The Fire in the Flint by Walter F. White (2023)

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Title: The fire in the flint

Author: Walter F. White

Release Date: January 25, 2023 [eBook #69877]

Language: English

Produced by: Neal Caren. This file was derived from images generously made available by the University of Michigan through the HathiTrust.


The Fire in the Flint by Walter F. White (1)








“The fire in the flint never shows until it is struck.”

Old English Proverb.




KennethHarper gazed slowly around his office. A smile of satisfactionwreathed his face, reflecting his inward contentment. He felt like arunner who sees ahead of him the coveted goal towards which he has beenstraining through many gruelling miles. Kenneth was tired but he gave nothought to his weariness. Two weeks of hard work, countless annoyances,seemingly infinite delays—all were now forgotten in the warm glow whichpervaded his being. He, Kenneth B. Harper, M.D., was now ready toreceive the stream of patients he felt sure was coming.

He walked around the room and fingered with almost loving tendernessthe newly installed apparatus. He adjusted and readjusted theexamining-table of shining nickel and white enamel which had arrivedthat morning from New York. He arranged again the black leather pads andcushions. With his handkerchief he wiped imaginary spots of dust fromthe plate glass door and shelves of the instrument case, though hissister Mamie had polished them but half an hour before until they shonewith crystal clearness. Instrument after instrument he fondled with theair of a connoisseur examining a rare bit of porcelain. He fingeredcritically their various [12]parts to see if all were in perfect condition. He tore a stamp from anold letter and placed it under the lens of the expensive microscopeadjusting and readjusting until every feature of the stamp stood outclearly even to the most infinite detail. He raised and lowered half adozen times or more the lid of the nickelled sterilizer. He set atvarious angles the white screen which surrounded the examining-table,viewed it each time from different corners of the room, and rearrangedit until it was set just right. He ran his hand over the card indexfiles in his small desk. He looked at the clean white cards with thetabs on them—the cards which, though innocent now of writing, he hopedand expected would soon be filled with the names of innumerable sickpeople he was treating.

His eye caught what he thought was a pucker in thegrey-and-blue-chequered linoleum which covered the floor. He went overand moved the sectional bookcase containing his volumes on obstetrics,on gynæcology, on materia medica, on the diseases he knew hewould treat as a general practitioner of medicine in so small a place asCentral City. No, that wasn’t a pucker—it was only the light from thewindow striking it at that angle.

“Dr.Kenneth B. Harper, Physician and Surgeon.” He spelled out theletters which were painted on the upper panes of the two windows facingon State Street. It thrilled him that eight years of hard work had endedand he now was at the point in his life towards which he had longinglylooked all those years. [13]Casting his eyes again around the office, he went into the adjoiningreception room.

Kenneth threw himself in utter exhaustion into one of the comfortablearm-chairs there. His hands, long-fingered, tapering to slender points,the hands of a pianist, an artist, whether of brush or chisel orscalpel, hung over the sides in languid fashion. He was without coat orvest. His shirt-sleeves were rolled back above his elbows, revealingstrongly muscled dark brown arms. His face was of the same richlycoloured brown. His mouth was sensitively shaped with evenly matchedstrong white teeth. The eyes too were brown, usually sober and serious,but flashing into a broad and friendly smile when there was occasion forit. Brushed straight back from the broad forehead was a mass of wavyhair, brown also but of a deeper shade, almost black. The chin was wellshaped.

As he lounged in the chair and looked around the reception room, heappeared to be of medium height, rather well-proportioned, almoststocky. Three years of baseball and football, and nearly two years ofarmy life with all its hardships, had thickened up the once ratherslender figure and had given to the face a more mature appearance,different from the youthful, almost callow look he had worn when hisdiploma had been handed him at the end of his college course.

The reception room was as pleasing to him as he sat there as had beenthe private office. There were three or four more chairs like the one inwhich he [14] sat. There was acouch to match. The wall-paper was a subdued tan, serving as anexcellent background for four brightly coloured reproductions of goodpictures. Their brightness was matched by a vase of deep blue that stoodon the table. Beside the vase were two rows of magazines placed therefor perusal by his patients as they waited admittance to the moreaustere room beyond. It was comfortable. It was in good taste—almost toogood taste, Kenneth thought, for a place like Central City in a sectionlike the southernmost part of Georgia. Some of the country folks andeven those in town would probably say it was too plain—didn’t haveenough colour about it. Oh, well, that wouldn’t matter, Kenneth thought.They wouldn’t have to live there. Most of them would hardly notice it,if they paid any attention at all to relatively minor and unimportantthings like colour schemes.

Kenneth felt that he had good reason to feel content with the presentoutlook. He lighted a cigarette and settled himself more comfortably inthe deep chair and let his mind wander over the long trail he hadcovered. He thought of the eight happy years he had spent at AtlantaUniversity—four of high school and four of college. He rememberedgratefully the hours of companionship with those men and women who hadleft comfortable homes and friends in the North to give their lives tothe education of coloured boys and girls in Georgia. They were sohuman—so sincere—so genuinely anxious to help. It wasn’t easy for themto do it, either, for [15] itmeant ostracism and all its attendant unpleasantnesses to teach colouredchildren in Georgia anything other than industrial courses. And theywere so different from the white folks he knew in Central City. Here hehad always been made to feel that because he was a “nigger” he waspredestined to inferiority. But there at Atlanta they had treated himlike a human being. He was glad he had gone to Atlanta University. Ithad made him realize that all white folks weren’t bad—that there weredecent ones, after all.

And then medical school in the North! How eagerly he had lookedforward to it! The bustle, the air of alert and eager determination, thelovely old ivied walls of the buildings where he attended classes. Helaughed softly to himself as he remembered how terribly lonesome he hadbeen that first day when as an ignorant country boy he found himselfreally at a Northern school. That had been a hard night to get through.Everybody had seemed so intent on doing something that was interesting,going so rapidly towards the places where those interesting things wereto take place, greeting old friends and acquaintances affectionately andwith all the boisterous bonhomie that only youth, and college youth atthat, seem to be able to master. It had been a bitter pill for him toswallow that he alone of all that seething, noisy, tremendous mass ofstudents, was alone—without friend or acquaintance—the one lonely figureof the thousands around him.

That hadn’t lasted long though. Good old Bill [16] Van Vleet! That’s whathaving family and money and prestige behind you did for a fellow! It wasa mighty welcome thing when old Bill came to him there as he satdejectedly that second morning on the campus and roused him out of hisgloom. And then the four years when Bill had been his closest friend. Hehad been one wonderful free soul that knew no line of caste or race.

His friendship with Van Vleet seemed to Kenneth now almost like thememory of a pleasant dream on awaking. Even then it had often seemed buta fleeting, evanescent experience a wholly temporary arrangement thatwas intended to last only through the four years of medical school.Those times when Bill had invited him to spend Christmas holidays at hishome they had been hard invitations to get out of. Bill had been sincereenough, no doubt of that. But Bill’s father—his mother—theirfriends—would they—old Pennsylvania Dutch family that they were wouldthey be as glad to welcome a Negro into their home? He had always beenafraid to take the chance of finding that they wouldn’t. Decent enoughhad they been when Bill introduced him to them on one of their visits toPhiladelphia. But—and this was a big “but”—there was a real differencebetween being nice to a coloured friend of Bill’s at school and treatingthat same fellow decently in their own home. Kenneth was conscious of avague feeling even now that he had not treated them fairly in judgingthem by the white people of Central City. Yet, white folks were whitefolks—and that’s that! Hadn’t his [17] father always told him that the best way toget along with white people was to stay away from them and let themalone as much as possible?

Through his mind passed memories of the many conversations he had hadwith his father on that subject. Especially that talk together before hehad gone away to medical school. He didn’t know then it was the lasttime he would see his father alive. He had had no way of knowing thathis father, always so rugged, so buoyantly healthy, so uncomplaining,would die of appendicitis while he, Kenneth, was in France. If he hadonly been at home!

He’d have known it wasn’t a case of plain cramps, as that old fossil,Dr.Bennett, had called it. What was the exact way in which his fatherhad put his philosophy of life in the South during that last talk theyhad had together? It had run like this: Any Negro can get along withouttrouble in the South if he only attends to his own business. It wasunfortunate, mighty unpleasant and uncomfortable at times, that colouredpeople, no matter what their standing, had to ride in Jim Crow cars,couldn’t vote, couldn’t use the public libraries and all those otherthings. Lynching, too, was bad. But only bad Negroes ever got lynched.And, after all, those things weren’t all of life. Booker Washington wasright. And the others who were always howling about rights were wrong.Get a trade or a profession. Get a home. Get some property. Get a bankaccount. Do something! Be somebody! And then, when enough Negroes hadreached that stage, the ballot and all the [18] other things now denied them would come.White folks then would see that the Negro was deserving of those rightsand privileges and would freely, gladly give them to him without hisasking for them. That was the way he felt. When Bill Van Vleet had urgedhim to go with him to dinners or the theatre, he had had always someexcuse that Bill had to accept whether he had believed it or not. GoodOld Bill! They never knew during those more or less happy days what wasin store for them both.

Neither of them had known that the German Army was going to sweepdown through Belgium. Nor did they know that Bill was fated to end hisshort but brilliant career as an aviator in a blazing, spectaculardescent behind the German lines, the lucky shot of a Germananti-aircraft gun.

Graduation. The diploma which gave him the right to call himself“Dr.Kenneth B. Harper.” And then that stormy, yet advantageous year inNew York at Bellevue. Hadn’t they raised sand at his, a Negro’spresumption in seeking that interneship at Bellevue! He’d almost lostout. No Negro interne had ever been there before. If it hadn’t been forDr.Cox, to whom he had had a letter of introduction from his oldprofessor of pathology at school, he never would have got the chance.But it had been worth it.

Kenneth lighted another cigarette and draped his legs over the arm ofthe chair. It wasn’t bad at all to think of the things he had gonethrough—now that they were over. Especially the army. Out of Bellevue[19] one week when the chancecame to go to the Negro officers’ training-camp at Des Moines. Firstlieutenant’s bars in the medical corps. Then the long months of trainingand hard work at Camp Upton, relieved by occasional pleasant trips toNew York. Lucky he’d been assigned to the 367th of the 92nd Division.Good to be near a real town like New York.

That had been some exciting ride across. And then the Meuse, theArgonne, then Metz. God, but that was a terrible nightmare! Right backof the lines had he been assigned. Men with arms and legs shot off. Sometorn to pieces by shrapnel. Some burned horribly by mustard gas. Theworse night had been when the Germans made that sudden attack at theMeuse. For five days they had been fighting and working. That night hehad almost broken down. How he had cursed war! And those who made war.And the civilization that permitted war—even made it necessary. Neveragain for him! Seemed like a horrible dream—a nightmare worse than anyhe had ever known as a boy when he’d eaten green apples or too muchmince pie.

That awful experience he had soon relegated to the background of hismind. Especially when he was spending those blessed six months at theSorbonne. That had been another hard job to put over. They didn’t wantany Negroes staying in France. They’d howled and they’d brought up milesof red tape. But he had ignored the howls and unwound the red tape.

[20] And now, Central Cityagain. It was good to get back. Four—eight—sixteen years had he spent inpreparation. Now he was all ready to get to work at his profession. Fora time he’d have to do general practising. Had to make money. Then he’dspecialize in surgery—major surgery. Soon’s he got enough money ahead,he’d build a sanitarium. Make of it as modern a hospital as he couldafford. He’d draw on all of South Georgia for his patients. Nearest onenow is Atlanta. All South Georgia—most of Florida—even from Alabama. Tenyears from now he’d have a place known and patronized by all thecoloured people in the South. Something like the Mayo Brothers up inRochester, Minnesota!

“Pretty nifty, eh, Ken?”

Kenneth, aroused suddenly from his retrospection and day-dreams,jumped at the unexpected voice behind him. It was his younger brother,Bob. He laughed a little shamefacedly at his having been startled.Without waiting for a reply, Bob entered the room and sat on the edge ofthe table facing Kenneth.

“Yep! Things are shaping up rather nicely. Everything’s here now butthe patients. And those’ll be coming along pretty soon, I believe,”replied Kenneth confidently. He went on talking enthusiastically of thecastles in the air he had been building when Bob entered the room—of thehospital he was going to erect—how he planned attending the StateMedical Convention every year to form contracts with other coloureddoctors of Georgia—how he was intending [21] to visit during the coming year all thecoloured physicians within a radius of a hundred miles of Central Cityto enlist their support. He discussed the question of a name for thehospital. How would Harper’s Sanitarium sound? Or would the Central CityInfirmary be better? Or the Hospital of South Georgia?

