy was
fastened to a hitching-post near the entrance. As they drove past, a
lady came out of the front door and descended the steps, holding by the
hand a very pretty child about six years old.
"Who is that woman, Olivia?" asked Mrs. Ochiltree abruptly, with signs
The lady coming down the steps darted at the approaching carriage a look
which lingered involuntarily.
Mrs. Carteret, perceiving this glance, turned away coldly.
With a sudden hardening of her own features the other woman lifted the
little boy into the buggy and drove sharply away in the direction
opposite to that taken by Mrs. Carteret's carriage.
"Who is that woman, Olivia?" repeated Mrs. Ochiltree, with marked
"I have not the honor of her acquaintance," returned Mrs. Carteret
sharply. "Drive faster, William."
"I want to know who that woman is," persisted Mrs. Ochiltree
querulously. "William," she cried shrilly, poking the coachman in the
back with the end of her cane, "who is that woman?"
"Dat's Mis' Miller, ma'am," returned the coachman, touching his hat;
"Doctuh Miller's wife."
"What was her mother's name?"
"Her mother's name wuz Julia Brown. She's be'n dead dese twenty years
er mo'. Why, you knowed Julia, Mis' Polly!—she used ter b'long ter yo'
own father befo' de wah; an' after de wah she kep' house fer"—
"Look to your horses, William!" exclaimed Mrs. Carteret sharply.
"It's that hussy's child," said Mrs. Ochiltree, turning to her niece
with great excitement. "When your father died, I turned the mother and
the child out into the street. The mother died and went to—the place
provided for such as she. If I hadn't been just in time, Olivia, they
would have turned you out. I saved the property for you and your son!
You can thank me for it all!"
"Hush, Aunt Polly, for goodness' sake! William will hear you. Tell me
about it when you get home."
Mrs. Ochiltree was silent, except for a few incoherent mumblings. What
she might say, what distressing family secret she might repeat in
William's hearing, should she take another talkative turn, was beyond
Olivia looked anxiously around for something to distract her aunt's
attention, and caught sight of a colored man, dressed in sober gray, who
was coming toward the carriage.
"There's Mr. Delamere's Sandy!" exclaimed Mrs. Carteret, touching her
aunt on the arm. "I wonder how his master is? Sandy, oh, Sandy!"
Sandy approached the carriage, lifting his hat with a slight
exaggeration of Chesterfieldian elegance. Sandy, no less than his
master, was a survival of an interesting type. He had inherited the
feudal deference for his superiors in position, joined to a certain
self-respect which saved him from sycophancy. His manners had been
formed upon those of old Mr. Delamere, and were not a bad imitation; for
in the man, as in the master, they were the harmonious reflection of a
"How is Mr. Delamere, Sandy?" asked Mrs. Carteret, acknowledging Sandy's
salutation with a nod and a smile.
"He ain't ez peart ez he has be'n, ma'am," replied Sandy, "but he's
doin' tol'able well. De doctuh say he's good fer a dozen years yit, ef
he'll jes' take good keer of hisse'f an' keep f'm gittin' excited; fer
sence dat secon' stroke, excitement is dange'ous fer 'im."
"I'm sure you take the best care of him," returned Mrs. Carteret kindly.
"You can't do anything for him, Sandy," interposed old Mrs. Ochiltree,
shaking her head slowly to emphasize her dissent. "All the doctors in
creation couldn't keep him alive another year. I shall outlive him by
twenty years, though we are not far from the same age."
"Lawd, ma'am!" exclaimed Sandy, lifting his hands in affected
amazement,—his study of gentle manners had been more than
superficial,—"whoever would 'a' s'picion' dat you an' Mars John wuz
nigh de same age? I'd 'a' 'lowed you wuz ten years younger 'n him, easy,
ef you wuz a day!"
"Give my compliments to the poor old gentleman," returned Mrs.
Ochiltree, with a simper of senile vanity, though her back was
weakening under the strain of the effort to sit erect that she might
maintain this illusion of comparative youthfulness. "Bring him to see me
some day when he is able to walk."
"Yas'm, I will," rejoined Sandy. "He's gwine out ter Belleview nex'
week, fer ter stay a mont' er so, but I'll fetch him 'roun' w'en he
comes back. I'll tell 'im dat you ladies 'quired fer 'im."
Sandy made another deep bow, and held his hat in his hand until the
carriage had moved away. He had not condescended to notice the coachman
at all, who was one of the young negroes of the new generation; while
Sandy regarded himself as belonging to the quality, and seldom stooped
to notice those beneath him. It would not have been becoming in him,
either, while conversing with white ladies, to have noticed a colored
servant. Moreover, the coachman was a Baptist, while Sandy was a
Methodist, though under a cloud, and considered a Methodist in poor
standing as better than a Baptist of any degree of sanctity.
"Lawd, Lawd!" chuckled Sandy, after the carriage had departed, "I never
seed nothin' lack de way dat ole lady do keep up her temper! Wid one
foot in de grave, an' de other hov'rin' on de edge, she talks 'bout my
ole marster lack he wuz in his secon' chil'hood. But I'm jes' willin'
ter bet dat he'll outlas' her! She ain't half de woman she wuz dat
night I waited on de table at de christenin' pa'ty, w'en she 'lowed she
wuzn' feared er no man livin'."
MRS. CARTERET SEEKS AN EXPLANATION
As a stone dropped into a pool of water sets in motion a series of
concentric circles which disturb the whole mass in varying degree, so
Mrs. Ochiltree's enigmatical remark had started in her niece's mind a
disturbing train of thought. Had her words, Mrs. Carteret asked herself,
any serious meaning, or were they the mere empty babblings of a clouded
"William," she said to the coachman when they reached Mrs. Ochiltree's
house, "you may tie the horse and help us out. I shall be here a little
William helped the ladies down, assisted Mrs. Ochiltree into the house,
and then went round to the kitchen. Dinah was an excellent hand at
potato-pone and other culinary delicacies dear to the Southern heart,
and William was a welcome visitor in her domain.
"Now, Aunt Polly," said Mrs. Carteret resolutely, as soon as they were
alone, "I want to know what you meant by what you said about my father
and Julia, and this—this child of hers?"
The old woman smiled cunningly, but her expression soon changed to one
"Why do you want to know?" she asked suspiciously. "You've got the
land, the houses, and the money. You've nothing to complain of. Enjoy
yourself, and be thankful!"
"I'm thankful to God," returned Olivia, "for all his good gifts,—and
He has blessed me abundantly,—but why should I be thankful to you for
the property my father left me?"
"Why should you be thankful to me?" rejoined Mrs. Ochiltree with
querulous indignation. "You'd better ask why shouldn't you be
thankful to me. What have I not done for you?"
"Yes, Aunt Polly, I know you've done a great deal. You reared me in
your own house when I had been cast out of my father's; you have been a
second mother to me, and I am very grateful,—you can never say that I
have not shown my gratitude. But if you have done anything else for me,
I wish to know it. Why should I thank you for my inheritance?"
"Why should you thank me? Well, because I drove that woman and her brat
"But she had no right to stay, Aunt Polly, after father died. Of course
she had no moral right before, but it was his house, and he could keep
her there if he chose. But after his death she surely had no right."
"Perhaps not so surely as you think,—if she had not been a negro. Had
she been white, there might have been a difference. When I told her to
go, she said"—
"What did she say, Aunt Polly," demanded Olivia eagerly.
It seemed for a moment as though Mrs. Ochiltree would speak no further:
but her once strong will, now weakened by her bodily infirmities,
yielded to the influence of her niece's imperious demand.
"I'll tell you the whole story," she said, "and then you'll know what
I did for you and yours." Mrs. Ochiltree's eyes assumed an
introspective expression, and her story, as it advanced, became as
keenly dramatic as though memory had thrown aside the veil of
intervening years and carried her back directly to the events which she
"Your father," she said, "while living with that woman, left home one
morning the picture of health. Five minutes later he tottered into the
house groaning with pain, stricken unto death by the hand of a just God,
as a punishment for his sins."
Olivia gave a start of indignation, but restrained herself.
"I was at once informed of what had happened, for I had means of knowing
all that took place in the household. Old Jane—she was younger
then—had come with you to my house; but her daughter remained, and
through her I learned all that went on.
"I hastened immediately to the house, entered without knocking, and
approached Mr. Merkell's bedroom, which was on the lower floor and
opened into the hall. The door was ajar, and as I stood there for a
moment I heard your father's voice.
"'Listen, Julia,' he was saying. 'I shall not live until the doctor
comes. But I wish you to know, dear Julia!'—he called her 'dear
Julia!'—'before I die, that I have kept my promise. You did me one
great service, Julia,—you saved me from Polly Ochiltree!' Yes, Olivia,
that is what he said! 'You have served me faithfully and well, and I owe
you a great deal, which I have tried to pay.'
"'Oh, Mr. Merkell, dear Mr. Merkell,' cried the hypocritical hussy,
falling to her knees by his bedside, and shedding her crocodile tears,
'you owe me nothing. You have done more for me than I could ever repay.
You will not die and leave me,—no, no, it cannot be!'
"'Yes, I am going to die,—I am dying now, Julia. But listen,—compose
yourself and listen, for this is a more important matter. Take the keys
from under my pillow, open the desk in the next room, look in the second
drawer on the right, and you will find an envelope containing three
papers: one of them is yours, one is the paper I promised to make, and
the third is a letter which I wrote last night. As soon as the breath
has left my body, deliver the envelope to the address indorsed upon it.
Do not delay one moment, or you may live to regret it. Say nothing until
you have delivered the package, and then be guided by the advice which
you receive,—it will come from a friend of mine who will not see you
"I slipped away from the door without making my presence known and
entered, by a door from the hall, the room adjoining the one where Mr.
Merkell lay. A moment later there was a loud scream. Returning quickly
to the hall, I entered Mr. Merkell's room as though just arrived.
"'How is Mr. Merkell?' I demanded, as I crossed the threshold.
"'He is dead,' sobbed the woman, without lifting her head,—she had
fallen on her knees by the bedside. She had good cause to weep, for my
time had come.
"'Get up,' I said. 'You have no right here. You pollute Mr. Merkell's
dead body by your touch. Leave the house immediately,—your day is
"'I will not!' she cried, rising to her feet and facing me with
brazen-faced impudence. 'I have a right to stay,—he has given me the
"'Ha, ha!' I laughed. 'Mr. Merkell is dead, and I am mistress here
henceforth. Go, and go at once,—do you hear?'
"'I hear, but I shall not heed. I can prove my rights! I shall not
"'Very well,' I replied, 'we shall see. The law will decide.'
"I left the room, but did not leave the house. On the contrary, I
concealed myself where I could see what took place in the room adjoining
"She entered the room a moment later, with her child on one arm and the
keys in the other hand. Placing the child on the floor, she put the key
in the lock, and seemed surprised to find the desk already unfastened.
She opened the desk, picked up a roll of money and a ladies' watch,
which first caught her eye, and was reaching toward the drawer upon the
right, when I interrupted her:—
"'Well, thief, are you trying to strip the house before you leave it?'
"She gave an involuntary cry, clasped one hand to her bosom and with the
other caught up her child, and stood like a wild beast at bay.
"'I am not a thief,' she panted. 'The things are mine!'
"'You lie,' I replied. 'You have no right to them,—no more right than
you have to remain in this house!'
"'I have a right,' she persisted, 'and I can prove it!'
"She turned toward the desk, seized the drawer, and drew it open. Never
shall I forget her look,—never shall I forget that moment; it was the
happiest of my life. The drawer was empty!
"Pale as death she turned and faced me.
"'The papers!' she shrieked, 'the papers! You have stolen them!'
"'Papers?' I laughed, 'what papers? Do you take me for a thief, like
"'There were papers here,' she cried, 'only a minute since. They are
mine,—give them back to me!'
"'Listen, woman,' I said sternly, 'you are lying—or dreaming. My
brother-in-law's papers are doubtless in his safe at his office, where
they ought to be. As for the rest,—you are a thief.'
"'I am not,' she screamed; 'I am his wife. He married me, and the papers
that were in the desk will prove it.'
"'Listen,' I exclaimed, when she had finished,—'listen carefully, and
take heed to what I say. You are a liar. You have no proofs,—there
never were any proofs of what you say, because it never happened,—it is
absurd upon the face of it. Not one person in Wellington would believe
it. Why should he marry you? He did not need to! You are merely
lying,—you are not even self-deceived. If he had really married you,
you would have made it known long ago. That you did not is proof that
your story is false.'
"She was hit so hard that she trembled and sank into a chair. But I had
no mercy—she had saved your father from me—'dear Julia,' indeed!
"'Stand up,' I ordered. 'Do not dare to sit down in my presence. I have
you on the hip, my lady, and will teach you your place.'
"She struggled to her feet, and stood supporting herself with one hand
on the chair. I could have killed her, Olivia! She had been my father's
slave; if it had been before the war, I would have had her whipped to
"'You are a thief,' I said, 'and of that there are proofs. I have
caught you in the act. The watch in your bosom is my own, the money
belongs to Mr. Merkell's estate, which belongs to my niece, his daughter
Olivia. I saw you steal them. My word is worth yours a hundred times
over, for I am a lady, and you are—what? And now hear me: if ever you
breathe to a living soul one word of this preposterous story, I will
charge you with the theft, and have you sent to the penitentiary. Your
child will be taken from you, and you shall never see it again. I will
give you now just ten minutes to take your brat and your rags out of
this house forever. But before you go, put down your plunder there upon
"She laid down the money and the watch, and a few minutes later left the
house with the child in her arms.
"And now, Olivia, you know how I saved your estate, and why you should
be grateful to me."
Olivia had listened to her aunt's story with intense interest. Having
perceived the old woman's mood, and fearful lest any interruption might
break the flow of her narrative, she had with an effort kept back the
one question which had been hovering upon her lips, but which could now
no longer be withheld.
"What became of the papers, Aunt Polly?"
"Ha, ha!" chuckled Mrs. Ochiltree with a cunning look, "did I not tell
you that she found no papers?"
A change had come over Mrs. Ochiltree's face, marking the reaction from
her burst of energy. Her eyes were half closed, and she was muttering
incoherently. Olivia made some slight effort to arouse her, but in vain,
and realizing the futility of any further attempt to extract information
from her aunt at this time, she called William and drove homeward.
ELLIS TAKES A TRICK
Late one afternoon a handsome trap, drawn by two spirited bays, drove up
to Carteret's gate. Three places were taken by Mrs. Carteret, Clara, and
the major, leaving the fourth seat vacant.
"I've asked Ellis to drive out with us," said the major, as he took the
lines from the colored man who had the trap in charge. "We'll go by the
office and pick him up."
Clara frowned, but perceiving Mrs. Carteret's eye fixed upon her,
restrained any further expression of annoyance.
The major's liking for Ellis had increased within the year. The young
man was not only a good journalist, but possessed sufficient cleverness
and tact to make him excellent company. The major was fond of argument,
but extremely tenacious of his own opinions. Ellis handled the foils of
discussion with just the requisite skill to draw out the major,
permitting himself to be vanquished, not too easily, but, as it were,
inevitably, by the major's incontrovertible arguments.
Olivia had long suspected Ellis of feeling a more than friendly interest
in Clara. Herself partial to Tom, she had more than once thought it
hardly fair to Delamere, or even to Clara, who was young and
impressionable, to have another young man constantly about the house.
True, there had seemed to be no great danger, for Ellis had neither the
family nor the means to make him a suitable match for the major's
sister; nor had Clara made any secret of her dislike for Ellis, or of
her resentment for his supposed depreciation of Delamere. Mrs. Carteret
was inclined to a more just and reasonable view of Ellis's conduct in
this matter, but nevertheless did not deem it wise to undeceive Clara.
Dislike was a stout barrier, which remorse might have broken down. The
major, absorbed in schemes of empire and dreams of his child's future,
had not become cognizant of the affair. His wife, out of friendship for
Tom, had refrained from mentioning it; while the major, with a delicate
regard for Clara's feelings, had said nothing at home in regard to his
interview with her lover.
At the Chronicle office Ellis took the front seat beside the major.
After leaving the city pavements, they bowled along merrily over an
excellent toll-road, built of oyster shells from the neighboring sound,
stopping at intervals to pay toll to the gate-keepers, most of whom were
white women with tallow complexions and snuff-stained lips,—the
traditional "poor-white." For part of the way the road was bordered with
a growth of scrub oak and pine, interspersed with stretches of cleared
land, white with the opening cotton or yellow with ripening corn. To the
right, along the distant river-bank, were visible here and there groups
of turpentine pines, though most of this growth had for some years been
exhausted. Twenty years before, Wellington had been the world's greatest
shipping port for naval stores. But as the turpentine industry had moved
southward, leaving a trail of devastated forests in its rear, the city
had fallen to a poor fifth or sixth place in this trade, relying now
almost entirely upon cotton for its export business.
Occasionally our party passed a person, or a group of persons,—mostly
negroes approximating the pure type, for those of lighter color grew
noticeably scarcer as the town was left behind. Now and then one of
these would salute the party respectfully, while others glanced at them
indifferently or turned away. There would have seemed, to a stranger, a
lack, of spontaneous friendliness between the people of these two races,
as though each felt that it had no part or lot in the other's life. At
one point the carriage drew near a party of colored folks who were
laughing and jesting among themselves with great glee. Paying no
attention to the white people, they continued to laugh and shout
boisterously as the carriage swept by.
Major Carteret's countenance wore an angry look.
"The negroes around this town are becoming absolutely insufferable," he
averred. "They are sadly in need of a lesson in manners."
Half an hour later they neared another group, who were also making
merry. As the carriage approached, they became mute and silent as the
grave until the major's party had passed.
"The negroes are a sullen race," remarked the major thoughtfully. "They
will learn their lesson in a rude school, and perhaps much sooner than
they dream. By the way," he added, turning to the ladies, "what was the
arrangement with Tom? Was he to come out this evening?"
"He came out early in the afternoon," replied Clara, "to go a-fishing.
He is to join us at the hotel."
After an hour's drive they reached the hotel, in front of which
stretched the beach, white and inviting, along the shallow sound. Mrs.
Carteret and Clara found seats on the veranda. Having turned the trap
over to a hostler, the major joined a group of gentlemen, among whom was
General Belmont, and was soon deep in the discussion of the standing
problem of how best to keep the negroes down.
Ellis remained by the ladies. Clara seemed restless and ill at ease.
Half an hour elapsed and Delamere had not appeared.
"I wonder where Tom is," said Mrs. Carteret.
"I guess he hasn't come in yet from fishing," said Clara. "I wish he
would come. It's lonesome here. Mr. Ellis, would you mind looking about
the hotel and seeing if there's any one here that we know?"
For Ellis the party was already one too large. He had accepted this
invitation eagerly, hoping to make friends with Clara during the
evening. He had never been able to learn definitely the reason of her
coldness, but had dated it from his meeting with old Mrs. Ochiltree,
with which he felt it was obscurely connected. He had noticed Delamere's
scowling look, too, at their last meeting. Clara's injustice, whatever
its cause, he felt keenly. To Delamere's scowl he had paid little
attention,—he despised Tom so much that, but for his engagement to
Clara, he would have held his opinions in utter contempt.
He had even wished that Clara might make some charge against him,—he
would have preferred that to her attitude of studied indifference, the
only redeeming feature about which was that it was studied, showing
that she, at least, had him in mind. The next best thing, he reasoned,
to having a woman love you, is to have her dislike you violently,—the
main point is that you should be kept in mind, and made the subject of
strong emotions. He thought of the story of Hall Caine's, where the
woman, after years of persecution at the hands of an unwelcome suitor,
is on the point of yielding, out of sheer irresistible admiration for
the man's strength and persistency, when the lover, unaware of his
victory and despairing of success, seizes her in his arms and, springing
into the sea, finds a watery grave for both. The analogy of this case
with his own was, of course, not strong. He did not anticipate any
tragedy in their relations; but he was glad to be thought of upon almost
any terms. He would not have done a mean thing to make her think of him;
but if she did so because of a misconception, which he was given no
opportunity to clear up, while at the same time his conscience absolved
him from evil and gave him the compensating glow of martyrdom, it was at
least better than nothing.
He would, of course, have preferred to be upon a different footing. It
had been a pleasure to have her speak to him during the drive,—they had
exchanged a few trivial remarks in the general conversation. It was a
greater pleasure to have her ask a favor of him,—a pleasure which, in
this instance, was partly offset when he interpreted her request to mean
that he was to look for Tom Delamere. He accepted the situation
gracefully, however, and left the ladies alone.
Knowing Delamere's habits, he first went directly to the bar-room,—the
atmosphere would be congenial, even if he were not drinking. Delamere
was not there. Stepping next into the office, he asked the clerk if
young Mr. Delamere had been at the hotel.
"Yes, sir," returned the man at the desk, "he was here at luncheon, and
then went out fishing in a boat with several other gentlemen. I think
they came back about three o'clock. I'll find out for you."
He rang the bell, to which a colored boy responded.
"Front," said the clerk, "see if young Mr. Delamere's upstairs. Look in
255 or 256, and let me know at once."
The bell-boy returned in a moment.
"Yas, suh," he reported, with a suppressed grin, "he's in 256, suh. De
do' was open, an' I seed 'im from de hall, suh."
"I wish you'd go up and tell him," said Ellis, "that—What are you
grinning about?" he asked suddenly, noticing the waiter's expression.
"Nothin', suh, nothin' at all, suh," responded the negro, lapsing into
the stolidity of a wooden Indian. "What shall I tell Mr. Delamere, suh?"
"Tell him," resumed Ellis, still watching the boy suspiciously,—"no, I'll
tell him myself."
He ascended the broad stair to the second floor. There was an upper
balcony and a parlor, with a piano for the musically inclined. To reach
these one had to pass along the hall upon which the room mentioned by
the bell-boy opened. Ellis was quite familiar with the hotel. He could
imagine circumstances under which he would not care to speak to
Delamere; he would merely pass through the hall and glance into the room
casually, as any one else might do, and see what the darky downstairs
might have meant by his impudence.
It required but a moment to reach the room. The door was not wide open,
but far enough ajar for him to see what was going on within.
Two young men, members of the fast set at the Clarendon Club, were
playing cards at a small table, near which stood another, decorated with
an array of empty bottles and glasses. Sprawling on a lounge, with
flushed face and disheveled hair, his collar unfastened, his vest
buttoned awry, lay Tom Delamere, breathing stertorously, in what seemed
a drunken sleep. Lest there should be any doubt of the cause of his
condition, the fingers of his right hand had remained clasped
mechanically around the neck of a bottle which lay across his bosom.
Ellis turned away in disgust, and went slowly back to the ladies.
"There seems to be no one here yet," he reported. "We came a little
early for the evening crowd. The clerk says Tom Delamere was here to
luncheon, but he hasn't seen him for several hours."
"He's not a very gallant cavalier," said Mrs. Carteret severely. "He
ought to have been waiting for us."
Clara was clearly disappointed, and made no effort to conceal her
displeasure, leaving Ellis in doubt as to whether or not he were its
object. Perhaps she suspected him of not having made a very thorough
search. Her next remark might have borne such a construction.
"Sister Olivia," she said pettishly, "let's go up to the parlor. I can
play the piano anyway, if there's no one to talk to."
"I find it very comfortable here, Clara," replied her sister placidly.
"Mr. Ellis will go with you. You'll probably find some one in the
parlor, or they'll come when you begin to play."
Clara's expression was not cordial, but she rose as if to go. Ellis was
in a quandary. If she went through the hall, the chances were at least
even that she would see Delamere. He did not care a rap for
Delamere,—if he chose to make a public exhibition of himself, it was
his own affair; but to see him would surely spoil Miss Pemberton's
evening, and, in her frame of mind, might lead to the suspicion that
Ellis had prearranged the exposure. Even if she should not harbor this
unjust thought, she would not love the witness of her discomfiture. We
had rather not meet the persons who have seen, even though they never
mention, the skeletons in our closets. Delamere had disposed of himself
for the evening. Ellis would have a fairer field with Delamere out of
sight and unaccounted for, than with Delamere in evidence in his present
"Wouldn't you rather take a stroll on the beach, Miss Clara?" he asked,
in the hope of creating a diversion.
"No, I'm going to the parlor. You needn't come, Mr. Ellis, if you'd
rather go down to the beach. I can quite as well go alone."
"I'd rather go with you," he said meekly.
They were moving toward the door opening into the hall, from which the
broad staircase ascended. Ellis, whose thoughts did not always respond
quickly to a sudden emergency, was puzzling his brain as to how he
should save her from any risk of seeing Delamere. Through the side door
leading from the hall into the office, he saw the bell-boy to whom he
had spoken seated on the bench provided for the servants.
"Won't you wait for me just a moment, Miss Clara, while I step into the
office? I'll be with you in an instant."
"Oh, certainly," she replied nonchalantly.
Ellis went direct to the bell-boy. "Sit right where you are," he said,
"and don't move a hair. What is the lady in the hall doing?"
"She's got her back tu'ned this way, suh. I 'spec' she's lookin' at the
picture on the opposite wall, suh."
"All right," whispered Ellis, pressing a coin into the servant's hand.
"I'm going up to the parlor with the lady. You go up ahead of us, and
keep in front of us along the hall. Don't dare to look back. I shall
keep on talking to the lady, so that you can tell by my voice where we
are. When you get to room 256, go in and shut the door behind you:
pretend that you were called,—ask the gentlemen what they want,—tell
any kind of a lie you like,—but keep the door shut until you're sure
we've got by. Do you hear?"
"Yes, suh," replied the negro intelligently.
The plan worked without a hitch. Ellis talked steadily, about the hotel,
the furnishings, all sorts of irrelevant subjects, to which Miss
Pemberton paid little attention. She was angry with Delamere, and took
no pains to conceal her feelings. The bell-boy entered room 256 just
before they reached the door. Ellis had heard loud talking as they
approached, and as they were passing there was a crash of broken glass,
as though some object had been thrown at the door.
"What is the matter there?" exclaimed Clara, quickening her footsteps
and instinctively drawing closer to Ellis.
"Some one dropped a glass, I presume," replied Ellis calmly.
Miss Pemberton glanced at him suspiciously. She was in a decidedly
perverse mood. Seating herself at the piano, she played brilliantly for
a quarter of an hour. Quite a number of couples strolled up to the
parlor, but Delamere was not among them.
"Oh dear!" exclaimed Miss Pemberton, as she let her fingers fall upon
the keys with a discordant crash, after the last note, "I don't see why
we came out here to-night. Let's go back downstairs."
Ellis felt despondent. He had done his utmost to serve and to please
Miss Pemberton, but was not likely, he foresaw, to derive much benefit
from his opportunity. Delamere was evidently as much or more in her
thoughts by reason of his absence than if he had been present. If the
door should have been opened, and she should see him from the hall upon
their return, Ellis could not help it. He took the side next to the
door, however, meaning to hurry past the room so that she might not
Fortunately the door was closed and all quiet within the room. On the
stairway they met the bellboy, rubbing his head with one hand and
holding a bottle of seltzer upon a tray in the other. The boy was well
enough trained to give no sign of recognition, though Ellis guessed the
destination of the bottle.
Ellis hardly knew whether to feel pleased or disappointed at the success
of his manoeuvres. He had spared Miss Pemberton some mortification, but
he had saved Tom Delamere from merited exposure. Clara ought to know the
truth, for her own sake.
On the beach, a few rods away, fires were burning, around which several
merry groups had gathered. The smoke went mostly to one side, but a
slight whiff came now and then to where Mrs. Carteret sat awaiting
"They're roasting oysters," said Mrs. Carteret. "I wish you'd bring me
some, Mr. Ellis."
Ellis strolled down to the beach. A large iron plate, with a turned-up
rim like a great baking-pan, supported by legs which held it off the
ground, was set over a fire built upon the sand. This primitive oven was
heaped with small oysters in the shell, taken from the neighboring
sound, and hauled up to the hotel by a negro whose pony cart stood near
by. A wet coffee-sack of burlaps was spread over the oysters, which,
when steamed sufficiently, were opened by a colored man and served
gratis to all who cared for them.
Ellis secured a couple of plates of oysters, which he brought to Mrs.
Carteret and Clara; they were small, but finely flavored.
Meanwhile Delamere, who possessed a remarkable faculty of recuperation
from the effects of drink, had waked from his sleep, and remembering his
engagement, had exerted himself to overcome the ravages of the
afternoon's debauch. A dash of cold water braced him up somewhat. A
bottle of seltzer and a big cup of strong coffee still further
strengthened his nerves.
When Ellis returned to the veranda, after having taken away the plates,
Delamere had joined the ladies and was explaining the cause of his
He had been overcome by the heat, he said, while out fishing, and had
been lying down ever since. Perhaps he ought to have sent for a doctor,
but the fellows had looked after him. He hadn't sent word to his friends
because he hadn't wished to spoil their evening.
"That was very considerate of you, Tom," said Mrs. Carteret dryly, "but
you ought to have let us know. We have been worrying about you very
much. Clara has found the evening dreadfully dull."
"Indeed, no, sister Olivia," said the young lady cheerfully, "I've been
having a lovely time. Mr. Ellis and I have been up in the parlor; I
played the piano; and we've been eating oysters and having a most
delightful time. Won't you take me down there to the beach, Mr. Ellis? I
want to see the fires. Come on."
"Can't I go?" asked Tom jealously.
"No, indeed, you mustn't stir a foot! You must not overtax yourself so
soon; it might do you serious injury. Stay here with sister Olivia."
She took Ellis's arm with exaggerated cordiality. Delamere glared after
them angrily. Ellis did not stop to question her motives, but took the
goods the gods provided. With no very great apparent effort, Miss
Pemberton became quite friendly, and they strolled along the beach, in
sight of the hotel, for nearly half an hour. As they were coming up she
asked him abruptly,—
"Mr. Ellis, did you know Tom was in the hotel?"
Ellis was looking across the sound, at the lights of a distant steamer
which was making her way toward the harbor.
"I wonder," he said musingly, as though he had not heard her question,
"if that is the Ocean Belle?"
"And was he really sick?" she demanded.
"She's later than usual this trip," continued Ellis, pursuing his
thought. "She was due about five o'clock."
Miss Pemberton, under cover of the darkness, smiled a fine smile, which
foreboded ill for some one. When they joined the party on the piazza,
the major had come up and was saying that it was time to go. He had
been engaged in conversation, for most of the evening, with General
Belmont and several other gentlemen.
"Here comes the general now. Let me see. There are five of us. The
general has offered me a seat in his buggy, and Tom can go with
The general came up and spoke to the ladies. Tom murmured his thanks; it
would enable him to make up a part of the delightful evening he had
When Mrs. Carteret had taken the rear seat, Clara promptly took the
place beside her. Ellis and Delamere sat in front. When Delamere, who
had offered to drive, took the reins, Ellis saw that his hands were
"Give me the lines," he whispered. "Your nerves are unsteady and the
road is not well lighted."
Delamere prudently yielded the reins. He did not like Ellis's tone,
which seemed sneering rather than expressive of sympathy with one who
had been suffering. He wondered if the beggar knew anything about his
illness. Clara had been acting strangely. It would have been just like
Ellis to have slandered him. The upstart had no business with Clara
anyway. He would cheerfully have strangled Ellis, if he could have done
so with safety to himself and no chance of discovery.
The drive homeward through the night was almost a silent journey. Mrs.
Carteret was anxious about her baby. Clara did not speak, except now and
then to Ellis with reference to some object in or near the road.
Occasionally they passed a vehicle in the darkness, sometimes barely
avoiding a collision. Far to the north the sky was lit up with the glow
of a forest fire. The breeze from the Sound was deliciously cool. Soon
the last toll-gate was passed and the lights of the town appeared.
