The Marrow of Tradition
Charles W. Chesnutt
Part 3 out of 5
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
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