On and on Kenneth rambled, talking half to Bob, half in audiblecontinuation of his reverie before Bob had entered. But Bob wasn’tlistening to him. On his face was the usual half-moody,half-discontented expression which Kenneth knew so well. Bob was lookingdown the dusty expanse of the road which bore rather poorly the imposingtitle of State Street. The house was located at the corner of Lee andState Streets. It was set back about fifty feet from the streets, andthe yard outside showed the work of one who loved flowers. There was anexpanse of smooth lawn, dotted here and there with flowering beds ofpansies, of nasturtiums. There were several abundantly laden rose-bushesand two of “cape jessamine” that filled the air with an intoxicating,almost cloying sweetness.

Though it was a balmy October afternoon, the air languorous andcaressing, Bob shared none of the atmosphere’s lazy contentment. Allthis riot of colours and odours served in no manner to remove from hisface the dissatisfied look that covered it. He listened to Kenneth’srhapsodies of what he intended accomplishing with what was almost agrimace of distaste. He was taller than Kenneth, of slighter [22] build, but of the same richcolouring of skin and with the same hair and features.

In spite of these physical resemblances between the two brothers,there was a more intangible difference which clearly distinguished thetwo. Kenneth was more phlegmatic, more of a philosophic turn of mind,more content with his lot, able to forget himself in his work, and whenthat was finished, in his books. Bob, on the other hand, was of a highlysensitized nature, more analytical of mind, more easily roused topassion and anger. This tendency had been developed since the death ofhis father just before he completed his freshman year at Atlanta. Thedeath had necessitated his leaving school and returning to Central Cityto act as administrator of his father’s estate. His experiences inaccomplishing this task had not been pleasant ones. He had been forcedto deal with the tricksters that infested the town. He had come incontact with all the chicanery, the petty thievery, the padded accounts,that only petty minds can devise. The utter impotence he had felt inhaving no legal redress as a Negro had embittered him. Joe Harper, theirfather, had been exceedingly careful in keeping account of all billsowed and due him. Yet Bob had been forced to pay a number of bills ofwhich he could find no record in his father’s neatly kept papers. Thesehad aggregated somewhere between three and four thousand dollars.Various white merchants of the town claimed that Joe Harper, his father,owed them. Bob knew they were lying. Yet he could do nothing. No courtin South Georgia [23] wouldhave listened to his side of the story or paid more than perfunctoryattention to him. It was a case of a white man’s word against a Negro’s,and a verdict against the Negro was sure even before the case wasopened.

Kenneth, on the other hand, had been a favourite of their quiet,almost taciturn father. Always filled with ambition for his children,Joe Harper had furnished Kenneth, as liberally as he could afford, themoney necessary for him to get the medical education he wanted. He hadnot been a rich man but he had been comfortably fixed financially.Starting out as a carpenter doing odd jobs around Central City, he hadgradually expanded his activities to the building of small houses andlater to larger homes and business buildings. Most of the two-storybuildings that lined Lee Street in the business section of Central Cityhad been built by him. White and coloured alike knew that when JoeHarper took a contract, it would be done right. Aided by a frugal andeconomical wife, he had purchased real estate and, though the profitshad been slow and small, had managed with his wife to accumulate duringtheir thirty-five years of married life between twenty and twenty-fivethousand dollars which he left at his death to his wife and threechildren.

Kenneth had been furnished with the best that his father couldafford, while Bob, some ten years younger than his brother, had had towait until Kenneth finished school before he could begin his course. Bobfelt no jealousy of his favoured brother, yet [24] the experiences that had been his in CentralCity while Kenneth was away had tended towards a bitterness whichfrequently found expression on his face. He was the natural rebel,revolt was a part of his creed. Kenneth was the natural pacifist—henever bothered trouble until trouble bothered him. Even then, if hecould avoid it, he always did. It was not strange, therefore, that heshould have come home believing implicitly that his father was rightwhen he had said Kenneth could get along without trouble in Central Cityas long as he attended to his own business.

Kenneth talked on and on, unfolding the plans he had made for theextending of the influence of his hospital throughout the South. Bob,occupied with his own thoughts, heard but little of it. Suddenly heinterrupted Kenneth with a sharply put question.

“Ken, why did you come back to Central City?” he asked. He went onwithout waiting for a reply. “If I had had your chances of studying upNorth and in France, and living where you don’t have to be A afraid ofgetting into trouble with Crackers all the time, I’d rather’ve doneanything else than to come back to this rotten place to live the rest ofmy life.”

Kenneth laughed easily, almost as though a five-year-old had askedsome exceedingly foolish question.

“Why did I come back?” he repeated. “That’s easy. I came back becauseI can make more money here than anywhere else.”

[25] “But that isn’t themost important thing in life!” Bob exclaimed.

“Maybe not the most important,” Kenneth laughed, “but a mightyconvenient article to have lying around. I came back here where the bulkof coloured people live and where they make money off their crops andwhere there won’t be much trouble for me to build up a bigpractice.”

“That’s an old argument,” retorted Bob. “Nearly a million colouredpeople went North during the war and they’re making money there handover fist. You could make just as much money, if not more, in a citylike Detroit or Cleveland or New York, and you wouldn’t have to bealways afraid you’ve given offence to some of these damned ignorantCrackers down here.”

“Oh, I suppose I could’ve made money there. Dr. Cox at Bellevue toldme I ought to stay there in New York and practise in Harlem, but Iwanted to come back home. I can do more good here, both for myself andfor the coloured people, than I could up there.” He paused and thenasserted confidently: “And I don’t think I’ll have any trouble downhere. Papa got along all right here in this town for more than fiftyyears, and I reckon I can do it too.”

“But, Ken,” Bob protested, “the way things were when he came alongare a lot different from the way they are now. Just yesterday Old ManMygatt down to the bank got mad and told me I was an ‘impudent youngnigger that needed to be taught my place’ because [26] I called his hand on a note he claimed papaowed the bank. He knew I knew he was lying, and that’s what made him somad. They’re already saying I’m not a ‘good nigger’ like papa was andthat education has spoiled me into thinking I’m as good as they are.Good Lord, if I wasn’t any better than these ignorant Crackers in thistown, I’d go out and jump in the river.”

Bob was working himself into a temper. Kenneth interrupted him with agood-natured smile as he said:

“Bob, you’re getting too pessimistic. You’ve been reading too many ofthese coloured newspapers published in New York and Chicago and thesesocieties that’re always playing up some lynching or other trouble downhere—”

“What if I have? I don’t need to read them to know that things aremuch worse to-day than they were a few years back. You haven’t liveddown here for nearly nine years and you don’t know how things arechanged.”

“It’s you who have changed—not conditions so much!” Kenneth answered.“What if there are mean white folks? There are lots of other whitepeople who want to see the Negro succeed. Only this morning Dr.Bennetttold mamma he was glad I came back and he’d do what he could to help me.And there’re lots more like”

“That’s nice of Dr.Bennett,” interjected Bob. “He can afford to talkbig—he’s got the practice of this town sewed up. And, most of all, he’sa white man. Suppose some of these poor whites get it into [27] their heads to make troublebecause you’re getting too prosperous—what then? Dr.Bennett and all therest of the good white folks around here can’t help you!”

“Oh, yes, they can,” Kenneth observed with the same confident smile.“Judge Stevenson and Roy Ewing and Mr.Baird at the Bank of Central Cityand a lot others run this town and they aren’t going to let any decentcoloured man be bothered. Why, I’ll have a cinch around this part ofGeorgia! There aren’t more than half a dozen coloured doctors in allthis part of the country who’ve had a decent medical education andtraining. All they know is ladling out pills and fake panaceas. In a fewyears I’ll be able to give up general practising and give all my time tomajor surgery. I’ll handle pretty nearly everything in this part of theState. And then you’ll see I’m right!”

“Have it your own way,” retorted Bob. “But I’m telling you again, youhaven’t been living down here for eight or nine years and you don’tknow. When all these Negroes were going North, some of these same ‘goodwhite folks’ you’re depending on started talking about ‘putting niggersin their place’ when they couldn’t get servants and field hands. You’llfind things a lot different from the way they were when you went upNorth to school.”

“What’re you boys fussing about? What’s the trouble?”

Bob and Kenneth turned at the voice from the doorway behind them. Itwas their mother. [28]“Nothing, mamma, only Bob’s got a fit of the blues to-day.”

Mrs.Harper came in and looked from one to the other of her sons. Shewas a buxom, pleasant-faced woman of fifty-odd years, her hair oncebrown now flecked with grey. She wiped the perspiration from herforehead with the corner of her apron, announcing meanwhile that supperwas ready. As he rose, Kenneth continued his explanation of theirconversation.

“Bob’s seeing things like a kid in the dark. He thinks I’ll not beable to do the things I came back here to accomplish. Thinks theCrackers won’t let me! I’m going to solve my own problem, do as muchgood as I can, make as much money as I can! If every Negro in Americadid the same thing, there wouldn’t be any race problem.”

Mrs.Harper took an arm of each of her sons and led them into thedining-room where their sister Mamie was putting supper on thetable.

“You’re right, Kenneth,” Mrs.Harper remarked as she sat down at thetable. “Your father and I got along here together in Central Citywithout a bit of trouble for thirty-five years, and I reckon you can doit too.”

“But, mamma,” Bob protested, “I’ve been telling Ken things are notwhat they were when you and papa came along. Why—”

“Let’s forget the race problem for a while,” Kenneth interrupted.“I’m too hungry and tired to talk about it now.”

[29] “That’s right,” wasMrs.Harper’s comment. “Draw your chairs up to the table. You’re notgoin’ to have any trouble here in town, Ken, and we’re mighty glad youcame back. Mrs.Amos was in this afternoon and she tells me they’rehaving some trouble out near Ashland between the coloured sharecroppersand their landlords, but that’ll blow overjust as it’s always done.”

“What’s the trouble out there?” asked Kenneth. He wasn’t muchinterested, for he could hear Mamie, in the kitchen beyond, singing somepopular air to the accompaniment of chicken-frying.

“It’s a case where coloured farmers claim they can’t get fairsettlements from their landlords for their crops at the end of theyear,” explained his mother.

“Why don’t they hire a lawyer?” Kenneth asked, with littleinterest.

“That shows you’ve forgotten all about things in the South,” said Bobwith mingled triumph and despair at his brother’s ignorance. “Thereisn’t a white lawyer in Georgia who’d take a case like this. In thefirst place, the courts would be against him because his client’s aNegro, and in the second place, he’d have to buck this combination oflandlords, storekeepers, and bankers who are getting rich robbingNegroes. If a white lawyer took a case of a Negro share-cropper, he’deither sell out to the landlord or be scared to death before he ever gotto court. And as for a Negro lawyer,” here Bob laughed sardonically,“he’d be run out of town by the Ku Klux [30] Klan or lynched almost before he took thecase!”

“Oh, I don’t know so much about that!” Kenneth replied. “There arelandlords, without doubt, who rob their tenants, but after all there areonly a few of them. And furthermore,” he declared as Mamie entered theroom with a platter of fried chicken in one hand and a plate of hotbiscuits in the other, “supper looks just a little bit more interestingto me right now than landlords, tenants, or problems of any kind.”

Mamie divested herself of her apron and sat down to the table. Shewas an attractive girl of twenty-two or twenty-three, more slender thanBob, and about Kenneth’s height. Her hair was darker than that of eitherof her brothers, was parted in the middle and brushed down hard oneither side. Though not a pretty girl, she had an air about her asthough she was happy because of the sheer joy of living. She hadgraduated from Atlanta University two years before, and with two othergirls had been teaching the seven grades in the little ramshacklebuilding that served as a coloured school in the town. That hard workhad not as yet begun to tell on her. She seemed filled with buoyant goodhealth and blessed with a lively good nature. Yet she too was inclinedto spells of depression like Bob’s. She resembled him more nearly thanKenneth. As has every comely coloured girl in towns of the South likeCentral City, she had had many repulsive experiences when she had tofight with might and main to ward off unwelcome attentions—both of themen of her [31] own race andof white men. Especially had this been true since the death of herfather. Often her face overclouded as she thought of them. She, likeBob, felt always as though they were living on top of a volcano—andnever knew when it might erupt. …

The four sat at supper. Forgotten were problems other than theimmediate one of Kenneth’s in getting his practice under way. Eagerlythey talked of his plans, his prospects, his ambitions. Bob said nothinguntil they began to discuss him and his plans for returning to schoolthe following fall, now that Kenneth was back to complete the settlingof the small details that remained in connection with Joe Harper’sestate. …

It was a happy and reasonably prosperous, intelligent familygroup—one that can be duplicated many, many times in the South.