Ellis threw the lines to William, who was waiting, and hastened to help
the ladies out.
"Good-night, Mr. Ellis," said Clara sweetly, as she gave Ellis her hand.
"Thank you for a very pleasant evening. Come up and see us soon."
She ran into the house without a word to Tom.
THE SOCIAL ASPIRATIONS OF CAPTAIN McBANE
It was only eleven o'clock, and Delamere, not being at all sleepy, and
feeling somewhat out of sorts as the combined results of his afternoon's
debauch and the snubbing he had received at Clara's hands, directed the
major's coachman, who had taken charge of the trap upon its arrival, to
drive him to the St. James Hotel before returning the horses to the
stable. First, however, the coachman left Ellis at his boarding-house,
which was near by. The two young men parted with as scant courtesy as
was possible without an open rupture.
Delamere hoped to find at the hotel some form of distraction to fill in
an hour or two before going home. Ill fortune favored him by placing in
his way the burly form of Captain George McBane, who was sitting in an
armchair alone, smoking a midnight cigar, under the hotel balcony. Upon
Delamere's making known his desire for amusement, the captain proposed a
small game of poker in his own room.
McBane had been waiting for some such convenient opportunity. We have
already seen that the captain was desirous of social recognition, which
he had not yet obtained beyond the superficial acquaintance acquired by
association with men about town. He had determined to assault society in
its citadel by seeking membership in the Clarendon Club, of which most
gentlemen of the best families of the city were members.
The Clarendon Club was a historic institution, and its membership a
social cult, the temple of which was located just off the main street of
the city, in a dignified old colonial mansion which had housed it for
the nearly one hundred years during which it had maintained its
existence unbroken. There had grown up around it many traditions and
special usages. Membership in the Clarendon was the sine qua non of
high social standing, and was conditional upon two of three
things,—birth, wealth, and breeding. Breeding was the prime essential,
but, with rare exceptions, must be backed by either birth or money.
Having decided, therefore, to seek admission into this social arcanum,
the captain, who had either not quite appreciated the standard of the
Clarendon's membership, or had failed to see that he fell beneath it,
looked about for an intermediary through whom to approach the object of
his desire. He had already thought of Tom Delamere in this connection,
having with him such an acquaintance as one forms around a hotel, and
having long ago discovered that Delamere was a young man of
superficially amiable disposition, vicious instincts, lax principles,
and a weak will, and, which was quite as much to the purpose, a member
of the Clarendon Club. Possessing mental characteristics almost entirely
opposite, Delamere and the captain had certain tastes in common, and had
smoked, drunk, and played cards together more than once.
Still more to his purpose, McBane had detected Delamere trying to cheat
him at cards. He had said nothing about this discovery, but had merely
noted it as something which at some future time might prove useful. The
captain had not suffered by Delamere's deviation from the straight line
of honor, for while Tom was as clever with the cards as might be
expected of a young man who had devoted most of his leisure for several
years to handling them, McBane was past master in their manipulation.
During a stormy career he had touched more or less pitch, and had
escaped few sorts of defilement.
The appearance of Delamere at a late hour, unaccompanied, and wearing
upon his countenance an expression in which the captain read aright the
craving for mental and physical excitement, gave him the opportunity for
which he had been looking. McBane was not the man to lose an
opportunity, nor did Delamere require a second invitation. Neither was
it necessary, during the progress of the game, for the captain to press
upon his guest the contents of the decanter which stood upon the table
within convenient reach.
The captain permitted Delamere to win from him several small amounts,
after which he gradually increased the stakes and turned the tables.
Delamere, with every instinct of a gamester, was no more a match for
McBane in self-control than in skill. When the young man had lost all
his money, the captain expressed his entire willingness to accept notes
of hand, for which he happened to have convenient blanks in his
When Delamere, flushed with excitement and wine, rose from the gaming
table at two o'clock, he was vaguely conscious that he owed McBane a
considerable sum, but could not have stated how much. His opponent, who
was entirely cool and collected, ran his eye carelessly over the bits of
paper to which Delamere had attached his signature. "Just one thousand
dollars even," he remarked.
The announcement of this total had as sobering an effect upon Delamere
as though he had been suddenly deluged with a shower of cold water. For
a moment he caught his breath. He had not a dollar in the world with
which to pay this sum. His only source of income was an allowance from
his grandfather, the monthly installment of which, drawn that very day,
he had just lost to McBane, before starting in upon the notes of hand.
"I'll give you your revenge another time," said McBane, as they rose.
"Luck is against you to-night, and I'm unwilling to take advantage of a
clever young fellow like you. Meantime," he added, tossing the notes of
hand carelessly on a bureau, "don't worry about these bits of paper.
Such small matters shouldn't cut any figure between friends; but if you
are around the hotel to-morrow, I should like to speak to you upon
"Very well, captain," returned Tom somewhat ungraciously.
Delamere had been completely beaten with his own weapons. He had tried
desperately to cheat McBane. He knew perfectly well that McBane had
discovered his efforts and had cheated him in turn, for the captain's
play had clearly been gauged to meet his own. The biter had been bit,
and could not complain of the outcome.
The following afternoon McBane met Delamere at the hotel, and bluntly
requested the latter to propose him for membership in the Clarendon
Delamere was annoyed at this request. His aristocratic gorge rose at the
presumption of this son of an overseer and ex-driver of convicts.
McBane was good enough to win money from, or even to lose money to, but
not good enough to be recognized as a social equal. He would
instinctively have blackballed McBane had he been proposed by some one
else; with what grace could he put himself forward as the sponsor for
this impossible social aspirant? Moreover, it was clearly a vulgar,
cold-blooded attempt on McBane's part to use his power over him for a
"Well, now, Captain McBane," returned Delamere diplomatically, "I've
never put any one up yet, and it's not regarded as good form for so
young a member as myself to propose candidates. I'd much rather you'd
ask some older man."
"Oh, well," replied McBane, "just as you say, only I thought you had cut
your eye teeth."
Delamere was not pleased with McBane's tone. His remark was not
acquiescent, though couched in terms of assent. There was a sneering
savagery about it, too, that left Delamere uneasy. He was, in a measure,
in McBane's power. He could not pay the thousand dollars, unless it fell
from heaven, or he could win it from some one else. He would not dare go
to his grandfather for help. Mr. Delamere did not even know that his
grandson gambled. He might not have objected, perhaps, to a gentleman's
game, with moderate stakes, but he would certainly, Tom knew very well,
have looked upon a thousand dollars as a preposterous sum to be lost at
cards by a man who had nothing with which to pay it. It was part of Mr.
Delamere's creed that a gentleman should not make debts that he was not
reasonably able to pay.
There was still another difficulty. If he had lost the money to a
gentleman, and it had been his first serious departure from Mr.
Delamere's perfectly well understood standard of honor, Tom might have
risked a confession and thrown himself on his grandfather's mercy; but
he owed other sums here and there, which, to his just now much disturbed
imagination, loomed up in alarming number and amount. He had recently
observed signs of coldness, too, on the part of certain members of the
club. Moreover, like most men with one commanding vice, he was addicted
to several subsidiary forms of iniquity, which in case of a scandal were
more than likely to come to light. He was clearly and most disagreeably
caught in the net of his own hypocrisy. His grandfather believed him a
model of integrity, a pattern of honor; he could not afford to have his
He thought of old Mrs. Ochiltree. If she were a liberal soul, she could
give him a thousand dollars now, when he needed it, instead of making
him wait until she died, which might not be for ten years or more, for a
legacy which was steadily growing less and might be entirely exhausted
if she lived long enough,—some old people were very tenacious of life!
She was a careless old woman, too, he reflected, and very foolishly kept
her money in the house. Latterly she had been growing weak and childish.
Some day she might be robbed, and then his prospective inheritance from
that source would vanish into thin air!
With regard to this debt to McBane, if he could not pay it, he could at
least gain a long respite by proposing the captain at the club. True, he
would undoubtedly be blackballed, but before this inevitable event his
name must remain posted for several weeks, during which interval McBane
would be conciliatory. On the other hand, to propose McBane would arouse
suspicion of his own motives; it might reach his grandfather's ears, and
lead to a demand for an explanation, which it would be difficult to
make. Clearly, the better plan would be to temporize with McBane, with
the hope that something might intervene to remove this cursed
"Suppose, captain," he said affably, "we leave the matter open for a few
days. This is a thing that can't be rushed. I'll feel the pulse of my
friends and yours, and when we get the lay of the land, the affair can
be accomplished much more easily."
"Well, that's better," returned McBane, somewhat mollified,—"if you'll
"To be sure I will," replied Tom easily, too much relieved to resent, if
not too preoccupied to perceive, the implied doubt of his veracity.
McBane ordered and paid for more drinks, and they parted on amicable
"We'll let these notes stand for the time being, Tom," said McBane,
with significant emphasis, when they separated.
Delamere winced at the familiarity. He had reached that degree of moral
deterioration where, while principles were of little moment, the
externals of social intercourse possessed an exaggerated importance.
McBane had never before been so personal.
He had addressed the young aristocrat first as "Mr. Delamere," then, as
their acquaintance advanced, as "Delamere." He had now reached the
abbreviated Christian name stage of familiarity. There was no lower
depth to which Tom could sink, unless McBane should invent a nickname by
which to address him. He did not like McBane's manner,—it was
characterized by a veiled insolence which was exceedingly offensive. He
would go over to the club and try his luck with some honest
player,—perhaps something might turn up to relieve him from his
He put his hand in his pocket mechanically,—and found it empty! In the
present state of his credit, he could hardly play without money.
A thought struck him. Leaving the hotel, he hastened home, where he
found Sandy dusting his famous suit of clothes on the back piazza. Mr.
Delamere was not at home, having departed for Belleview about two
o'clock, leaving Sandy to follow him in the morning.
"Hello, Sandy," exclaimed Tom, with an assumed jocularity which he was
very far from feeling, "what are you doing with those gorgeous
"I'm a-dustin' of 'em, Mistuh Tom, dat's w'at I'm a-doin'. Dere's
somethin' wrong 'bout dese clo's er mine—I don' never seem ter be able
ter keep 'em clean no mo'. Ef I b'lieved in dem ole-timey sayin's, I'd
'low dere wuz a witch come here eve'y night an' tuk 'em out an' wo' 'em,
er tuk me out an' rid me in 'em. Dere wuz somethin' wrong 'bout dat
cakewalk business, too, dat I ain' never unde'stood an' don' know how
ter 'count fer, 'less dere wuz some kin' er dev'lishness goin' on dat
don' show on de su'face."
"Sandy," asked Tom irrelevantly, "have you any money in the house?"
"Yas, suh, I got de money Mars John give me ter git dem things ter take
out ter Belleview in de mawnin."
"I mean money of your own."
"I got a qua'ter ter buy terbacker wid," returned Sandy cautiously.
"Is that all? Haven't you some saved up?"
"Well, yas, Mistuh Tom," returned Sandy, with evident reluctance, "dere's
a few dollahs put away in my bureau drawer fer a rainy day,—not
"I'm a little short this afternoon, Sandy, and need some money right
away. Grandfather isn't here, so I can't get any from him. Let me take
what you have for a day or two, Sandy, and I'll return it with good
"Now, Mistuh Tom," said Sandy seriously, "I don' min' lettin' you take
my money, but I hopes you ain' gwine ter use it fer none er dem
rakehelly gwines-on er yo'n,—gamblin' an' bettin' an' so fo'th. Yo'
grandaddy 'll fin' out 'bout you yit, ef you don' min' yo' P's an' Q's.
I does my bes' ter keep yo' misdoin's f'm 'im, an' sense I b'en tu'ned
out er de chu'ch—thoo no fault er my own, God knows!—I've tol' lies
'nuff 'bout you ter sink a ship. But it ain't right, Mistuh Tom, it
ain't right! an' I only does it fer de sake er de fam'ly honuh, dat Mars
John sets so much sto' by, an' ter save his feelin's; fer de doctuh says
he mus'n' git ixcited 'bout nothin', er it mought bring on another
"That's right, Sandy," replied Tom approvingly; "but the family honor is
as safe in my hands as in grandfather's own, and I'm going to use the
money for an excellent purpose, in fact to relieve a case of genuine
distress; and I'll hand it back to you in a day or two,—perhaps
to-morrow. Fetch me the money, Sandy,—that's a good darky!"
"All right, Mistuh Tom, you shill have de money; but I wants ter tell
you, suh, dat in all de yeahs I has wo'ked fer yo' gran'daddy, he has
never called me a 'darky' ter my face, suh. Co'se I knows dere's w'ite
folks an' black folks,—but dere's manners, suh, dere's manners, an'
gent'emen oughter be de ones ter use 'em, suh, ef dey ain't ter be
"There, there, Sandy," returned Tom in a conciliatory tone, "I beg your
pardon! I've been associating with some Northern white folks at the
hotel, and picked up the word from them. You're a high-toned colored
gentleman, Sandy,—the finest one on the footstool."
Still muttering to himself, Sandy retired to his own room, which was in
the house, so that he might be always near his master. He soon returned
with a time-stained leather pocket-book and a coarse-knit cotton sock,
from which two receptacles he painfully extracted a number of bills and
"You count dat, Mistuh Tom, so I'll know how much I'm lettin' you have."
"This isn't worth anything," said Tom, pushing aside one roll of bills.
"It's Confederate money."
"So it is, suh. It ain't wuth nothin' now; but it has be'n money, an'
who kin tell but what it mought be money agin? De rest er dem bills is
greenbacks,—dey'll pass all right, I reckon."
The good money amounted to about fifty dollars, which Delamere thrust
eagerly into his pocket.
"You won't say anything to grandfather about this, will you, Sandy," he
said, as he turned away.
"No, suh, co'se I won't! Does I ever tell 'im 'bout yo' gwines-on? Ef I
did," he added to himself, as the young man disappeared down the street,
"I wouldn' have time ter do nothin' e'se ha'dly. I don' know whether
I'll ever see dat money agin er no, do' I 'magine de ole gent'eman
wouldn' lemme lose it ef he knowed. But I ain' gwine ter tell him,
whether I git my money back er no, fer he is jes' so wrop' up in dat boy
dat I b'lieve it'd jes' break his hea't ter fin' out how he's be'n
gwine on. Doctuh Price has tol' me not ter let de ole gent'eman git
ixcited, er e'se dere's no tellin' w'at mought happen. He's be'n good
ter me, he has, an' I'm gwine ter take keer er him,—dat's w'at I is,
ez long ez I has de chance."
* * * * *
Delamere went directly to the club, and soon lounged into the card-room,
where several of the members were engaged in play. He sauntered here and
there, too much absorbed in his own thoughts to notice that the
greetings he received were less cordial than those usually exchanged
between the members of a small and select social club. Finally, when
Augustus, commonly and more appropriately called "Gus," Davidson came
into the room, Tom stepped toward him.
"Will you take a hand in a game, Gus?"
"Don't care if I do," said the other. "Let's sit over here."
Davidson led the way to a table near the fireplace, near which stood a
tall screen, which at times occupied various places in the room.
Davidson took the seat opposite the fireplace, leaving Delamere with his
back to the screen.
Delamere staked half of Sandy's money, and lost. He staked the rest, and
determined to win, because he could not afford to lose. He had just
reached out his hand to gather in the stakes, when he was charged with
cheating at cards, of which two members, who had quietly entered the
room and posted themselves behind the screen, had secured specific
proof. A meeting of the membership committee was hastily summoned, it
being an hour at which most of them might be found at the club. To avoid
a scandal, and to save the feelings of a prominent family, Delamere was
given an opportunity to resign quietly from the club, on condition that
he paid all his gambling debts within three days, and took an oath never
to play cards again for money. This latter condition was made at the
suggestion of an elderly member, who apparently believed that a man who
would cheat at cards would stick at perjury.
Delamere acquiesced very promptly. The taking of the oath was easy. The
payment of some fifteen hundred dollars of debts was a different matter.
He went away from the club thoughtfully, and it may be said, in full
justice to a past which was far from immaculate, that in his present
thoughts he touched a depth of scoundrelism far beyond anything of which
he had as yet deemed himself capable. When a man of good position, of
whom much is expected, takes to evil courses, his progress is apt to
resemble that of a well-bred woman who has started on the downward
path,—the pace is all the swifter because of the distance which must be
traversed to reach the bottom. Delamere had made rapid headway; having
hitherto played with sin, his servant had now become his master, and
held him in an iron grip.
SANDY SEES HIS OWN HA'NT
Having finished cleaning his clothes, Sandy went out to the kitchen for
supper, after which he found himself with nothing to do. Mr. Delamere's
absence relieved him from attendance at the house during the evening. He
might have smoked his pipe tranquilly in the kitchen until bedtime, had
not the cook intimated, rather pointedly, that she expected other
company. To a man of Sandy's tact a word was sufficient, and he resigned
himself to seeking companionship elsewhere.
Under normal circumstances, Sandy would have attended prayer-meeting on
this particular evening of the week; but being still in contumacy, and
cherishing what he considered the just resentment of a man falsely
accused, he stifled the inclination which by long habit led him toward
the church, and set out for the house of a friend with whom it occurred
to him that he might spend the evening pleasantly. Unfortunately, his
friend proved to be not at home, so Sandy turned his footsteps toward
the lower part of the town, where the streets were well lighted, and on
pleasant evenings quite animated. On the way he met Josh Green, whom he
had known for many years, though their paths did not often cross. In his
loneliness Sandy accepted an invitation to go with Josh and have a
drink,—a single drink. When Sandy was going home about eleven
o'clock, three sheets in the wind, such was the potent effect of the
single drink and those which had followed it, he was scared almost into
soberness by a remarkable apparition. As it seemed to Sandy, he saw
himself hurrying along in front of himself toward the house. Possibly
the muddled condition of Sandy's intellect had so affected his judgment
as to vitiate any conclusion he might draw, but Sandy was quite sober
enough to perceive that the figure ahead of him wore his best clothes
and looked exactly like him, but seemed to be in something more of a
hurry, a discrepancy which Sandy at once corrected by quickening his own
pace so as to maintain as nearly as possible an equal distance between
himself and his double. The situation was certainly an incomprehensible
one, and savored of the supernatural.
"Ef dat's me gwine 'long in front," mused Sandy, in vinous perplexity,
"den who is dis behin' here? Dere ain' but one er me, an' my ha'nt wouldn'
leave my body 'tel I wuz dead. Ef dat's me in front, den I mus' be my
own ha'nt; an' whichever one of us is de ha'nt, de yuther must be dead
an' don' know it. I don' know what ter make er no sech gwines-on, I
don't. Maybe it ain' me after all, but it certainly do look lack me."
When the apparition disappeared in the house by the side door, Sandy
stood in the yard for several minutes, under the shade of an elm-tree,
before he could make up his mind to enter the house. He took courage,
however, upon the reflection that perhaps, after all, it was only the
bad liquor he had drunk. Bad liquor often made people see double.
He entered the house. It was dark, except for a light in Tom Delamere's
room. Sandy tapped softly at the door.
"Who's there?" came Delamere's voice, in a somewhat startled tone, after
a momentary silence.
"It's me, suh; Sandy."
They both spoke softly. It was the rule of the house when Mr. Delamere
had retired, and though he was not at home, habit held its wonted sway.
"Just a moment, Sandy."
Sandy waited patiently in the hall until the door was opened. If the
room showed any signs of haste or disorder, Sandy was too full of his
own thoughts—and other things—to notice them.
"What do you want, Sandy," asked Tom.
"Mistuh Tom," asked Sandy solemnly, "ef I wuz in yo' place, an' you wuz
in my place, an' we wuz bofe in de same place, whar would I be?"
Tom looked at Sandy keenly, with a touch of apprehension. Did Sandy mean
anything in particular by this enigmatical inquiry, and if so, what? But
Sandy's face clearly indicated a state of mind in which consecutive
thought was improbable; and after a brief glance Delamere breathed more
"I give it up, Sandy," he responded lightly. "That's too deep for me."
"'Scuse me, Mistuh Tom, but is you heared er seed anybody er anything
come in de house fer de las' ten minutes?"
"Why, no, Sandy, I haven't heard any one. I came from the club an hour
ago. I had forgotten my key, and Sally got up and let me in, and then
went back to bed. I've been sitting here reading ever since. I should
have heard any one who came in."
"Mistuh Tom," inquired Sandy anxiously, "would you 'low dat I'd be'n
drinkin' too much?"
"No, Sandy, I should say you were sober enough, though of course you
may have had a few drinks. Perhaps you'd like another? I've got
something good here."
"No, suh, Mistuh Tom, no, suh! No mo' liquor fer me, suh, never! When
liquor kin make a man see his own ha'nt, it's 'bout time fer dat man
ter quit drinkin', it sho' is! Good-night, Mistuh Tom."
As Sandy turned to go, Delamere was struck by a sudden and daring
thought. The creature of impulse, he acted upon it immediately.
"By the way, Sandy," he exclaimed carelessly, "I can pay you back that
money you were good enough to lend me this afternoon. I think I'll
sleep better if I have the debt off my mind, and I shouldn't wonder if
you would. You don't mind having it in gold, do you?"
"No, indeed, suh," replied Sandy. "I ain' seen no gol' fer so long dat
de sight er it'd be good fer my eyes."
Tom counted out ten five-dollar gold pieces upon the table at his elbow.
"And here's another, Sandy," he said, adding an eleventh, "as interest
for the use of it."
"Thank y', Mistuh Tom. I didn't spec' no in-trus', but I don' never
'fuse gol' w'en I kin git it."
"And here," added Delamere, reaching carelessly into a bureau drawer,
"is a little old silk purse that I've had since I was a boy. I'll put
the gold in it, Sandy; it will hold it very nicely."
"Thank y', Mistuh Tom. You're a gentleman, suh, an' wo'thy er de fam'ly
name. Good-night, suh, an' I hope yo' dreams 'll be pleasanter 'n' mine.
Ef it wa'n't fer dis gol' kinder takin' my min' off'n dat ha'nt, I don'
s'pose I'd be able to do much sleepin' ter-night. Good-night, suh."
Whether or not Delamere slept soundly, or was troubled by dreams,
pleasant or unpleasant, it is nevertheless true that he locked his door,
and sat up an hour later, looking through the drawers of his bureau, and
burning several articles in the little iron stove which constituted part
of the bedroom furniture.
It is also true that he rose very early, before the household was
stirring. The cook slept in a room off the kitchen, which was in an
outhouse in the back yard. She was just stretching herself, preparatory
to getting up, when Tom came to her window and said that he was going
off fishing, to be gone all day, and that he would not wait for
A MIDNIGHT WALK
Ellis left the office of the Morning Chronicle about eleven o'clock the
same evening and set out to walk home. His boarding-house was only a
short distance beyond old Mr. Delamere's residence, and while he might
have saved time and labor by a slightly shorter route, he generally
selected this one because it led also by Major Carteret's house.
Sometimes there would be a ray of light from Clara's room, which was on
one of the front corners; and at any rate he would have the pleasure of
gazing at the outside of the casket that enshrined the jewel of his
heart. It was true that this purely sentimental pleasure was sometimes
dashed with bitterness at the thought of his rival; but one in love must
take the bitter with the sweet, and who would say that a spice of
jealousy does not add a certain zest to love? On this particular
evening, however, he was in a hopeful mood. At the Clarendon Club, where
he had gone, a couple of hours before, to verify a certain news item for
the morning paper, he had heard a story about Tom Delamere which, he
imagined, would spike that gentleman's guns for all time, so far as Miss
Pemberton was concerned. So grave an affair as cheating at cards could
never be kept secret,—it was certain to reach her ears; and Ellis was
morally certain that Clara would never marry a man who had been proved
dishonorable. In all probability there would be no great sensation
about the matter. Delamere was too well connected; too many prominent
people would be involved—even Clara, and the editor himself, of whom
Delamere was a distant cousin. The reputation of the club was also to be
considered. Ellis was not the man to feel a malicious delight in the
misfortunes of another, nor was he a pessimist who welcomed scandal and
disgrace with open arms, as confirming a gloomy theory of human life.
But, with the best intentions in the world, it was no more than human
nature that he should feel a certain elation in the thought that his
rival had been practically disposed of, and the field left clear;
especially since this good situation had been brought about merely by
the unmasking of a hypocrite, who had held him at an unfair disadvantage
in the race for Clara's favor.
The night was quiet, except for the faint sound of distant music now and
then, or the mellow laughter of some group of revelers. Ellis met but
few pedestrians, but as he neared old Mr. Delamere's, he saw two men
walking in the same direction as his own, on the opposite side of the
street. He had observed that they kept at about an equal distance apart,
and that the second, from the stealthy manner in which he was making his
way, was anxious to keep the first in sight, without disclosing his own
presence. This aroused Ellis's curiosity, which was satisfied in some
degree when the man in advance stopped beneath a lamp-post and stood for
a moment looking across the street, with his face plainly visible in the
yellow circle of light. It was a dark face, and Ellis recognized it
instantly as that of old Mr. Delamere's body servant, whose personal
appearance had been very vividly impressed upon Ellis at the
christening dinner at Major Carteret's. He had seen Sandy once since,
too, at the hotel cakewalk. The negro had a small bundle in his hand,
the nature of which Ellis could not make out.
When Sandy had stopped beneath the lamp-post, the man who was following
him had dodged behind a tree-trunk. When Sandy moved on, Ellis, who had
stopped in turn, saw the man in hiding come out and follow Sandy. When
this second man came in range of the light, Ellis wondered that there
should be two men so much alike. The first of the two had undoubtedly
been Sandy. Ellis had recognized the peculiar, old-fashioned coat that
Sandy had worn upon the two occasions when he had noticed him. Barring
this difference, and the somewhat unsteady gait of the second man, the
two were as much alike as twin brothers.
When they had entered Mr. Delamere's house, one after the other,—in the
stillness of the night Ellis could perceive that each of them tried to
make as little noise as possible,—Ellis supposed that they were
probably relatives, both employed as servants, or that some younger
negro, taking Sandy for a model, was trying to pattern himself after his
superior. Why all this mystery, of course he could not imagine, unless
the younger man had been out without permission and was trying to avoid
the accusing eye of Sandy. Ellis was vaguely conscious that he had seen
the other negro somewhere, but he could not for the moment place
him,—there were so many negroes, nearly three negroes to one white man
in the city of Wellington!
The subject, however, while curious, was not important as compared with
the thoughts of his sweetheart which drove it from his mind. Clara had
been kind to him the night before,—whatever her motive, she had been
kind, and could not consistently return to her attitude of coldness.
With Delamere hopelessly discredited, Ellis hoped to have at least fair
play,—with fair play, he would take his chances of the outcome.
A SHOCKING CRIME
On Friday morning, when old Mrs. Ochiltree's cook Dinah went to wake her
mistress, she was confronted with a sight that well-nigh blanched her
ebony cheek and caused her eyes almost to start from her head with
horror. As soon as she could command her trembling limbs sufficiently to
make them carry her, she rushed out of the house and down the street,
bareheaded, covering in an incredibly short time the few blocks that
separated Mrs. Ochiltree's residence from that of her niece.
She hastened around the house, and finding the back door open and the
servants stirring, ran into the house and up the stairs with the
familiarity of an old servant, not stopping until she reached the door
of Mrs. Carteret's chamber, at which she knocked in great agitation.
Entering in response to Mrs. Carteret's invitation, she found the lady,
dressed in a simple wrapper, superintending the morning toilet of little
Dodie, who was a wakeful child, and insisted upon rising with the birds,
for whose music he still showed a great fondness, in spite of his narrow
escape while listening to the mockingbird.
"What is it, Dinah?" asked Mrs. Carteret, alarmed at the frightened face
of her aunt's old servitor.
"O my Lawd, Mis' 'Livy, my Lawd, my Lawd! My legs is trim'lin' so dat I
can't ha'dly hol' my han's stiddy 'nough ter say w'at I got ter say! O
Lawd have mussy on us po' sinners! W'atever is gwine ter happen in dis
worl' er sin an' sorrer!"
"What in the world is the matter, Dinah?" demanded Mrs. Carteret, whose
own excitement had increased with the length of this preamble. "Has
anything happened to Aunt Polly?"
"Somebody done broke in de house las' night, Mis' 'Livy, an' kill' Mis'
Polly, an' lef' her layin' dead on de flo', in her own blood, wid her
cedar chis' broke' open, an' eve'thing scattered roun' de flo'! O my
Lawd, my Lawd, my Lawd, my Lawd!"
Mrs. Carteret was shocked beyond expression. Perhaps the spectacle of
Dinah's unrestrained terror aided her to retain a greater measure of
self-control than she might otherwise have been capable of. Giving the
nurse some directions in regard to the child, she hastily descended the
stairs, and seizing a hat and jacket from the rack in the hall, ran
immediately with Dinah to the scene of the tragedy. Before the thought
of this violent death all her aunt's faults faded into insignificance,
and only her good qualities were remembered. She had reared Olivia; she
had stood up for the memory of Olivia's mother when others had seemed to
forget what was due to it. To her niece she had been a second mother,
and had never been lacking in affection.
More than one motive, however, lent wings to Mrs. Carteret's feet. Her
aunt's incomplete disclosures on the day of the drive past the hospital
had been weighing upon Mrs. Carteret's mind, and she had intended to
make another effort this very day, to get an answer to her question
about the papers which the woman had claimed were in existence. Suppose
her aunt had really found such papers,—papers which would seem to prove
the preposterous claim made by her father's mulatto mistress? Suppose
that, with the fatuity which generally leads human beings to keep
compromising documents, her aunt had preserved these papers? If they
should be found there in the house, there might be a scandal, if nothing
worse, and this was to be avoided at all hazards.
Guided by some fortunate instinct, Dinah had as yet informed no one but
Mrs. Carteret of her discovery. If they could reach the house before the
murder became known to any third person, she might be the first to
secure access to the remaining contents of the cedar chest, which would
be likely to be held as evidence in case the officers of the law
forestalled her own arrival.
They found the house wrapped in the silence of death. Mrs. Carteret
entered the chamber of the dead woman. Upon the floor, where it had
fallen, lay the body in a pool of blood, the strongly marked countenance
scarcely more grim in the rigidity of death than it had been in life. A
gaping wound in the head accounted easily for the death. The cedar chest
stood open, its strong fastenings having been broken by a steel bar
which still lay beside it. Near it were scattered pieces of old lace,
antiquated jewelry, tarnished silverware,—the various mute souvenirs of
the joys and sorrows of a long and active life.
Kneeling by the open chest, Mrs. Carteret glanced hurriedly through its
contents. There were no papers there except a few old deeds and letters.
She had risen with a sigh of relief, when she perceived the end of a
paper projecting from beneath the edge of a rug which had been
carelessly rumpled, probably by the burglar in his hasty search for
plunder. This paper, or sealed envelope as it proved to be, which
evidently contained some inclosure, she seized, and at the sound of
approaching footsteps thrust hastily into her own bosom.
The sight of two agitated women rushing through the quiet streets at so
early an hour in the morning had attracted attention and aroused
curiosity, and the story of the murder, having once become known, spread
with the customary rapidity of bad news. Very soon a policeman, and a
little later a sheriff's officer, arrived at the house and took charge
of the remains to await the arrival of the coroner.
By nine o'clock a coroner's jury had been summoned, who, after brief
deliberation, returned a verdict of willful murder at the hands of some
person or persons unknown, while engaged in the commission of a
No sooner was the verdict announced than the community, or at least the
white third of it, resolved itself spontaneously into a committee of the
whole to discover the perpetrator of this dastardly crime, which, at
this stage of the affair, seemed merely one of robbery and murder.