Situated in the heart of the farming section ofthe State, with its fertile soil, its equable climate, its forests ofpine trees, Central City was one of the flourishing towns of SouthGeorgia. Its population was between eight and ten thousand, of whichsome four thousand were Negroes. The wealth and prosperity of the towndepended not so much on the town itself as it did on the farmers of thefertile lands surrounding it. To Central City they came on Saturdayafternoons to sell their cotton, their corn, their hogs and cows, and tobuy in turn sugar, cloth, coffee, farming-implements, shoes, andamusement. It was divided into four nearly equal sections by theintersection of the tracks of the Central of Georgia Railroad and of theGeorgia, Southern and Florida Railway. Drowsy, indolent during the firstsix days of the week, Central City awoke on Saturday morning for “goin’ttown” day with its bustle and excitement and lively trade. Then thebroad dustiness of Lee Street was disturbed by the Fords and muddiedwagons of farmers, white and black. In the wagons were usuallysplint-bottom chairs or boards stretched from side to side, occupied byscrawny, lanky “po’ whites” with a swarm of children to match, clad insingle-piece garments, once [33] red in colour and now, through many washingswith lye soap, an indeterminate reddish brown. Or, if the driver was aNegro, he generally was surrounded by just as many little blackoffspring, clad also in greyish or reddish-brown garments, andscrambling over the farm products being brought to town for sale orexchange for the simple and few store products needed. And beside himthe usually buxom, ample-bodied wife, clad in her finest and most gaudyclothing to celebrate the trip to town looked forward to eagerly all theweek.

Crowded were the streets with vehicles and the sidewalks with thejostling, laughing, loudly talking throng of humans. After the noondaywhistle had blown signalling release to the hordes of whites working inthe cotton mill over beyond the tracks, the crowd was augmentedconsiderably, the new-comers made up of those who had deserted thecountry districts, discouraged by the hard life of farming, by rainy andunprofitable seasons, by the ravages of the boll weevil and oflandlords, both working dire distress on poor white and black alike.Discouraged, they had come to “the city” to work at small wages in thecotton mill.

All the trading done on these days did not take place over thecounters of the stores that lined Lee Street. In the dirty littlealleyways from off the main street, men with furtive eyes but bold waysdispensed synthetic gin, “real” rye whisky, and more often “white mule,”as the moonshine corn whisky is called. Bottles were tilted and held tothe mouth [34] a long time andlater the scene would be enlivened by furious but shortlived fights.Guns, knives, all sorts of weapons appeared with miraculous speed—thequarrel was settled, the wounded or killed removed, and the throngforgot the incident in some new joyous and usually commonplace or sordidadventure.

When darkness began to approach, the wagons and Fords, loaded withmerchandise for the next week, and with the children clutching stickyand brightly coloured candies, began to rumble countrywards, and CentralCity by nightfall had resumed its sleepy, indolent, and desertedmanner.

From the corner where Oglethorpe Avenue crossed Lee Street and wherestood the monument to the Confederate Dead, the business sectionextended up Lee Street for three blocks. Here the street was dignifiedwith a narrow “park,” some twenty feet in width, which ran the length ofthe business thoroughfare. Over beyond the monument lay the section ofCentral City where lived the more well-to-do of its white inhabitants.Georgia Avenue was here the realm of the socially elect. Shaded by elms,it numbered several more or less pretentious homes of two stories, someof brick, the majority of frame structure. Here were the homes of RoyEwing, president of the local Chamber of Commerce and owner of Ewing’sGeneral Merchandise Emporium; of George Baird, president of the Bank ofCentral City; of Fred Griswold, occupying the same relation to CentralCity’s other bank, the Smith County Farmers’ Bank; of [35] Ralph Minor, owner and manager of the BonTon Store.

Here too were the wives of these men, busying themselves with theirhousehold duties and the minor social life of the community. In themorning they attended to the many details of housekeeping; in theafternoon and early evening they sat on their front porches or visitedneighbours or went for a ride. Placid, uneventful, stupid lives they ledwith no other interests than the petty affairs of a small andunprogressive town.

The young girls of Central City usually in the afternoon dressed inall their small-town finery and strolled down to Odell’s Drug Storewhere the young men congregated. Having consumed a frothy soda or agummy, sweetish sundae, they went to the Idle Hour Moving Picture Palaceto worship at the celluloid shrine of a favourite film actor, usually ofthe highly romantic type. Then the stroll homewards, always past theCentral City Hotel, a two-storied frame structure located at the cornerof Lee Street and Oglethorpe Avenue opposite the Confederate monument.In front were arm-chairs, occupied in warm weather, which was nearly allthe year round, by travelling salesmen or other transients. Often asidelong glance and a fleeting, would-be-coy smile would cause one ofthe chair-occupants to rise as casually as he could feign, yawn andstretch, and with affected nonchalance stroll down Lee Street in thewake of the smiling one. …

At the other end of Lee Street from the residential [36] section of the well-to-dowhites, past the business section of that main artery of the town, laythat portion known generally as “Darktown.” Fringing it were severalbetter-than-the-average homes, neat, well painted, comfortable-looking,fronted with smooth lawns and tidy, colourful flower-beds. It was one ofthese at the corner of Lee and State Streets that the Harpers owned andoccupied.

After crossing State Street, an abrupt descent was taken by LeeStreet. Here lived in squalor and filth and abject poverty the poorerclass of Negroes. The streets were winding, unpaved lanes, veritableseas and rivers of sticky, gummy, discouraging mud in rainy weather,into which the wheels of vehicles sank to their hubs if the drivers ofthose conveyances were indiscreet enough to drive through them. Insummer these eddying wallows of muck and filth and mud dry up and aretransformed into swirling storms of germ-laden dust when a vagrant windsweeps over them or a vehicle drives through them, choking the throatsof unlucky passers-by, and, to the despair of the dusky housewives,flying through open windows. The houses that bordered these roads werefor the most part of three and four rooms, the exteriors unpainted orwhitewashed, the interiors gloomy and smelly. But few of them hadsanitary arrangements, and at the end of the little patch of ground thatwas back of each of them, in which a few discouraged vegetables stroveto push their heads above the ground, there stood another unpaintedstructure, small, known as “the privy.” In front there was [37] nearly always some attempt atflower-cultivation, the tiny beds bordered with bottles, shells, andbits of brightly coloured glass. The ugliness of the houses in manyinstances was hidden in summer-time by vines and rambler roses thatcovered the porches and sometimes the fronts of the houses.

Around these houses, in the streets, everywhere, there played aseemingly innumerable horde of black and brown and yellow children,noisy, quarrelsome, clad usually in one-piece dresses of the sameindeterminate shade of grey or red or brown that was seen on the countrychildren on Saturday. In front of many of the houses, there sat on sunnydays an old and bent man or ancient woman puffing the omnipresentcorn-cob pipe. …

A half-mile westward from “Darktown,” and separated from it by theCentral of Georgia Railroad tracks, stood the Central City CottonSpinning-Mill. Clustered around its ugly red-brick walls stood dwellingsthat differed but little from those of “Darktown.” Here were the samedingy, small, unsanitary, unbeautiful, and unpainted dwellings. Herewere the same muddy or dusty unpaved streets. Here were the same squalorand poverty and filth and abject ignorance. There were but fewsuperficial or recognizable differences. One was that the children wore,instead of the brown plumpness of the Negro children, a pale, emaciated,consumptive air because of the long hours in the lint-laden confines ofthe mills. The men were long, stooped, cadaverous-appearing. The womenwere sallow, unattractive, sad-looking, [38] each usually with the end of a snuff-stickprotruding from her mouth. The children, when they played at all, did soin listless, wearied, uninterested, and apathetic fashion. The houseslooked even more gaunt and bare than those in the quarter which housedthe poorer Negroes, for the tiny patches of ground that fronted thehouses here in “Factoryville” were but seldom planted with flowers. Moreoften it was trampled down until it became a hard, red-clay, sunbakedexpanse on which the children, and dogs as emaciated and forlorn,sometimes played.

Here there was but one strong conviction, but one firm rock of faithto which they clung—the inherent and carefully nurtured hatred of“niggers” and a belief in their own infinite superiority over theirdark-skinned neighbours. Their gods were Tom Watson and Hoke Smith andTom Hardwick and other demagogic politicians and office-seekers who cameto them every two or four years and harangued them on the necessity oftheir upholding white civilization by re-electing them to office. Butone appeal was needed—but one was used—and that one always successfully.Meanwhile, their children left school and entered the mill to work thefew years that such a life gave them. And, in the meantime, the blackchildren they hated so-deprived by prejudice from working in the mills,and pushed forward by often illiterate but always ambitious blackparents—went to school. …

This, in brief, was the Central City to which Kenneth had returned. Atypical Southern town—rea[39]sonably rich as wealth is measured in thatpart of Georgia—rich in money and lands and cot—amazingly ignorant inthe finer things of life. Noisy, unreflective, their wants but few andthose easily satisfied. The men, self-made, with all that thatdistinctly American term implies. The women concerned only with theirpetty household affairs and more petty gossip and social intercourse.But, beyond these, life was and is a closed book. Or, more, a book thatnever was written or printed.

The companionship and inspiration of books was unknown. Music, evenwith the omnipresent Victrola, meant only the latest bit of cheap jazzor a Yiddish or Negro dialect song. Art, in its many forms wasconsidered solely for decadent, effete “furriners.” Hostility would havemet the woman of the town’s upper class who attempted to exhibit anyknowledge of art. Her friends would have felt that she was trying “toput something over on them.” As for any man of the town, at best hewould have been considered a “little queer in the head,” at the worstsuspected of moral turpitude or perversion. But two releases from thecommonplace, monotonous life were left. The first, liquor. Bootleggingthrove. The woods around Central City were infested with “moonshine”stills that seldom were still. The initiated drove out to certain lonelyspots, deposited under well-known trees a jug or other container with abanknote stuck in its mouth. One then gave a certain whistle and walkedaway. Soon there would come an answering signal. One went back to [40] the tree and found the moneygone but the container filled with a colourless or pale-yellow liquid. …Or, the more affluent had it brought to them in town hidden underwagon-loads of fodder or cotton.

The other and even more popular outlet of unfulfilled and suppressedemotions was sex. Central City boasted it had no red-light district likeMacon and Savannah and Atlanta. That was true. All over the town wereprotected domiciles housing slatternly women. To them went by circuitousroutes the merchants whose stores were on Lee Street. To them went thegangs from the turpentine camps on their periodic pilgrimages to town onpay-day. And a traveller on any of the roads leading from the town couldsee, on warm evenings, automobiles standing with engines stilled andlights dimmed on the side of the road. Down on Harris and Butler Streetsin “Darktown” were other houses. Here were coloured women who seemednever to have to work. Here was seldom seen a coloured man. And thechildren around these houses were usually lighter in colour than inother parts of “Darktown.”

Negro fathers and mothers of comely daughters never allowed them togo out unaccompanied after dark. There were too many dangers from men oftheir own race. And even greater ones from men of the other race. Therehad been too many disastrous consequences from relaxation of vigil bycertain bowed and heart-broken coloured parents. And they had no redressat law. The laws of the State against intermarriage saw to it that thereshould be none. [41] CentralCity inhabitants knew all these things. But familiarity with them hadbred the belief that they did not exist—that is, they were thought anatural part of the town’s armament against scandal. One soon grew usedto them and forgot them. The town was no worse than any other—far betterthan most.

It was a rude shock to Kenneth when he began to see these thingsthrough an entirely different pair of eyes than those with which he hadviewed them before he left Central City for the North. The sordidness,the blatant vulgarity, the viciousness of it all—especially the houseson Butler and Harris Streets—appalled and sickened him. Even more was hedisgusted by the complacent acceptance of the whole miserable businessby white and black alike. On two or three occasions he tentativelymentioned it to a few of those he had known intimately years before.Some of them laughed indulgently—others cautioned him to leave it alone.Finding no response, he shrugged his shoulders and dismissed the wholeaffair from his mind. “It was here long before I was born,” he said tohimself philosophically, “it’ll probably be here long after I’m dead,and the best thing for me to do is to stick to my own business and letother people’s morals alone.”



Kenneth came into contact with few others thanhis own people during the first month after his return to Central City.The first two weeks had been spent in getting his offices arranged withthe innumerable details of carpentering, plastering, painting, anddisposition of the equipment he had ordered in New York during the dayshe had spent there on his return from France.

During the early months of 1917, when through every available meanspropaganda was being used to whip into being America’s war spirit, oneof the most powerful arguments heard was that of the beneficial effectarmy life would have on the men who entered the service. Newspapers andmagazines were filled with it, orators in church and theatre and hallshouted it, every signboard thrust it into the faces of Americans.Alluring pictures were painted of the growth, physical and mental, thatwould certainly follow enlistment “to make the world safe fordemocracy.”

To some of those who fought, such a change probably did come, but themental outlook of most of them was changed but little. The war was toobig a thing, too terrible and too searing a catastrophe, to beadequately comprehended by the farmer boys, the [43] clerks, and the boys fresh from school whochiefly made up the fighting forces. Their lives had been too largelyconfined to the narrow ways to enable them to realize the immensity ofthe event into which they had been so suddenly plunged. Their most vividmemories were of “that damned second loot” or of beaucoup vinblanc or, most frequently, of all-too-brief adventures with themademoiselles. With the end of the war and demobilization hadcome the short periods of hero-worship and then the sudden forgetfulnessof those for whom they had fought. The old narrow life began again withbut occasional revolts against the monotony of it all, against theblasting of the high hopes held when the war was being fought. Eventhese spasmodic revolts eventually petered out in vague mutterings amongmen like themselves who let their inward dissatisfaction dissipate inthin air.

More deep-rooted was this revolt among Negro ex-service men. Many ofthem entered the army, not so much because they were fired with thedesire to fight for an abstract thing like world democracy, but, becausethey were of a race oppressed, they entertained very definite beliefsthat service in France would mean a more decent regime in America, whenthe war was over, for themselves and all others who were classed asNegroes. Many of them, consciously or subconsciously, had a spirit whichmight have been expressed like this: “Yes, we’ll fight for democracy inFrance, but when that’s over with we’re going to expect and we’re goingto get some of that [44] samedemocracy for ourselves right here in America.” It was because of thisspirit and determination that they submitted to the rigid armydiscipline to which was often added all the contumely that raceprejudice could heap upon them.

Kenneth was of that class which thought of these things in a moredetached, more abstract, more subconscious manner. During the days when,stationed close to the line, he treated black men brought to the basehospital with arms and legs torn away by exploding shells, with bodiestorn and mangled by shrapnel, or with flesh seared by mustard gas, hehad inwardly cursed the so-called civilization which not only permittedbut made such carnage necessary. But when the nightmare had ended, herapidly forgot the nausea he had felt, and plunged again into hisbeloved work. More easily than he would have thought possible, he forgotthe months of discomfort and weariness and bloodshed. It came back tohim only in fitful memories as of some particularly horrible dream.

To Kenneth, when work grew wearisome or when memories would not down,there came relaxation in literature, an opiate for which he would nevercease being grateful to Professor Fuller, his old teacher at Atlanta. Itwas “Pop”. Fuller who, with his benign and paternal manner, hisadoration of the best of the world’s literature, had sown in Kenneth theseed of that same love. He read and reread Jean Christophe,finding in the adventures and particularly in the mental processes ofRolland’s hero many [45] ofhis own reactions towards life. He had read the plays of Bernard Shaw,garnering here and there a morsel of truth though much of Shaw eludedhim. Theodore Dreiser’s gloominess and sex-obsession he liked though itoften repelled him; he admired the man for his honesty and disliked hispessimism or what seemed to him a dolorous outlook on life. He loved thecolourful romances of Hergesheimer, considering them of little enduringvalue but nevertheless admiring his descriptions of affluent life,enjoying it vicariously. Willa Cather’s My Antonia he delightedin because of its simplicity and power and beauty.

The works of D. H. Lawrence, Kenneth read with conflicting emotions.Mystical, turgid, tortuous phrases, and meaning not always clear. Yet herevelled in Lawrence’s clear insight into the bends and backwaters andperplexing twistings of the stream of life. Kenneth liked best of allforeign writers Knut Hamsun. He had read many times Hunger, Growth ofthe Soil, and other novels of the Norwegian writer. He at times wasannoyed by their lack of plot, but more often he enjoyed them becausethey had none, reflecting that life itself is never a smoothly turnedand finished work of art, its causes and effects, its tears and joys,its loves and hates neatly dovetailing one into another as writers offiction would have it.

So too did he satisfy his love for the sea in the novels ofConrad—the love so many have who are born and grow to manhood far fromthe sea. Ken[46]neth loved itwith an abiding and passionate love loved, yet feared it for itsrelentless power and savagery—a love such as a man would have for analluring, yet tempestuous mistress of fiery and uncertain temper. InConrad’s romances he lived by proxy the life he would have liked had notfear of the water and the circumstances of his life prevented it.Flaubert, Zola, Maupassant he read and reread, finding in the strugglesof Emma Bovary and Nana and other heroines and heroes ofthe French realists mental counterparts of some of the coloured men andwomen of his acquaintance in their struggles against the restrictions ofstupid and crass and ignorant surroundings. The very dissimilarities ofenvironment and circumstance between his own acquaintances and thecharacters in the novels he read, seemed to emphasize the narrowness ofhis own life in the South. So does a bedridden invalid read with keendelight the adventurous and rococo romances of Zane Grey or JackLondon.

But perhaps best of all he admired the writing of Du Bois—the fiery,burning philippics of one of his own race against the proscriptions ofrace prejudice. He read them with a curious sort of detachment—as beingsomething which touched him in a more or less remote way but not as afactor in forming his own opinions as a Negro in a land where democracyoften stopped dead at the colour line.

It was in this that Kenneth’s attitude towards life was most clearlyshown. His was the more philosophic viewpoint on the race question, thatproblem so [47] close to him.The proscriptions which he and others of his race were forced to endurewere inconvenient, yet they were apparently a part of life, one of itsannoyances, a thing which had always been and probably would be for alltime to come. Therefore, he reasoned, why bother with it any more thanone was forced to by sheer necessity? Better it was for him if heattended to his own individual problems, solved them to the best of hisability and as circumstances would permit, and left to those who choseto do it the agitation for the betterment of things in general. If hesolved his problems and every other Negro did the same, he oftenthought, then the thing we call the race problem will be solved.Besides, he reasoned, the whole thing is too big for one man to tackleit, and if he does attack it, more than likely he will go down to defeatin the attempt. And what would be gained? …

His office completed, Kenneth began the making of those contacts heneeded to secure the patients he knew were coming. In this his motherand Mamie were of invaluable assistance. Everybody knew the Harpers. Itwas a simple matter for Kenneth to renew acquaintances broken when hehad left for school in the North. He joined local lodges of the GrandUnited Order of Heavenly Reapers and the Exalted Knights of Damon. Theaffected mysteriousness of his initiation into these fraternal orders,the secret grip, the passwords, the elaborately worded rituals, all ofwhich the other members took so seriously, amused him, but he wentthrough it all with an out [48] wardly solemn demeanour. He knew it was goodbusiness to affiliate himself with these often absurd societies whichplayed so large a part in the lives of these simple and illiteratecoloured folk. Along with the strenuous emotionalism of their religion,it served as an outlet for their naturally deep feelings. In spite ofthe renewal of acquaintances, the careful campaign of winning confidencein his ability as a physician, Kenneth found that the flood of patientsdid not come as he had hoped. The coloured people of Central City hadhad impressed upon them by three hundred years of slavery and that whichwas called freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, thatno Negro doctor, however talented, was quite as good as a white one.This slave mentality, Kenneth now realized, inbred upon generation aftergeneration of coloured folk, is the greatest handicap from which theNegro suffers, destroying as it does that confidence in his own abilitywhich would enable him to meet without fear or apology the test ofmodern competition.

Kenneth’s youthful appearance, too, militated against him. Thoughtwenty-nine years old, he looked not more than a mere twenty-four ortwenty-five. “He may know his stuff and be as smart as all outdoors,”ran the usual verdict, “but I don’t want no boy treating me when I’msick.”

Perhaps the greatest factor contributing to the coloured folks’ lackof confidence in physicians of their own race was the inefficiency ofDr.Williams, the only coloured doctor in Central City prior to [49] Kenneth’s return. Dr.Williamsbelonged to the old school and moved on the theory that when hegraduated some eighteen years before from a medical school in Alabama,the development of medical knowledge had stopped. He fondly picturedhimself as being the most prominent personage of Central City’s Negrocolony, was pompous, bulbous-eyed, and exceedingly fond of long words,especially of Latin derivation. He made it a rule of his life never touse a word of one syllable if one of two or more would serve as well.Active in fraternal order circles (he was a member of nine lodges),class-leader in Central City’s largest Methodist church, arbiter supremeof local affairs in general, he filled the rôle with what he imaginedwas unsurpassable éclat. His idea of complimenting a hostess wasostentatiously to loosen his belt along about the middle of dinner. Oncehe had been introduced as the “black William Jennings Bryan,” believedit thereafter, and thought it praise of a high order.

He was one of those who say on every possible occasion: “I am kept soterribly busy I never have a minute to myself.” Like nine out of ten whosay it, Dr.Williams always repeated this stock phrase of those whoflatter themselves in this fashion—so necessary to those of small mindswho would be thought great—not because it was true, but to enhance hispre-eminence in the eyes of his hearers—and in his own eyes as well.

He always wore coats which resembled morning coats, known in localparlance as “Jim-swingers.” [50] He kept his hair straightened, wore itbrushed straight back from his forehead like highly polished steelwires, and, with pomades and hair oils liberally applied, it glistenedlike the patent leather shoes which adorned his ample feet.

His stout form filled the Ford in which he made his professionalcalls, and it was a sight worth seeing as he majestically rolled throughthe streets of the town bowing graciously and calling out loud greetingsto the acquaintances he espied by the way. Always his bows to whitepeople were twice as low and obsequious as to those of darker skin.Until Kenneth returned, Dr.Williams had had his own way in CentralCity. Through his fraternal and church connections and lack ofcompetition, he had made a little money, much of it through his positionas medical examiner for the lodges to which he belonged. As long as hetreated minor ailments—cuts, colic, childbirths, and the like he hadlittle trouble. But when more serious maladies attacked them, thecoloured population sent for the old white physician, Dr.Bennett,instead of for Dr.Williams.

The great amount of time at his disposal irritated Kenneth. He waslike a spirited horse, champing at the bit, eager to be off. Thepatronizing air of his people nettled him—caused him to reflect somewhatbitterly that “a prophet is not without honour save in his own country.”And when one has not the gift of prophecy to foretell, or ofclairvoyance to see, what the future holds in the way of success, one isnot likely to develop a philosophic calm which en[51]ables him to await the coming of long-desiredresults. He was seated one day in his office reading when his motherentered. Closing his book, he asked the reason for her frown.

“You remember Mrs.Bradley—Mrs.Emma Bradley down on AshleyStreet-don’t you, Kenneth?” Without waiting for a reply, Mrs.Harperwent on: “Well, she’s mighty sick. Jim Bradley has had Dr. Bennett in tosee what’s the matter with her but he don’t seem to do her muchgood.”

Kenneth remembered Mrs.Bradley well indeed. The most talkative womanin Central City. It was she who had come to his mother with a long faceand dolorous manner when he as a youngster had misbehaved in church. Hehad learned instinctively to connect Mrs.Bradley’s visits withexcursions to the little back room accompanied by his mother and aswitch cut from the peach-tree in the back yard—a sort of natural causeand effect. Visions of those days rose in his mind and he imagined hecould feel the sting of those switches on his legs now.

“What seems to be the trouble with her?” he asked.

“It’s some sort of stomach-trouble—she’s got an awful pain in herside. She says it can’t be her appendix because she had that removed upto Atlanta when she was operated on there for a tumour nearly four yearsago. Dr.Bennett gave her some medicine but it doesn’t help here any.Won’t you run down there to see her?”

“I can’t, mamma, until I am called in professionally. Dr.Bennettwon’t like it. It isn’t ethical. [52] Besides, didn’t Mrs.Bradley say when I cameback that she didn’t want any coloured doctor fooling with her?”

“Yes, she did, but you mustn’t mind that. Just run in to see her as asocial call.”

Kenneth rose and instinctively took up his bag. Remembering, he putit down, put on his hat, kissed his mother, and walked down toMrs.Bradley’s. Outside the gate stood Dr.Bennett’s mud-splashed buggy,sagging on one side through years of service in carrying its owner’sgreat bulk. Between the shafts stood the old bay horse, its head hungdejectedly as though asleep, which Central City always connected withits driver.