Suspicion was at once directed toward the negroes, as it always is when
an unexplained crime is committed in a Southern community. The suspicion
was not entirely an illogical one. Having been, for generations, trained
up to thriftlessness, theft, and immorality, against which only thirty
years of very limited opportunity can be offset, during which brief
period they have been denied in large measure the healthful social
stimulus and sympathy which holds most men in the path of rectitude,
colored people might reasonably be expected to commit at least a share
of crime proportionate to their numbers. The population of the town was
at least two thirds colored. The chances were, therefore, in the absence
of evidence, at least two to one that a man of color had committed the
crime. The Southern tendency to charge the negroes with all the crime
and immorality of that region, unjust and exaggerated as the claim may
be, was therefore not without a logical basis to the extent above
It must not be imagined that any logic was needed, or any reasoning
consciously worked out. The mere suggestion that the crime had been
committed by a negro was equivalent to proof against any negro that
might be suspected and could not prove his innocence. A committee of
white men was hastily formed. Acting independently of the police force,
which was practically ignored as likely to favor the negroes, this
committee set to work to discover the murderer.
The spontaneous activity of the whites was accompanied by a visible
shrinkage of the colored population. This could not be taken as any
indication of guilt, but was merely a recognition of the palpable fact
that the American habit of lynching had so whetted the thirst for black
blood that a negro suspected of crime had to face at least the
possibility of a short shrift and a long rope, not to mention more
gruesome horrors, without the intervention of judge or jury. Since to
have a black face at such a time was to challenge suspicion, and since
there was neither the martyr's glory nor the saint's renown in being
killed for some one else's crime, and very little hope of successful
resistance in case of an attempt at lynching, it was obviously the part
of prudence for those thus marked to seek immunity in a temporary
disappearance from public view.
THE NECESSITY OF AN EXAMPLE
About ten o'clock on the morning of the discovery of the murder, Captain
McBane and General Belmont, as though moved by a common impulse, found
themselves at the office of the Morning Chronicle. Carteret was
expecting them, though there had been no appointment made. These three
resourceful and energetic minds, representing no organized body, and
clothed with no legal authority, had so completely arrogated to
themselves the leadership of white public sentiment as to come together
instinctively when an event happened which concerned the public, and, as
this murder presumably did, involved the matter of race.
"Well, gentlemen," demanded McBane impatiently, "what are we going to do
with the scoundrel when we catch him?"
"They've got the murderer," announced a reporter, entering the room.
"Who is he?" they demanded in a breath.
"A nigger by the name of Sandy Campbell, a servant of old Mr. Delamere."
"How did they catch him?"
"Our Jerry saw him last night, going toward Mrs. Ochiltree's house, and
a white man saw him coming away, half an hour later."
"Has he confessed?"
"No, but he might as well. When the posse went to arrest him, they found
him cleaning the clothes he had worn last night, and discovered in his
room a part of the plunder. He denies it strenuously, but it seems a
"There can be no doubt," said Ellis, who had come into the room behind
the reporter. "I saw the negro last night, at twelve o'clock, going into
Mr. Delamere's yard, with a bundle in his hand."
"He is the last negro I should have suspected," said Carteret. "Mr.
Delamere had implicit confidence in him."
"All niggers are alike," remarked McBane sententiously. "The only way to
keep them from stealing is not to give them the chance. A nigger will
steal a cent off a dead man's eye. He has assaulted and murdered a white
woman,—an example should be made of him."
Carteret recalled very distinctly the presence of this negro at his own
residence on the occasion of little Theodore's christening dinner. He
remembered having questioned the prudence of letting a servant know that
Mrs. Ochiltree kept money in the house. Mr. Delamere had insisted
strenuously upon the honesty of this particular negro. The whole race,
in the major's opinion, was morally undeveloped, and only held within
bounds by the restraining influence of the white people. Under Mr.
Delamere's thumb this Sandy had been a model servant,—faithful, docile,
respectful, and self-respecting; but Mr. Delamere had grown old, and had
probably lost in a measure his moral influence over his servant. Left to
his own degraded ancestral instincts, Sandy had begun to deteriorate,
and a rapid decline had culminated in this robbery and murder,—and who
knew what other horror? The criminal was a negro, the victim a white
woman;—it was only reasonable to expect the worst.
"He'll swing for it," observed the general.
Ellis went into another room, where his duty called him.
"He should burn for it," averred McBane. "I say, burn the nigger."
"This," said Carteret, "is something more than an ordinary crime, to be
dealt with by the ordinary processes of law. It is a murderous and fatal
assault upon a woman of our race,—upon our race in the person of its
womanhood, its crown and flower. If such crimes are not punished with
swift and terrible directness, the whole white womanhood of the South is
"Burn the nigger," repeated McBane automatically.
"Neither is this a mere sporadic crime," Carteret went on. "It is
symptomatic; it is the logical and inevitable result of the conditions
which have prevailed in this town for the past year. It is the last
"Burn the nigger," reiterated McBane. "We seem to have the right nigger,
but whether we have or not, burn a nigger. It is an assault upon the
white race, in the person of old Mrs. Ochiltree, committed by the black
race, in the person of some nigger. It would justify the white people in
burning any nigger. The example would be all the more powerful if we
got the wrong one. It would serve notice on the niggers that we shall
hold the whole race responsible for the misdeeds of each individual."
"In ancient Rome," said the general, "when a master was killed by a
slave, all his slaves were put to the sword."
"We couldn't afford that before the war," said McBane, "but the niggers
don't belong to anybody now, and there's nothing to prevent our doing as
we please with them. A dead nigger is no loss to any white man. I say,
burn the nigger."
"I do not believe," said Carteret, who had gone to the window and was
looking out,—"I do not believe that we need trouble ourselves
personally about his punishment. I should judge, from the commotion in
the street, that the public will take the matter into its own hands. I,
for one, would prefer that any violence, however justifiable, should
take place without my active intervention."
"It won't take place without mine, if I know it," exclaimed McBane,
starting for the door.
"Hold on a minute, captain," exclaimed Carteret. "There's more at stake
in this matter than the life of a black scoundrel. Wellington is in the
hands of negroes and scalawags. What better time to rescue it?"
"It's a trifle premature," replied the general. "I should have preferred
to have this take place, if it was to happen, say three months hence, on
the eve of the election,—but discussion always provokes thirst with me;
I wonder if I could get Jerry to bring us some drinks?"
Carteret summoned the porter. Jerry's usual manner had taken on an
element of self-importance, resulting in what one might describe as a
sort of condescending obsequiousness. Though still a porter, he was also
a hero, and wore his aureole.
"Jerry," said the general kindly, "the white people are very much
pleased with the assistance you have given them in apprehending this
scoundrel Campbell. You have rendered a great public service, Jerry, and
we wish you to know that it is appreciated."
"Thank y', gin'l, thank y', suh! I alluz tries ter do my duty, suh, an'
stan' by dem dat stan's by me. Dat low-down nigger oughter be lynch',
suh, don't you think, er e'se bu'nt? Dere ain' nothin' too bad ter
happen ter 'im."
"No doubt he will be punished as he deserves, Jerry," returned the
general, "and we will see that you are suitably rewarded. Go across the
street and get me three Calhoun cocktails. I seem to have nothing less
than a two-dollar bill, but you may keep the change, Jerry,—all the
Jerry was very happy. He had distinguished himself in the public view,
for to Jerry, as to the white people themselves, the white people were
the public. He had won the goodwill of the best people, and had already
begun to reap a tangible reward. It is true that several strange white
men looked at him with lowering brows as he crossed the street, which
was curiously empty of colored people; but he nevertheless went firmly
forward, panoplied in the consciousness of his own rectitude, and
serenely confident of the protection of the major and the major's
"Jerry is about the only negro I have seen since nine o'clock," observed
the general when the porter had gone. "If this were election day, where
would the negro vote be?"
"In hiding, where most of the negro population is to-day," answered
McBane. "It's a pity, if old Mrs. Ochiltree had to go this way, that it
couldn't have been deferred a month or six weeks." Carteret frowned
at this remark, which, coming from McBane, seemed lacking in human
feeling, as well as in respect to his wife's dead relative.
"But," resumed the general, "if this negro is lynched, as he well
deserves to be, it will not be without its effect. We still have in
reserve for the election a weapon which this affair will only render
more effective. What became of the piece in the negro paper?"
"I have it here," answered Carteret. "I was just about to use it as the
text for an editorial."
"Save it awhile longer," responded the general. "This crime itself will
give you text enough for a four-volume work."
When this conference ended, Carteret immediately put into press an extra
edition of the Morning Chronicle, which was soon upon the streets,
giving details of the crime, which was characterized as an atrocious
assault upon a defenseless old lady, whose age and sex would have
protected her from harm at the hands of any one but a brute in the
lowest human form. This event, the Chronicle suggested, had only
confirmed the opinion, which had been of late growing upon the white
people, that drastic efforts were necessary to protect the white women
of the South against brutal, lascivious, and murderous assaults at the
hands of negro men. It was only another significant example of the
results which might have been foreseen from the application of a false
and pernicious political theory, by which ignorance, clothed in a little
brief authority, was sought to be exalted over knowledge, vice over
virtue, an inferior and degraded race above the heaven-crowned
Anglo-Saxon. If an outraged people, justly infuriated, and impatient of
the slow processes of the courts, should assert their inherent
sovereignty, which the law after all was merely intended to embody, and
should choose, in obedience to the higher law, to set aside,
temporarily, the ordinary judicial procedure, it would serve as a
warning and an example to the vicious elements of the community, of the
swift and terrible punishment which would fall, like the judgment of
God, upon any one who laid sacrilegious hands upon white womanhood.
HOW NOT TO PREVENT A LYNCHING
Dr. Miller, who had sat up late the night before with a difficult case
at the hospital, was roused, about eleven o'clock, from a deep and
dreamless sleep. Struggling back into consciousness, he was informed by
his wife, who stood by his bedside, that Mr. Watson, the colored lawyer,
wished to see him upon a matter of great importance.
"Nothing but a matter of life and death would make me get up just now,"
he said with a portentous yawn.
"This is a matter of life and death," replied Janet. "Old Mrs. Polly
Ochiltree was robbed and murdered last night, and Sandy Campbell has
been arrested for the crime,—and they are going to lynch him!"
"Tell Watson to come right up," exclaimed Miller, springing out of bed.
"We can talk while I'm dressing."
While Miller made a hasty toilet Watson explained the situation.
Campbell had been arrested on the charge of murder. He had been seen,
during the night, in the neighborhood of the scene of the crime, by two
different persons, a negro and a white man, and had been identified
later while entering Mr. Delamere's house, where he lived, and where
damning proofs of his guilt had been discovered; the most important item
of which was an old-fashioned knit silk purse, recognized as Mrs.
Ochiltree's, and several gold pieces of early coinage, of which the
murdered woman was known to have a number. Watson brought with him one
of the first copies procurable of the extra edition of the Chronicle,
which contained these facts and further information.
They were still talking when Mrs. Miller, knocking at the door,
announced that big Josh Green wished to see the doctor about Sandy
Campbell. Miller took his collar and necktie in his hand and went
downstairs, where Josh sat waiting.
"Doctuh," said Green, "de w'ite folks is talkin' 'bout lynchin' Sandy
Campbell fer killin' ole Mis' Ochiltree. He never done it, an' dey oughtn'
ter be 'lowed ter lynch 'im."
"They ought not to lynch him, even if he committed the crime," returned
Miller, "but still less if he didn't. What do you know about it?"
"I know he was wid me, suh, las' night, at de time when dey say ole Mis'
Ochiltree wuz killed. We wuz down ter Sam Taylor's place, havin' a
little game of kyards an' a little liquor. Den we lef dere an' went up
ez fur ez de corner er Main an' Vine Streets, where we pa'ted, an' Sandy
went 'long to'ds home. Mo'over, dey say he had on check' britches an' a
blue coat. When Sandy wuz wid me he had on gray clo's, an' when we
sep'rated he wa'n't in no shape ter be changin' his clo's, let 'lone
robbin' er killin' anybody."
"Your testimony ought to prove an alibi for him," declared Miller.
"Dere ain' gwine ter be no chance ter prove nothin', 'less'n we kin do
it mighty quick! Dey say dey're gwine ter lynch 'im ter-night,—some on
'em is talkin' 'bout burnin' 'im. My idee is ter hunt up de niggers an'
git 'em ter stan' tergether an' gyard de jail."
"Why shouldn't we go to the principal white people of the town and tell
them Josh's story, and appeal to them to stop this thing until Campbell
can have a hearing?"
"It wouldn't do any good," said Watson despondently; "their blood is
up. It seems that some colored man attacked Mrs. Ochiltree,—and he was
a murderous villain, whoever he may be. To quote Josh would destroy the
effect of his story,—we know he never harmed any one but himself"—
"An' a few keerliss people w'at got in my way," corrected Josh.
"He has been in court several times for fighting,—and that's against
him. To have been at Sam Taylor's place is against Sandy, too, rather
than in his favor. No, Josh, the white people would believe that you
were trying to shield Sandy, and you would probably be arrested as an
"But look a-here, Mr. Watson,—Dr. Miller, is we-all jes' got ter set
down here, widout openin' ou' mouths, an' let dese w'ite folks hang er
bu'n a man w'at we know ain' guilty? Dat ain't no law, ner jestice,
ner nothin'! Ef you-all won't he'p, I'll do somethin' myse'f! Dere's
two niggers ter one white man in dis town, an' I'm sho' I kin fin' fifty
of 'em w'at 'll fight, ef dey kin fin' anybody ter lead 'em."
"Now hold on, Josh," argued Miller; "what is to be gained by fighting?
Suppose you got your crowd together and surrounded the jail,—what
"There'd be a clash," declared Watson, "and instead of one dead negro
there'd be fifty. The white people are claiming now that Campbell didn't
stop with robbery and murder. A special edition of the Morning
Chronicle, just out, suggests a further purpose, and has all the old
shopworn cant about race purity and supremacy and imperative necessity,
which always comes to the front whenever it is sought to justify some
outrage on the colored folks. The blood of the whites is up, I tell
"Is there anything to that suggestion?" asked Miller incredulously.
"It doesn't matter whether there is or not," returned Watson. "Merely
to suggest it proves it.
"Nothing was said about this feature until the paper came out,—and even
its statement is vague and indefinite,—but now the claim is in every
mouth. I met only black looks as I came down the street. White men with
whom I have long been on friendly terms passed me without a word. A
negro has been arrested on suspicion,—the entire race is condemned on
"The whole thing is profoundly discouraging," said Miller sadly. "Try as
we may to build up the race in the essentials of good citizenship and
win the good opinion of the best people, some black scoundrel comes
along, and by a single criminal act, committed in the twinkling of an
eye, neutralizes the effect of a whole year's work."
"It's mighty easy neut'alize', er whatever you call it," said Josh
sullenly. "De w'ite folks don' want too good an opinion er de
niggers,—ef dey had a good opinion of 'em, dey wouldn' have no excuse
f er 'busin' an' hangin' an' burnin' 'em. But ef dey can't keep from
doin' it, let 'em git de right man! Dis way er pickin' up de fus' nigger
dey comes across, an' stringin' 'im up rega'dliss, ought ter be stop',
an' stop' right now!"
"Yes, that's the worst of lynch law," said Watson; "but we are wasting
valuable time,—it's hardly worth while for us to discuss a subject we
are all agreed upon. One of our race, accused of certain acts, is about
to be put to death without judge or jury, ostensibly because he committed
a crime,—really because he is a negro, for if he were white he would not
be lynched. It is thus made a race issue, on the one side as well as on
the other. What can we do to protect him?"
"We kin fight, ef we haf ter," replied Josh resolutely.
"Well, now, let us see. Suppose the colored people armed themselves?
Messages would at once be sent to every town and county in the
neighborhood. White men from all over the state, armed to the teeth,
would at the slightest word pour into town on every railroad train, and
extras would be run for their benefit."
"They're already coming in," said Watson.
"We might go to the sheriff," suggested Miller, "and demand that he
telegraph the governor to call out the militia."
"I spoke to the sheriff an hour ago," replied Watson. "He has a white
face and a whiter liver. He does not dare call out the militia to
protect a negro charged with such a brutal crime;—and if he did, the
militia are white men, and who can say that their efforts would not be
directed to keeping the negroes out of the way, in order that the white
devils might do their worst? The whole machinery of the state is in the
hands of white men, elected partly by our votes. When the color line is
drawn, if they choose to stand together with the rest of their race
against us, or to remain passive and let the others work their will, we
are helpless,—our cause is hopeless."
"We might call on the general government," said Miller. "Surely the
President would intervene."
"Such a demand would be of no avail," returned Watson. "The government
can only intervene under certain conditions, of which it must be
informed through designated channels. It never sees anything that is not
officially called to its attention. The whole negro population of the
South might be slaughtered before the necessary red tape could be spun
out to inform the President that a state of anarchy prevailed. There's
no hope there."
"Den w'at we gwine ter do?" demanded Josh indignantly; "jes' set here
an' let 'em hang Sandy, er bu'n 'im?"
"God knows!" exclaimed Miller. "The outlook is dark, but we should at
least try to do something. There must be some white men in the town who
would stand for law and order,—there's no possible chance for Sandy to
escape hanging by due process of law, if he is guilty. We might at least
try half a dozen gentlemen."
"We'd better leave Josh here," said Watson. "He's too truculent. If he
went on the street he'd make trouble, and if he accompanied us he'd do
more harm than good. Wait for us here, Josh, until we 'we seen what we
can do. We'll be back in half an hour."
In half an hour they had both returned.
"It's no use," reported Watson gloomily. "I called at the mayor's office
and found it locked. He is doubtless afraid on his own account, and
would not dream of asserting his authority. I then looked up Judge
Everton, who has always seemed to be fair. My reception was cold. He
admitted that lynching was, as a rule, unjustifiable, but maintained
that there were exceptions to all rules,—that laws were made, after
all, to express the will of the people in regard to the ordinary
administration of justice, but that in an emergency the sovereign people
might assert itself and take the law into its own hands,—the creature
was not greater than the creator. He laughed at my suggestion that Sandy
was innocent. 'If he is innocent,' he said, 'then produce the real
criminal. You negroes are standing in your own light when you try to
protect such dastardly scoundrels as this Campbell, who is an enemy of
society and not fit to live. I shall not move in the matter. If a negro
wants the protection of the law, let him obey the law.' A wise judge,—a
second Daniel come to judgment! If this were the law, there would be no
need of judges or juries."
"I called on Dr. Price," said Miller, "my good friend Dr. Price, who
would rather lie than hurt my feelings. 'Miller,' he declared, 'this is
no affair of mine, or yours. I have too much respect for myself and my
profession to interfere in such a matter, and you will accomplish
nothing, and only lessen your own influence, by having anything to say.'
'But the man may be innocent,' I replied; 'there is every reason to
believe that he is.' He shook his head pityingly. 'You are
self-deceived, Miller; your prejudice has warped your judgment. The
proof is overwhelming that he robbed this old lady, laid violent hands
upon her, and left her dead. If he did no more, he has violated the
written and unwritten law of the Southern States. I could not save him
if I would, Miller, and frankly, I would not if I could. If he is
innocent, his people can console themselves with the reflection that
Mrs. Ochiltree was also innocent, and balance one crime against the
other, the white against the black. Of course I shall take no part in
whatever may be done,—but it is not my affair, nor yours. Take my
advice, Miller, and keep out of it.'
"That is the situation," added Miller, summing up. "Their friendship for
us, a slender stream at the best, dries up entirely when it strikes
their prejudices. There is seemingly not one white man in Wellington who
will speak a word for law, order, decency, or humanity. Those who do not
participate will stand idly by and see an untried man deliberately and
brutally murdered. Race prejudice is the devil unchained."
"Well, den, suh," said Josh, "where does we stan' now? W'at is we gwine
ter do? I wouldn' min' fightin', fer my time ain't come yit,—I feels
dat in my bones. W'at we gwine ter do, dat's w'at I wanter know."
"What does old Mr. Delamere have to say about the matter?" asked Miller
suddenly. "Why haven't we thought of him before? Has he been seen?"
"No," replied Watson gloomily, "and for a good reason,—he is not in
town. I came by the house just now, and learned that he went out to his
country place yesterday afternoon, to remain a week. Sandy was to have
followed him out there this morning,—it's a pity he didn't go
yesterday. The old gentleman has probably heard nothing about the
"How about young Delamere?"
"He went away early this morning, down the river, to fish. He'll
probably not hear of it before night, and he's only a boy anyway, and
could very likely do nothing," said Watson.
Miller looked at his watch.
"Belleview is ten miles away," he said. "It is now eleven o'clock. I can
drive out there in an hour and a half at the farthest. I'll go and see
Mr. Delamere,—he can do more than any living man, if he is able to do
anything at all. There's never been a lynching here, and one good white
man, if he choose, may stem the flood long enough to give justice a
chance. Keep track of the white people while I'm gone, Watson; and you,
Josh, learn what the colored folks are saying, and do nothing rash until
I return. In the meantime, do all that you can to find out who did
commit this most atrocious murder."
Miller did not reach his destination without interruption. At one point
a considerable stretch of the road was under repair, which made it
necessary for him to travel slowly. His horse cast a shoe, and
threatened to go lame; but in the course of time he arrived at the
entrance gate of Belleview, entering which he struck into a private
road, bordered by massive oaks, whose multitudinous branches, hung with
long streamers of trailing moss, formed for much of the way a thick
canopy above his head. It took him only a few minutes to traverse the
quarter of a mile that lay between the entrance gate and the house
This old colonial plantation, rich in legendary lore and replete with
historic distinction, had been in the Delamere family for nearly two
hundred years. Along the bank of the river which skirted its domain the
famous pirate Blackbeard had held high carnival, and was reputed to have
buried much treasure, vague traditions of which still lingered among the
negroes and poor-whites of the country roundabout. The beautiful
residence, rising white and stately in a grove of ancient oaks, dated
from 1750, and was built of brick which had been brought from England.
Enlarged and improved from generation to generation, it stood, like a
baronial castle, upon a slight eminence from which could be surveyed
the large demesne still belonging to the estate, which had shrunk
greatly from its colonial dimensions. While still embracing several
thousand acres, part forest and part cleared land, it had not of late
years been profitable; in spite of which Mr. Delamere, with the
conservatism of his age and caste, had never been able to make up his
mind to part with any considerable portion of it. His grandson, he
imagined, could make the estate pay and yet preserve it in its
integrity. Here, in pleasant weather, surrounded by the scenes which he
loved, old Mr. Delamere spent much of the time during his declining
Dr. Miller had once passed a day at Belleview, upon Mr. Delamere's
invitation. For this old-fashioned gentleman, whose ideals not even
slavery had been able to spoil, regarded himself as a trustee for the
great public, which ought, in his opinion, to take as much pride as he
in the contemplation of this historic landmark. In earlier years Mr.
Delamere had been a practicing lawyer, and had numbered Miller's father
among his clients. He had always been regarded as friendly to the
colored people, and, until age and ill health had driven him from active
life, had taken a lively interest in their advancement since the
abolition of slavery. Upon the public opening of Miller's new hospital,
he had made an effort to be present, and had made a little speech of
approval and encouragement which had manifested his kindliness and given
Miller much pleasure.
It was with the consciousness, therefore, that he was approaching a
friend, as well as Sandy's master, that Miller's mind was chiefly
occupied as his tired horse, scenting the end of his efforts, bore him
with a final burst of speed along the last few rods of the journey; for
the urgency of Miller's errand, involving as it did the issues of life
and death, did not permit him to enjoy the charm of mossy oak or forest
reaches, or even to appreciate the noble front of Belleview House when
it at last loomed up before him.
"Well, William," said Mr. Delamere, as he gave his hand to Miller from
the armchair in which he was seated under the broad and stately portico,
"I didn't expect to see you out here. You'll excuse my not
rising,—I'm none too firm on my legs. Did you see anything of my man
Sandy back there on the road? He ought to have been here by nine
o'clock, and it's now one. Sandy is punctuality itself, and I don't know
how to account for his delay."
Clearly there need be no time wasted in preliminaries. Mr. Delamere had
gone directly to the subject in hand.
"He will not be here to-day, sir," replied Miller. "I have come to you
on his account."
In a few words Miller stated the situation.
"Preposterous!" exclaimed the old gentleman, with more vigor than Miller
had supposed him to possess. "Sandy is absolutely incapable of such a
crime as robbery, to say nothing of murder; and as for the rest, that is
absurd upon the face of it! And so the poor old woman is dead! Well,
well, well! she could not have lived much longer anyway; but Sandy did
not kill her,—it's simply impossible! Why, I raised that boy! He was
born on my place. I'd as soon believe such a thing of my own grandson
as of Sandy! No negro raised by a Delamere would ever commit such a
crime. I really believe, William, that Sandy has the family honor of the
Delameres quite as much at heart as I have. Just tell them I say Sandy
is innocent, and it will be all right."
"I'm afraid, sir," rejoined Miller, who kept his voice up so that the
old gentleman could understand without having it suggested that Miller
knew he was hard of hearing, "that you don't quite appreciate the
situation. I believe Sandy innocent; you believe him innocent; but
there are suspicious circumstances which do not explain themselves, and
the white people of the city believe him guilty, and are going to lynch
him before he has a chance to clear himself."
"Why doesn't he explain the suspicious circumstances?" asked Mr.
Delamere. "Sandy is truthful and can be believed. I would take Sandy's
word as quickly as another man's oath."
"He has no chance to explain," said Miller. "The case is prejudged. A
crime has been committed. Sandy is charged with it. He is black, and
therefore he is guilty. No colored lawyer would be allowed in the jail,
if one should dare to go there. No white lawyer will intervene. He'll
be lynched to-night, without judge, jury, or preacher, unless we can
stave the thing off for a day or two."
"Have you seen my grandson?" asked the old gentleman. "Is he not looking
"No, sir. It seems he went down the river this morning to fish, before
the murder was discovered; no one knows just where he has gone, or at
what hour he will return."
"Well, then," said Mr. Delamere, rising from his chair with surprising
vigor, "I shall have to go myself. No faithful servant of mine shall be
hanged for a crime he didn't commit, so long as I have a voice to
speak or a dollar to spend. There'll be no trouble after I get there,
William. The people are naturally wrought up at such a crime. A fine old
woman,—she had some detestable traits, and I was always afraid she
wanted to marry me, but she was of an excellent family and had many good
points,—an old woman of one of the best families, struck down by the
hand of a murderer! You must remember, William, that blood is thicker
than water, and that the provocation is extreme, and that a few hotheads
might easily lose sight of the great principles involved and seek
immediate vengeance, without too much discrimination. But they are good
people, William, and when I have spoken, and they have an opportunity
for the sober second thought, they will do nothing rashly, but will wait
for the operation of the law, which will, of course, clear Sandy."
"I'm sure I hope so," returned Miller. "Shall I try to drive you back,
sir, or will you order your own carriage?"
"My horses are fresher, William, and I'll have them brought around. You
can take the reins, if you will,—I'm rather old to drive,—and my man
will come behind with your buggy."
In a few minutes they set out along the sandy road. Having two fresh
horses, they made better headway than Miller had made coming out, and
reached Wellington easily by three o'clock.
"I think, William," said Mr. Delamere, as they drove into the town,
"that I had first better talk with Sandy. He may be able to explain away
the things that seem to connect him with this atrocious affair; and that
will put me in a better position to talk to other people about it."
Miller drove directly to the county jail. Thirty or forty white men, who
seemed to be casually gathered near the door, closed up when the
carriage approached. The sheriff, who had seen them from the inside,
came to the outer door and spoke to the visitor through a grated wicket.
"Mr. Wemyss," said Mr. Delamere, when he had made his way to the
entrance with the aid of his cane, "I wish to see my servant, Sandy
Campbell, who is said to be in your custody."
The sheriff hesitated. Meantime there was some parleying in low tones
among the crowd outside. No one interfered, however, and in a moment the
door opened sufficiently to give entrance to the old gentleman, after
which it closed quickly and clangorously behind him.
Feeling no desire to linger in the locality, Miller, having seen his
companion enter the jail, drove the carriage round to Mr. Delamere's
house, and leaving it in charge of a servant with instructions to return
for his master in a quarter of an hour, hastened to his own home to meet
Watson and Josh and report the result of his efforts.
TWO SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN
The iron bolt rattled in the lock, the door of a cell swung open, and
when Mr. Delamere had entered was quickly closed again.
"Oh, Mars John! Is you fell from hebben ter he'p me out er here? I
prayed de Lawd ter sen' you, an' He answered my prayer, an' here you is,
Mars John,—here you is! Oh, Mars John, git me out er dis place!"
"Tut, tut, Sandy!" answered his master; "of course I'll get you out.
That's what I've come for. How in the world did such a mistake ever
happen? You would no more commit such a crime than I would!"
"No, suh, 'deed I wouldn', an' you know I wouldn'! I wouldn' want ter
bring no disgrace on de fam'ly dat raise' me, ner ter make no trouble
fer you, suh; but here I is, suh, lock' up in jail, an' folks talkin'
'bout hangin' me fer somethin' dat never entered my min', suh. I swea'
ter God I never thought er sech a thing!"
"Of course you didn't, Sandy," returned Mr. Delamere soothingly; "and
now the next thing, and the simplest thing, is to get you out of this.
I'll speak to the officers, and at the preliminary hearing to-morrow I'll
tell them all about you, and they will let you go. You won't mind
spending one night in jail for your sins."
"No, suh, ef I wuz sho' I'd be 'lowed ter spen' it here. But dey say dey
're gwine ter lynch me ternight,—I kin hear 'em talkin' f'm de winders
er de cell, suh."
"Well, I say, Sandy, that they shall do no such thing! Lynch a man
brought up by a Delamere, for a crime of which he is innocent?
Preposterous! I'll speak to the authorities and see that you are
properly protected until this mystery is unraveled. If Tom had been
here, he would have had you out before now, Sandy. My grandson is a
genuine Delamere, is he not, Sandy?"
"Yas, suh, yas, suh," returned Sandy, with a lack of enthusiasm which he
tried to conceal from his master. "An' I s'pose ef he hadn' gone
fishin' so soon dis mawnin', he'd 'a' be'n lookin' after me, suh."
"It has been my love for him and your care of me, Sandy," said the old
gentleman tremulously, "that have kept me alive so long; but now explain
to me everything concerning this distressing matter, and I shall then be
able to state your case to better advantage."
"Well, suh," returned Sandy, "I mought's well tell de whole tale an' not
hol' nothin' back. I wuz kind er lonesome las' night, an' sence I be'n
tu'ned outen de chu'ch on account er dat cakewalk I didn' go ter, so
he'p me God! I didn' feel like gwine ter prayer-meetin', so I went
roun' ter see Solomon Williams, an' he wa'n't home, an' den I walk' down
street an' met Josh Green, an' he ax' me inter Sam Taylor's place, an' I
sot roun' dere wid Josh till 'bout 'leven o'clock, w'en I sta'ted back
home. I went straight ter de house, suh, an' went ter bed an' ter sleep
widout sayin' a wo'd ter a single soul excep' Mistuh Tom, who wuz
settin' up readin' a book w'en I come in. I wish I may drap dead in my
tracks, suh, ef dat ain't de God's truf, suh, eve'y wo'd of it!"
"I believe every word of it, Sandy; now tell me about the clothes that
you are said to have been found cleaning, and the suspicious articles
that were found in your room?"
"Dat's w'at beats me, Mars John," replied Sandy, shaking his head
mournfully. "Wen I lef home las' night after supper, my clo's wuz all
put erway in de closet in my room, folded up on de she'f ter keep de
moths out. Dey wuz my good clo's,—de blue coat dat you wo' ter de
weddin' fo'ty years ago, an' dem dere plaid pants I gun Mistuh Cohen fo'
dollars fer three years ago; an' w'en I looked in my closet dis mawnin',
suh, befo' I got ready ter sta't fer Belleview, dere wuz my clo's layin'
on de flo', all muddy an' crumple' up, des lack somebody had wo' 'em in
a fight! Somebody e'se had wo' my clo's,—er e'se dere'd be'n some
witchcraf, er some sort er devilment gwine on dat I can't make out, suh,
ter save my soul!"
"There was no witchcraft, Sandy, but that there was some deviltry might
well be. Now, what other negro, who might have been mistaken for you,
could have taken your clothes? Surely no one about the house?"
"No, suh, no, suh. It couldn't 'a' be'n Jeff, fer he wuz at Belleview
wid you; an' it couldn't 'a' be'n Billy, fer he wuz too little ter wear
my clo's; an' it couldn't 'a' be'n Sally, fer she's a 'oman. It's a
myst'ry ter me, suh!"
"Have you no enemies? Is there any one in Wellington whom you imagine
would like to do you an injury?"
"Not a livin' soul dat I knows of, suh. I've be'n tu'ned out'n de
chu'ch, but I don' know who my enemy is dere, er ef it wuz all a
mistake, like dis yer jailin' is; but de Debbil is in dis somewhar, Mars
John,—an' I got my reasons fer sayin' so."
"What do you mean, Sandy?"
Sandy related his experience of the preceding evening: how he had seen
the apparition preceding him to the house, and how he had questioned Tom
upon the subject.
"There's some mystery here, Sandy," said Mr. Delamere reflectively.
"Have you told me all, now, upon your honor? I am trying to save your
life, Sandy, and I must be able to trust your word implicitly. You must
tell me every circumstance; a very little and seemingly unimportant bit
of evidence may sometimes determine the issue of a great lawsuit. There
is one thing especially, Sandy: where did you get the gold which was
found in your trunk?"
Sandy's face lit up with hopefulness.
"Why, Mars John, I kin 'splain dat part easy. Dat wuz money I had lent
out, an' I got back f'm—But no, suh, I promise' not ter tell."
"Circumstances absolve you from your promise, Sandy. Your life is of
more value to you than any other thing. If you will explain where you
got the gold, and the silk purse that contained it, which is said to be
Mrs. Ochiltree's, you will be back home before night."
Old Mr. Delamere's faculties, which had been waning somewhat in sympathy
with his health, were stirred to unusual acuteness by his servant's
danger. He was watching Sandy with all the awakened instincts of the
trial lawyer. He could see clearly enough that, in beginning to account
for the possession of the gold, Sandy had started off with his
explanation in all sincerity. At the mention of the silk purse, however,
his face had blanched to an ashen gray, and the words had frozen upon
A less discerning observer might have taken these things as signs of
guilt, but not so Mr. Delamere.
"Well, Sandy," said his master encouragingly, "go on. You got the gold
Sandy remained silent. He had had a great shock, and had taken a great
"Mars John," he asked dreamily, "you don' b'lieve dat I done dis thing?"
"Certainly not, Sandy, else why should I be here?"
"An' nothin' wouldn' make you b'lieve it, suh?"
"No, Sandy,—I could not believe it of you. I've known you too long and
"An' you wouldn' b'lieve it, not even ef I wouldn' say one wo'd mo'
"No, Sandy, I believe you no more capable of this crime than I would
be,—or my grandson, Tom. I wish Tom were here, that he might help me
overcome your stubbornness; but you'll not be so foolish, so absurdly
foolish, Sandy, as to keep silent and risk your life merely to shield
some one else, when by speaking you might clear up this mystery and be
restored at once to liberty. Just tell me where you got the gold," added
the old gentleman persuasively. "Come, now, Sandy, that's a good
"Mars John," asked Sandy softly, "w'en my daddy, 'way back yander befo'
de wah, wuz about ter be sol' away f'm his wife an' child'en, you
bought him an' dem, an' kep' us all on yo' place tergether, didn't you,
"Yes, Sandy, and he was a faithful servant, and proved worthy of all I
did for him."
"And w'en he had wo'ked fer you ten years, suh, you sot 'im free?"
"Yes, Sandy, he had earned his freedom."
"An' w'en de wah broke out, an' my folks wuz scattered, an' I didn'
have nothin' ter do ner nowhar ter go, you kep' me on yo' place, and
tuck me ter wait on you, suh, didn't you?"
"Yes, Sandy, and you have been a good servant and a good friend; but
tell me now about this gold, and I'll go and get you out of this, right
away, for I need you, Sandy, and you'll not be of any use to me shut up
"Jes' hol' on a minute befo' you go, Mars John; fer ef dem people
outside should git holt er me befo' you does git me out er here, I may
never see you no mo', suh, in dis worl'. W'en Mars Billy McLean shot me
by mistake, w'ile we wuz out huntin' dat day, who wuz it boun' up my
woun's an' kep' me from bleedin' ter def, an' kyar'ed me two miles on
his own shoulders ter a doctuh?"
"Yes, Sandy, and when black Sally ran away with your young mistress and
Tom, when Tom was a baby, who stopped the runaway, and saved their lives
at the risk of his own?"
"Dat wa'n't nothin', suh; anybody could 'a' done dat, w'at wuz strong
ernuff an' swif' ernuff. You is be'n good ter me, suh, all dese years,
an' I've tried ter do my duty by you, suh, an' by Mistuh Tom, who wuz
yo' own gran'son, an' de las' one er de fam'ly."
"Yes, you have, Sandy, and when I am gone, which will not be very long,
Tom will take care of you, and see that you never want. But we are
wasting valuable time, Sandy, in these old reminiscences. Let us get back
to the present. Tell me about the gold, now, so that I may at once look
after your safety. It may not even be necessary for you to remain here
"Jes' one wo'd mo', Mars John, befo' you go! I know you're gwine ter do
de bes' you kin fer me, an' I'm sorry I can't he'p you no mo' wid it;
but ef dere should be any accident, er ef you can't git me out er
here, don' bother yo' min' 'bout it no mo', suh, an' don' git yo'se'f
ixcited, fer you know de doctuh says, suh, dat you can't stan'
ixcitement; but jes' leave me in de han's er de Lawd, suh,—He'll look
after me, here er hereafter. I know I've fell f'm grace mo' d'n once,
but I've done made my peace wid Him in dis here jail-house, suh, an' I
ain't 'feared ter die—ef I haf ter. I ain' got no wife ner child'n ter
mo'n fer me, an' I'll die knowin' dat I've done my duty ter dem dat
hi'ed me, an' trusted me, an' had claims on me. Fer I wuz raise' by a
Delamere, suh, an' all de ole Delameres wuz gent'emen, an' deir
principles spread ter de niggers 'round 'em, suh; an' ef I has ter die
fer somethin' I didn' do,—I kin die, suh, like a gent'eman! But ez fer
dat gol', suh, I ain' gwine ter say one wo'd mo' 'bout it ter nobody in
Nothing could shake Sandy's determination. Mr. Delamere argued,
expostulated, but all in vain. Sandy would not speak.
More and more confident of some mystery, which would come out in time,
if properly investigated, Mr. Delamere, strangely beset by a vague
sense of discomfort over and beyond that occasioned by his servant's
danger, hurried away upon his errand of mercy. He felt less confident of
the outcome than when he had entered the jail, but was quite as much
resolved that no effort should be spared to secure protection for Sandy
until there had been full opportunity for the truth to become known.
"Take good care of your prisoner, sheriff," he said sternly, as he was
conducted to the door. "He will not be long in your custody, and I shall
see that you are held strictly accountable for his safety."
"I'll do what I can, sir," replied the sheriff in an even tone and
seemingly not greatly impressed by this warning. "If the prisoner is
taken from me, it will be because the force that comes for him is too
strong for resistance."
"There should be no force too strong for an honest man in your position
to resist,—whether successfully or not is beyond the question. The
officer who is intimidated by threats, or by his own fears, is recreant
to his duty, and no better than the mob which threatens him. But you
will have no such test, Mr. Wemyss! I shall see to it myself that there
is no violence!"
THE HONOR OF A FAMILY
Mr. Delamere's coachman, who, in accordance with instructions left by
Miller, had brought the carriage around to the jail and was waiting
anxiously at the nearest corner, drove up with some trepidation as he
saw his master emerge from the prison. The old gentleman entered the
carriage and gave the order to be driven to the office of the Morning
Chronicle. According to Jerry, the porter, whom he encountered at the
door, Carteret was in his office, and Mr. Delamere, with the aid of his
servant, climbed the stairs painfully and found the editor at his desk.
"Carteret," exclaimed Mr. Delamere, "what is all this talk about
lynching my man for murder and robbery and criminal assault? It's
perfectly absurd! The man was raised by me; he has lived in my house
forty years. He has been honest, faithful, and trustworthy. He would no
more be capable of this crime than you would, or my grandson Tom. Sandy
has too much respect for the family to do anything that would reflect
disgrace upon it."
"My dear Mr. Delamere," asked Carteret, with an indulgent smile, "how
could a negro possibly reflect discredit upon a white family? I should
really like to know."
"How, sir? A white family raised him. Like all the negroes, he has been
clay in the hands of the white people. They are what we have made them,
or permitted them to become."
"We are not God, Mr. Delamere! We do not claim to have created
"No; but we thought to overrule God's laws, and we enslaved these people
for our greed, and sought to escape the manstealer's curse by laying to
our souls the flattering unction that we were making of barbarous
negroes civilized and Christian men. If we did not, if instead of making
them Christians we have made some of them brutes, we have only ourselves
to blame, and if these prey upon society, it is our just punishment! But
my negroes, Carteret, were well raised and well behaved. This man is
innocent of this offense, I solemnly affirm, and I want your aid to
secure his safety until a fair trial can be had."
"On your bare word, sir?" asked Carteret, not at all moved by this
Old Mr. Delamere trembled with anger, and his withered cheek flushed
darkly, but he restrained his feelings, and answered with an attempt at
"Time was, sir, when the word of a Delamere was held as good as his
bond, and those who questioned it were forced to maintain their
skepticism upon the field of honor. Time was, sir, when the law was
enforced in this state in a manner to command the respect of the world!
Our lawyers, our judges, our courts, were a credit to humanity and
civilization. I fear I have outlasted my epoch,—I have lived to hear of
white men, the most favored of races, the heirs of civilization, the
conservators of liberty, howling like red Indians around a human being
slowly roasting at the stake."
"My dear sir," said Carteret soothingly, "you should undeceive yourself.
This man is no longer your property. The negroes are no longer under our
control, and with their emancipation ceased our responsibility. Their
insolence and disregard for law have reached a point where they must be
"The law," retorted Mr. Delamere, "furnishes a sufficient penalty for
any crime, however heinous, and our code is by no means lenient. To my
old-fashioned notions, death would seem an adequate punishment for any
crime, and torture has been abolished in civilized countries for a
hundred years. It would be better to let a crime go entirely unpunished,
than to use it as a pretext for turning the whole white population into
a mob of primitive savages, dancing in hellish glee around the mangled
body of a man who has never been tried for a crime. All this, however,
is apart from my errand, which is to secure your assistance in heading
off this mob until Sandy can have a fair hearing and an opportunity to
prove his innocence."
"How can I do that, Mr. Delamere?"
"You are editor of the Morning Chronicle. The Chronicle is the leading
newspaper of the city. This morning's issue practically suggested the
mob; the same means will stop it. I will pay the expense of an extra
edition, calling off the mob, on the ground that newly discovered
evidence has shown the prisoner's innocence."
"But where is the evidence?" asked Carteret.
Again Mr. Delamere flushed and trembled. "My evidence, sir! I say the
negro was morally incapable of the crime. A man of forty-five does not
change his nature over-night. He is no more capable of a disgraceful
deed than my grandson would be!"
Carteret smiled sadly.
"I am sorry, Mr. Delamere," he said, "that you should permit yourself to
be so exercised about a worthless scoundrel who has forfeited his right
to live. The proof against him is overwhelming. As to his capability of
crime, we will apply your own test. You have been kept in the dark too
long, Mr. Delamere,—indeed, we all have,—about others as well as this
negro. Listen, sir: last night, at the Clarendon Club, Tom Delamere was
caught cheating outrageously at cards. He had been suspected for some
time; a trap was laid for him, and be fell into it. Out of regard for
you and for my family, he has been permitted to resign quietly, with the
understanding that he first pay off his debts, which are considerable."
Mr. Delamere's face, which had taken on some color in the excitement of
the interview, had gradually paled to a chalky white while Carteret was
speaking. His head sunk forward; already an old man, he seemed to have
aged ten years in but little more than as many seconds.
"Can this be true?" he demanded in a hoarse whisper. "Is it—entirely
"True as gospel; true as it is that Mrs. Ochiltree has been murdered,
and that this negro killed her. Ellis was at the club a few minutes
after the affair happened, and learned the facts from one of the
participants. Tom made no attempt at denial. We have kept the matter out
of the other papers, and I would have spared your feelings,—I surely
would not wish to wound them,—but the temptation proved too strong for
me, and it seemed the only way to convince you: it was your own test. If
a gentleman of a distinguished name and an honorable ancestry, with all
the restraining forces of social position surrounding him, to hold him
in check, can stoop to dishonor, what is the improbability of an
illiterate negro's being at least capable of crime?"
"Enough, sir," said the old gentleman. "You have proved enough. My
grandson may be a scoundrel,—I can see, in the light of this
revelation, how he might be; and he seems not to have denied it. I
maintain, nevertheless, that my man Sandy is innocent of the charge
against him. He has denied it, and it has not been proved. Carteret, I
owe that negro my life; he, and his father before him, have served me
and mine faithfully and well. I cannot see him killed like a dog,
without judge or jury,—no, not even if he were guilty, which I do not
Carteret felt a twinge of remorse for the pain he had inflicted upon
this fine old man, this ideal gentleman of the ideal past,—the past
which he himself so much admired and regretted. He would like to spare
his old friend any further agitation; he was in a state of health where
too great excitement might prove fatal. But how could he? The negro was
guilty, and sure to die sooner or later. He had not meant to interfere,
and his intervention might be fruitless.
"Mr. Delamere," he said gently, "there is but one way to gain time. You
say the negro is innocent. Appearances are against him. The only way to
clear him is to produce the real criminal, or prove an alibi. If you, or
some other white man of equal standing, could swear that the negro was
in your presence last night at any hour when this crime could have taken
place, it might be barely possible to prevent the lynching for the
present; and when he is tried, which will probably be not later than
next week, he will have every opportunity to defend himself, with you
to see that he gets no less than justice. I think it can be managed,
though there is still a doubt. I will do my best, for your sake, Mr.
Delamere,—solely for your sake, be it understood, and not for that of
the negro, in whom you are entirely deceived."
"I shall not examine your motives, Carteret," replied the other, "if you
can bring about what I desire."
"Whatever is done," added Carteret, "must be done quickly. It is now
four o'clock; no one can answer for what may happen after seven. If he
can prove an alibi, there may yet be time to save him. White men might
lynch a negro on suspicion; they would not kill a man who was proven, by
the word of white men, to be entirely innocent."
"I do not know," returned Mr. Delamere, shaking his head sadly. "After
what you have told me, it is no longer safe to assume what white men
will or will not do;—what I have learned here has shaken my faith in
humanity. I am going away, but shall return in a short time. Shall I
find you here?"
"I will await your return," said Carteret.
He watched Mr. Delamere pityingly as the old man moved away on the arm
of the coachman waiting in the hall. He did not believe that Mr.
Delamere could prove an alibi for his servant, and without some positive
proof the negro would surely die,—as he well deserved to die.
THE DISCOMFORT OF ELLIS
Mr. Ellis was vaguely uncomfortable. In the first excitement following
the discovery of the crime, he had given his bit of evidence, and had
shared the universal indignation against the murderer. When public
feeling took definite shape in the intention to lynch the prisoner,
Ellis felt a sudden sense of responsibility growing upon himself. When
he learned, an hour later, that it was proposed to burn the negro, his
part in the affair assumed a still graver aspect; for his had been the
final word to fix the prisoner's guilt.
Ellis did not believe in lynch law. He had argued against it, more than
once, in private conversation, and had written several editorials
against the practice, while in charge of the Morning Chronicle during
Major Carteret's absence. A young man, however, and merely representing
another, he had not set up as a reformer, taking rather the view that
this summary method of punishing crime, with all its possibilities of
error, to say nothing of the resulting disrespect of the law and
contempt for the time-honored methods of establishing guilt, was a mere
temporary symptom of the unrest caused by the unsettled relations of the
two races at the South. There had never before been any special need for
any vigorous opposition to lynch law, so far as the community was
concerned, for there had not been a lynching in Wellington since Ellis
had come there, eight years before, from a smaller town, to seek a place
for himself in the world of action. Twenty years before, indeed, there
had been wild doings, during the brief Ku-Klux outbreak, but that was
before Ellis's time,—or at least when he was but a child. He had come
of a Quaker family,—the modified Quakers of the South,—and while
sharing in a general way the Southern prejudice against the negro, his
prejudices had been tempered by the peaceful tenets of his father's
sect. His father had been a Whig, and a non-slaveholder; and while he
had gone with the South in the civil war so far as a man of peace could
go, he had not done so for love of slavery.
As the day wore on, Ellis's personal responsibility for the intended
auto-da-fé bore more heavily upon him. Suppose he had been wrong? He
had seen the accused negro; he had recognized him by his clothes, his
whiskers, his spectacles, and his walk; but he had also seen another
man, who resembled Sandy so closely that but for the difference in their
clothes, he was forced to acknowledge, he could not have told them
apart. Had he not seen the first man, he would have sworn with even
greater confidence that the second was Sandy. There had been, he
recalled, about one of the men—he had not been then nor was he now able
to tell which—something vaguely familiar, and yet seemingly discordant
to whichever of the two it was, or, as it seemed to him now, to any man
of that race. His mind reverted to the place where he had last seen
Sandy, and then a sudden wave of illumination swept over him, and filled
him with a thrill of horror. The cakewalk,—the dancing,—the
speech,—they were not Sandy's at all, nor any negro's! It was a white
man who had stood in the light of the street lamp, so that the casual
passer-by might see and recognize in him old Mr. Delamere's servant. The
scheme was a dastardly one, and worthy of a heart that was something
worse than weak and vicious.
Ellis resolved that the negro should not, if he could prevent it, die
for another's crime; but what proof had he himself to offer in support
of his theory? Then again, if he denounced Tom Delamere as the murderer,
it would involve, in all probability, the destruction of his own hopes
with regard to Clara. Of course she could not marry Delamere after the
disclosure,—the disgraceful episode at the club would have been enough
to make that reasonably certain; it had put a nail in Delamere's coffin,
but this crime had driven it in to the head and clinched it. On the
other hand, would Miss Pemberton ever speak again to the man who had
been the instrument of bringing disgrace upon the family? Spies,
detectives, police officers, may be useful citizens, but they are rarely
pleasant company for other people. We fee the executioner, but we do not
touch his bloody hand. We might feel a certain tragic admiration for
Brutus condemning his sons to death, but we would scarcely invite Brutus
to dinner after the event. It would harrow our feelings too much.
Perhaps, thought Ellis, there might be a way out of the dilemma. It
might be possible to save this innocent negro without, for the time
being, involving Delamere. He believed that murder will out, but it need
not be through his initiative. He determined to go to the jail and
interview the prisoner, who might give such an account of himself as
would establish his innocence beyond a doubt. If so, Ellis would exert
himself to stem the tide of popular fury. If, as a last resort, he
could save Sandy only by denouncing Delamere, he would do his duty, let
it cost him what it might.
The gravity of his errand was not lessened by what he saw and heard on
the way to the jail. The anger of the people was at a white heat. A
white woman had been assaulted and murdered by a brutal negro. Neither
advanced age, nor high social standing, had been able to protect her
from the ferocity of a black savage. Her sex, which should have been her
shield and buckler, had made her an easy mark for the villainy of a
black brute. To take the time to try him would be a criminal waste of
public money. To hang him would be too slight a punishment for so
dastardly a crime. An example must be made.
Already the preparations were under way for the impending execution. A
T-rail from the railroad yard had been procured, and men were burying it
in the square before the jail. Others were bringing chains, and a load
of pine wood was piled in convenient proximity. Some enterprising
individual had begun the erection of seats from which, for a pecuniary
consideration, the spectacle might be the more easily and comfortably
Ellis was stopped once or twice by persons of his acquaintance. From one
he learned that the railroads would run excursions from the neighboring
towns in order to bring spectators to the scene; from another that the
burning was to take place early in the evening, so that the children
might not be kept up beyond their usual bedtime. In one group that he
passed he heard several young men discussing the question of which
portions of the negro's body they would prefer for souvenirs. Ellis
shuddered and hastened forward. Whatever was to be done must be done
quickly, or it would be too late. He saw that already it would require a
strong case in favor of the accused to overcome the popular verdict.
Going up the steps of the jail, he met Mr. Delamere, who was just coming
out, after a fruitless interview with Sandy.
"Mr. Ellis," said the old gentleman, who seemed greatly agitated, "this
"It is indeed, sir!" returned the younger man. "I mean to stop it if I
can. The negro did not kill Mrs. Ochiltree."
Mr. Delamere looked at Ellis keenly, and, as Ellis recalled afterwards,
there was death in his eyes. Unable to draw a syllable from Sandy, he
had found his servant's silence more eloquent than words. Ellis felt a
presentiment that this affair, however it might terminate, would be
fatal to this fine old man, whom the city could ill spare, in spite of
his age and infirmities.
"Mr. Ellis," asked Mr. Delamere, in a voice which trembled with
ill-suppressed emotion, "do you know who killed her?"
Ellis felt a surging pity for his old friend; but every step that he had
taken toward the jail had confirmed and strengthened his own resolution
that this contemplated crime, which he dimly felt to be far more
atrocious than that of which Sandy was accused, in that it involved a
whole community rather than one vicious man, should be stopped at any
cost. Deplorable enough had the negro been guilty, it became, in view of
his certain innocence, an unspeakable horror, which for all time would
cover the city with infamy. "Mr. Delamere," he replied, looking the
elder man squarely in the eyes, "I think I do,—and I am very sorry."
"And who was it, Mr. Ellis?"
He put the question hopelessly, as though the answer were a foregone
"I do not wish to say at present," replied Ellis, with a remorseful
pang, "unless it becomes absolutely necessary, to save the negro's life.
Accusations are dangerous,—as this case proves,—unless the proof, be
For a moment it seemed as though Mr. Delamere would collapse upon the
spot. Rallying almost instantly, however, he took the arm which Ellis
involuntarily offered, and said with an effort:—
"Mr. Ellis, you are a gentleman whom it is an honor to know. If you have
time, I wish you would go with me to my house,—I can hardly trust
myself alone,—and thence to the Chronicle office. This thing shall be
stopped, and you will help me stop it."
It required but a few minutes to cover the half mile that lay between
the prison and Mr. Delamere's residence.
THE VAGARIES OF THE HIGHER LAW
Mr. Delamere went immediately to his grandson's room, which he entered
alone, closing and locking the door behind him. He had requested Ellis
to wait in the carriage.
The bed had been made, and the room was apparently in perfect order.
There was a bureau in the room, through which Mr. Delamere proceeded to
look thoroughly. Finding one of the drawers locked, he tried it with a
key of his own, and being unable to unlock it, took a poker from beside
the stove and broke it ruthlessly open.
The contents served to confirm what he had heard concerning his
grandson's character. Thrown together in disorderly confusion were
bottles of wine and whiskey; soiled packs of cards; a dice-box with
dice; a box of poker chips, several revolvers, and a number of
photographs and paper-covered books at which the old gentleman merely
glanced to ascertain their nature.
So far, while his suspicion had been strengthened, he had found nothing
to confirm it. He searched the room more carefully, and found, in the
wood-box by the small heating-stove which stood in the room, a torn and
crumpled bit of paper. Stooping to pick this up, his eye caught a gleam
of something yellow beneath the bureau, which lay directly in his line
First he smoothed out the paper. It was apparently the lower half of a
label, or part of the cover of a small box, torn diagonally from corner
to corner. From the business card at the bottom, which gave the name, of
a firm of manufacturers of theatrical supplies in a Northern city, and
from the letters remaining upon the upper and narrower half, the bit of
paper had plainly formed part of the wrapper of a package of burnt cork.
Closing his fingers spasmodically over this damning piece of evidence,
Mr. Delamere knelt painfully, and with the aid of his cane drew out from
under the bureau the yellow object which, had attracted his attention.
It was a five-dollar gold piece of a date back toward the beginning of
To make assurance doubly sure, Mr. Delamere summoned the cook from the
kitchen in the back yard. In answer to her master's questions, Sally
averred that Mr. Tom had got up very early, had knocked at her
window,—she slept in a room off the kitchen in the yard,—and had told
her that she need not bother about breakfast for him, as he had had a
cold bite from the pantry; that he was going hunting and fishing, and
would be gone all day. According to Sally, Mr. Tom had come in about ten
o'clock the night before. He had forgotten his night-key, Sandy was out,
and she had admitted him with her own key. He had said that he was very
tired and was going, immediately to bed.
Mr. Delamere seemed perplexed; the crime had been committed later in the
evening than ten o'clock. The cook cleared up the mystery.
"I reckon he must 'a' be'n dead ti'ed, suh, fer I went back ter his room
fifteen er twenty minutes after he come in fer ter fin' out w'at he
wanted fer breakfus'; an' I knock' two or three times, rale ha'd, an'
Mistuh Tom didn' wake up no mo' d'n de dead. He sho'ly had a good
sleep, er he'd never 'a' got up so ea'ly."
"Thank you, Sally," said Mr. Delamere, when the woman had finished,
"that will do."
"Will you be home ter suppah, suh?" asked the cook.
It was a matter of the supremest indifference to Mr. Delamere whether he
should ever eat again, but he would not betray his feelings to a
servant. In a few minutes he was driving rapidly with Ellis toward the
office of the Morning Chronicle. Ellis could see that Mr. Delamere had
discovered something of tragic import. Neither spoke. Ellis gave all his
attention to the horses, and Mr. Delamere remained wrapped in his own
When they reached the office, they were informed by Jerry that Major
Carteret was engaged with General Belmont and Captain McBane. Mr.
Delamere knocked peremptorily at the door of the inner office, which was
opened by Carteret in person.
"Oh, it is you, Mr. Delamere."
"Carteret," exclaimed Mr. Delamere, "I must speak to you immediately,
"Excuse me a moment, gentlemen," said Carteret, turning to those within
the room. "I'll be back in a moment—don't go away."
Ellis had left the room, closing the door behind him. Mr. Delamere and
Carteret were quite alone.
"Carteret," declared the old gentleman, "this murder must not take
"'Murder' is a hard word," replied the editor, frowning slightly.
"It is the right word," rejoined Mr. Delamere, decidedly. "It would be a
foul and most unnatural murder, for Sandy did not kill Mrs. Ochiltree."
Carteret with difficulty restrained a smile of pity. His old friend was
very much excited, as the tremor in his voice gave proof. The criminal
was his trusted servant, who had proved unworthy of confidence. No one
could question Mr. Delamere's motives; but he was old, his judgment was
no longer to be relied upon. It was a great pity that he should so
excite and overstrain himself about a worthless negro, who had forfeited
his life for a dastardly crime. Mr. Delamere had had two paralytic
strokes, and a third might prove fatal. He must be dealt with gently.
"Mr. Delamere," he said, with patient tolerance, "I think you are
deceived. There is but one sure way to stop this execution. If your
servant is innocent, you must produce the real criminal. If the negro,
with such overwhelming proofs against him, is not guilty, who is?"
"I will tell you who is," replied Mr. Delamere. "The murderer is,"—the
words came with a note of anguish, as though torn from his very
heart,—"the murderer is Tom Delamere, my own grandson!"
"Impossible, sir!" exclaimed Carteret, starting back involuntarily.
"That could not be! The man was seen leaving the house, and he was
"All cats are gray in the dark, Carteret; and, moreover, nothing is
easier than for a white man to black his face. God alone knows how many
crimes have been done in this guise! Tom Delamere, to get the money to
pay his gambling debts, committed this foul murder, and then tried to
fasten it upon as honest and faithful a soul as ever trod the earth."
Carteret, though at first overwhelmed by this announcement, perceived
with quick intuition that it might easily be true. It was but a step
from fraud to crime, and in Delamere's need of money there lay a
palpable motive for robbery,—the murder may have been an afterthought.
Delamere knew as much about the cedar chest as the negro could have
known, and more.
But a white man must not be condemned without proof positive.
"What foundation is there, sir," he asked, "for this astounding charge?"
Mr. Delamere related all that had taken place since he had left
Belleview a couple of hours before, and as he proceeded, step by step,
every word carried conviction to Carteret. Tom Delamere's skill as a
mimic and a negro impersonator was well known; he had himself laughed at
more than one of his performances. There had been a powerful motive, and
Mr. Delamere's discoveries had made clear the means. Tom's unusual
departure, before breakfast, on a fishing expedition was a suspicious
circumstance. There was a certain devilish ingenuity about the affair
which he would hardly have expected of Tom Delamere, but for which the
reason was clear enough. One might have thought that Tom would have been
satisfied with merely blacking his face, and leaving to chance the
identification of the negro who might be apprehended. He would hardly
have implicated, out of pure malignity, his grandfather's old servant,
who had been his own care-taker for many years. Here, however, Carteret
could see where Tom's own desperate position operated to furnish a
probable motive for the crime. The surest way to head off suspicion from
himself was to direct it strongly toward some particular person, and
this he had been able to do conclusively by his access to Sandy's
clothes, his skill in making up to resemble him, and by the episode of
the silk purse. By placing himself beyond reach during the next day, he
would not be called upon to corroborate or deny any inculpating
statements which Sandy might make, and in the very probable case that
the crime should be summarily avenged, any such statements on Sandy's
part would be regarded as mere desperate subterfuges of the murderer to
save his own life. It was a bad affair.
"The case seems clear," said Carteret reluctantly but conclusively. "And
now, what shall we do about it?"
"I want you to print a handbill," said Mr. Delamere, "and circulate it
through the town, stating that Sandy Campbell is innocent and Tom
Delamere guilty of this crime. If this is not done, I will go myself and
declare it to all who will listen, and I will publicly disown the
villain who is no more grandson of mine. There is no deeper sink of
iniquity into which he could fall."
Carteret's thoughts were chasing one another tumultuously. There could
be no doubt that the negro was innocent, from the present aspect of
affairs, and he must not be lynched; but in what sort of position would
the white people be placed, if Mr. Delamere carried out his Spartan
purpose of making the true facts known? The white people of the city had
raised the issue of their own superior morality, and had themselves made
this crime a race question. The success of the impending "revolution,"
for which he and his confrères had labored so long, depended in large
measure upon the maintenance of their race prestige, which would be
injured in the eyes of the world by such a fiasco. While they might yet
win by sheer force, their cause would suffer in the court of morals,
where they might stand convicted as pirates, instead of being applauded
as patriots. Even the negroes would have the laugh on them,—the people
whom they hoped to make approve and justify their own despoilment. To be
laughed at by the negroes was a calamity only less terrible than failure
Such an outcome of an event which had already been heralded to the four
corners of the earth would throw a cloud of suspicion upon the stories
of outrage which had gone up from the South for so many years, and had
done so much to win the sympathy of the North for the white South and to
alienate it from the colored people. The reputation of the race was
threatened. They must not lynch the negro, and yet, for the credit of
the town, its aristocracy, and the race, the truth of this ghastly story
must not see the light,—at least not yet.