Entering the gate held by one hinge, Kenneth made his way to thelittle three-room unpainted house which served as home for the Bradleysand their six children. On knocking, the door was opened by Dr. Bennett,who apparently was just leaving. He stood there, his hat on, stained bymany storms, its black felt turning a greenish brown through years ofservice and countless rides through the red dust of the roads leadingout of Central City. Dr.Bennett himself was large and flabby. Hisclothes hung on him in haphazard fashion and looked as though they hadnever been subjected to the indignity of a tailor’s iron. A SherlockHolmes, or even one less gifted, could read on his vest with littledifficulty those things which its wearer had eaten for many meals past.Dr.Bennett’s face was red through exposure to many suns, and coveredwith the bristle of a three days’ [53] growth of beard. Small eyes set closetogether, they belied a bluff good humour which Dr.Bennett could easilyassume when there was occasion for it. The corners of the mouth werestained a deep brown where tobacco juice had run down the folds of theflesh.

Behind him stood Jim Bradley with worried face, his ashy black skinshowing the effects of remaining all night by the bedside of hiswife.

Dr.Bennett looked at Kenneth inquiringly.

“Don’t you remember me, Dr.Bennett? I’m Kenneth Harper.”

“Bless my soul, so it is. How’re you, Ken? Le’s see it’s been nigh onto eight years since you went No’th, ain’t it? Heard you was back intown. Hear you goin’ to practise here. Come ‘round to see me some time.Right glad you’re here. I’ll be kinder glad to get somebody to help metreat these niggers for colic or when they get carved up in a crap game.Hope you ain’t got none of them No’then ideas ’bout social equalitywhile you was up there. Jus’ do like your daddy did, and you’ll getalong all right down here. These niggers who went over to France and ranaround with them Frenchwomen been causin’ a lot of trouble ‘round here,kickin’ up a rumpus, and talkin’ ‘bout votin’ and ridin’ in the same carwith white folks. But don’t you let them get you mixed up in it, ‘causethere’ll be trouble sho’s you born if they don’t shut up and git towork. Jus’ do like your daddy did, and you’ll do a lot to keep the whitefolks’ friendship.”

[54] Dr.Bennett pouredforth all this gratuitous advice between asthmatic wheezes withoutwaiting for Kenneth to reply. He then turned to Jim Bradley with aparting word of advice.

“Jim, keep that hot iron on Emma’s stomach and give her those pillsevery hour. ‘Tain’t nothin’ but the belly-ache. She’ll be all right inan hour or two.”

Turning without another word, he half ambled, half shuffled out tohis buggy, pulled himself up into it with more puffing and wheezing, anddrove away. Jim Bradley took Kenneth’s arm and led him back on to thelittle porch, closing the door behind him.

“I’m pow’ful glad t’ see you, Ken. My, but you done growed sence youwent up No’th! Befo’ you go in dar, I want t’ tell you somethin’. Emma’sbeen right po’ly fuh two days. Her stomach’s swelled up right sma’t andshe’s been hollering all night. Dis mawning she don’t seem jus’ right inde haid. I tol her I was gwine to ast you to come see her, but she saidshe didn’t want no young nigger doctah botherin’ with her. But don’t youmin’ her. I wants you to tell me what to do.”

Kenneth smiled.

“I’ll do what I can for her, Jim. But what about Dr.Bennett?”

“Dat’s a’ right. He give her some med’cine but it ain’t done her nogood. She’s too good a woman fuh me to lose her, even if she do talk ali’l’ too much. You make out like you jus’ drap in to pass the time o’day with her.”

[55] Kenneth entered thedark and ill-smelling room. Opposite the door a fire smouldered in thefire-place, giving fitful spurts of flame that illumined the room andthen died down again. There was no grate, the pieces of wood resting oncrude andirons, blackened by the smoke of many fires. Over the mantelthere hung a cheap charcoal reproduction of Jim and Emma in theirwedding-clothes, made by some local “artist” from an old photograph. Oneor two nondescript chairs worn shiny through years of use stood beforethe fire. In one corner stood a dresser on which were various bottles ofmedicine and of “Madame Walker’s Hair Straightener.” On the floor a rug,worn through in spots and patched with fragments of other rugs allapparently of different colours, covered the space in front of the bed.The rest of the floor was bare and showed evidences of a recent vigorousscrubbing. The one window was closed tightly and covered over with acracked shade, long since divorced from its roller, tacked to the upperledge of the window.

On the bed Mrs.Bradley was rolling and tossing in great pain. Hereyes opened slightly when Kenneth approached the bed and closed againimmediately as a new spasm of pain passed through her body. She moanedpiteously and held her hands on her side, pressing down hard one handover the other.

At a sign from Jim, Kenneth started to take her pulse.

“Go way from here and leave me ‘lone! Oh, [56] Lawdy, why is I suff’rin’ this way? I jus’wish I was daid! Oh-oh-oh!”

This last as she writhed in agony. Kenneth drew back the covers,examined Mrs.Bradley’s abdomen, took her pulse. Every sign pointed toan attack of acute appendicitis. He informed Jim of his diagnosis.

“But, Doc, it ain’t dat trouble, ’cause Emma says dat was taken out along time ago.”

“I can’t help what she says. She’s got appendicitis. You go getDr.Bennett and tell him your wife has got to be operated on right awayor she is going to die. Get a move on you now! If it was my case, Iwould operate within an hour. Stop by my house and tell Bob to bring mean ice bag as quick as he can.”

Jim hurried away to catch Dr.Bennett. Kenneth meanwhile did what hecould to relieve Mrs.Bradley’s suffering. In a few minutes Bob camewith the ice bag. Then Jim returned with his face even more doleful thanit had been when Kenneth had told him how sick his wife was.

“Doc Bennett says he don’t care what you do. He got kinder mad when Itold him you said it was ‘pendicitis, and tol’ me dat if I couldn’t takehis word, he wouldn’t have anything mo’ to do with Emma. He seemedkinder mad ‘cause you said it was mo’ than a stomach-ache. Said hewa’n’t goin’ to let no young nigger doctor tell him his bus’ness. So,Doc, you’ll have t’ do what you thinks bes’.”

“All right, I’ll do it. First thing, I’m going to [57] move your wife over to my office. We can puther up in the spare room. Bob will drive her over in the car. Getsomething around her and you’d better come on over with her. I’ll getDr.Williams to help me.”

Kenneth was jubilant at securing his first surgical case since hisreturn to Central City, though his pleasure was tinged with doubt as tothe ethics of the manner in which it had come to him. He did not letthat worry him very long, however, but began his preparations for theoperation.

First he telephoned to Mrs.Johnson, who, before she married andsettled down in Central City, had been a trained nurse at a colouredhospital at Atlanta. She hurried over at once. Neat, quiet, andefficient, she took charge immediately of preparations, sterilizing thearray of shiny instruments, preparing wads of absorbent cotton,arranging bandages and catgut and hæmostatics.

Kenneth left all this to Mrs.Johnson, for he knew in her hands itwould be well done. He telephoned to Dr.Williams to ask that he givethe anæsthesia. In his excitement Kenneth neglected to put in his voicethe note of asking a great and unusual favour of Dr.Williams. Thateminent physician, eminent in his own eyes, cleared his throat severaltimes before replying, while Kenneth waited at the other end of theline. He realized his absolute dependence on Dr.Williams, for he knewno white doctor would assist a Negro surgeon or even operate with acoloured assistant. There was none other in Central [58] City who could give the ether toMrs.Bradley. It made him furious that Dr.Williams should hesitate solong. At the same time, he knew he must restrain the hot and burningwords that he would have used. The pompous one hinted of the pressure ofhis own work—work that would keep him busy all day.

Into his words he injected the note of affront at being asked—he, thecoloured physician of Central City—to assist a younger man. Especiallyon that man’s first case. Kenneth swallowed his anger and pride, andpleaded with Dr.Williams at least to come over. Finally, the olderphysician agreed in a condescending manner to do so.

Hurrying back to his office, Kenneth found Mrs. Bradley arranged onthe table ready for the operation. Examining her, he found she was indelirium, her eyes glazed, her abdomen hard and distended, and she had atemperature of 105 degrees. He hastily sterilized his hands and put onhis gown and cap. As he finished his preparations, Dr.Williams inleisurely manner strolled into the room with a benevolent andpatronizing “Howdy, Kenneth, my boy. I won’t be able to help you outafter all. I’ve got to see some patients of my own.”

He emphasized “my own,” for he had heard of the manner by whichKenneth had obtained the case of Mrs.Bradley Kenneth, pale with anger,excited over his first real case in Central City, stared at Dr. Williamsin amazement at his words.

“But, Dr.Williams, you can’t do that! Mrs. Bradley here isdying!”

[59] The older doctorlooked around patronizingly at the circle of anxious faces. Jim Bradley,his face lined and seamed with toil, the lines deepened in distress atthe agony of his wife and the imminence of losing her, gazed at him withdumb pleading in his eyes, pleading without spoken words with the lookof an old, faithful dog beseeching its master. Bob looked with amalevolent glare at his pompous sleekness, as though he would like tospring upon him.

Mrs.Johnson plainly showed her contempt of such callousness on thepart of one who bore the title, however poorly, of physician. InKenneth’s eyes was a commingling of eagerness and rage and bitternessand anxiety. On Emma Bradley’s face there was nothing but the pain andagony of her delirious ravings. Dr.Williams seemed to enjoy thoroughlyhis little moment of triumph. He delayed speaking in order that it mightbe prolonged as much as possible. The silence was broken by JimBradley.

“Doc, won’t you please he’p?” he pleaded. “She’s all I got!”

Kenneth could remain silent no longer. He longed to punch that fatface and erase from it the supercilious smirk that adorned it.

“Dr.Williams,” he began with cold hatred in his voice, “either youare going to give this anæsthesia or else I’m going to go into everychurch in Central City and tell exactly what you’ve done heretoday.”

Dr.Williams turned angrily on Kenneth.

“Young man, I don’t allow anybody to talk to me [60] like that-least of all, a youngwhippersnapper just out of school …” he shouted.

By this time Kenneth’s patience was at an end. He seized the lapelsof the other doctor’s coat in one hand and thrust his clenched fistunder the nose of the now thoroughly alarmed Dr.Williams.

“Are you going to help—or aren’t you?” he demanded.

The situation was becoming too uncomfortable for the older man. Hecould stand Kenneth’s opposition but not the ridicule which wouldinevitably follow the spreading of the news that he had been beaten upand made ridiculous by Kenneth. He swallowed—a look of indecision passedover his face as he visibly wondered if Kenneth really dared hithim—followed by a look of fear as Kenneth drew back his fist as thoughto strike. Discretion seemed the better course to pursue he could waituntil a later and more propitious date for his revenge—he agreed tohelp. A look of relief came over Jim Bradley’s face. A grin coveredBob’s as he saw his brother showing at last some signs of fightingspirit. Without further words Kenneth prepared to operate. …

The patient under the ether, Kenneth with sure, deft strokes made anincision and rapidly removed the appendix. Ten—twelve—fifteen minutes,and the work was done. He found Mrs.Bradley’s peritoneum badlyinflamed, the appendix swollen and about to burst. A few hours’ delayand it would have been too late. …

The next morning Mrs.Bradley’s temperature had [61] gone down to normal. Two weeks later she wassufficiently recovered to be removed to her home. Three weeks later shewas on her feet again. Then Kenneth for the first time in his life hadno fault to find with the vigour with which Mrs.Bradley could use hertongue. Glorying as only such a woman can in her temporary fame atescape from death by so narrow a margin, she went up and down thestreets of the town telling how Kenneth had saved her life. With eachtelling of the story it took on more embellishments until eventually thesimple operation ranked in importance in her mind with the firstsewing-up of the human heart.

Kenneth found his practice growing. His days were filled with hiswork. One man viewed his growing practice with bitterness. It wasDr.Williams, resentful of the small figure he had cut in the episode inKenneth’s office, which had become known all over Central City. Of apetty and vindictive nature, he bided his time until he could forceatonement from the upstart who had so presumptuously insulted andbelittled him, the Beau Brummel, the leading physician, the prominentcoloured citizen. But Kenneth, if he knew of the hatred in the man’sheart, was supremely oblivious of it.