"Mr. Delamere," he exclaimed, "I am shocked and humiliated. The negro
must be saved, of course, but—consider the family honor."
"Tom is no longer a member of my family. I disown him. He has covered
the family name—my name, sir—with infamy. We have no longer a family
honor. I wish never to hear his name spoken again!"
For several minutes Carteret argued with his old friend. Then he went
into the other room and consulted with General Belmont. As a result of
these conferences, and of certain urgent messages sent out, within half
an hour thirty or forty of the leading citizens of Wellington were
gathered in the Morning Chronicle office. Several other curious persons,
observing that there was something in the wind, and supposing correctly
that it referred to the projected event of the evening, crowded in with
those who had been invited.
Carteret was in another room, still arguing with Mr. Delamere. "It's a
mere formality, sir," he was saying suavely, "accompanied by a mental
reservation. We know the facts; but this must be done to justify us, in
the eyes of the mob, in calling them off before they accomplish their
"Carteret," said the old man, in a voice eloquent of the struggle
through which he had passed, "I would not perjure myself to prolong my
own miserable existence another day, but God will forgive a sin
committed to save another's life. Upon your head be it, Carteret, and
not on mine!"
"Gentlemen," said Carteret, entering with Mr. Delamere the room where
the men were gathered, and raising his hand for silence, "the people of
Wellington were on the point of wreaking vengeance upon a negro who was
supposed to have been guilty of a terrible crime. The white men of this
city, impelled by the highest and holiest sentiments, were about to take
steps to defend their hearthstones and maintain the purity and
ascendency of their race. Your purpose sprung from hearts wounded in
their tenderest susceptibilities."
"'Rah, 'rah!" shouted a tipsy sailor, who had edged in with the crowd.
"But this same sense of justice," continued Carteret oratorically,
"which would lead you to visit swift and terrible punishment upon the
guilty, would not permit you to slay an innocent man. Even a negro, as
long as he behaves himself and keeps in his place, is entitled to the
protection of the law. We may be stern and unbending in the punishment
of crime, as befits our masterful race, but we hold the scales of
justice with even and impartial hand."
"'Rah f' 'mpa'tial ban'!" cried the tipsy sailor, who was immediately
ejected with slight ceremony.
"We have discovered, beyond a doubt, that the negro Sandy Campbell, now
in custody, did not commit this robbery and murder, but that it was
perpetrated by some unknown man, who has fled from the city. Our
venerable and distinguished fellow townsman, Mr. Delamere, in whose
employment this Campbell has been for many years, will vouch for his
character, and states, furthermore, that Campbell was with him all last
night, covering any hour at which this crime could have been committed."
"If Mr. Delamere will swear to that," said some one in the crowd, "the
negro should not be lynched."
There were murmurs of dissent. The preparations had all been made. There
would be great disappointment if the lynching did not occur.
"Let Mr. Delamere swear, if he wants to save the nigger," came again
from the crowd.
"Certainly," assented Carteret. "Mr. Delamere can have no possible
objection to taking the oath. Is there a notary public present, or a
justice of the peace?"
A man stepped forward. "I am a justice of the peace," he announced.
"Very well, Mr. Smith," said Carteret, recognizing the speaker. "With
your permission, I will formulate the oath, and Mr. Delamere may repeat
it after me, if he will. I solemnly swear,"—
"I solemnly swear,"—
Mr. Delamere's voice might have come from the tomb, so hollow and
unnatural did it sound.
"So help me God,"—
"So help me God,"—
"That the negro Sandy Campbell, now in jail on the charge of murder,
robbery, and assault, was in my presence last night between the hours of
eight and two o'clock."
Mr. Delamere repeated this statement in a firm voice; but to Ellis, who
was in the secret, his words fell upon the ear like clods dropping upon
the coffin in an open grave.
"I wish to add," said General Belmont, stepping forward, "that it is not
our intention to interfere, by anything which may be done at this
meeting, with the orderly process of the law, or to advise the
prisoner's immediate release. The prisoner will remain in custody, Mr.
Delamere, Major Carteret, and I guaranteeing that he will be proved
entirely innocent at the preliminary hearing to-morrow morning."
Several of those present looked relieved; others were plainly,
disappointed; but when the meeting ended, the news went out that the
lynching had been given up. Carteret immediately wrote and had struck
off a handbill giving a brief statement of the proceedings, and sent out
a dozen boys to distribute copies among the people in the streets. That
no precaution might be omitted, a call was issued to the Wellington
Grays, the crack independent military company of the city, who in an
incredibly short time were on guard at the jail. Thus a slight change
in the point of view had demonstrated the entire ability of the leading
citizens to maintain the dignified and orderly processes of the law
whenever they saw fit to do so.
* * * * *
The night passed without disorder, beyond the somewhat rough handling of
two or three careless negroes that came in the way of small parties of
the disappointed who had sought alcoholic consolation.
At ten o'clock the next morning, a preliminary hearing of the charge
against Campbell was had before a magistrate. Mr. Delamere, perceptibly
older and more wizened than he had seemed the day before, and leaning
heavily on the arm of a servant, repeated his statement of the evening
before. Only one or two witnesses were called, among whom was Mr. Ellis,
who swore positively that in his opinion the prisoner was not the man
whom he had seen and at first supposed to be Campbell. The most
sensational piece of testimony was that of Dr. Price, who had examined
the body, and who swore that the wound in the head was not necessarily
fatal, and might have been due to a fall,—that she had more than likely
died of shock attendant upon the robbery, she being of advanced age and
feeble health. There was no evidence, he said, of any other personal
Sandy was not even bound over to the grand jury, but was discharged upon
the ground that there was not sufficient evidence upon which to hold
him. Upon his release he received the congratulations of many present,
some of whom would cheerfully have done him to death a few hours before.
With the childish fickleness of a mob, they now experienced a
satisfaction almost as great as, though less exciting than, that
attendant upon taking life. We speak of the mysteries of inanimate
nature. The workings of the human heart are the profoundest mystery of
the universe. One moment they make us despair of our kind, and the next
we see in them the reflection of the divine image. Sandy, having thus
escaped from the Mr. Hyde of the mob, now received the benediction of
its Dr. Jekyll. Being no cynical philosopher, and realizing how nearly
the jaws of death had closed upon him, he was profoundly grateful for
his escape, and felt not the slightest desire to investigate or
criticise any man's motives.
With the testimony of Dr. Price, the worst feature of the affair came to
an end. The murder eliminated or rendered doubtful, the crime became a
mere vulgar robbery, the extent of which no one could estimate, since no
living soul knew how much money Mrs. Ochiltree had had in the cedar
chest. The absurdity of the remaining charge became more fully apparent
in the light of the reaction from the excitement of the day before.
Nothing further was ever done about the case; but though the crime went
unpunished, it carried evil in its train. As we have seen, the charge
against Campbell had been made against the whole colored race. All over
the United States the Associated Press had flashed the report of another
dastardly outrage by a burly black brute,—all black brutes it seems are
burly,—and of the impending lynching with its prospective horrors. This
news, being highly sensational in its character, had been displayed in
large black type on the front pages of the daily papers. The dispatch
that followed, to the effect that the accused had been found innocent
and the lynching frustrated, received slight attention, if any, in a
fine-print paragraph on an inside page. The facts of the case never came
out at all. The family honor of the Delameres was preserved, and the
prestige of the white race in Wellington was not seriously impaired.
* * * * *
Upon leaving the preliminary hearing, old Mr. Delamere had requested
General Belmont to call at his house during the day upon professional
business. This the general did in the course of the afternoon.
"Belmont," said Mr. Delamere, "I wish to make my will. I should have
drawn it with my own hand; but you know my motives, and can testify to
my soundness of mind and memory."
He thereupon dictated a will, by the terms of which he left to his
servant, Sandy Campbell, three thousand dollars, as a mark of the
testator's appreciation of services rendered and sufferings endured by
Sandy on behalf of his master. After some minor dispositions, the whole
remainder of the estate was devised to Dr. William Miller, in trust for
the uses of his hospital and training-school for nurses, on condition
that the institution be incorporated and placed under the management of
competent trustees. Tom Delamere was not mentioned in the will.
"There, Belmont," he said, "that load is off my mind. Now, if you will
call in some witnesses,—most of my people can write,—I shall feel
entirely at ease."
The will was signed by Mr. Delamere, and witnessed by Jeff and Billy,
two servants in the house, neither of whom received any information as
to its contents, beyond the statement that they were witnessing their
master's will. "I wish to leave that with you for safe keeping,
Belmont," said Mr. Delamere, after the witnesses had retired. "Lock it
up in your safe until I die, which will not be very long, since I have
no further desire to live."
An hour later Mr. Delamere suffered a third paralytic stroke, from which
he died two days afterwards, without having in the meantime recovered
the power of speech.
The will was never produced. The servants stated, and General Belmont
admitted, that Mr. Delamere had made a will a few days before his death;
but since it was not discoverable, it seemed probable that the testator
had destroyed it. This was all the more likely, the general was inclined
to think, because the will had been of a most unusual character. What
the contents of the will were, he of course did not state, it having
been made under the seal of professional secrecy.
This suppression was justified by the usual race argument: Miller's
hospital was already well established, and, like most negro
institutions, could no doubt rely upon Northern philanthropy for any
further support it might need. Mr. Delamere's property belonged of right
to the white race, and by the higher law should remain in the possession
of white people. Loyalty to one's race was a more sacred principle than
deference to a weak old man's whims.
Having reached this conclusion, General Belmont's first impulse was to
destroy the will; on second thoughts he locked it carefully away in his
safe. He would hold it awhile. It might some time be advisable to talk
the matter over with young Delamere, who was of a fickle disposition and
might wish to change his legal adviser.
IN SEASON AND OUT
Wellington soon resumed its wonted calm, and in a few weeks the intended
lynching was only a memory. The robbery and assault, however, still
remained a mystery to all but a chosen few. The affair had been dropped
as absolutely as though it had never occurred. No colored man ever
learned the reason of this sudden change of front, and Sandy Campbell's
loyalty to his old employer's memory kept him silent. Tom Delamere did
not offer to retain Sandy in his service, though he presented him with
most of the old gentleman's wardrobe. It is only justice to Tom to state
that up to this time he had not been informed of the contents of his
grandfather's latest will. Major Carteret gave Sandy employment as
butler, thus making a sort of vicarious atonement, on the part of the
white race, of which the major felt himself in a way the embodiment, for
the risk to which Sandy had been subjected.
Shortly after these events Sandy was restored to the bosom of the
church, and, enfolded by its sheltering arms, was no longer tempted to
stray from the path of rectitude, but became even a more rigid Methodist
than before his recent troubles.
Tom Delamere did not call upon Clara again in the character of a lover.
Of course they could not help meeting, from time to time, but he never
dared presume upon their former relations. Indeed, the social
atmosphere of Wellington remained so frigid toward Delamere that he left
town, and did not return for several months.
Ellis was aware that Delamere had been thrown over, but a certain
delicacy restrained him from following up immediately the advantage
which the absence of his former rival gave him. It seemed to him, with
the quixotry of a clean, pure mind, that Clara would pass through a
period of mourning for her lost illusion, and that it would be
indelicate, for the time being, to approach her with a lover's
attentions. The work of the office had been unusually heavy of late. The
major, deeply absorbed in politics, left the detail work of the paper to
Ellis. Into the intimate counsels of the revolutionary committee Ellis
had not been admitted, nor would he have desired to be. He knew, of
course, in a general way, the results that it was sought to achieve; and
while he did not see their necessity, he deferred to the views of older
men, and was satisfied to remain in ignorance of anything which he might
disapprove. Moreover, his own personal affairs occupied his mind to an
extent that made politics or any other subject a matter of minor
As for Dr. Miller, he never learned of Mr. Delamere's good intentions
toward his institution, but regretted the old gentleman's death as the
loss of a sincere friend and well-wisher of his race in their unequal
Despite the untiring zeal of Carteret and his associates, the campaign
for the restriction of the suffrage, which was to form the basis of a
permanent white supremacy, had seemed to languish for a while after the
Ochiltree affair. The lull, however, was only temporary, and more
apparent than real, for the forces adverse to the negro were merely
gathering strength for a more vigorous assault. While little was said in
Wellington, public sentiment all over the country became every day more
favorable to the views of the conspirators. The nation was rushing
forward with giant strides toward colossal wealth and world-dominion,
before the exigencies of which mere abstract ethical theories must not
be permitted to stand. The same argument that justified the conquest of
an inferior nation could not be denied to those who sought the
suppression of an inferior race. In the South, an obscure jealousy of
the negro's progress, an obscure fear of the very equality so
contemptuously denied, furnished a rich soil for successful agitation.
Statistics of crime, ingeniously manipulated, were made to present a
fearful showing against the negro. Vital statistics were made to prove
that he had degenerated from an imaginary standard of physical
excellence which had existed under the benign influence of slavery.
Constant lynchings emphasized his impotence, and bred everywhere a
growing contempt for his rights.
At the North, a new Pharaoh had risen, who knew not Israel,—a new
generation, who knew little of the fierce passions which had played
around the negro in a past epoch, and derived their opinions of him from
the "coon song" and the police reports. Those of his old friends who
survived were disappointed that he had not flown with clipped wings;
that he had not in one generation of limited opportunity attained the
level of the whites. The whole race question seemed to have reached a
sort of impasse, a blind alley, of which no one could see the outlet.
The negro had become a target at which any one might try a shot.
Schoolboys gravely debated the question as to whether or not the negro
should exercise the franchise. The pessimist gave him up in despair;
while the optimist, smilingly confident that everything would come out
all right in the end, also turned aside and went his buoyant way to more
For a time there were white men in the state who opposed any reactionary
step unless it were of general application. They were conscientious men,
who had learned the ten commandments and wished to do right; but this
class was a small minority, and their objections were soon silenced by
the all-powerful race argument. Selfishness is the most constant of
human motives. Patriotism, humanity, or the love of God may lead to
sporadic outbursts which sweep away the heaped-up wrongs of centuries;
but they languish at times, while the love of self works on ceaselessly,
unwearyingly, burrowing always at the very roots of life, and heaping up
fresh wrongs for other centuries to sweep away. The state was at the
mercy of venal and self-seeking politicians, bent upon regaining their
ascendency at any cost, stultifying their own minds by vague sophistries
and high-sounding phrases, which deceived none but those who wished to
be deceived, and these but imperfectly; and dulling the public
conscience by a loud clamor in which the calm voice of truth was for the
moment silenced. So the cause went on.
Carteret, as spokesman of the campaign, and sincerest of all its
leaders, performed prodigies of labor. The Morning Chronicle proclaimed,
in season and out, the doctrine of "White Supremacy." Leaving the paper
in charge of Ellis, the major made a tour of the state, rousing the
white people of the better class to an appreciation of the terrible
danger which confronted them in the possibility that a few negroes might
hold a few offices or dictate the terms upon which white men should fill
them. Difficulties were explained away. The provisions of the Federal
Constitution, it was maintained, must yield to the "higher law," and if
the Constitution could neither be altered nor bent to this end, means
must be found to circumvent it.
The device finally hit upon for disfranchising the colored people in
this particular state was the notorious "grandfather clause." After
providing various restrictions of the suffrage, based upon education,
character, and property, which it was deemed would in effect
disfranchise the colored race, an exception was made in favor of all
citizens whose fathers or grandfathers had been entitled to vote prior
to 1867. Since none but white men could vote prior to 1867, this
exception obviously took in the poor and ignorant whites, while the same
class of negroes were excluded.
It was ingenious, but it was not fair. In due time a constitutional
convention was called, in which the above scheme was adopted and
submitted to a vote of the people for ratification. The campaign was
fought on the color line. Many white Republicans, deluded with the hope
that by the elimination of the negro vote their party might receive
accessions from the Democratic ranks, went over to the white party. By
fraud in one place, by terrorism in another, and everywhere by the
resistless moral force of the united whites, the negroes were reduced to
the apathy of despair, their few white allies demoralized, and the
amendment adopted by a large majority. The negroes were taught that
this is a white man's country, and that the sooner they made up their
minds to this fact, the better for all concerned. The white people would
be good to them so long as they behaved themselves and kept their place.
As theoretical equals,—practical equality being forever out of the
question, either by nature or by law,—there could have been nothing but
strife between them, in which the weaker party would invariably have
Some colored men accepted the situation thus outlined, if not as
desirable, at least as inevitable. Most of them, however, had little
faith in this condescending friendliness which was to take the place of
constitutional rights. They knew they had been treated unfairly; that
their enemies had prevailed against them; that their whilom friends had
stood passively by and seen them undone. Many of the most enterprising
and progressive left the state, and those who remain still labor under a
sense of wrong and outrage which renders them distinctly less valuable
The great steal was made, but the thieves did not turn honest,—the
scheme still shows the mark of the burglar's tools. Sins, like chickens,
come home to roost. The South paid a fearful price for the wrong of
negro slavery; in some form or other it will doubtless reap the fruits
of this later iniquity.
Drastic as were these "reforms," the results of which we have
anticipated somewhat, since the new Constitution was not to take effect
immediately, they moved all too slowly for the little coterie of
Wellington conspirators, whose ambitions and needs urged them to prompt
action. Under the new Constitution it would be two full years before the
"nigger amendment" became effective, and meanwhile the Wellington
district would remain hopelessly Republican. The committee decided,
about two months before the fall election, that an active local campaign
must be carried on, with a view to discourage the negroes from attending
the polls on election day.
The question came up for discussion one forenoon in a meeting at the
office of the Morning Chronicle, at which all of the "Big Three" were
"Something must be done," declared McBane, "and that damn quick. Too
many white people are saying that it will be better to wait until the
amendment goes into effect. That would mean to leave the niggers in
charge of this town for two years after the state has declared for white
supremacy! I'm opposed to leaving it in their hands one hour,—them's
This proved to be the general opinion, and the discussion turned to the
subject of ways and means.
"What became of that editorial in the nigger paper?" inquired the
general in his blandest tones, cleverly directing a smoke ring toward
the ceiling. "It lost some of its point back there, when we came near
lynching that nigger; but now that that has blown over, why wouldn't it
be a good thing to bring into play at the present juncture? Let's read
it over again."
Carteret extracted the paper from the pigeon-hole where he had placed it
some months before. The article was read aloud with emphasis and
discussed phrase by phrase. Of its wording there could be little
criticism,—it was temperately and even cautiously phrased. As
suggested by the general, the Ochiltree affair had proved that it was
not devoid of truth. Its great offensiveness lay in its boldness: that a
negro should publish in a newspaper what white people would scarcely
acknowledge to themselves in secret was much as though a Russian
moujik or a German peasant should rush into print to question the
divine right of the Lord's Anointed. The article was racial
lèse-majesté in the most aggravated form. A peg was needed upon which
to hang a coup d'état, and this editorial offered the requisite
opportunity. It was unanimously decided to republish the obnoxious
article, with comment adapted to fire the inflammable Southern heart and
rouse it against any further self-assertion of the negroes in politics
"The time is ripe!" exclaimed McBane. "In a month we can have the
niggers so scared that they won't dare stick their heads out of doors on
"I wonder," observed the general thoughtfully, after this conclusion had
been reached, "if we couldn't have Jerry fetch us some liquor?"
Jerry appeared in response to the usual summons. The general gave him
the money, and ordered three Calhoun cocktails. When Jerry returned with
the glasses on a tray, the general observed him with pointed curiosity.
"What, in h—ll is the matter with you, Jerry? Your black face is
splotched with brown and yellow patches, and your hair shines as though
you had fallen head-foremost into a firkin of butter. What's the matter
Jerry seemed much embarrassed by this inquiry.
"Nothin', suh, nothin'," he stammered. "It's—it's jes' somethin' I
be'n puttin' on my hair, suh, ter improve de quality, suh."
"Jerry," returned the general, bending a solemn look upon the porter,
"you have been playing with edged tools, and your days are numbered. You
have been reading the Afro-American Banner."
He shook open the paper, which he had retained in his hand, and read
from one of the advertisements:—
"'Kinky, curly hair made straight in two applications. Dark skins
lightened two shades; mulattoes turned perfectly white.'
"This stuff is rank poison, Jerry," continued the general with a mock
solemnity which did not impose upon Jerry, who nevertheless listened
with an air of great alarm. He suspected that the general was making fun
of him; but he also knew that the general would like to think that Jerry
believed him in earnest; and to please the white folks was Jerry's
consistent aim in life. "I can see the signs of decay in your face, and
your hair will all fall out in a week or two at the latest,—mark my
McBane had listened to this pleasantry with a sardonic sneer. It was a
waste of valuable time. To Carteret it seemed in doubtful taste. These
grotesque advertisements had their tragic side. They were proof that the
negroes had read the handwriting on the wall. These pitiful attempts to
change their physical characteristics were an acknowledgment, on their
own part, that the negro was doomed, and that the white man was to
inherit the earth and hold all other races under his heel. For, as the
months had passed, Carteret's thoughts, centring more and more upon the
negro, had led him farther and farther, until now he was firmly
convinced that there was no permanent place for the negro in the United
States, if indeed anywhere in the world, except under the ground. More
pathetic even than Jerry's efforts to escape from the universal doom of
his race was his ignorance that even if he could, by some strange
alchemy, bleach his skin and straighten his hair, there would still
remain, underneath it all, only the unbleached darky,—the ass in the
When the general had finished his facetious lecture, Jerry backed out of
the room shamefacedly, though affecting a greater confusion than he
really felt. Jerry had not reasoned so closely as Carteret, but he had
realized that it was a distinct advantage to be white,—an advantage
which white people had utilized to secure all the best things in the
world; and he had entertained the vague hope that by changing his
complexion he might share this prerogative. While he suspected the
general's sincerity, he nevertheless felt a little apprehensive lest the
general's prediction about the effects of the face-bleach and other
preparations might prove true,—the general was a white gentleman and
ought to know,—and decided to abandon their use.
This purpose was strengthened by his next interview with the major. When
Carteret summoned him, an hour later, after the other gentlemen had
taken their leave, Jerry had washed his head thoroughly and there
remained no trace of the pomade. An attempt to darken the lighter spots
in his cuticle by the application of printer's ink had not proved
equally successful,—the retouching left the spots as much too dark as
they had formerly been too light.
"Jerry," said Carteret sternly, "when I hired you to work for the
Chronicle, you were black. The word 'negro' means 'black.' The best
negro is a black negro, of the pure type, as it came from the hand of
God. If you wish to get along well with the white people, the blacker
you are the better,—white people do not like negroes who want to be
white. A man should be content to remain as God made him and where God
placed him. So no more of this nonsense. Are you going to vote at the
"What would you 'vise me ter do, suh?" asked Jerry cautiously.
"I do not advise you. You ought to have sense enough to see where your
own interests lie. I put it to you whether you cannot trust yourself
more safely in the hands of white gentlemen, who are your true friends,
than in the hands of ignorant and purchasable negroes and unscrupulous
"Dere's no doubt about it, suh," assented Jerry, with a vehemence
proportioned to his desire to get back into favor. "I ain' gwine ter
have nothin' ter do wid de 'lection, suh! Ef I don' vote, I kin keep my
job, can't I, suh?"
The major eyed Jerry with an air of supreme disgust. What could be
expected of a race so utterly devoid of tact? It seemed as though this
negro thought a white gentleman might want to bribe him to remain away
from the polls; and the negro's willingness to accept the imaginary
bribe demonstrated the venal nature of the colored race,—its entire
lack of moral principle!
"You will retain your place, Jerry," he said severely, "so long as you
perform your duties to my satisfaction and behave yourself properly."
With this grandiloquent subterfuge Carteret turned to his next article
on white supremacy. Jerry did not delude himself with any fine-spun
sophistry. He knew perfectly well that he held his job upon the
condition that he stayed away from the polls at the approaching
election. Jerry was a fool—
"The world of fools hath such a store,
That he who would not see an ass,
Must stay at home and shut his door
And break his looking-glass."
But while no one may be entirely wise, there are degrees of folly, and
Jerry was not all kinds of a fool.
MUTTERINGS OF THE STORM
Events moved rapidly during the next few days. The reproduction, in the
Chronicle, of the article from the Afro-American Banner, with Carteret's
inflammatory comment, took immediate effect. It touched the Southern
white man in his most sensitive spot. To him such an article was an
insult to white womanhood, and must be resented by some active
steps,—mere words would be no answer at all. To meet words with words
upon such a subject would be to acknowledge the equality of the negro
and his right to discuss or criticise the conduct of the white people.
The colored people became alarmed at the murmurings of the whites, which
seemed to presage a coming storm. A number of them sought to arm
themselves, but ascertained, upon inquiring at the stores, that no white
merchant would sell a negro firearms. Since all the dealers in this sort
of merchandise were white men, the negroes had to be satisfied with
oiling up the old army muskets which some of them possessed, and the few
revolvers with which a small rowdy element generally managed to keep
themselves supplied. Upon an effort being made to purchase firearms from
a Northern city, the express company, controlled by local men, refused
to accept the consignment. The white people, on the other hand, procured
both arms and ammunition in large quantities, and the Wellington Grays
drilled with great assiduity at their armory.
All this went on without any public disturbance of the town's
tranquillity. A stranger would have seen nothing to excite his
curiosity. The white people did their talking among themselves, and
merely grew more distant in their manner toward the colored folks, who
instinctively closed their ranks as the whites drew away. With each day
that passed the feeling grew more tense. The editor of the Afro-American
Banner, whose office had been quietly garrisoned for several nights by
armed negroes, became frightened, and disappeared from the town between
The conspirators were jubilant at the complete success of their plans.
It only remained for them to so direct this aroused public feeling that
it might completely accomplish the desired end,—to change the political
complexion of the city government and assure the ascendency of the
whites until the amendment should go into effect. A revolution, and not
a riot, was contemplated.
With this end in view, another meeting was called at Carteret's office.
"We are now ready," announced General Belmont, "for the final act of
this drama. We must decide promptly, or events may run away from us."
"What do you suggest?" asked Carteret.
"Down in the American tropics," continued the general, "they have a way
of doing things. I was in Nicaragua, ten years ago, when Paterno's
revolution drove out Igorroto's government. It was as easy as falling
off a log. Paterno had the arms and the best men. Igorroto was not
looking for trouble, and the guns were at his breast before he knew it.
We have the guns. The negroes are not expecting trouble, and are easy
to manage compared with the fiery mixture that flourishes in the
"I should not advocate murder," returned Carteret. "We are animated by
high and holy principles. We wish to right a wrong, to remedy an abuse,
to save our state from anarchy and our race from humiliation. I don't
object to frightening the negroes, but I am opposed to unnecessary
"I'm not quite so particular," struck in McBane. "They need to be
taught a lesson, and a nigger more or less wouldn't be missed. There's
too many of 'em now."
"Of course," continued Carteret, "if we should decide upon a certain
mode of procedure, and the negroes should resist, a different reasoning
might apply; but I will have no premeditated murder."
"In Central and South America," observed the general reflectively, "none
are hurt except those who get in the way."
"There'll be no niggers hurt," said McBane contemptuously, "unless they
strain themselves running. One white man can chase a hundred of 'em.
I've managed five hundred at a time. I'll pay for burying all the
niggers that are killed."
The conference resulted in a well-defined plan, to be put into operation
the following day, by which the city government was to be wrested from
the Republicans and their negro allies.
"And now," said General Belmont, "while we are cleansing the Augean
stables, we may as well remove the cause as the effect. There are
several negroes too many in this town, which will be much the better
without them. There's that yellow lawyer, Watson. He's altogether too
mouthy, and has too much business. Every nigger that gets into trouble
sends for Watson, and white lawyers, with families to support and social
positions to keep up, are deprived of their legitimate source of
"There's that damn nigger real estate agent," blurted out McBane. "Billy
Kitchen used to get most of the nigger business, but this darky has
almost driven him to the poorhouse. A white business man is entitled to
a living in his own profession and his own home. That nigger don't
belong here nohow. He came from the North a year or two ago, and is hand
in glove with Barber, the nigger editor, which is enough of itself to
damn him. He'll have to go!"
"How about the collector of the port?"
"We'd better not touch him. It would bring the government down upon us,
which we want to avoid. We don't need to worry about the nigger
preachers either. They want to stay here, where the loaves and the
fishes are. We can make 'em write letters to the newspapers justifying
our course, as a condition of their remaining."
"What about Billings?" asked McBane. Billings was the white Republican
mayor. "Is that skunk to be allowed to stay in town?"
"No," returned the general, "every white Republican office-holder ought
to be made to go. This town is only big enough for Democrats, and
negroes who can be taught to keep their place."
"What about the colored doctor," queried McBane, "with the hospital, and
the diamond ring, and the carriage, and the other fallals?"
"I shouldn't interfere with Miller," replied the general decisively.
"He's a very good sort of a negro, doesn't meddle with politics, nor
tread on any one else's toes. His father was a good citizen, which
counts in his favor. He's spending money in the community too, and
contributes to its prosperity."
"That sort of nigger, though, sets a bad example," retorted McBane.
"They make it all the harder to keep the rest of 'em down."
"'One swallow does not make a summer,'" quoted the general. "When we get
things arranged, there'll be no trouble. A stream cannot rise higher
than its fountain, and a smart nigger without a constituency will no
longer be an object of fear. I say, let the doctor alone."
"He'll have to keep mighty quiet, though," muttered McBane
discontentedly. "I don't like smart niggers. I've had to shoot several
of them, in the course of my life."
"Personally, I dislike the man," interposed Carteret, "and if I
consulted my own inclinations, would say expel him with the rest; but my
grievance is a personal one, and to gratify it in that way would be a
loss to the community. I wish to be strictly impartial in this matter,
and to take no step which cannot be entirely justified by a wise regard
for the public welfare."
"What's the use of all this hypocrisy, gentlemen?" sneered McBane.
"Every last one of us has an axe to grind! The major may as well put an
edge on his. We'll never get a better chance to have things our way. If
this nigger doctor annoys the major, we'll run him out with the rest.
This is a white man's country, and a white man's city, and no nigger has
any business here when a white man wants him gone!"
Carteret frowned darkly at this brutal characterization of their
motives. It robbed the enterprise of all its poetry, and put a solemn
act of revolution upon the plane of a mere vulgar theft of power. Even
the general winced.
"I would not consent," he said irritably, "to Miller's being disturbed."
McBane made no further objection.
There was a discreet knock at the door.
"Come in," said Carteret.
Jerry entered. "Mistuh Ellis wants ter speak ter you a minute, suh," he
Carteret excused himself and left the room.
"Jerry," said the general, "you lump of ebony, the sight of you reminds
me! If your master doesn't want you for a minute, step across to Mr.
Brown's and tell him to send me three cocktails."
"Yas, suh," responded Jerry, hesitating. The general had said nothing
"And tell him, Jerry, to charge them. I'm short of change to-day."
"Yas, suh; yas, suh," replied Jerry, as he backed out of the presence,
adding, when he had reached the hall: "Dere ain' no change fer Jerry dis
time, sho': I'll jes' make dat fo' cocktails, an' de gin'l won't
never know de diffe'nce. I ain' gwine 'cross de road fer nothin', not ef
I knows it."
Half an hour later, the conspirators dispersed. They had fixed the hour
of the proposed revolution, the course to be pursued, the results to be
obtained; but in stating their equation they had overlooked one
factor,—God, or Fate, or whatever one may choose to call the Power that
holds the destinies of man in the hollow of his hand.