The morning after his operation on Mrs.Bradley, he added another tothe list of those who did not wish him well. He had taken the bottle ofalcohol containing Mrs.Bradley’s appendix to Dr.Bennett to show thatworthy that he had been right, after all, in his diagnosis. He found himseated in his office, [62]Dr.Bennett, with little apparent interest, glanced at the bottle.

“Humph!” he ejaculated, aiming at the cuspidor and letting fly a thinstream of tobacco juice which accurately met its mark. “You never cantell what’s wrong with a nigger anyhow. They ain’t got nacheral diseaseslike white folks. A hoss doctor can treat ’em better’n one that treatshumans. I always said that a nigger’s more animal than human. …”

Kenneth had been eager to discuss the case of Mrs. Bradley with hisfellow practitioner. He had not even been asked to sit down byDr.Bennett. He realized for the first time that in spite of thesuperiority of his medical training to that of Dr.Bennett’s, the latterdid not recognize him as a qualified physician, but only as a “niggerdoctor.” Making some excuse, he left the house. Dr.Bennett turned backto the local paper he had been reading when Kenneth entered, took afresh chew of tobacco from the plug in his hip pocket, grunted, andremarked: “A damned nigger telling me I don’t know medicine!”



Two months passed by. Kenneth had begun tosecure more patients than he could very well handle. Already he was keptbusier than Dr. Williams though there was enough practice for both ofthem. Kenneth soon began to tire of treating minor ailments and longedto reach the time when he could give up his general practice and devotehis time to surgery. Except for the delivery of the babies that camewith amazing rapidity in the community, he did little else than treatcolic, minor cuts, children’s diseases, with an occasional case oftuberculosis. More frequently he treated for venereal diseases, thoughthis latter was even more distasteful to him than general practice whileat the same time more remunerative.

A new source of practice and revenue began gradually to grow. Themain entrance to his office was on Lee Street. This door was some fiftyfeet back from Lee Street, and the overhanging branches of the elms cutoff completely the light from the street lamp at the corner. One night,as he sat reading in his office, there came a knock at his door. Openingit, he found standing there Roy Ewing. Ewing had inherited the generalmerchandise store bearing his name from his father, was a deacon in thelargest [64] Baptist Church inCentral City, was president of the Central City Chamber of Commerce, andwas regarded as a leading citizen.

Kenneth gazed at his caller in some surprise.

“Hello, Ken. Anybody around?”

On being assured that he was alone, Ewing entered, brushing byKenneth to get out of the glare of the light. Kenneth followed him intothe office, meanwhile asking his caller what he could do for him.

“Ken, I’ve got a little job I want you to do for me. I’m in a littletrouble. Went up to Macon last month with Bill Jackson, and we had alittle fun. I guess I took too much liquor. We went by a place Bill knewabout where there were some girls. I took a fancy to a little girl fromAtlanta who told me she had slipped away from home and her folks thoughtshe was visiting her cousins at Forsyth. Anyhow, I thought everythingwas all right, but I’m in a bad way and I want you to treat me. I can’tgo to Dr. Bennett ’cause I don’t want him to know about it. I’ll takecare of you all right, and if you get me fixed up I’ll pay youwell.”

Kenneth looked at him in amazement. Roy Ewing, acknowledged leader ofthe “superior race”! He knew too much of the ways of the South, however,to make any comment or let too much of what was going on in his mindshow on his face. He gave the treatment required. That was Kenneth’sintroduction to one part of the work of a coloured physician [65] in the South. Many phases oflife that he as a youth had never known about or, before his largerexperience in the North and in France, had passed by him unnoticed, henow had brought to his attention. This was one of them. He began to seemore clearly that his was going to be a difficult course to pursue. Hedetermined anew that as far as possible he would keep to his own affairsand meddle not at all with the life about him.

When Ewing had gone, Kenneth returned to his reading. Hardly had hestarted again when Bob came in.

“Can you stop for a few minutes, Ken? I want to talk with you.”

With a look of regret at his book, Kenneth settled back and preparedto listen.

“What world problem have you got on your mind now, Bob?”

“Don’t start to kidding me, Ken. I don’t see how you can shut youreyes to how coloured people are being treated here.”

“What’s wrong? Everything seems to me to be getting along as well ascan be expected.”

“That’s because you don’t go out of the house unless you are hurryingto give somebody a pill or a dose of medicine. To-day I came by theschool to get Mamie and bring her home. You ought to see the dump theycall a school building. It’s a dirty old building that looks like it’llfall down any time a hard wind comes along. All that’s inside is a [66] rickety table, and some hardbenches with no desks, and when it rains they have to send the childrenhome, as the water stands two or three inches deep on the floor. Outsideof Mamie they haven’t one teacher who’s gone any higher than the sixthor seventh grade—they have to take anybody who is willing to work forthe twelve dollars a month they pay coloured teachers.”

Bob’s face had on it the look of discontent and resentment that wasalmost growing chronic.

“Well, what can we do about it? I’m afraid you’re getting to be aregular Atlas, trying to carry all the burdens of the world on yourshoulders. I know things aren’t all they ought to be, but you and Ican’t solve the problems. The race problem will be here long after we’redead and gone.”

“Oh, for goodness’ sake, shut up that preachy tone of long-sufferingpatience, will you?—and forget your own little interests for a while. Iknow you think I’m silly to let these things worry me. But the reasonwhy things are as bad as they are is just because the majority ofNegroes are like you—always dodging anything that may make themunpopular with white folks. And that isn’t all. There’s a gang of whiteboys that hang around Ewing’s Store that meddle with every coloured girlthat goes by. I was in the store to-day when Minnie Baxter passed by onher way to the post office, and that dirty little Jim Archer saidsomething that made me boil all over. And it didn’t help any to knowthat if I had said a word to him, there would have been a fight, [67] and I would have been beatenhalf to death if I hadn’t been killed.”

“Yes, I’ve seen that, too. What we ought to do is to try and keepthese girls off of Lee Street, unless someone is with them. If weweren’t living in the South, we might do something. But here we are, andas long as we stay here, we’ve got to swallow a lot of these things andstay to ourselves.”

“But, Ken, it isn’t always convenient for someone to go downtown withthem. I’ll tell you what let’s do. Let’s get the better class ofcoloured people together like Reverend Wilson, Mr.Graham, Mr. Adams,and some others, and form a Coloured Protective League here in CentralCity. We can then take up these cases and see if something can’t be doneto remedy them.”

Bob leaned forward in his eagerness to impress Kenneth with hisidea.

“You see, if any one or two of us takes up a case we are marked men.But if there are two or three hundred of us they can’t take it out onall of us.”

“That’s true. But what about the effect on the white people whoseactions you want to check? If Negroes start organizing for any purposewhatever, there’ll always be folks who’ll declare they are planning tostart some trouble. No, I don’t think we ought to do anything just now.I tell you what I’ll do. The next time I see Roy Ewing, I’ll speak tohim and ask him to stop those fellows from annoying our girls, Thefellows can take care of themselves.”

[68] Bob rose and shruggedhis shoulders and said nothing more. Kenneth after a minute or tworeturned to his book.

Nothing further was said on the subject for several days. WhenMr.Ewing called the following week, Kenneth brought the matter up, andtold him what Bob had said about the boys in front of Ewing’s store.

“I’ve seen them doing it, Ken, and I spoke to them only to-day aboutit. But you know, boys will be boys, and they haven’t done any harm tothe girls. Their talk is a little rough at times, but as long as itstops there, I don’t see why anybody should object.”

“But, Mr.Ewing, Bob tells me that they say some pretty raw things.Suppose one of them said the same things to Mrs.Ewing, how would youfeel then?”

Ewing flushed.

“That’s different. Mrs.Ewing is a white woman.”

“But can’t you see that we feel towards our women just as you dotowards yours? If one of those fellows ever spoke to my sister, there’sbe trouble, and the Lord knows I want to get along with all the peoplehere, if I can. If this thing called democracy that I helped fight foris worth anything at all, it ought to mean that we coloured peopleshould be protected like anybody else.”

Mr.Ewing looked at Kenneth sharply.

“I know that things aren’t altogether as they ought to be. It’spretty tough on fellows like you, Ken, [69] who have had an education. While you wereaway, a bunch of these mill hands ’cross the tracks got Jerry Bird, anigger that’d been working for me nearly five years. He came here fromdown the country some place after you left for up North. Jerry was assteady a fellow as I’ve ever seen—as honest as the day was long. Itrusted Jerry anywhere, lots quicker than I would’ve some of these whitepeople ’round here. He had a black skin but his heart was white. Onenight Jerry was over to my house helping Mrs.Ewing until nearly teno’clock. On his way home this bunch of roughnecks from “Factoryville”stopped him while they were looking for a nigger that’d scared a whitegirl. When Jerry got scared and started to run, they took out after himand strung him up to a tree. And he wasn’t any more guilty of touchingthat white girl than you or me.”

“What did you do about it?” asked Bob.

“Nothing. Suppose I had kicked up a ruckus about it. They found outafterwards that the girl hadn’t been bothered at all. But just suppose Ihad gone and cussed out the fellows who did the lynching. Most of themtrade at my store. Or if they don’t, a lot of their friends do. They’dhave taken their trade to some other store and I’d ‘a’ gained nothingfor my trouble.”

“But surely you don’t believe that lynching ever helps, do you?”

“Yes and no. Lynching never bothers folks like you. Why, your daddywas one of the most re[70]spected folks in this town. But lynching doeskeep some of these young nigger bucks in check.”

“Does it? It seems to me that there isn’t much less so-called rapearound here or anywhere else in the South, even after forty years oflynching. Mr. Ewing, why don’t you and the other decent white peoplehere come out against lynching?”

“Who? Me? Never!” Ewing looked his amazement at the suggestion. “Why,it would ruin my business, my wife would begin to be dropped by all theother folks of the town, and it wouldn’t be long before they’d begincalling me a ‘nigger-lover.’ No, sir-ee! I’ll just let things rock alongand let well enough alone.”

“Mr.Ewing, if fifty men like you in this town banded together andcame out flat-footedly against lynching, there are lots more who wouldjoin you gladly.”

“That may be true,” Ewing answered doubtfully. “But then again itmightn’t. Let’s see who might be some of the fifty. There’s GeorgeBaird, he’s president of the Bank of Central City, and Fred Griswold,president of the Smith County Farmers’ Bank. You can count them outbecause they’d be afraid of losing their depositors. Then there’s RalphMinor who owns the Bon Ton Store. He’s out for the same reason that Iam. Then there’s Nat Phelps, who runs the Central City Dispatch. He hasa hard enough time as it is. If he lost a couple of hundred subscribers,he’d have to close up shop. And so it goes.”

[71] “What about thepreachers? It doesn’t seem much of a religion they’re preaching if thecommandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ doesn’t form part of theircreed.”

“Oh, you needn’t look for nothing much from them. Three years ago oldReverend Adams down to the First Methodist took it into his head he wasgoing to tackle something easy—nothing like the race problem. He startedin to wipe out the bootleggers ’round here, thinking he could get a lotof support. But he didn’t, because most of the folks he figgered onlining up with him were regular customers of the fellows he was after.”Ewing chuckled at the memory of the crusade that had died “aborning.”“When the next quarterly conference was held, they elected a new pastorfor the First Methodist. No, Ken, it ain’t so easy as it looks. You’reasking me to do something that not a Southern white man has done sincethe Civil War⸺”

Rising, he walked towards the door and remarked:

“My advice to you is to stay away from any talk like this withanybody else. There probably ain’t another man in town who would’vetalked to you like this, and if the boys in the Ku Klux Klan knew I hadbeen running along like this with a coloured man, I don’t know what’dhappen to me. See you later. So long!”

Kenneth walked up and down the room with his hands stuffed deep intohis pockets, his thoughts rushing through his head in helter-skelterfashion. He was suddenly conscious of a feeling that he [72] had been thrust into a tinyboat and forced to embark on a limitless sea, with neither compass norchart nor sun nor moon to guide him. Would he arrive? Or would he godown in some squall which arose from he knew not where or when? Thewhole situation seemed so vast, so sinister, so monstrous, that heshuddered involuntarily, as he had done as a child when left alone in adark room at night. Religion, which had been the guide and stay of hisfather in like circumstances, offered him no solace. He thought with afaint smile of the institution known as the Church. What was it? A vastmoney machine, interested in rallies and pastors’ days and schemes tomilk more dollars from its communicants. In preparing people to die. Hewasn’t interested in what was going to happen to him after death. Whathe wanted was some guide and comfort in his present problems. No,religion and the Church as it was now constituted wasn’t the answer.What was? He could not give it.

“Here I am,” he soliloquized, “with the best education money can buy.And yet Roy Ewing, who hasn’t been any further than high school, tellsme I’d better submit to all this without protest. Yet he stands for thebest there is here in Central City, and I suppose he represents the mostliberal thought of the South. How’s it all going to end? Even a rat willfight when he’s cornered, and these coloured people aren’t going tostand for these things all the time. What can I do? God, there isn’tanything—anything I can do? Bob is right! Something [73] must be done, but what is it? I reckon thesewhite folks must be blind—or else they figure on leaving whateversolution there may be to their children, hoping the storm doesn’t breakwhile they are liv. ing. No! That isn’t it. They think because they’vebeen able to get away with it thus far, they’ll always be able to getaway with it. Oh, God, I’m helpless! I’m helpless!”

Kenneth had begun to comprehend the delicate position a Negro alwaysoccupies in places like Central City—in fact, throughout the South. Solittle had he come into contact with the perplexities of the racequestion before he went away to school, he had seen little of thewindings and turnings, the tortuous paths the Negro must follow to avoidgiving offence to the dominant white sentiment. As he saw each day moreand more of the evasions, the repressions, the choking back of naturalimpulses the Negro practised to avoid trouble, Kenneth often thought ofthe coloured man as a chip of wood floating on the surface of a choppysea, tossed this way and that by every wind that blew upon the waters.He must of necessity be constantly on his guard when talking with hiswhite neighbours, or with any white men in the South, to keep fromuttering some word, some phrase which, like a seed dropped andforgotten, lies fallow for a time in the brain of the one to whom hetalks, but later blossoms forth into that noxious death-dealing plantwhich is the mob. Innocent enough of guile or malice that word may be,yet he must be careful lest it be distorted and magnified [74] until it can be the cause ofviolence to himself and his people. Often—very often—it is true that noevil follows. Yet the possibility that it may come must always beconsidered. But one factor is fixed and immutable the more intelligentand prosperous the Negro and the more ignorant and poor the white man,the graver the danger, for in the mind of the latter are jealousy andignorance and stupidity and abject fear of the educated and successfulNegro.

His talk with Ewing had crystallized the thoughts, half developed,which his observations since his return had planted in his mind. Kennethbegan to see how involved the whole question really was, he was seeingdim paths of expediency and opportunism he would be forced to tread ifhe expected to reach the goal he had set for himself. Already he foundone of his pet ideas to be of doubtful value the theory he had had thatsuccess would give a Negro immunity from persecution. Like a scrollslowly unwinding before his eyes, Kenneth saw, as yet only partially,that instead of freeing him from danger of the mob, too great prosperitywould make him and every other Negro outstanding targets of the wrathand envy of the poorer whites—that jealousy which “is cruel as thegrave.” Oh, well, he reflected, others had avoided trouble and so couldhe. He would have to be exceedingly careful to avoid too great display,and at the same time cultivate the goodwill of those men like Roy Ewingand Judge Stevenson who would stand by him if there was need.



Kenneth was roused by a light tap upon the door.Opening it, Mamie stood on the threshold. Inquiring whether Kenneth hadfinished his work, and on being told he had, she entered. “Kenneth, whydo you spend all your time here in the office? Don’t you think mamma andI want to talk with you occasionally?”

Mamie seated herself on the arm of Kenneth’s chair.

“Seems like you’re becoming a regular hermit since you’ve been back.Come on in the parlour—Jane Phillips is in there and she wants to seeyou. Remember her?”

Kenneth smiled. “Remember Jane Phillips? Of course I do. Scrawnylittle thing—running all to legs and arms. She was a homely little brat,wasn’t she?”

It was now Mamie’s turn to smile.

“I’m going to tell her what you said,” she threatened. “She’s lotsdifferent from the girl you remember.”

They went into the parlour.

Jane Phillips stood by the piano. She turned as Kenneth and Mamieentered the room, and came towards them, a smile on her face. Kenneth,as he [76] advanced towardsher, was frankly amazed at the transformation in the girl whom he hadnot seen for nine years. Jane laughed.

“Don’t you know me, Kenneth? Or must I call you Dr.Harper now?”

“No, my name is still Kenneth⸺” he answered.

“Tell Jane what you called her a few minutes ago, or I will,”interrupted Mamie. Kenneth looked embarrassed. Jane insisted on beingtold, whereupon Mamie repeated Kenneth’s description of Jane as achild.

Caught between the upper and nether millstones of the raillery of thetwo girls, Kenneth tried to explain away his embarrassment, but theygave him no peace.

“Let me explain,” he begged. “When I went away you were a scrawnylittle thing, a regular tomboy and as mischievous as they make them. Andnow you’re a—you’re—you’re” Jane laughed at his attempt, somewhatlacking in fullness, to say what she had become with the passage of theyears.

“Whatever it is you are trying to say, I hope it’s something allright you are calling me—though from your tone I’m not at all sure,” sheended, letting a note of mock concern creep in her voice.

By this time Kenneth had somewhat recovered his composure. He enteredinto the spirit of play himself by telling her his surprise had been dueto his finding her unchanged from the little girl he had once known, butJane laughed at his ineffectual efforts to answer Mamie’s and herteasing. To change [77] theconversation, he demanded that she tell him all that she had been doingsince he saw her last.

“There isn’t much to tell,” she declared. “I went away soon after youdid, going to Fisk University, graduated last June, got a positionteaching in North Carolina, and am home for the holidays. Next year Iwant to have enough money to go to Oberlin and finish my music. That’sall there is to my little story. You are the one who has been having allsorts of experiences. I want to hear your story.”

“Mine isn’t much longer,” answered Kenneth. “Four years of medicalschool. A year’s interneship in New York at Bellevue. Three months intraining camps. A year and a half in France. Six months at the Sorbonne.Then New York. Then exams at Atlanta for my licence. Home. And here Iam.”

“Don’t you believe him, Jane,” said Mamie.

“That’s just his way of telling it. Ken has had all sorts of excitingexperiences, yet he has come home and we can’t get him to talk about athing except building a practice and a hospital.”

“What do you want me to talk about?” asked Kenneth.

“Paris—school—army life what did you see?—how do you like NewYork?—is New York as good a place to live in as Paris?”

Kenneth threw up his hands in mock defence at the barrage ofquestions Jane and Mamie fired at him.

[78] “Just a minute—just aminute,” he begged them. “I could talk all night on any one of thequestions you’ve asked and then not finish with it or tell you more thanhalf. If you two will only be quiet, I’ll tell you as much as Ican.”

Mrs.Harper, hearing the voices, came into the room. The three womensat in silence as Kenneth told of his years at school, of his stay inNew York, his experiences in the army, of the beauties of Paris even inwar time, of study at a French university. He gave to the narrative avividness and air of reality that made his auditors see through his eyesthe scenes and experiences he was describing. Though none of them hadbeen in France, he made them feel as though they too were walkingthrough the Place de la Concorde viewing the statues to the eight greatcities of France or shopping in the Rue de la Paix or attempting toorder dinner in a restaurant with an all-too-inadequate Frenchvocabulary. He finished.

“Now you’ve got to sing for me, Jane, as a reward for all the talkingI’ve been doing.”

With the usual feminine protests that she had no music with her, Janewent to the open piano. She inquired what he would like to have hersing.

“Anything except the ‘Memphis Blues,’ which is all I’ve heard since Icame back to Central City,” he answered.

Jane ran over the keys experimentally, improvising. A floor lampstood near the piano casting a soft light over her. Her long, delicatelypointed fingers lingered lovingly on the ivory keys, and then she [79] played the opening bars ofSaint-Saën’s “My Heart at Thy Sweet Voice.” Her voice, a rounded, richcontralto, showing considerable training, gave to the song a tenderpathos, a yearning, a promise of deep and understanding love. She sangwith a grace and clear phrasing that bespoke the simple charm of thesinger. Kenneth gazed at her in wonder at the amazing metamorphosis ofthe shy, gawky child Jane whom he had only rarely noticed, and then withthe condescending air of twenty looking at twelve. In her stead had comea woman, rounded, attractive even beautiful, intelligent, and altogetherdesirable. The chrysalis had changed to the gorgeously colouredbutterfly. Her skin was a soft brown—almost bronze. He thought ofvelvety pansies richly coloured—of the warmth of rubies of great priceof the lustrous beauty of the sky on a spring evening. Her eyes shonewith a sparkling and provocative clearness, looking straight at one fromtheir brown depths. Little tendrils of her black hair at the back of herneck were disturbed every now and then by the breeze from the openwindows, while above were piled masses of coiled blackness that shone inthe dim light with a glossy lustre. To Kenneth came visions of asoft-eyed señorita in an old Spanish town leaning from herbalcony while below, to the accompaniment of a muted guitar, her loversang to her of his ardent love. Kenneth blushed when he realized that inevery picture he had cast himself for the rôle of gallanttroubadour.

His mother had quietly slipped from the room to [80] retire for the evening. Mamie had gone toprepare something cool for them to drink. Kenneth had not heard them go.In fact, lost in the momentary forgetfulness created by Jane and thesong, he had completely forgotten them. He did not, however, fail torealize that the dreams he was having were in large measure due to thesoft light, to surprise at the great changes in Jane, to the lullingseductiveness of the music. He was sure that his feeling was due inlargest measure to a reaction from his unpleasant conversation with RoyEwing. He vaguely realized that when on the morrow he saw Jane bydaylight, she would not seem half so charming and attractive. Yet he wasof such a temperament that he could give himself up to the spell of themoment and extract from it all the pleasure in it. It was in that mannerhe put aside the things which were unpleasant, enabling him to shake offmemories like mists of the morning ascending from the depths of avalley.

The song was ended. Herself caught in its spell, Jane swung into thatmost beautiful of the Negro spirituals, “Deep River.” Into it she pouredher soul. She filled the room with the pathos of that song born in thedark days of slavery of a people torn from their home and thrust intothe thraldom of human bondage.

And then Jane sang “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” The songended, her fingers yet clung to the keys but her hands hung listless.Kenneth knew not how or when he had risen from his chair and gone to thepiano where he stood behind Jane. [81] Something deep within them had been touchedby the music—a strange thrill filled them, making them oblivious toeverything except the presence of each other. Kenneth lightly placed hishands on her shoulders. Without speaking or turning, she placed herhands for a moment on his. He bent over her while she raised her face tohis, her eyes misty with tears born of the emotion aroused by the song.Though often laughed at in real life and often distorted in fiction,love almost at first sight had been born within them. Kenneth slowlybrought her face nearer his while Jane, with parted lips, let the backof her head rest against his breast. Love, with its strange retroactiveeffects, brought to both of them in that moment the sudden realization,though neither of them had known it, that they had always loved eachother. Not a word had been spoken—each was busy constructing his love insilence. A great emptiness in their lives had been suddenly,miraculously filled.

Their lips were almost touching when a noise brought them tothemselves with a shock. It was Mamie. She entered the room bearing atray on which were sandwiches, cakes, and tall glasses in which crackedice clinked coolingly. Kenneth hid his annoyance and, with as nonchalantan air as possible, went back to his chair.

When they had eaten, Jane rose to go. Kenneth walked home with her.Neither spoke until they had reached her gate. Jane entered as Kennethheld it open for her. He would have followed her in but she turned,extended her hand to him as a sign of [82] dismissal, and asked him to leave her there.Kenneth said nothing, but his face showed his disappointment at beinghastened away by the same girl who less than half an hour before hadalmost been in his arms.

“Please don’t say anything, Ken,” she pleaded. “It was my fault—Ishouldn’t have done what I did. I used to worship you when I was little,but I thought I had gotten over that—until to-night.”

Her voice sank almost to a whisper. In it was a note of trouble andperplexity. She went on:

“I—oh, Kenneth—what happened to-night must not be repeated.”

Puzzled and a bit hurt, he asked her what she meant.

“Don’t get the wrong idea, Ken. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt youfor the world.”

“But what is it, Jane?” begged Kenneth. “I love you, Jane, havealways loved you. I was blind—until to-night⸺”

Kenneth poured forth the words in a torrent of emotion. Whirlingthoughts tore through his brain. He sought to seize Jane’s hand and drawher to him, but she eluded him.

“No—no—Kenneth, you mustn’t. I can’t let you make love to me. Let’sbe friends, Ken, and enjoy these few days and forget all we’ve saidto-night, won’t you, please?” she ended pleadingly.