THE MISSING PAPERS
Mrs. Carteret was very much disturbed. It was supposed that the shock of
her aunt's death had affected her health, for since that event she had
fallen into a nervous condition which gave the major grave concern. Much
to the general surprise, Mrs. Ochiltree had left no will, and no
property of any considerable value except her homestead, which descended
to Mrs. Carteret as the natural heir. Whatever she may have had on hand
in the way of ready money had undoubtedly been abstracted from the cedar
chest by the midnight marauder, to whose visit her death was immediately
due. Her niece's grief was held to mark a deep-seated affection for the
grim old woman who had reared her.
Mrs. Carteret's present state of mind, of which her nervousness was a
sufficiently accurate reflection, did in truth date from her aunt's
death, and also in part from the time of the conversation with Mrs.
Ochiltree, one afternoon, during and after the drive past Miller's new
hospital. Mrs. Ochiltree had grown steadily more and more childish after
that time, and her niece had never succeeded in making her pick up the
thread of thought where it had been dropped. At any rate, Mrs. Ochiltree
had made no further disclosure upon the subject.
An examination, not long after her aunt's death, of the papers found
near the cedar chest on the morning after the murder had contributed to
Mrs. Carteret's enlightenment, but had not promoted her peace of mind.
When Mrs. Carteret reached home, after her hurried exploration of the
cedar chest, she thrust into a bureau drawer the envelope she had found.
So fully was her mind occupied, for several days, with the funeral, and
with the excitement attending the arrest of Sandy Campbell, that she
deferred the examination of the contents of the envelope until near the
end of the week.
One morning, while alone in her chamber, she drew the envelope from the
drawer, and was holding it in her hand, hesitating as to whether or not
she should open it, when the baby in the next room began to cry.
The child's cry seemed like a warning, and yielding to a vague
uneasiness, she put the paper back.
"Phil," she said to her husband at luncheon, "Aunt Polly said some
strange things to me one day before she died,—I don't know whether she
was quite in her right mind or not; but suppose that my father had left
a will by which it was provided that half his property should go to that
woman and her child?"
"It would never have gone by such a will," replied the major easily.
"Your Aunt Polly was in her dotage, and merely dreaming. Your father
would never have been such a fool; but even if he had, no such will
could have stood the test of the courts. It would clearly have been due
to the improper influence of a designing woman."
"So that legally, as well as morally," said Mrs. Carteret, "the will
would have been of no effect?"
"Not the slightest. A jury would soon have broken down the legal claim.
As for any moral obligation, there would have been nothing moral about
the affair. The only possible consideration for such a gift was an
immoral one. I don't wish to speak harshly of your father, my dear,
but his conduct was gravely reprehensible. The woman herself had no
right or claim whatever; she would have been whipped and expelled from
the town, if justice—blind, bleeding justice, then prostrate at the
feet of slaves and aliens—could have had her way!"
"But the child"—
"The child was in the same category. Who was she, to have inherited the
estate of your ancestors, of which, a few years before, she would
herself have formed a part? The child of shame, it was hers to pay the
penalty. But the discussion is all in the air, Olivia. Your father never
did and never would have left such a will."
This conversation relieved Mrs. Carteret's uneasiness. Going to her room
shortly afterwards, she took the envelope from her bureau drawer and
drew out a bulky paper. The haunting fear that it might be such a will
as her aunt had suggested was now removed; for such an instrument, in
the light of what her husband had said confirming her own intuitions,
would be of no valid effect. It might be just as well, she thought, to
throw the paper in the fire without looking at it. She wished to think
as well as might be of her father, and she felt that her respect for his
memory would not be strengthened by the knowledge that he had meant to
leave his estate away from her; for her aunt's words had been open to
the construction that she was to have been left destitute. Curiosity
strongly prompted her to read the paper. Perhaps the will contained no
such provision as she had feared, and it might convey some request or
direction which ought properly to be complied with.
She had been standing in front of the bureau while these thoughts passed
through her mind, and now, dropping the envelope back into the drawer
mechanically, she unfolded the document. It was written on legal paper,
in her father's own hand.
Mrs. Carteret was not familiar with legal verbiage, and there were
several expressions of which she did not perhaps appreciate the full
effect; but a very hasty glance enabled her to ascertain the purport of
the paper. It was a will, by which, in one item, her father devised to
his daughter Janet, the child of the woman known as Julia Brown, the sum
of ten thousand dollars, and a certain plantation or tract of land a
short distance from the town of Wellington. The rest and residue of his
estate, after deducting all legal charges and expenses, was bequeathed
to his beloved daughter, Olivia Merkell.
Mrs. Carteret breathed a sigh of relief. Her father had not preferred
another to her, but had left to his lawful daughter the bulk of his
estate. She felt at the same time a growing indignation at the thought
that that woman should so have wrought upon her father's weakness as to
induce him to think of leaving so much valuable property to her
bastard,—property which by right should go, and now would go, to her
own son, to whom by every rule of law and decency it ought to descend.
A fire was burning in the next room, on account of the baby,—there had
been a light frost the night before, and the air was somewhat chilly.
For the moment the room was empty. Mrs. Carteret came out from her
chamber and threw the offending paper into the fire, and watched it
slowly burn. When it had been consumed, the carbon residue of one sheet
still retained its form, and she could read the words on the charred
portion. A sentence, which had escaped her eye in her rapid reading,
stood out in ghostly black upon the gray background:—
"All the rest and residue of my estate I devise and bequeath to my
daughter Olivia Merkell, the child of my beloved first wife."
Mrs. Carteret had not before observed the word "first." Instinctively
she stretched toward the fire the poker which she held in her hand, and
at its touch the shadowy remnant fell to pieces, and nothing but ashes
remained upon the hearth.
Not until the next morning did she think again of the envelope which had
contained the paper she had burned. Opening the drawer where it lay, the
oblong blue envelope confronted her. The sight of it was distasteful.
The indorsed side lay uppermost, and the words seemed like a mute
"The Last Will and Testament of Samuel Merkell."
Snatching up the envelope, she glanced into it mechanically as she moved
toward the next room, and perceived a thin folded paper which had
heretofore escaped her notice. When opened, it proved to be a
certificate of marriage, in due form, between Samuel Merkell and Julia
Brown. It was dated from a county in South Carolina, about two years
before her father's death.
For a moment Mrs. Carteret stood gazing blankly at this faded slip of
paper. Her father had married this woman!—at least he had gone
through the form of marriage with her, for to him it had surely been no
more than an empty formality. The marriage of white and colored persons
was forbidden by law. Only recently she had read of a case where both
the parties to such a crime, a colored man and a white woman, had been
sentenced to long terms in the penitentiary. She even recalled the
circumstances. The couple had been living together unlawfully,—they
were very low people, whose private lives were beneath the public
notice,—but influenced by a religious movement pervading the community,
had sought, they said at the trial, to secure the blessing of God upon
their union. The higher law, which imperiously demanded that the purity
and prestige of the white race be preserved at any cost, had intervened
at this point.
Mechanically she moved toward the fireplace, so dazed by this discovery
as to be scarcely conscious of her own actions. She surely had not
formed any definite intention of destroying this piece of paper when her
fingers relaxed unconsciously and let go their hold upon it. The draught
swept it toward the fireplace. Ere scarcely touching the flames it
caught, blazed fiercely, and shot upward with the current of air. A
moment later the record of poor Julia's marriage was scattered to the
four winds of heaven, as her poor body had long since mingled with the
dust of earth.
The letter remained unread. In her agitation at the discovery of the
marriage certificate, Olivia had almost forgotten the existence of the
letter. It was addressed to "John Delamere, Esq., as Executor of my Last
Will and Testament," while the lower left hand corner bore the
direction: "To be delivered only after my death, with seal unbroken."
The seal was broken already; Mr. Delamere was dead; the letter could
never be delivered. Mrs. Carteret unfolded it and read:—
MY DEAR DELAMERE,—I have taken the liberty of naming you as executor of
my last will, because you are my friend, and the only man of my
acquaintance whom I feel that I can trust to carry out my wishes,
appreciate my motives, and preserve the silence I desire.
I have, first, a confession to make. Inclosed in this letter you will
find a certificate of marriage between my child Janet's mother and
myself. While I have never exactly repented of this marriage, I have
never had the courage to acknowledge it openly. If I had not married
Julia, I fear Polly Ochiltree would have married me by main force,—as
she would marry you or any other gentleman unfortunate enough to fall in
the way of this twice-widowed man-hunter. When my wife died, three years
ago, her sister Polly offered to keep house for me and the child. I
would sooner have had the devil in the house, and yet I trembled with
alarm,—there seemed no way of escape,—it was so clearly and obviously
the proper thing.
But she herself gave me my opportunity. I was on the point of
consenting, when she demanded, as a condition of her coming, that I
discharge Julia, my late wife's maid. She was laboring under a
misapprehension in regard to the girl, but I grasped at the straw, and
did everything to foster her delusion. I declared solemnly that nothing
under heaven would induce me to part with Julia. The controversy
resulted in my permitting Polly to take the child, while I retained the
Before Polly put this idea into my head, I had scarcely looked at Julia,
but this outbreak turned my attention toward her. She was a handsome
girl, and, as I soon found out, a good girl. My wife, who raised her,
was a Christian woman, and had taught her modesty and virtue. She was
free. The air was full of liberty, and equal rights, and all the
abolition claptrap, and she made marriage a condition of her remaining
longer in the house. In a moment of weakness I took her away to a place
where we were not known, and married her. If she had left me, I should
have fallen a victim to Polly Ochiltree,—to which any fate was
And then, old friend, my weakness kept to the fore. I was ashamed of
this marriage, and my new wife saw it. Moreover, she loved me,—too
well, indeed, to wish to make me unhappy. The ceremony had satisfied her
conscience, had set her right, she said, with God; for the opinions of
men she did not care, since I loved her,—she only wanted to compensate
me, as best she could, for the great honor I had done my
handmaiden,—for she had read her Bible, and I was the Abraham to her
Hagar, compared with whom she considered herself at a great advantage.
It was her own proposition that nothing be said of this marriage. If any
shame should fall on her, it would fall lightly, for it would be
undeserved. When the child came, she still kept silence. No one, she
argued, could blame an innocent child for the accident of birth, and in
the sight of God this child had every right to exist; while among her
own people illegitimacy would involve but little stigma. I need not
say that I was easily persuaded to accept this sacrifice; but touched by
her fidelity, I swore to provide handsomely for them both. This I have
tried to do by the will of which I ask you to act as executor. Had I
left the child more, it might serve as a ground for attacking the will;
my acknowledgment of the tie of blood is sufficient to justify a
I have taken this course for the sake of my daughter Olivia, who is dear
to me, and whom I would not wish to make ashamed; and in deference to
public opinion, which it is not easy to defy. If, after my death, Julia
should choose to make our secret known, I shall of course be beyond the
reach of hard words; but loyalty to my memory will probably keep her
silent. A strong man would long since have acknowledged her before the
world and taken the consequences; but, alas! I am only myself, and the
atmosphere I live in does not encourage moral heroism. I should like to
be different, but it is God who hath made us, and not we ourselves!
Nevertheless, old friend, I will ask of you one favor. If in the future
this child of Julia's and of mine should grow to womanhood; if she
should prove to have her mother's gentleness and love of virtue; if, in
the new era which is opening up for her mother's race, to which,
unfortunately, she must belong, she should become, in time, an educated
woman; and if the time should ever come when, by virtue of her education
or the development of her people, it would be to her a source of shame
or unhappiness that she was an illegitimate child,—if you are still
alive, old friend, and have the means of knowing or divining this thing,
go to her and tell her, for me, that she is my lawful child, and ask
her to forgive her father's weakness.
When this letter comes to you, I shall have passed to—the Beyond; but I
am confident that you will accept this trust, for which I thank you now,
in advance, most heartily.
The letter was signed with her father's name, the same signature which
had been attached to the will.
Having firmly convinced herself of the illegality of the papers, and of
her own right to destroy them, Mrs. Carteret ought to have felt relieved
that she had thus removed all traces of her dead father's folly. True,
the other daughter remained,—she had seen her on the street only the
day before. The sight of this person she had always found offensive, and
now, she felt, in view of what she had just learned, it must be even
more so. Never, while this woman lived in the town, would she be able to
throw the veil of forgetfulness over this blot upon her father's memory.
As the day wore on, Mrs. Carteret grew still less at ease. To herself,
marriage was a serious thing,—to a right-thinking woman the most
serious concern of life. A marriage certificate, rightfully procured,
was scarcely less solemn, so far as it went, than the Bible itself. Her
own she cherished as the apple of her eye. It was the evidence of her
wifehood, the seal of her child's legitimacy, her patent of
nobility,—the token of her own and her child's claim to social place
and consideration. She had burned this pretended marriage certificate
because it meant nothing. Nevertheless, she could not ignore the
knowledge of another such marriage, of which every one in the town
knew,—a celebrated case, indeed, where a white man, of a family quite
as prominent as her father's, had married a colored woman during the
military occupation of the state just after the civil war. The legality
of the marriage had never been questioned. It had been fully consummated
by twenty years of subsequent cohabitation. No amount of social
persecution had ever shaken the position of the husband. With an iron
will he had stayed on in the town, a living protest against the
established customs of the South, so rudely interrupted for a few short
years; and, though his children were negroes, though he had never
appeared in public with his wife, no one had ever questioned the
validity of his marriage or the legitimacy of his offspring.
The marriage certificate which Mrs. Carteret had burned dated from the
period of the military occupation. Hence Mrs. Carteret, who was a good
woman, and would not have done a dishonest thing, felt decidedly
uncomfortable. She had destroyed the marriage certificate, but its ghost
still haunted her.
Major Carteret, having just eaten a good dinner, was in a very agreeable
humor when, that same evening, his wife brought up again the subject of
their previous discussion.
"Phil," she asked, "Aunt Polly told me that once, long before my father
died, when she went to remonstrate with him for keeping that Woman in
the house, he threatened to marry Julia if Aunt Polly ever said another
word to him about the matter. Suppose he had married her, and had then
left a will,—would the marriage have made any difference, so far as the
will was concerned?"
Major Carteret laughed. "Your Aunt Polly," he said, "was a remarkable
woman, with a wonderful imagination, which seems to have grown more
vivid as her memory and judgment weakened. Why should your father marry
his negro housemaid? Mr. Merkell was never rated as a fool,—he had one
of the clearest heads in Wellington. I saw him only a day or two before
he died, and I could swear before any court in Christendom that he was
of sound mind and memory to the last. These notions of your aunt were
mere delusions. Your father was never capable of such a folly."
"Of course I am only supposing a case," returned Olivia. "Imagining such
a case, just for the argument, would the marriage have been legal?"
"That would depend. If he had married her during the military
occupation, or over in South Carolina, the marriage would have been
legally valid, though morally and socially outrageous."
"And if he had died afterwards, leaving a will?"
"The will would have controlled the disposition of his estate, in all
"Suppose he had left no will?"
"You are getting the matter down pretty fine, my dear! The woman would
have taken one third of the real estate for life, and could have lived
in the homestead until she died. She would also have had half the other
property,—the money and goods and furniture, everything except the
land,—and the negro child would have shared with you the balance of the
estate. That, I believe, is according to the law of descent and
Mrs. Carteret lapsed into a troubled silence. Her father had married
the woman. In her heart she had no doubt of the validity of the
marriage, so far as the law was concerned; if one marriage of such a
kind would stand, another contracted under similar conditions was
equally as good. If the marriage had been valid, Julia's child had been
legitimate. The will she had burned gave this sister of hers—she
shuddered at the word—but a small part of the estate. Under the law,
which intervened now that there was no will, the property should have
been equally divided. If the woman had been white,—but the woman had
not been white, and the same rule of moral conduct did not, could
not, in the very nature of things, apply, as between white people! For,
if this were not so, slavery had been, not merely an economic mistake,
but a great crime against humanity. If it had been such a crime, as for
a moment she dimly perceived it might have been, then through the long
centuries there had been piled up a catalogue of wrong and outrage
which, if the law of compensation be a law of nature, must some time,
somewhere, in some way, be atoned for. She herself had not escaped the
penalty, of which, she realized, this burden placed upon her conscience
was but another installment.
If she should make known the facts she had learned, it would mean
what?—a division of her father's estate, a recognition of the legality
of her father's relations with Julia. Such a stain upon her father's
memory would be infinitely worse than if he had not married her. To
have lived with her without marriage was a social misdemeanor, at which
society in the old days had winked, or at most had frowned. To have
married her was to have committed the unpardonable social sin. Such a
scandal Mrs. Carteret could not have endured. Should she seek to make
restitution, it would necessarily involve the disclosure of at least
some of the facts. Had she not destroyed the will, she might have
compromised with her conscience by producing it and acting upon its
terms, which had been so stated as not to disclose the marriage. This
was now rendered impossible by her own impulsive act; she could not
mention the will at all, without admitting that she had destroyed it.
Mrs. Carteret found herself in what might be called, vulgarly, a moral
"pocket." She could, of course, remain silent. Mrs. Carteret was a good
woman, according to her lights, with a cultivated conscience, to which
she had always looked as her mentor and infallible guide.
Hence Mrs. Carteret, after this painful discovery, remained for a long
time ill at ease,—so disturbed, indeed, that her mind reacted upon her
nerves, which had never been strong; and her nervousness affected her
strength, which had never been great, until Carteret, whose love for her
had been deepened and strengthened by the advent of his son, became
alarmed for her health, and spoke very seriously to Dr. Price concerning
THE SHADOW OF A DREAM
Mrs. Carteret awoke, with a start, from a troubled dream. She had been
sailing across a sunlit sea, in a beautiful boat, her child lying on a
bright-colored cushion at her feet. Overhead the swelling sail served as
an awning to keep off the sun's rays, which far ahead were reflected
with dazzling brilliancy from the shores of a golden island. Her son,
she dreamed, was a fairy prince, and yonder lay his kingdom, to which he
was being borne, lying there at her feet, in this beautiful boat, across
the sunlit sea.
Suddenly and without warning the sky was overcast. A squall struck the
boat and tore away the sail. In the distance a huge billow—a great
white wall of water—came sweeping toward their frail craft, threatening
it with instant destruction. She clasped her child to her bosom, and a
moment later found herself struggling in the sea, holding the child's
head above the water. As she floated there, as though sustained by some
unseen force, she saw in the distance a small boat approaching over the
storm-tossed waves. Straight toward her it came, and she had reached out
her hand to grasp its side, when the rower looked back, and she saw that
it was her sister. The recognition had been mutual. With a sharp
movement of one oar the boat glided by, leaving her clutching at the
empty air. She felt her strength begin to fail. Despairingly she
signaled with her disengaged hand; but the rower, after one mute,
reproachful glance, rowed on. Mrs. Carteret's strength grew less and
less. The child became heavy as lead. Herself floating in the water, as
though it were her native element, she could no longer support the
child. Lower and lower it sank,—she was powerless to save it or to
accompany it,—until, gasping wildly for breath, it threw up its little
hands and sank, the cruel water gurgling over its head,—when she awoke
with a start and a chill, and lay there trembling for several minutes
before she heard little Dodie in his crib, breathing heavily.
She rose softly, went to the crib, and changed the child's position to
an easier one. He breathed more freely, and she went back to bed, but
not to sleep.
She had tried to put aside the distressing questions raised by the
discovery of her father's will and the papers accompanying it. Why
should she be burdened with such a responsibility, at this late day,
when the touch of time had well-nigh healed these old sores? Surely, God
had put his curse not alone upon the slave, but upon the stealer of men!
With other good people she had thanked Him that slavery was no more, and
that those who once had borne its burden upon their consciences could
stand erect and feel that they themselves were free. The weed had been
cut down, but its roots remained, deeply imbedded in the soil, to spring
up and trouble a new generation. Upon her weak shoulders was placed the
burden of her father's weakness, her father's folly. It was left to her
to acknowledge or not this shameful marriage and her sister's rights in
their father's estate.
Balancing one consideration against another, she had almost decided
that she might ignore this tie. To herself, Olivia Merkell,—Olivia
Carteret,—the stigma of base birth would have meant social ostracism,
social ruin, the averted face, the finger of pity or of scorn. All the
traditional weight of public disapproval would have fallen upon her as
the unhappy fruit of an unblessed union. To this other woman it could
have had no such significance,—it had been the lot of her race. To
them, twenty-five years before, sexual sin had never been imputed as
more than a fault. She had lost nothing by her supposed illegitimacy;
she would gain nothing by the acknowledgment of her mother's marriage.
On the other hand, what would be the effect of this revelation upon Mrs.
Carteret herself? To have it known that her father had married a negress
would only be less dreadful than to have it appear that he had committed
some terrible crime. It was a crime now, by the laws of every Southern
State, for white and colored persons to intermarry. She shuddered before
the possibility that at some time in the future some person, none too
well informed, might learn that her father had married a colored woman,
and might assume that she, Olivia Carteret, or her child, had sprung
from this shocking mésalliance,—a fate to which she would willingly
have preferred death. No, this marriage must never be made known; the
secret should remain buried forever in her own heart!
But there still remained the question of her father's property and her
father's will. This woman was her father's child,—of that there could
be no doubt, it was written in her features no less than in her father's
will. As his lawful child,—of which, alas! there could also be no
question,—she was entitled by law to half his estate. Mrs. Carteret's
problem had sunk from the realm of sentiment to that of material things,
which, curiously enough, she found much more difficult. For, while the
negro, by the traditions of her people, was barred from the world of
sentiment, his rights of property were recognized. The question had
become, with Mrs. Carteret, a question of meum and tuum. Had the
girl Janet been poor, ignorant, or degraded, as might well have been her
fate, Mrs. Carteret might have felt a vicarious remorse for her aunt's
suppression of the papers; but fate had compensated Janet for the loss;
she had been educated, she had married well; she had not suffered for
lack of the money of which she had been defrauded, and did not need it
now. She had a child, it is true, but this child's career would be so
circumscribed by the accident of color that too much wealth would only
be a source of unhappiness; to her own child, on the contrary, it would
open every door of life.
It would be too lengthy a task to follow the mind and conscience of this
much-tried lady in their intricate workings upon this difficult problem;
for she had a mind as logical as any woman's, and a conscience which she
wished to keep void of offense. She had to confront a situation
involving the element of race, upon which the moral standards of her
people were hopelessly confused. Mrs. Carteret reached the conclusion,
ere daylight dawned, that she would be silent upon the subject of her
father's second marriage. Neither party had wished it known,—neither
Julia nor her father,—and she would respect her father's wishes. To act
otherwise would be to defeat his will, to make known what he had
carefully concealed, and to give Janet a claim of title to one half her
father's estate, while he had only meant her to have the ten thousand
dollars named in the will.
By the same reasoning, she must carry out her father's will in respect
to this bequest. Here there was another difficulty. The mining
investment into which they had entered shortly after the birth of little
Dodie had tied up so much of her property that it would have been
difficult to procure ten thousand dollars immediately; while a demand
for half the property at once would mean bankruptcy and ruin. Moreover,
upon what ground could she offer her sister any sum of money whatever?
So sudden a change of heart, after so many years of silence, would raise
the presumption of some right on the part of Janet in her father's
estate. Suspicion once aroused, it might be possible to trace this
hidden marriage, and establish it by legal proof. The marriage once
verified, the claim for half the estate could not be denied. She could
not plead her father's will to the contrary, for this would be to
acknowledge the suppression of the will, in itself a criminal act.
There was, however, a way of escape. This hospital which had recently
been opened was the personal property of her sister's husband. Some time
in the future, when their investments matured, she would present to the
hospital a sum of money equal to the amount her father had meant his
colored daughter to have. Thus indirectly both her father's will and her
own conscience would be satisfied.
Mrs. Carteret had reached this comfortable conclusion, and was falling
asleep, when her attention was again drawn by her child's breathing. She
took it in her own arms and soon fell asleep.
"By the way, Olivia," said the major, when leaving the house next
morning for the office, "if you have any business down town to-day,
transact it this forenoon. Under no circumstances must you or Clara or
the baby leave the house after midday."
"Why, what's the matter, Phil?"
"Nothing to alarm you, except that there may be a little political
demonstration which may render the streets unsafe. You are not to say
anything about it where the servants might hear."
"Will there be any danger for you, Phil?" she demanded with alarm.
"Not the slightest, Olivia dear. No one will be harmed; but it is best
for ladies and children to stay indoors."
Mrs. Carteret's nerves were still more or less unstrung from her mental
struggles of the night, and the memory of her dream came to her like a
dim foreboding of misfortune. As though in sympathy with its mother's
feelings, the baby did not seem as well as usual. The new nurse was by
no means an ideal nurse,—Mammy Jane understood the child much better.
If there should be any trouble with the negroes, toward which her
husband's remark seemed to point,—she knew the general political
situation, though not informed in regard to her husband's plans,—she
would like to have Mammy Jane near her, where the old nurse might be
protected from danger or alarm.
With this end in view she dispatched the nurse, shortly after breakfast,
to Mammy Jane's house in the negro settlement on the other side of the
town, with a message asking the old woman to come immediately to Mrs.
Carteret's. Unfortunately, Mammy Jane had gone to visit a sick woman in
the country, and was not expected to return for several hours.
THE STORM BREAKS
The Wellington riot began at three o'clock in the afternoon of a day as
fair as was ever selected for a deed of darkness. The sky was clear,
except for a few light clouds that floated, white and feathery, high in
air, like distant islands in a sapphire sea. A salt-laden breeze from
the ocean a few miles away lent a crisp sparkle to the air.
At three o'clock sharp the streets were filled, as if by magic, with
armed white men. The negroes, going about, had noted, with uneasy
curiosity, that the stores and places of business, many of which closed
at noon, were unduly late in opening for the afternoon, though no one
suspected the reason for the delay; but at three o'clock every passing
colored man was ordered, by the first white man he met, to throw up his
hands. If he complied, he was searched, more or less roughly, for
firearms, and then warned to get off the street. When he met another
group of white men the scene was repeated. The man thus summarily held
up seldom encountered more than two groups before disappearing across
lots to his own home or some convenient hiding-place. If he resisted any
demand of those who halted him—But the records of the day are
historical; they may be found in the newspapers of the following date,
but they are more firmly engraved upon the hearts and memories of the
people of Wellington. For many months there were negro families in the
town whose children screamed with fear and ran to their mothers for
protection at the mere sight of a white man.
Dr. Miller had received a call, about one o'clock, to attend a case at
the house of a well-to-do colored farmer, who lived some three or four
miles from the town, upon the very road, by the way, along which Miller
had driven so furiously a few weeks before, in the few hours that
intervened before Sandy Campbell would probably have been burned at the
stake. The drive to his patient's home, the necessary inquiries, the
filling of the prescription from his own medicine-case, which he carried
along with him, the little friendly conversation about the weather and
the crops, and, the farmer being an intelligent and thinking man, the
inevitable subject of the future of their race,—these, added to the
return journey, occupied at least two hours of Miller's time.
As he neared the town on his way back, he saw ahead of him half a dozen
men and women approaching, with fear written in their faces, in every
degree from apprehension to terror. Women were weeping and children
crying, and all were going as fast as seemingly lay in their power,
looking behind now and then as if pursued by some deadly enemy. At sight
of Miller's buggy they made a dash for cover, disappearing, like a covey
of frightened partridges, in the underbrush along the road.
Miller pulled up his horse and looked after them in startled wonder.
"What on earth can be the matter?" he muttered, struck with a vague
feeling of alarm. A psychologist, seeking to trace the effects of
slavery upon the human mind, might find in the South many a curious
illustration of this curse, abiding long after the actual physical
bondage had terminated. In the olden time the white South labored under
the constant fear of negro insurrections. Knowing that they themselves,
if in the negroes' place, would have risen in the effort to throw off
the yoke, all their reiterated theories of negro subordination and
inferiority could not remove that lurking fear, founded upon the obscure
consciousness that the slaves ought to have risen. Conscience, it has
been said, makes cowards of us all. There was never, on the continent of
America, a successful slave revolt, nor one which lasted more than a few
hours, or resulted in the loss of more than a few white lives; yet never
was the planter quite free from the fear that there might be one.
On the other hand, the slave had before his eyes always the fear of the
master. There were good men, according to their lights,—according to
their training and environment,—among the Southern slaveholders, who
treated their slaves kindly, as slaves, from principle, because they
recognized the claims of humanity, even under the dark skin of a human
chattel. There was many a one who protected or pampered his negroes, as
the case might be, just as a man fondles his dog,—because they were
his; they were a part of his estate, an integral part of the entity of
property and person which made up the aristocrat; but with all this
kindness, there was always present, in the consciousness of the lowest
slave, the knowledge that he was in his master's power, and that he
could make no effectual protest against the abuse of that authority.
There was also the knowledge, among those who could think at all, that
the best of masters was himself a slave to a system, which hampered his
movements but scarcely less than those of his bondmen.
When, therefore, Miller saw these men and women scampering into the
bushes, he divined, with this slumbering race consciousness which years
of culture had not obliterated, that there was some race trouble on
foot. His intuition did not long remain unsupported. A black head was
cautiously protruded from the shrubbery, and a black voice—if such a
description be allowable—addressed him:—
"Is dat you, Doctuh Miller?"
"Yes. Who are you, and what's the trouble?"
"What's de trouble, suh? Why, all hell's broke loose in town yonduh. De
w'ite folks is riz 'gins' de niggers, an' say dey're gwine ter kill
eve'y nigger dey kin lay han's on."
Miller's heart leaped to his throat, as he thought of his wife and
child. This story was preposterous; it could not be true, and yet there
must be something in it. He tried to question his informant, but the man
was so overcome with excitement and fear that Miller saw clearly that he
must go farther for information. He had read in the Morning Chronicle, a
few days before, the obnoxious editorial quoted from the Afro-American
Banner, and had noted the comment upon it by the white editor. He had
felt, as at the time of its first publication, that the editorial was
ill-advised. It could do no good, and was calculated to arouse the
animosity of those whose friendship, whose tolerance, at least, was
necessary and almost indispensable to the colored people. They were
living, at the best, in a sort of armed neutrality with the whites; such
a publication, however serviceable elsewhere, could have no other
effect in Wellington than to endanger this truce and defeat the hope of
a possible future friendship. The right of free speech entitled Barber
to publish it; a larger measure of common-sense would have made him
withhold it. Whether it was the republication of this article that had
stirred up anew the sleeping dogs of race prejudice and whetted their
thirst for blood, he could not yet tell; but at any rate, there was
mischief on foot.
"Fer God's sake, doctuh, don' go no closeter ter dat town," pleaded his
informant, "er you'll be killt sho'. Come on wid us, suh, an' tek keer
er yo'se'f. We're gwine ter hide in de swamps till dis thing is over!"
"God, man!" exclaimed Miller, urging his horse forward, "my wife and
child are in the town!"
Fortunately, he reflected, there were no patients confined in the
hospital,—if there should be anything in this preposterous story. To
one unfamiliar with Southern life, it might have seemed impossible that
these good Christian people, who thronged the churches on Sunday, and
wept over the sufferings of the lowly Nazarene, and sent missionaries to
the heathen, could be hungering and thirsting for the blood of their
fellow men; but Miller cherished no such delusion. He knew the history
of his country; he had the threatened lynching of Sandy Campbell vividly
in mind; and he was fully persuaded that to race prejudice, once roused,
any horror was possible. That women or children would be molested of set
purpose he did not believe, but that they might suffer by accident was
more than likely.
As he neared the town, dashing forward at the top of his horse's speed,
he heard his voice called in a loud and agitated tone, and, glancing
around him, saw a familiar form standing by the roadside, gesticulating
He drew up the horse with a suddenness that threw the faithful and
obedient animal back upon its haunches. The colored lawyer, Watson, came
up to the buggy. That he was laboring under great and unusual excitement
was quite apparent from his pale face and frightened air.
"What's the matter, Watson?" demanded Miller, hoping now to obtain some
"Matter!" exclaimed the other. "Everything's the matter! The white
people are up in arms. They have disarmed the colored people, killing
half a dozen in the process, and wounding as many more. They have forced
the mayor and aldermen to resign, have formed a provisional city
government à la Française, and have ordered me and half a dozen other
fellows to leave town in forty-eight hours, under pain of sudden death.
As they seem to mean it, I shall not stay so long. Fortunately, my wife
and children are away. I knew you were out here, however, and I thought
I'd come out and wait for you, so that we might talk the matter over. I
don't imagine they mean you any harm, personally, because you tread on
nobody's toes; but you're too valuable a man for the race to lose, so I
thought I'd give you warning. I shall want to sell you my property,
too, at a bargain. For I'm worth too much to my family to dream of ever
attempting to live here again."
"Have you seen anything of my wife and child?" asked Miller, intent upon
the danger to which they might be exposed.
"No; I didn't go to the house. I inquired at the drugstore and found
out where you had gone. You needn't fear for them,—it is not a war on
women and children."
"War of any kind is always hardest on the women and children," returned
Miller; "I must hurry on and see that mine are safe."
"They'll not carry the war so far into Africa as that," returned
Watson; "but I never saw anything like it. Yesterday I had a hundred
white friends in the town, or thought I had,—men who spoke pleasantly
to me on the street, and sometimes gave me their hands to shake. Not one
of them said to me today: 'Watson, stay at home this afternoon.' I might
have been killed, like any one of half a dozen others who have bit the
dust, for any word that one of my 'friends' had said to warn me. When
the race cry is started in this neck of the woods, friendship, religion,
humanity, reason, all shrivel up like dry leaves in a raging furnace."
The buggy, into which Watson had climbed, was meanwhile rapidly nearing
"I think I'll leave you here, Miller," said Watson, as they approached
the outskirts, "and make my way home by a roundabout path, as I should
like to get there unmolested. Home!—a beautiful word that, isn't it,
for an exiled wanderer? It might not be well, either, for us to be seen
together. If you put the hood of your buggy down, and sit well back in
the shadow, you may be able to reach home without interruption; but
avoid the main streets. I'll see you again this evening, if we're both
alive, and I can reach you; for my time is short. A committee are to
call in the morning to escort me to the train. I am to be dismissed from
the community with public honors." Watson was climbing down from the
buggy, when a small party of men were seen approaching, and big Josh
Green, followed by several other resolute-looking colored men, came up
and addressed them.
"Dr. Miller," cried Green, "Mr. Watson,—we're lookin' fer a leader. De
w'ite folks are killin' de niggers, an' we ain' gwine ter stan' up an'
be shot down like dogs. We're gwine ter defen' ou' lives, an' we ain'
gwine ter run away f'm no place where we 'we got a right ter be; an' woe
be ter de w'ite man w'at lays ban's on us! Dere's two niggers in dis
town ter eve'y w'ite man, an' ef we 'we got ter be killt, we'll take
some w'ite folks 'long wid us, ez sho' ez dere's a God in heaven,—ez I
s'pose dere is, dough He mus' be 'sleep, er busy somewhar e'se ter-day.
Will you-all come an' lead us?"
"Gentlemen," said Watson, "what is the use? The negroes will not back
you up. They haven't the arms, nor the moral courage, nor the
"We'll git de arms, an' we'll git de courage, ef you'll come an' lead
us! We wants leaders,—dat's w'y we come ter you!"
"What's the use?" returned Watson despairingly. "The odds are too heavy.
I've been ordered out of town; if I stayed, I'd be shot on sight,
unless I had a body-guard around me."
"We'll be yo' body-guard!" shouted half a dozen voices.
"And when my body-guard was shot, what then? I have a wife and children.
It is my duty to live for them. If I died, I should get no glory and no
reward, and my family would be reduced to beggary,—to which they'll
soon be near enough as it is. This affair will blow over in a day or
two. The white people will be ashamed of themselves to-morrow, and
apprehensive of the consequences for some time to come. Keep quiet,
boys, and trust in God. You won't gain anything by resistance."
"'God he'ps dem dat he'ps demselves,'" returned Josh stoutly. "Ef Mr.
Watson won't lead us, will you, Dr. Miller?" said the spokesman, turning
to the doctor.
For Miller it was an agonizing moment. He was no coward, morally or
physically. Every manly instinct urged him to go forward and take up the
cause of these leaderless people, and, if need be, to defend their lives
and their rights with his own,—but to what end?
"Listen, men," he said. "We would only be throwing our lives away.
Suppose we made a determined stand and won a temporary victory. By
morning every train, every boat, every road leading into Wellington,
would be crowded with white men,—as they probably will be any
way,—with arms in their hands, curses on their lips, and vengeance in
their hearts. In the minds of those who make and administer the laws, we
have no standing in the court of conscience. They would kill us in the
fight, or they would hang us afterwards,—one way or another, we should
be doomed. I should like to lead you; I should like to arm every colored
man in this town, and have them stand firmly in line, not for attack,
but for defense; but if I attempted it, and they should stand by me,
which is questionable,—for I have met them fleeing from the town,—my
life would pay the forfeit. Alive, I may be of some use to you, and you
are welcome to my life in that way,—I am giving it freely. Dead, I
should be a mere lump of carrion. Who remembers even the names of those
who have been done to death in the Southern States for the past twenty
"I 'members de name er one of 'em," said Josh, "an' I 'members de name
er de man dat killt 'im, an' I s'pec' his time is mighty nigh come."
"My advice is not heroic, but I think it is wise. In this riot we are
placed as we should be in a war: we have no territory, no base of
supplies, no organization, no outside sympathy,—we stand in the
position of a race, in a case like this, without money and without
friends. Our time will come,—the time when we can command respect for
our rights; but it is not yet in sight. Give it up, boys, and wait. Good
may come of this, after all."
Several of the men wavered, and looked irresolute.
"I reckon that's all so, doctuh," returned Josh, "an', de way you put
it, I don' blame you ner Mr. Watson; but all dem reasons ain' got no
weight wid me. I'm gwine in dat town, an' ef any w'ite man 'sturbs me,
dere'll be trouble,—dere'll be double trouble,—I feels it in my
"Remember your old mother, Josh," said Miller.
"Yas, sub, I'll 'member her; dat's all I kin do now. I don' need ter
wait fer her no mo', fer she died dis mo'nin'. I'd lack ter see her
buried, suh, but I may not have de chance. Ef I gits killt, will you do
me a favor?"
"Yes, Josh; what is it?"
"Ef I should git laid out in dis commotion dat's gwine on, will you
collec' my wages f'm yo' brother, and see dat de ole 'oman is put away
"Yes, of course."
"Wid a nice coffin, an' a nice fune'al, an' a head-bo'd an' a
"All right, suh! Ef I don' live ter do it, I'll know it'll be 'tended
ter right. Now we're gwine out ter de cotton compress, an' git a lot er
colored men tergether, an' ef de w'ite folks 'sturbs me, I shouldn't be
s'prise' ef dere'd be a mix-up;—an' ef dere is, me an one w'ite man
'll stan' befo' de jedgment th'one er God dis day; an' it won't be me
w'at'll be 'feared er de jedgment. Come along, boys! Dese gentlemen may
have somethin' ter live fer; but ez fer my pa't, I'd ruther be a dead
nigger any day dan a live dog!"
INTO THE LION'S JAWS
The party under Josh's leadership moved off down the road. Miller, while
entirely convinced that he had acted wisely in declining to accompany
them, was yet conscious of a distinct feeling of shame and envy that he,
too, did not feel impelled to throw away his life in a hopeless
Watson left the buggy and disappeared by a path at the roadside. Miller
drove rapidly forward. After entering the town, he passed several small
parties of white men, but escaped scrutiny by sitting well back in his
buggy, the presumption being that a well-dressed man with a good horse
and buggy was white. Torn with anxiety, he reached home at about four
o'clock. Driving the horse into the yard, he sprang down from the buggy
and hastened to the house, which he found locked, front and rear.
A repeated rapping brought no response. At length he broke a window, and
entered the house like a thief.
"Janet, Janet!" he called in alarm, "where are you? It is only
There was no reply. He ran from room to room, only to find them all
empty. Again he called his wife's name, and was about rushing from the
house, when a muffled voice came faintly to his ear,—
"Is dat you, Doctuh Miller?"
"Yes. Who are you, and where are my wife and child?"
He was looking around in perplexity, when the door of a low closet under
the kitchen sink was opened from within, and a woolly head was
"Are you sho' dat's you, doctuh?"
"Yes, Sally; where are"—
"An' not some w'ite man come ter bu'n down de house an' kill all de
"No, Sally, it's me all right. Where is my wife? Where is my child?"
"Dey went over ter see Mis' Butler 'long 'bout two o'clock, befo' dis
fuss broke out, suh. Oh, Lawdy, Lawdy, suh! Is all de cullud folks be'n
killt 'cep'n' me an' you, suh? Fer de Lawd's sake, suh, you won' let 'em
kill me, will you, suh? I'll wuk fer you fer nuthin', suh, all my bawn
days, ef you'll save my life, suh!"
"Calm yourself, Sally. You'll be safe enough if you stay right here, I
'we no doubt. They'll not harm women,—of that I'm sure enough,
although I haven't yet got the bearings of this deplorable affair. Stay
here and look after the house. I must find my wife and child!"
The distance across the city to the home of the Mrs. Butler whom his
wife had gone to visit was exactly one mile. Though Miller had a good
horse in front of him, he was two hours in reaching his destination.
Never will the picture of that ride fade from his memory. In his dreams
he repeats it night after night, and sees the sights that wounded his
eyes, and feels the thoughts—the haunting spirits of the thoughts—that
tore his heart as he rode through hell to find those whom he was
seeking. For a short distance he saw nothing, and made rapid progress.
As he turned the first corner, his horse shied at the dead body of a
negro, lying huddled up in the collapse which marks sudden death. What
Miller shuddered at was not so much the thought of death, to the sight
of which his profession had accustomed him, as the suggestion of what it
signified. He had taken with allowance the wild statement of the fleeing
fugitives. Watson, too, had been greatly excited, and Josh Green's group
were desperate men, as much liable to be misled by their courage as the
others by their fears; but here was proof that murder had been
done,—and his wife and children were in the town. Distant shouts, and
the sound of firearms, increased his alarm. He struck his horse with the
whip, and dashed on toward the heart of the city, which he must traverse
in order to reach Janet and the child.
At the next corner lay the body of another man, with the red blood
oozing from a ghastly wound in the forehead. The negroes seemed to have
been killed, as the band plays in circus parades, at the street
intersections, where the example would be most effective. Miller, with a
wild leap of the heart, had barely passed this gruesome spectacle, when
a sharp voice commanded him to halt, and emphasized the order by
covering him with a revolver. Forgetting the prudence he had preached to
others, he had raised his whip to strike the horse, when several hands
seized the bridle.
"Come down, you damn fool," growled an authoritative voice. "Don't you
see we're in earnest? Do you want to get killed?"
"Why should I come down?" asked Miller. "Because we've ordered you to
come down! This is the white people's day, and when they order, a nigger
must obey. We're going to search you for weapons."
"Search away. You'll find nothing but a case of surgeon's tools, which
I'm more than likely to need before this day is over, from all
"No matter; we'll make sure of it! That's what we're here for. Come
down, if you don't want to be pulled down!"
Miller stepped down from his buggy. His interlocutor, who made no effort
at disguise, was a clerk in a dry-goods store where Miller bought most
of his family and hospital supplies. He made no sign of recognition,
however, and Miller claimed no acquaintance. This man, who had for
several years emptied Miller's pockets in the course of more or less
legitimate trade, now went through them, aided by another man, more
rapidly than ever before, the searchers convincing themselves that
Miller carried no deadly weapon upon his person. Meanwhile, a third
ransacked the buggy with like result. Miller recognized several others
of the party, who made not the slightest attempt at disguise, though no
names were called by any one.
"Where are you going?" demanded the leader.
"I am looking for my wife and child," replied Miller.
"Well, run along, and keep them out of the streets when you find them;
and keep your hands out of this affair, if you wish to live in this
town, which from now on will be a white man's town, as you niggers will
be pretty firmly convinced before night."
Miller drove on as swiftly as might be. At the next corner he was
stopped again. In the white man who held him up, Miller recognized a
neighbor of his own. After a short detention and a perfunctory search,
the white man remarked apologetically:—
"Sorry to have had to trouble you, doctuh, but them's the o'ders. It
ain't men like you that we're after, but the vicious and criminal class
Miller smiled bitterly as he urged his horse forward. He was quite well
aware that the virtuous citizen who had stopped him had only a few weeks
before finished a term in the penitentiary, to which he had been
sentenced for stealing. Miller knew that he could have bought all the
man owned for fifty dollars, and his soul for as much more.
A few rods farther on, he came near running over the body of a wounded
man who lay groaning by the wayside. Every professional instinct urged
him to stop and offer aid to the sufferer; but the uncertainty
concerning his wife and child proved a stronger motive and urged him
resistlessly forward. Here and there the ominous sound of firearms was
audible. He might have thought this merely a part of the show, like the
"powder play" of the Arabs, but for the bloody confirmation of its
earnestness which had already assailed his vision. Somewhere in this
seething caldron of unrestrained passions were his wife and child, and
he must hurry on.
His progress was painfully slow. Three times he was stopped and
searched. More than once his way was barred, and he was ordered to turn
back, each such occasion requiring a detour which consumed many minutes.
The man who last stopped him was a well-known Jewish merchant. A
Jew—God of Moses!—had so far forgotten twenty centuries of history as
to join in the persecution of another oppressed race! When almost
reduced to despair by these innumerable delays, he perceived, coming
toward him, Mr. Ellis, the sub-editor of the Morning Chronicle. Miller
had just been stopped and questioned again, and Ellis came up as he was
starting once more upon his endless ride.
"Dr. Miller," said Ellis kindly, "it is dangerous for you on the
streets. Why tempt the danger?"
"I am looking for my wife and child," returned Miller in desperation.
"They are somewhere in this town,—I don't know where,—and I must find
Ellis had been horror-stricken by the tragedy of the afternoon, the
wholly superfluous slaughter of a harmless people, whom a show of force
would have been quite sufficient to overawe. Elaborate explanations were
afterwards given for these murders, which were said, perhaps truthfully,
not to have been premeditated, and many regrets were expressed. The
young man had been surprised, quite as much as the negroes themselves,
at the ferocity displayed. His own thoughts and feelings were attuned to
anything but slaughter. Only that morning he had received a perfumed
note, calling his attention to what the writer described as a very noble
deed of his, and requesting him to call that evening and receive the
writer's thanks. Had he known that Miss Pemberton, several weeks after
their visit to the Sound, had driven out again to the hotel and made
some inquiries among the servants, he might have understood better the
meaning of this missive. When Miller spoke of his wife and child, some
subtle thread of suggestion coupled the note with Miller's plight.
"I'll go with you, Dr. Miller," he said, "if you'll permit me. In my
company you will not be disturbed."
He took a seat in Miller's buggy, after which it was not molested.
Neither of them spoke. Miller was sick at heart; he could have wept with
grief, even had the welfare of his own dear ones not been involved in
this regrettable affair. With prophetic instinct he foresaw the hatreds
to which this day would give birth; the long years of constraint and
distrust which would still further widen the breach between two peoples
whom fate had thrown together in one community.
There was nothing for Ellis to say. In his heart he could not defend the
deeds of this day. The petty annoyances which the whites had felt at the
spectacle of a few negroes in office; the not unnatural resentment of a
proud people at what had seemed to them a presumptuous freedom of speech
and lack of deference on the part of their inferiors,—these things,
which he knew were to be made the excuse for overturning the city
government, he realized full well were no sort of justification for the
wholesale murder or other horrors which might well ensue before the day
was done. He could not approve the acts of his own people; neither could
he, to a negro, condemn them. Hence he was silent.
"Thank you, Mr. Ellis," exclaimed Miller, when they had reached the
house where he expected to find his wife. "This is the place where I was
going. I am—under a great obligation to you."
"Not at all, Dr. Miller. I need not tell you how much I regret this
Ellis went back down the street. Fastening his horse to the fence,
Miller sprang forward to find his wife and child. They would certainly
be there, for no colored woman would be foolhardy enough to venture on
the streets after the riot had broken out.
As he drew nearer, he felt a sudden apprehension. The house seemed
strangely silent and deserted. The doors were closed, and the Venetian
blinds shut tightly. Even a dog which had appeared slunk timidly back
under the house, instead of barking vociferously according to the usual
habit of his kind.
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
Miller knocked at the door. There was no response. He went round to the
rear of the house. The dog had slunk behind the woodpile. Miller knocked
again, at the back door, and, receiving no reply, called aloud.
"Mrs. Butler! It is I, Dr. Miller. Is my wife here?"
The slats of a near-by blind opened cautiously.
"Is it really you, Dr. Miller?"
"Yes, Mrs. Butler. I am looking for my wife and child,—are they here?"
"No, sir; she became alarmed about you, soon after the shooting
commenced, and I could not keep her. She left for home half an hour ago.
It is coming on dusk, and she and the child are so near white that she
did not expect to be molested."
"Which way did she go?"
"She meant to go by the main street. She thought it would be less
dangerous than the back streets. I tried to get her to stay here, but
she was frantic about you, and nothing I could say would keep her. Is
the riot almost over, Dr. Miller? Do you think they will murder us all,
and burn down our houses?"
"God knows," replied Miller, with a groan. "But I must find her, if I
lose my own life in the attempt."
Surely, he thought, Janet would be safe. The white people of Wellington
were not savages; or at least their temporary reversion to savagery
would not go as far as to include violence to delicate women and
children. Then there flashed into his mind Josh Green's story of his
"silly" mother, who for twenty years had walked the earth as a child, as
the result of one night's terror, and his heart sank within him.
Miller realized that his buggy, by attracting attention, had been a
hindrance rather than a help in his progress across the city. In order
to follow his wife, he must practically retrace his steps over the very
route he had come. Night was falling. It would be easier to cross the
town on foot. In the dusk his own color, slight in the daytime, would
not attract attention, and by dodging in the shadows he might avoid
those who might wish to intercept him. But he must reach Janet and the
boy at any risk. He had not been willing to throw his life away
hopelessly, but he would cheerfully have sacrificed it for those whom he
He had gone but a short distance, and had not yet reached the centre of
mob activity, when he intercepted a band of negro laborers from the
cotton compress, with big Josh Green at their head.
"Hello, doctuh!" cried Josh, "does you wan' ter jine us?"
"I'm looking for my wife and child, Josh. They're somewhere in this
den of murderers. Have any of you seen them?"
No one had seen them.
"You men are running a great risk," said Miller. "You are rushing on to
"Well, suh, maybe we is; but we're gwine ter die fightin'. Dey say de
w'ite folks is gwine ter bu'n all de cullud schools an' chu'ches, an'
kill all de niggers dey kin ketch. Dey're gwine ter bu'n yo' new
hospittle, ef somebody don' stop 'em."
"Josh—men—you are throwing your lives away. It is a fever; it will
wear off to-morrow, or to-night. They'll not burn the schoolhouses, nor
the hospital—they are not such fools, for they benefit the community;
and they'll only kill the colored people who resist them. Every one of
you with a gun or a pistol carries his death warrant in his own hand.
I'd rather see the hospital burn than have one of you lose his life.
Resistance only makes the matter worse,—the odds against you are too
"Things can't be any wuss, doctuh," replied one of the crowd sturdily.
"A gun is mo' dange'ous ter de man in front of it dan ter de man behin'
it. Dey're gwine ter kill us anyhow; an' we're tired,—we read de
newspapers,—an' we're tired er bein' shot down like dogs, widout jedge
er jury. We'd ruther die fightin' dan be stuck like pigs in a pen!"
"God help you!" said Miller. "As for me, I must find my wife and child."
"Good-by, doctuh," cried Josh, brandishing a huge knife. "'Member 'bout
de ole 'oman, ef you lives thoo dis. Don' fergit de headbo'd an' de
footbo'd, an' a silver plate on de coffin, ef dere's money ernuff."
They went their way, and Miller hurried on. They might resist attack; he
thought it extremely unlikely that they would begin it; but he knew
perfectly well that the mere knowledge that some of the negroes
contemplated resistance would only further inflame the infuriated
whites. The colored men might win a momentary victory, though it was
extremely doubtful; and they would as surely reap the harvest later on.
The qualities which in a white man would win the applause of the world
would in a negro be taken as the marks of savagery. So thoroughly
diseased was public opinion in matters of race that the negro who died
for the common rights of humanity might look for no meed of admiration
or glory. At such a time, in the white man's eyes, a negro's courage
would be mere desperation; his love of liberty, a mere animal dislike of
restraint. Every finer human instinct would be interpreted in terms of
savagery. Or, if forced to admire, they would none the less repress.
They would applaud his courage while they stretched his neck, or carried
off the fragments of his mangled body as souvenirs, in much the same way
that savages preserve the scalps or eat the hearts of their enemies.
But concern for the fate of Josh and his friends occupied only a
secondary place in Miller's mind for the moment. His wife and child were
somewhere ahead of him. He pushed on. He had covered about a quarter of
a mile more, and far down the street could see the signs of greater
animation, when he came upon the body of a woman lying upon the
sidewalk. In the dusk he had almost stumbled over it, and his heart came
up in his mouth. A second glance revealed that it could not be his wife.
It was a fearful portent, however, of what her fate might be. The "war"
had reached the women and children. Yielding to a professional instinct,
he stooped, and saw that the prostrate form was that of old Aunt Jane
Letlow. She was not yet quite dead, and as Miller, with a tender touch,
placed her head in a more comfortable position, her lips moved with a
last lingering flicker of consciousness:—
"Comin', missis, comin'!"
Mammy Jane had gone to join the old mistress upon whose memory her
heart was fixed; and yet not all her reverence for her old mistress, nor
all her deference to the whites, nor all their friendship for her, had
been able to save her from this raging devil of race hatred which
momentarily possessed the town.
Perceiving that he could do no good, Miller hastened onward, sick at
heart. Whenever he saw a party of white men approaching,—these brave
reformers never went singly,—he sought concealment in the shadow of a
tree or the shrubbery in some yard until they had passed. He had covered
about two thirds of the distance homeward, when his eyes fell upon a
group beneath a lamp-post, at sight of which he turned pale with horror,
and rushed forward with a terrible cry.
"MINE ENEMY, O MINE ENEMY!"
The proceedings of the day—planned originally as a "demonstration,"
dignified subsequently as a "revolution," under any name the culmination
of the conspiracy formed by Carteret and his colleagues—had by seven
o'clock in the afternoon developed into a murderous riot. Crowds of
white men and half-grown boys, drunk with whiskey or with license, raged
through the streets, beating, chasing, or killing any negro so
unfortunate as to fall into their hands. Why any particular negro was
assailed, no one stopped to inquire; it was merely a white mob thirsting
for black blood, with no more conscience or discrimination than would be
exercised by a wolf in a sheepfold. It was race against race, the whites
against the negroes; and it was a one-sided affair, for until Josh Green
got together his body of armed men, no effective resistance had been
made by any colored person, and the individuals who had been killed had
so far left no marks upon the enemy by which they might be remembered.
"Kill the niggers!" rang out now and then through the dusk, and far down
the street and along the intersecting thoroughfares distant voices took
up the ominous refrain,—"Kill the niggers! Kill the damned niggers!"
Now, not a dark face had been seen on the street for half an hour,
until the group of men headed by Josh made their appearance in the negro
quarter. Armed with guns and axes, they presented quite a formidable
appearance as they made their way toward the new hospital, near which
stood a schoolhouse and a large church, both used by the colored people.
They did not reach their destination without having met a number of
white men, singly or in twos or threes; and the rumor spread with
incredible swiftness that the negroes in turn were up in arms,
determined to massacre all the whites and burn the town. Some of the
whites became alarmed, and recognizing the power of the negroes, if
armed and conscious of their strength, were impressed by the immediate
necessity of overpowering and overawing them. Others, with appetites
already whetted by slaughter, saw a chance, welcome rather than not, of
shedding more black blood. Spontaneously the white mob flocked toward
the hospital, where rumor had it that a large body of desperate negroes,
breathing threats of blood and fire, had taken a determined stand.
It had been Josh's plan merely to remain quietly and peaceably in the
neighborhood of the little group of public institutions, molesting no
one, unless first attacked, and merely letting the white people see that
they meant to protect their own; but so rapidly did the rumor spread,
and so promptly did the white people act, that by the time Josh and his
supporters had reached the top of the rising ground where the hospital
stood, a crowd of white men much more numerous than their own party were
following them at a short distance.
Josh, with the eye of a general, perceived that some of his party were
becoming a little nervous, and decided that they would feel safer behind
"I reckon we better go inside de hospittle, boys," he exclaimed. "Den
we'll be behind brick walls, an' dem other fellows 'll be outside, an' ef
dere's any fightin', we'll have de bes' show. We ain' gwine ter do no
shootin' till we're pestered, an' dey'll be less likely ter pester us
ef dey can't git at us widout runnin' some resk. Come along in! Be men!
De gov'ner er de President is gwine ter sen' soldiers ter stop dese
gwines-on, an' meantime we kin keep dem white devils f'm bu'nin' down
our hospittles an' chu'ch-houses. Wen dey comes an' fin's out dat we
jes' means ter pertect ou' prope'ty, dey'll go 'long 'bout deir own
business. Er, ef dey wants a scrap, dey kin have it! Come erlong, boys!"
Jerry Letlow, who had kept out of sight during the day, had started out,
after night had set in, to find Major Carteret. Jerry was very much
afraid. The events of the day had filled him with terror. Whatever the
limitations of Jerry's mind or character may have been, Jerry had a keen
appreciation of the danger to the negroes when they came in conflict
with the whites, and he had no desire to imperil his own skin. He valued
his life for his own sake, and not for any altruistic theory that it
might be of service to others. In other words, Jerry was something of a
coward. He had kept in hiding all day, but finding, toward evening, that
the riot did not abate, and fearing, from the rumors which came to his
ears, that all the negroes would be exterminated, he had set out,
somewhat desperately, to try to find his white patron and protector. He
had been cautious to avoid meeting any white men, and, anticipating no
danger from those of his own race, went toward the party which he saw
approaching, whose path would cross his own. When they were only a few
yards apart, Josh took a step forward and caught Jerry by the arm.
"Come along, Jerry, we need you! Here's another man, boys. Come on now,
and fight fer yo' race!"
In vain Jerry protested. "I don' wan' ter fight," he howled. "De w'ite
folks ain' gwine ter pester me; dey're my frien's. Tu'n me loose,—tu'n
me loose, er we all gwine ter git killed!"
The party paid no attention to Jerry's protestations. Indeed, with the
crowd of whites following behind, they were simply considering the
question of a position from which they could most effectively defend
themselves and the building which they imagined to be threatened. If
Josh had released his grip of Jerry, that worthy could easily have
escaped from the crowd; but Josh maintained his hold almost
mechanically, and, in the confusion, Jerry found himself swept with the
rest into the hospital, the doors of which were promptly barricaded with
the heavier pieces of furniture, and the windows manned by several men
each, Josh, with the instinct of a born commander, posting his forces so
that they could cover with their guns all the approaches to the
building. Jerry still continuing to make himself troublesome, Josh, in a
moment of impatience, gave him a terrific box on the ear, which
stretched him out upon the floor unconscious.
"Shet up," he said; "ef you can't stan' up like a man, keep still, and
don't interfere wid men w'at will fight!" The hospital, when Josh and
his men took possession, had been found deserted. Fortunately there were
no patients for that day, except one or two convalescents, and these,
with the attendants, had joined the exodus of the colored people from
A white man advanced from the crowd without toward the main entrance to
the hospital. Big Josh, looking out from a window, grasped his gun more
firmly, as his eyes fell upon the man who had murdered his father and
darkened his mother's life. Mechanically he raised his rifle, but
lowered it as the white man lifted up his hand as a sign that he wished
"You niggers," called Captain McBane loudly,—it was that worthy,—"you
niggers are courtin' death, an' you won't have to court her but a minute
er two mo' befo' she'll have you. If you surrender and give up your
arms, you'll be dealt with leniently,—you may get off with the
chain-gang or the penitentiary. If you resist, you'll be shot like
"Dat's no news, Mr. White Man," replied Josh, appearing boldly at the
window. "We're use' ter bein' treated like dogs by men like you. If you
w'ite people will go 'long an' ten' ter yo' own business an' let us
alone, we'll ten' ter ou'n. You've got guns, an' we've got jest as
much right ter carry 'em as you have. Lay down yo'n, an' we'll lay down
ou'n,—we didn' take 'em up fust; but we ain' gwine ter let you bu'n
down ou' chu'ches an' school'ouses, er dis hospittle, an' we ain' comin'
out er dis house, where we ain' disturbin' nobody, fer you ter shoot us
down er sen' us ter jail. You hear me!"
"All right," responded McBane. "You've had fair warning. Your blood be
on your"—His speech was interrupted by a shot from the crowd, which
splintered the window-casing close to Josh's head. This was followed by
half a dozen other shots, which were replied to, almost simultaneously,
by a volley from within, by which one of the attacking party was killed
and another wounded.
This roused the mob to frenzy.
"Vengeance! vengeance!" they yelled. "Kill the niggers!"
A negro had killed a white man,—the unpardonable sin, admitting neither
excuse, justification, nor extenuation. From time immemorial it had been
bred in the Southern white consciousness, and in the negro consciousness
also, for that matter, that the person of a white man was sacred from
the touch of a negro, no matter what the provocation. A dozen colored
men lay dead in the streets of Wellington, inoffensive people, slain in
cold blood because they had been bold enough to question the authority
of those who had assailed them, or frightened enough to flee when they
had been ordered to stand still; but their lives counted nothing against
that of a riotous white man, who had courted death by attacking a body
of armed men.
The crowd, too, surrounding the hospital, had changed somewhat in
character. The men who had acted as leaders in the early afternoon,
having accomplished their purpose of overturning the local
administration and establishing a provisional government of their own,
had withdrawn from active participation in the rioting, deeming the
negroes already sufficiently overawed to render unlikely any further
trouble from that source. Several of the ringleaders had indeed begun to
exert themselves to prevent further disorder, or any loss of property,
the possibility of which had become apparent; but those who set in
motion the forces of evil cannot always control them afterwards. The
baser element of the white population, recruited from the wharves and
the saloons, was now predominant.
Captain McBane was the only one of the revolutionary committee who had
remained with the mob, not with any purpose to restore or preserve
order, but because he found the company and the occasion entirely
congenial. He had had no opportunity, at least no tenable excuse, to
kill or maim a negro since the termination of his contract with the
state for convicts, and this occasion had awakened a dormant appetite
for these diversions. We are all puppets in the hands of Fate, and
seldom see the strings that move us. McBane had lived a life of violence
and cruelty. As a man sows, so shall he reap. In works of fiction, such
men are sometimes converted. More often, in real life, they do not
change their natures until they are converted into dust. One does well
to distrust a tamed tiger.
On the outskirts of the crowd a few of the better class, or at least of
the better clad, were looking on. The double volley described had
already been fired, when the number of these was augmented by the
arrival of Major Carteret and Mr. Ellis, who had just come from the
Chronicle office, where the next day's paper had been in hasty
preparation. They pushed their way towards the front of the crowd.
"This must be stopped, Ellis," said Carteret. "They are burning houses
and killing women and children. Old Jane, good old Mammy Jane, who
nursed my wife at her bosom, and has waited on her and my child within
a few weeks, was killed only a few rods from my house, to which she was
evidently fleeing for protection. It must have been by accident,—I
cannot believe that any white man in town would be dastard enough to
commit such a deed intentionally! I would have defended her with my own
life! We must try to stop this thing!"
"Easier said than done," returned Ellis. "It is in the fever stage, and
must burn itself out. We shall be lucky if it does not burn the town
out. Suppose the negroes should also take a hand at the burning? We have
advised the people to put the negroes down, and they are doing the job
"My God!" replied the other, with a gesture of impatience, as he
continued to elbow his way through the crowd; "I meant to keep them in
their places,—I did not intend wholesale murder and arson."
Carteret, having reached the front of the mob, made an effort to gain
"Gentlemen!" he cried in his loudest tones. His voice, unfortunately,
was neither loud nor piercing.
"Kill the niggers!" clamored the mob.
"Gentlemen, I implore you"—
The crash of a dozen windows, broken by stones and pistol shots, drowned
"Gentlemen!" he shouted; "this is murder, it is madness; it is a
disgrace to our city, to our state, to our civilization!"
"That's right!" replied several voices. The mob had recognized the
speaker. "It is a disgrace, and we'll not put up with it a moment
longer. Burn 'em out! Hurrah for Major Carteret, the champion of 'white
supremacy'! Three cheers for the Morning Chronicle and 'no nigger
"Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!" yelled the crowd.
In vain the baffled orator gesticulated and shrieked in the effort to
correct the misapprehension. Their oracle had spoken; not hearing what
he said, they assumed it to mean encouragement and coöperation. Their
present course was but the logical outcome of the crusade which the
Morning Chronicle had preached, in season and out of season, for many
months. When Carteret had spoken, and the crowd had cheered him, they
felt that they had done all that courtesy required, and he was
good-naturedly elbowed aside while they proceeded with the work in hand,
which was now to drive out the negroes from the hospital and avenge the
killing of their comrade.
Some brought hay, some kerosene, and others wood from a pile which had
been thrown into a vacant lot near by. Several safe ways of approach to
the building were discovered, and the combustibles placed and fired. The
flames, soon gaining a foothold, leaped upward, catching here and there
at the exposed woodwork, and licking the walls hungrily with long
tongues of flame.
Meanwhile a desultory firing was kept up from the outside, which was
replied to scatteringly from within the hospital. Those inside were
either not good marksmen, or excitement had spoiled their aim. If a face
appeared at a window, a dozen pistol shots from the crowd sought the
Higher and higher leaped the flames. Suddenly from one of the windows
sprang a black figure, waving a white handkerchief. It was Jerry Letlow.
Regaining consciousness after the effect of Josh's blow had subsided,
Jerry had kept quiet and watched his opportunity. From a safe
vantage-ground he had scanned the crowd without, in search of some
white friend. When he saw Major Carteret moving disconsolately away
after his futile effort to stem the torrent, Jerry made a dash for the
window. He sprang forth, and, waving his handkerchief as a flag of
truce, ran toward Major Carteret, shouting frantically:—
"Majah Carteret—O majah! It's me, suh, Jerry, suh! I didn' go in
dere myse'f, suh—I wuz drag' in dere! I wouldn' do nothin' 'g'inst de
w'ite folks, suh,—no, 'ndeed, I wouldn', suh!"
Jerry's cries were drowned in a roar of rage and a volley of shots from
the mob. Carteret, who had turned away with Ellis, did not even hear his
servant's voice. Jerry's poor flag of truce, his explanations, his
reliance upon his white friends, all failed him in the moment of supreme
need. In that hour, as in any hour when the depths of race hatred are
stirred, a negro was no more than a brute beast, set upon by other brute
beasts whose only instinct was to kill and destroy.
"Let us leave this inferno, Ellis," said Carteret, sick with anger and
disgust. He had just become aware that a negro was being killed, though
he did not know whom. "We can do nothing. The negroes have themselves to
blame,—they tempted us beyond endurance. I counseled firmness, and firm
measures were taken, and our purpose was accomplished. I am not
responsible for these subsequent horrors,—I wash my hands of them. Let
The flames gained headway and gradually enveloped the burning building,
until it became evident to those within as well as those without that
the position of the defenders was no longer tenable. Would they die in
the flames, or would they be driven out? The uncertainty soon came to an
The besieged had been willing to fight, so long as there seemed a hope
of successfully defending themselves and their property; for their
purpose was purely one of defense. When they saw the case was hopeless,
inspired by Josh Green's reckless courage, they were still willing to
sell their lives dearly. One or two of them had already been killed, and
as many more disabled. The fate of Jerry Letlow had struck terror to the
hearts of several others, who could scarcely hide their fear. After the
building had been fired, Josh's exhortations were no longer able to keep
them in the hospital. They preferred to fight and be killed in the open,
rather than to be smothered like rats in a hole.
"Boys!" exclaimed Josh,—"men!—fer nobody but men would do w'at you
have done,—the day has gone 'g'inst us. We kin see ou' finish; but fer
my part, I ain' gwine ter leave dis worl' widout takin' a w'ite man
'long wid me, an' I sees my man right out yonder waitin',—I be'n
waitin' fer him twenty years, but he won' have ter wait fer me mo' 'n
'bout twenty seconds. Eve'y one er you pick yo' man! We'll open de do',
an' we'll give some w'ite men a chance ter be sorry dey ever started
The door was thrown open suddenly, and through it rushed a dozen or more
black figures, armed with knives, pistols, or clubbed muskets. Taken by
sudden surprise, the white people stood motionless for a moment, but the
approaching negroes had scarcely covered half the distance to which the
heat of the flames had driven back the mob, before they were greeted
with a volley that laid them all low but two. One of these, dazed by
the fate of his companions, turned instinctively to flee, but had
scarcely faced around before he fell, pierced in the back by a dozen
Josh Green, the tallest and biggest of them all, had not apparently been
touched. Some of the crowd paused in involuntary admiration of this
black giant, famed on the wharves for his strength, sweeping down upon
them, a smile upon his face, his eyes lit up with a rapt expression
which seemed to take him out of mortal ken. This impression was
heightened by his apparent immunity from the shower of lead which less
susceptible persons had continued to pour at him.
Armed with a huge bowie-knife, a relic of the civil war, which he had
carried on his person for many years for a definite purpose, and which
he had kept sharpened to a razor edge, he reached the line of the crowd.
All but the bravest shrank back. Like a wedge he dashed through the mob,
which parted instinctively before him, and all oblivious of the rain of
lead which fell around him, reached the point where Captain McBane, the
bravest man in the party, stood waiting to meet him. A pistol-flame
flashed in his face, but he went on, and raising his powerful right arm,
buried his knife to the hilt in the heart of his enemy. When the crowd
dashed forward to wreak vengeance on his dead body, they found him with
a smile still upon his face.
One of the two died as the fool dieth. Which was it, or was it both?
"Vengeance is mine," saith the Lord, and it had not been left to Him.
But they that do violence must expect to suffer violence. McBane's death
was merciful, compared with the nameless horrors he had heaped upon the
hundreds of helpless mortals who had fallen into his hands during his
career as a contractor of convict labor.
Sobered by this culminating tragedy, the mob shortly afterwards
dispersed. The flames soon completed their work, and this handsome
structure, the fruit of old Adam Miller's industry, the monument of his
son's philanthropy, a promise of good things for the future of the city,
lay smouldering in ruins, a melancholy witness to the fact that our
boasted civilization is but a thin veneer, which cracks and scales off
at the first impact of primal passions.
By the light of the burning building, which illuminated the street for
several blocks, Major Carteret and Ellis made their way rapidly until
they turned into the street where the major lived. Reaching the house,
Carteret tried the door and found it locked. A vigorous ring at the bell
brought no immediate response. Carteret had begun to pound impatiently
upon the door, when it was cautiously opened by Miss Pemberton, who was
pale, and trembled with excitement.
"Where is Olivia?" asked the major.
"She is upstairs, with Dodie and Mrs. Albright's hospital nurse. Dodie
has the croup. Virgie ran away after the riot broke out. Sister Olivia
had sent for Mammy Jane, but she did not come. Mrs. Albright let her
white nurse come over."
"I'll go up at once," said the major anxiously. "Wait for me,
Ellis,—I'll be down in a few minutes."
"Oh, Mr. Ellis," exclaimed Clara, coming toward him with both hands
extended, "can nothing be done to stop this terrible affair?"
"I wish I could do something," he murmured fervently, taking both her
trembling hands in his own broad palms, where they rested with a
surrendering trustfulness which he has never since had occasion to
doubt. "It has gone too far, already, and the end, I fear, is not yet;
but it cannot grow much worse." The editor hurried upstairs. Mrs.
Carteret, wearing a worried and haggard look, met him at the threshold
of the nursery.
"Dodie is ill," she said. "At three o'clock, when the trouble began, I
was over at Mrs. Albright's,—I had left Virgie with the baby. When I
came back, she and all the other servants had gone. They had heard that
the white people were going to kill all the negroes, and fled to seek
safety. I found Dodie lying in a draught, before an open window, gasping
for breath. I ran back to Mrs. Albright's,—I had found her much better
to-day,—and she let her nurse come over. The nurse says that Dodie is
threatened with membranous croup."
"Have you sent for Dr. Price?"
"There was no one to send,—the servants were gone, and the nurse was
afraid to venture out into the street. I telephoned for Dr. Price, and
found that he was out of town; that he had gone up the river this
morning to attend a patient, and would not be back until to-morrow. Mrs.
Price thought that he had anticipated some kind of trouble in the town
to-day, and had preferred to be where he could not be called upon to
assume any responsibility."
"I suppose you tried Dr. Ashe?"
"I could not get him, nor any one else, after that first call. The
telephone service is disorganized on account of the riot. We need
medicine and ice. The drugstores are all closed on account of the riot,
and for the same reason we couldn't get any ice."
Major Carteret stood beside the brass bedstead upon which his child was
lying,—his only child, around whose curly head clustered all his hopes;
upon whom all his life for the past year had been centred. He stooped
over the bed, beside which the nurse had stationed herself. She was
wiping the child's face, which was red and swollen and covered with
moisture, the nostrils working rapidly, and the little patient vainly
endeavoring at intervals to cough up the obstruction to his breathing.
"Is it serious?" he inquired anxiously. He had always thought of the
croup as a childish ailment, that yielded readily to proper treatment;
but the child's evident distress impressed him with sudden fear.
"Dangerous," replied the young woman laconically. "You came none too
soon. If a doctor isn't got at once, the child will die,—and it must
be a good doctor."
"Whom can I call?" he asked. "You know them all, I suppose. Dr. Price,
our family physician, is out of town."
"Dr. Ashe has charge of his cases when he is away," replied the nurse.
"If you can't find him, try Dr. Hooper. The child is growing worse every
minute. On your way back you'd better get some ice, if possible."
The major hastened downstairs.
"Don't wait for me, Ellis," he said. "I shall be needed here for a
while. I'll get to the office as soon as possible. Make up the paper,
and leave another stick out for me to the last minute, but fill it up in
case I'm not on hand by twelve. We must get the paper out early in the
Nothing but a matter of the most vital importance would have kept Major
Carteret away from his office this night. Upon the presentation to the
outer world of the story of this riot would depend the attitude of the
great civilized public toward the events of the last ten hours. The
Chronicle was the source from which the first word would be expected; it
would give the people of Wellington their cue as to the position which
they must take in regard to this distressful affair, which had so far
transcended in ferocity the most extreme measures which the conspirators
had anticipated. The burden of his own responsibility weighed heavily
upon him, and could not be shaken off; but he must do first the duty
nearest to him,—he must first attend to his child.
Carteret hastened from the house, and traversed rapidly the short
distance to Dr. Ashe's office. Far down the street he could see the glow
of the burning hospital, and he had scarcely left his own house when the
fusillade of shots, fired when the colored men emerged from the burning
building, was audible. Carteret would have hastened back to the scene of
the riot, to see what was now going on, and to make another effort to
stem the tide of bloodshed; but before the dread of losing his child,
all other interests fell into the background. Not all the negroes in
Wellington could weigh in the balance for one instant against the life
of the feeble child now gasping for breath in the house behind him.
Reaching the house, a vigorous ring brought the doctor's wife to the
"Good evening, Mrs. Ashe. Is the doctor at home?"
"No, Major Carteret. He was called to attend Mrs. Wells, who was taken
suddenly ill, as a result of the trouble this afternoon. He will be
there all night, no doubt."
"My child is very ill, and I must find some one."
"Try Dr. Yates. His house is only four doors away."
A ring at Dr. Yates's door brought out a young man.
"Is Dr. Yates in?"
"Can I see him?"
"You might see him, sir, but that would be all. His horse was frightened
by the shooting on the streets, and ran away and threw the doctor, and
broke his right arm. I have just set it; he will not be able to attend
any patients for several weeks. He is old and nervous, and the shock was
"Are you not a physician?" asked Carteret, looking at the young man
keenly. He was a serious, gentlemanly looking young fellow, whose word
might probably be trusted.
"Yes, I am Dr. Evans, Dr. Yates's assistant. I'm really little more
than a student, but I'll do what I can."
"My only child is sick with the croup, and requires immediate
"I ought to be able to handle a case of the croup," answered Dr. Evans,
"at least in the first stages. I'll go with you, and stay by the child,
and if the case is beyond me, I may keep it in check until another
He stepped back into another room, and returning immediately with his
hat, accompanied Carteret homeward. The riot had subsided; even the glow
from the smouldering hospital was no longer visible. It seemed that the
city, appalled at the tragedy, had suddenly awakened to a sense of its
own crime. Here and there a dark face, emerging cautiously from some
hiding-place, peered from behind fence or tree, but shrank hastily away
at the sight of a white face. The negroes of Wellington, with the
exception of Josh Green and his party, had not behaved bravely on this
critical day in their history; but those who had fought were dead, to
the last man; those who had sought safety in flight or concealment were
alive to tell the tale.
"We pass right by Dr. Thompson's," said Dr. Evans. "If you haven't
spoken to him, it might be well to call him for consultation, in case
the child should be very bad."
"Go on ahead," said Carteret, "and I'll get him."
Evans hastened on, while Carteret sounded the old-fashioned knocker upon
the doctor's door. A gray-haired negro servant, clad in a dress suit and
wearing a white tie, came to the door.
"De doctuh, suh," he replied politely to Carteret's question, "has gone
ter ampitate de ahm er a gent'eman who got one er his bones smashed wid
a pistol bullet in de—fightin' dis atternoon, suh. He's jes' gone, suh,
an' lef' wo'd dat he'd be gone a' hour er mo', suh."
Carteret hastened homeward. He could think of no other available
physician. Perhaps no other would be needed, but if so, he could find
out from Evans whom it was best to call.
When he reached the child's room, the young doctor was bending anxiously
over the little frame. The little lips had become livid, the little
nails, lying against the white sheet, were blue. The child's efforts to
breathe were most distressing, and each gasp cut the father like a
knife. Mrs. Carteret was weeping hysterically. "How is he, doctor?"
asked the major.
"He is very low," replied the young man. "Nothing short of
tracheotomy—an operation to open the windpipe—will relieve him.
Without it, in half or three quarters of an hour he will be unable to
breathe. It is a delicate operation, a mistake in which would be as
fatal as the disease. I have neither the knowledge nor the experience to
attempt it, and your child's life is too valuable for a student to
practice upon. Neither have I the instruments here."
"What shall we do?" demanded Carteret. "We have called all the best
doctors, and none are available."
The young doctor's brow was wrinkled with thought. He knew a doctor who
could perform the operation. He had heard, also, of a certain event at
Carteret's house some months before, when an unwelcome physician had
been excluded from a consultation,—but it was the last chance.
"There is but one other doctor in town who has performed the operation,
so far as I know," he declared, "and that is Dr. Miller. If you can get
him, he can save your child's life."
Carteret hesitated involuntarily. All the incidents, all the arguments,
of the occasion when he had refused to admit the colored doctor to his
house, came up vividly before his memory. He had acted in accordance
with his lifelong beliefs, and had carried his point; but the present
situation was different,—this was a case of imperative necessity, and
every other interest or consideration must give way before the imminence
of his child's peril. That the doctor would refuse the call, he did not
imagine: it would be too great an honor for a negro to decline,—unless
some bitterness might have grown out of the proceedings of the
afternoon. That this doctor was a man of some education he knew; and he
had been told that he was a man of fine feeling,—for a negro,—and
might easily have taken to heart the day's events. Nevertheless, he
could hardly refuse a professional call,—professional ethics would
require him to respond. Carteret had no reason to suppose that Miller
had ever learned of what had occurred at the house during Dr. Burns's
visit to Wellington. The major himself had never mentioned the
controversy, and no doubt the other gentlemen had been equally silent.
"I'll go for him myself," said Dr. Evans, noting Carteret's hesitation
and suspecting its cause. "I can do nothing here alone, for a little
while, and I may be able to bring the doctor back with me. He likes a
* * * * *
It seemed an age ere the young doctor returned, though it was really
only a few minutes. The nurse did what she could to relieve the child's
sufferings, which grew visibly more and more acute. The mother, upon the
other side of the bed, held one of the baby's hands in her own, and
controlled her feelings as best she might. Carteret paced the floor
anxiously, going every few seconds to the head of the stairs to listen
for Evans's footsteps on the piazza without. At last the welcome sound
was audible, and a few strides took him to the door.
"Dr. Miller is at home, sir," reported Evans, as he came in. "He says
that he was called to your house once before, by a third person who
claimed authority to act, and that he was refused admittance. He
declares that he will not consider such a call unless it come from you
"That is true, quite true," replied Carteret. "His position is a just
one. I will go at once. Will—will—my child live until I can get Miller
"He can live for half an hour without an operation. Beyond that I could
give you little hope."
Seizing his hat, Carteret dashed out of the yard and ran rapidly to
Miller's house; ordinarily a walk of six or seven minutes, Carteret
covered it in three, and was almost out of breath when he rang the bell
of Miller's front door.
The ring was answered by the doctor in person.
"Dr. Miller, I believe?" asked Carteret.
"I am Major Carteret. My child is seriously ill, and you are the only
available doctor who can perform the necessary operation."
"Ah! You have tried all the others,—and then you come to me!"
"Yes, I do not deny it," admitted the major, biting his lip. He had not
counted on professional jealousy as an obstacle to be met. "But I have
come to you, as a physician, to engage your professional services for my
child,—my only child. I have confidence in your skill, or I should not
have come to you. I request—nay, I implore you to lose no more time,
but come with me at once! My child's life is hanging by a thread, and
you can save it!"
"Ah!" replied the other, "as a father whose only child's life is in
danger, you implore me, of all men in the world, to come and save it!"
There was a strained intensity in the doctor's low voice that struck
Carteret, in spite of his own pre-occupation. He thought he heard, too,
from the adjoining room, the sound of some one sobbing softly. There was
some mystery here which he could not fathom unaided.
Miller turned to the door behind him and threw it open. On the white
cover of a low cot lay a childish form in the rigidity of death, and by
it knelt, with her back to the door, a woman whose shoulders were shaken
by the violence of her sobs. Absorbed in her grief, she did not turn, or
give any sign that she had recognized the intrusion.
"There, Major Carteret!" exclaimed Miller, with the tragic eloquence of
despair, "there lies a specimen of your handiwork! There lies my only
child, laid low by a stray bullet in this riot which you and your paper
have fomented; struck down as much by your hand as though you had held
the weapon with which his life was taken!"
"My God!" exclaimed Carteret, struck with horror. "Is the child dead?"
"There he lies," continued the other, "an innocent child,—there he lies
dead, his little life snuffed out like a candle, because you and a
handful of your friends thought you must override the laws and run this
town at any cost!—and there kneels his mother, overcome by grief. We
are alone in the house. It is not safe to leave her unattended. My duty
calls me here, by the side of my dead child and my suffering wife! I
cannot go with you. There is a just God in heaven!—as you have sown, so
may you reap!"
Carteret possessed a narrow, but a logical mind, and except when
confused or blinded by his prejudices, had always tried to be a just
man. In the agony of his own predicament,—in the horror of the
situation at Miller's house,—for a moment the veil of race prejudice
was rent in twain, and he saw things as they were, in their correct
proportions and relations,—saw clearly and convincingly that he had no
standing here, in the presence of death, in the home of this stricken
family. Miller's refusal to go with him was pure, elemental justice; he
could not blame the doctor for his stand. He was indeed conscious of a
certain involuntary admiration for a man who held in his hands the power
of life and death, and could use it, with strict justice, to avenge his
own wrongs. In Dr. Miller's place he would have done the same thing.
Miller had spoken the truth,—as he had sown, so must he reap! He could
not expect, could not ask, this father to leave his own household at
such a moment.
Pressing his lips together with grim courage, and bowing mechanically,
as though to Fate rather than the physician, Carteret turned and left
the house. At a rapid pace he soon reached home. There was yet a chance
for his child: perhaps some one of the other doctors had come; perhaps,
after all, the disease had taken a favorable turn,—Evans was but a
young doctor, and might have been mistaken. Surely, with doctors all
around him, his child would not be permitted to die for lack of medical
attention! He found the mother, the doctor, and the nurse still grouped,
as he had left them, around the suffering child.
"How is he now?" he asked, in a voice that sounded like a groan.
"No better," replied the doctor; "steadily growing worse. He can go on
probably for twenty minutes longer without an operation."
"Where is the doctor?" demanded Mrs. Carteret, looking eagerly toward
the door. "You should have brought him right upstairs. There's not a
minute to spare! Phil, Phil, our child will die!"
Carteret's heart swelled almost to bursting with an intense pity. Even
his own great sorrow became of secondary importance beside the grief
which his wife must soon feel at the inevitable loss of her only child.
And it was his fault! Would that he could risk his own life to spare her
and to save the child!
Briefly, and as gently as might be, he stated the result of his errand.
The doctor had refused to come, for a good reason. He could not ask him
Young Evans felt the logic of the situation, which Carteret had
explained sufficiently. To the nurse it was even clearer. If she or any
other woman had been in the doctor's place, she would have given the
Mrs. Carteret did not stop to reason. In such a crisis a mother's heart
usurps the place of intellect. For her, at that moment, there were but
two facts in all the world. Her child lay dying. There was within the
town, and within reach, a man who could save him. With an agonized cry
she rushed wildly from the room.
Carteret sought to follow her, but she flew down the long stairs like a
wild thing. The least misstep might have precipitated her to the bottom;
but ere Carteret, with a remonstrance on his lips, had scarcely reached
the uppermost step, she had thrown open the front door and fled
precipitately out into the night.
Miller's doorbell rang loudly, insistently, as though demanding a
response. Absorbed in his own grief, into which he had relapsed upon
Carteret's departure, the sound was an unwelcome intrusion. Surely the
man could not be coming back! If it were some one else—What else might
happen to the doomed town concerned him not. His child was dead,—his
distracted wife could not be left alone.
The doorbell rang—clamorously—appealingly. Through the long hall and
the closed door of the room where he sat, he could hear some one
knocking, and a faint voice calling.
"Open, for God's sake, open!"
It was a woman's voice,—the voice of a woman in distress. Slowly Miller
rose and went to the door, which he opened mechanically.
A lady stood there, so near the image of his own wife, whom he had just
left, that for a moment he was well-nigh startled. A little older,
perhaps, a little fairer of complexion, but with the same form, the same
features, marked by the same wild grief. She wore a loose wrapper, which
clothed her like the drapery of a statue. Her long dark hair, the
counterpart of his wife's, had fallen down, and hung disheveled about
her shoulders. There was blood upon her knuckles, where she had beaten
with them upon the door. "Dr. Miller," she panted, breathless from her
flight and laying her hand upon his arm appealingly,—when he shrank
from the contact she still held it there,—"Dr. Miller, you will come
and save my child? You know what it is to lose a child! I am so sorry
about your little boy! You will come to mine!"
"Your sorrow comes too late, madam," he said harshly. "My child is dead.
I charged your husband with his murder, and he could not deny it. Why
should I save your husband's child?"
"Ah, Dr. Miller!" she cried, with his wife's voice,—she never knew how
much, in that dark hour, she owed to that resemblance—"it is my
child, and I have never injured you. It is my child, Dr. Miller, my only
child. I brought it into the world at the risk of my own life! I have
nursed it, I have watched over it, I have prayed for it,—and it now
lies dying! Oh, Dr. Miller, dear Dr. Miller, if you have a heart, come
and save my child!"
"Madam," he answered more gently, moved in spite of himself, "my heart
is broken. My people lie dead upon the streets, at the hands of yours.
The work of my life is in ashes,—and, yonder, stretched out in death,
lies my own child! God! woman, you ask too much of human nature! Love,
duty, sorrow, justice, call me here. I cannot go!"
She rose to her full height. "Then you are a murderer," she cried
wildly. "His blood be on your head, and a mother's curse beside!"
The next moment, with a sudden revulsion of feeling, she had thrown
herself at his feet,—at the feet of a negro, this proud white
woman,—and was clasping his knees wildly.
"O God!" she prayed, in tones which quivered with anguish, "pardon my
husband's sins, and my own, and move this man's hard heart, by the blood
of thy Son, who died to save us all!"
It was the last appeal of poor humanity. When the pride of intellect and
caste is broken; when we grovel in the dust of humiliation; when
sickness and sorrow come, and the shadow of death falls upon us, and
there is no hope elsewhere,—we turn to God, who sometimes swallows the
insult, and answers the appeal.
Miller raised the lady to her feet. He had been deeply moved,—but he
had been more deeply injured. This was his wife's sister,—ah, yes! but
a sister who had scorned and slighted and ignored the existence of his
wife for all her life. Only Miller, of all the world, could have guessed
what this had meant to Janet, and he had merely divined it through the
clairvoyant sympathy of love. This woman could have no claim upon him
because of this unacknowledged relationship. Yet, after all, she was his
wife's sister, his child's kinswoman. She was a fellow creature, too,
and in distress.
"Rise, madam," he said, with a sudden inspiration, lifting her gently.
"I will listen to you on one condition. My child lies dead in the
adjoining room, his mother by his side. Go in there, and make your
request of her. I will abide by her decision."
The two women stood confronting each other across the body of the dead
child, mute witness of this first meeting between two children of the
same father. Standing thus face to face, each under the stress of the
deepest emotions, the resemblance between them was even more striking
than it had seemed to Miller when he had admitted Mrs. Carteret to the
house. But Death, the great leveler, striking upon the one hand and
threatening upon the other, had wrought a marvelous transformation in
the bearing of the two women. The sad-eyed Janet towered erect, with
menacing aspect, like an avenging goddess. The other, whose pride had
been her life, stood in the attitude of a trembling suppliant.
"You have come here," cried Janet, pointing with a tragic gesture to
the dead child,—"you, to gloat over your husband's work. All my life
you have hated and scorned and despised me. Your presence here insults
me and my dead. What are you doing here?"
"Mrs. Miller," returned Mrs. Carteret tremulously, dazed for a moment by
this outburst, and clasping her hands with an imploring gesture, "my
child, my only child, is dying, and your husband alone can save his
life. Ah, let me have my child," she moaned, heart-rendingly. "It is my
only one—my sweet child—my ewe lamb!"
"This was my only child!" replied the other mother; "and yours is no
better to die than mine!"
"You are young," said Mrs. Carteret, "and may yet have many
children,—this is my only hope! If you have a human heart, tell your
husband to come with me. He leaves it to you; he will do as you
"Ah," cried Janet, "I have a human heart, and therefore I will not let
him go. My child is dead—O God, my child, my child!"
She threw herself down by the bedside, sobbing hysterically. The other
woman knelt beside her, and put her arm about her neck. For a moment
Janet, absorbed in her grief, did not repulse her. "Listen," pleaded
Mrs. Carteret. "You will not let my baby die? You are my sister;—the
child is your own near kin!"
"My child was nearer," returned Janet, rising again to her feet and
shaking off the other woman's arm. "He was my son, and I have seen him
die. I have been your sister for twenty-five years, and you have only
now, for the first time, called me so!"
"Listen—sister," returned Mrs. Carteret. Was there no way to move this
woman? Her child lay dying, if he were not dead already. She would tell
everything, and leave the rest to God. If it would save her child, she
would shrink at no sacrifice. Whether the truth would still further
incense Janet, or move her to mercy, she could not tell; she would leave
the issue to God.
"Listen, sister!" she said. "I have a confession to make. You are my
lawful sister. My father was married to your mother. You are entitled to
his name, and to half his estate."
Janet's eyes flashed with bitter scorn.
"And you have robbed me all these years, and now tell me that as a
reason why I should forgive the murder of my child?"
"No, no!" cried the other wildly, fearing the worst. "I have known of it
only a few weeks,—since my Aunt Polly's death. I had not meant to rob
you,—I had meant to make restitution. Sister! for our father's sake,
who did you no wrong, give me my child's life!"
Janet's eyes slowly filled with tears—bitter tears—burning tears. For
a moment even her grief at her child's loss dropped to second place in
her thoughts. This, then, was the recognition for which, all her life,
she had longed in secret. It had come, after many days, and in larger
measure than she had dreamed; but it had come, not with frank kindliness
and sisterly love, but in a storm of blood and tears; not freely given,
from an open heart, but extorted from a reluctant conscience by the
agony of a mother's fears. Janet had obtained her heart's desire, and
now that it was at her lips, found it but apples of Sodom, filled with
dust and ashes!
"Listen!" she cried, dashing her tears aside. "I have but one word for
you,—one last word,—and then I hope never to see your face again! My
mother died of want, and I was brought up by the hand of charity. Now,
when I have married a man who can supply my needs, you offer me back the
money which you and your friends have robbed me of! You imagined that
the shame of being a negro swallowed up every other ignominy,—and in
your eyes I am a negro, though I am your sister, and you are white, and
people have taken me for you on the streets,—and you, therefore, left
me nameless all my life! Now, when an honest man has given me a name of
which I can be proud, you offer me the one of which you robbed me, and
of which I can make no use. For twenty-five years I, poor, despicable
fool, would have kissed your feet for a word, a nod, a smile. Now, when
this tardy recognition comes, for which I have waited so long, it is
tainted with fraud and crime and blood, and I must pay for it with my
"And I must forfeit that of mine, it seems, for withholding it so long,"
sobbed the other, as, tottering, she turned to go. "It is but just."
"Stay—do not go yet!" commanded Janet imperiously, her pride still
keeping back her tears. "I have not done. I throw you back your
father's name, your father's wealth, your sisterly recognition. I want
none of them,—they are bought too dear! ah, God, they are bought too
dear! But that you may know that a woman may be foully wronged, and yet
may have a heart to feel, even for one who has injured her, you may have
your child's life, if my husband can save it! Will," she said, throwing
open the door into the next room, "go with her!"
"God will bless you for a noble woman!" exclaimed Mrs. Carteret. "You do
not mean all the cruel things you have said,—ah, no! I will see you
again, and make you take them back; I cannot thank you now! Oh, doctor,
let us go! I pray God we may not be too late!"
Together they went out into the night. Mrs. Carteret tottered under the
stress of her emotions, and would have fallen, had not Miller caught and
sustained her with his arm until they reached the house, where he turned
over her fainting form to Carteret at the door.
"Is the child still alive?" asked Miller.
"Yes, thank God," answered the father, "but nearly gone."
"Come on up, Dr. Miller," called Evans from the head of the stairs.
"There's time enough, but none to spare."