Kenneth said nothing. He turned abruptly and strode away without evensaying good night. Hands thrust deep into his pockets, his head hangingin dis[83]appointment andwounded pride, he hurried home without once turning to look back. …

Her ten days of vacation passed all too soon for Jane. She andKenneth saw each other frequently, but never alone until the nightbefore she returned to North Carolina. It was at a dance given in herhonour. All evening he had been seeking a dance with her, but met withno success until the party was almost over. They danced in silence. Janeseemed suddenly sad. All evening she had been happy, gay, evenflirtatious, but now that she was with Kenneth, her gaiety had beendropped like a mask. Half-way through the dance they came near a doorthat opened on a balcony overlooking a flower garden. Saying nothing toJane, Kenneth danced her through the door and on to the balcony, wherethey sat on a bench that stood in the semi-darkness. Though it wasDecember, the air was warm. No sound disturbed the silence of the nightsave the music and voices which floated through the open door.

“Haven’t you anything to say?” Kenneth anxiously inquired, taking oneof Jane’s hands in his.

“Nothing except this—I don’t know whether I care for you or not,”said Jane as she freed her hand and drew herself away. Her voice wasfirm and determined. Kenneth, ignorant of the ways of a maid with a man,said nothing, but his shoulders drooped dejectedly.

“What happened the other night was madness—I was very foolish forallowing it.” She paused, and [84] then went on. “Kenneth, I don’t know, I wantmy music, I want to see something of life I want to live! I just can’ttie myself down by marrying—I don’t know whether I’ll ever want to.You’ll have to wait—if you care to⸺”

It was half command, half question. He said nothing.

He did not know how she longed for him to argue with her, overrideher objections, convince her against her will. She waited a full minute.Still he sat there silent. She rose and re-entered the house, leavinghim there alone.

(Video) Gustavo Gus Fring Talking to Hank Schrader And the DEA



Life moved along evenly with Kenneth, busiedwith the multitude of duties with which the physician in the half-rural,half-urban towns of the South must deal. His days were filled with hisblasto work and he was usually to be found in his office until ten oreleven o’clock every evening. Often he was roused in the middle of thenight to attend some one of his patients. He did not mind this exceptwhen calls came to him from the outlying country districts. Notinfrequently he made long trips of seven, eight, or ten miles into thecountry to treat some person who might just as well have called himduring the previous day. He had purchased a Ford runabout in which hemade these trips.

On a Sunday morning soon after his return to Central City, Kennethwith his mother, Mamie, and Bob attended the Mount Zion Baptist Church,but this he did without much eagerness, solely as a duty.

Though years had passed since last he entered the church, Kennethnoticed that it stood as it always had, save that it looked moredown-at-heel than formerly. Before the door stood the same littlegroups, eagerly snatching a few words of conversation before entering.Near the door were ranged the young men, garbed in raiment of varied andbrilliant hue, [86] ogling thegirls as they passed in with their parents. There was much good-naturedbadinage and scuffling among the youths, with an occasional burst ofribald laughter at the momentary discomfiture of one of their number. Ashe passed them, Kenneth smiled to himself as he remembered how he but afew years since had been one of that crowd around the same door. Thatis, one of the crowd until his father, with a stern word or perhaps onlya meaningful glance, had been wont to summon him within the church.Often had he been teased unmercifully by the other boys when one ofthese summonses had come.

Though the jests had been hard to bear, the likelihood of paternalwrath had been too unpleasant an alternative for him to dare disregardhis father’s commands.

Kenneth noticed the vestibule had survived the passage of yearswithout apparent change, if one disregarded the increased dinginess ofthe carpet. There was the same glass-covered bulletin board with itslist of the sick and of those who were delinquent in the payment oftheir dues. There was the same dangling rope with a loop at the end ofit, and the same sexton was about to ring the bell above, announcing thebeginning of the morning service. There were the same yellowed walls,the same leather-covered swinging doors with the same greasy spots wherecountless hands had pushed them to enter the auditorium of the church.Kenneth smiled to himself as he remembered how he once had declared in adispute with a boy whose parents at[87]tended the Methodist church near by that theMount Zion Baptist Church was “the biggest and finest church in thewhole world.” He thought of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, ofSt.Paul’s in London, as he recalled the boast of his youth.

Inside, the same air of unchanging permanence seemed also to haveruled. As he followed the officious usher and his mother and sister totheir pew, Kenneth noted the same rows of hard seats worn shiny by yearsof use, the same choir loft to the left of the pulpit with its faded redcurtains. The same worn Bible lay open on the pulpit kept open by ahymn-book. Beside it was the same ornately carved silver pitcher andgoblet. Kenneth felt as though he had never left Central City when helooked for and found the patches of calcimine hanging from the ceilingand the yellowed marks on the walls made by water dripping from leaks inthe roof. As a boy he had amused himself during seemingly interminablesermons by constructing all sorts of fanciful stories around these samemarks, seeing in them weirdly shaped animals. Once he had laughed aloudwhen, after gazing at one of them, it had suddenly dawned upon him thatthe shadow cast by a pendent flake of calcimine resembled the lean andhungry-looking preacher who was pastoring Mount Zion at the time.Kenneth would never forget the commotion his sudden laughter had caused,nor the whipping he received when he and his father reached home thatSunday.

The hum of conversation ceased. The pastor, the [88] Reverend Ezekiel Wilson, entered the pulpitfrom a little door back of it. The choir sang lustily the Doxology. Allthe familiar services came back to Kenneth as he sat and looked at thedusky faces around him.

Preliminaries ended, the Reverend Wilson began to preach. He was afat, pompous, oily man—with a smooth and unctuous manner. His voice sankat times to a whisper—at others, roared until the rafters of thebuilding seemed to ring with its echoes. He played on it as consciouslyas the dried-up little organist in the gaily coloured bonnet did on thekeys of the asthmatic little organ. His text was taken from the 13thchapter of First Corinthians, first verse that familiar text, “Though Ispeak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I ambecome as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”

Slowly, softly, he began to speak.

“Breddern and sisters, they’s a lot of you folks right here thismawnin’ what thinks you is Christ’uns. You think jus’ ‘cause you comeshere ev’ry Sunday and sings and shouts and rants around dat you is gotthe sperit of Jesus in you. Well, I’m tellin’ you this mawnin’ dat you’dbetter wake up and get yo’self right with God, ’cause you ain’t no moChrist’un dan if you neveh been to chu’ch a-tall. De Good Book says yougot to have char’ty, and de Good Book don’t lie.”

There came from the Amen corner a fervently shouted “Amen!” Fromanother came as equally [89]fervid a shout: “Ain’t it the truth!” The preacher paused for effect. Hemopped his brow and glared around the congregation. His auditors sat inexpectant silence. Suddenly he lashed out in scathing arraignment of thesins of his flock. Each and every one of its faults he pilloried withwords of fire and brimstone. He painted a vivid and uncomfortablyrealistic picture of a burning Hell into which all sinners wouldinevitably be cast. Almost with the air of a hypnotist, he graduallyadvanced the tempo of his speech. Like a wind playing over a field ofcorn, swaying the tops of the stalks as it wills, so did he play on theemotions and fears and passions of his congregation. Only a master ofhuman psychology could have done it. It was a living, breathing,vengeful God he preached, and his auditors fearfully swayed and rockedto and fro as he lashed them unmercifully. Lips compressed, there camefrom them a nasal confirmation of the preacher’s words that ranged fromdeep, guttural grunts of approval as he scored a point to a high-pitchedrising and falling moan that sounded like nothing so much as a childblowing through tissue paper stretched over a comb. Frequently thepreacher would without perceptible pause swing into a rolling, swinging,half-moaning song which the congregation took up with fervour. The beatwas steadily advanced by the leader until he and his audience wereworked up to an emotional ecstasy bordering on hysteria. His jeremiadended, the preacher painted a glowing [90] picture of the ineffable peace and joy thatcame to those who rested their faith in Him who died for the remissionof their sins.

A tumultuous thunderous climax—a dramatic pause and then he swunginto a fervent prayer in which the preacher talked as though his Godwere an intimate friend and confidant. The entire drama lasting morethan an hour was thrilling and enervating and theatric. Yet beneath itlay a devout sincerity that removed the scene from the absurd to thatwhich bordered on the magnificent. To these humble folk their religionwas the most important thing in their lives, and, after all, whatmatters it what a man does? It is the spirit in which he performs an actthat makes it dignified or pathetic or ludicrous—not the act itself.

In spite of his sophistication, Kenneth never was able entirely toward off the chills of excitement that ran down his spine at these weirdreligious ceremonies. He saw through the whole theatric performance andyet way down beneath it all there was a sincerity and genuineness thatnever failed to impress him. This was not a mere animalism nor was itthe joke that white people sometimes tried to make of it. Fundamentally,it was rooted and grounded in an immutable and unfailing belief in thesupreme power of a tangible God—a God that personally directed the mostminute of the affairs of the most lowly of creatures. It had been theguide and refuge of the fathers and mothers of these same people throughthe dark days of slavery. In the same man[91]ner it was almost the only refuge for thesechildren and grandchildren of the slaves in withstanding the trials of alatter-day slavery in many respects more oppressive than the pre-CivilWar variety.

Kenneth walked home from church running over these things in hismind. Was this religious fervour the best thing for his people? Why didnot the Church attract more intelligent and able young men of his raceinstead of men like Reverend Wilson? Why didn’t some twentieth-centuryMoses arise to lead them out of the thraldom of this primitive religion?Would that Moses, when he came, be able to offer a solace as effectiveto enable these people of his to bear the burdens that lay so heavilyupon them?

He thought again of his conversation with Roy Ewing. What was theelusive solution to this problem of race in America? Why couldn’t thewhite people of the South see where their course was leading them? Ewingwas right. No white man of the South had ever come out in completedefiance of the present regime which was so surely damning the South andAmerica. Kenneth saw his people kept in the bondage of ignorance. Why?Because it was to the economic advantage of the white South to have itso. Why was a man like Reverend Wilson patted on the back and everyNegro told that men of his kind were “safe and sane leaders”? Why wasevery Negro who too audibly or visibly resented the brutalities andproscriptions of race prejudice instantly labelled as a radical—adangerous character[92]—as oneseeking “social equality”? What was this thing called “social equality”anyhow? That was an easy question to answer. It was about the only onehe could answer with any completeness. White folks didn’t really believethat Negroes sought to force themselves in places where they weren’twanted, any more than decent white people wanted to force themselveswhere they were not invited. No, that was the smoke-screen to hidesomething more sinister. Social equality would lead to intermarriage,they thought, and the legitimatizing of the countless half-coloured sonsand daughters of these white people. Why, if every child in the Southwere a legitimate one, more than half of the land and property in theSouth would belong to coloured owners.

Did the white people who were always talking about “social equality”think they really were fooling anybody with their constant denunciationof it? Twenty-nine States of America had laws against intermarriage. Allthese laws were passed by white legislators. Were these laws passed tokeep Negroes from seizing some white woman and forcing her to marry himagainst her will? Or were these laws unconscious admissions by thesewhite men that they didn’t trust their women or their men to keep frommarrying Negroes? Any fool knew that if two people didn’t want to marryeach other, there was no law of God or man to make them marry. No, thelaws were passed because white men wanted to have their own women anduse coloured women too without any law [93] interfering with their affairs or makingthem responsible for the consequences.

Kenneth usually ended these arguments with himself with a feeling ofcomplete impotence, of travelling around like a squirrel in a circularcage. No matter where he started or how fast or how far he travelled, healways wound up at the same point and with the same sense of blinddefeat. Oh, well, better men than he had tried to answer the samequestions and failed. He’d stay to himself and attend to his ownbusiness and let such problems go hang. But in spite of himself he oftenfound himself enmeshed in this endless maze of reasoning. Just asfrequently he determined to put from himself again the perplexing andseemingly insoluble problems.

It was after one of these soliloquies on his way from church onebright Sunday in April that Kenneth reached home and found a call forhim to come at once to a house down on Butler Street, in the heart ofthe Negro district in the bottoms. Telling his mother to keep dinner forhim as he would be back shortly, he hurried down State Street. Turningsuddenly into Harris Street, which crossed State, which in turn wouldlead him to the house he sought on Butler Street, he caught a fleetingglimpse of a white man who looked like George Parker, cashier of theBank of Central City Parker, if it was he, turned hastily at Kenneth’sapproach and went up a narrow alley which ran off Harris Street. Kenneththought nothing of the incident other than a vague [94] and quickly passing wonder at Parker’spresence in that part of town.

Kenneth hurried on, instinctively stepping over or around thenumerous children whose complexions ranged in colour from a deep blackto a yellow that was almost white, and mangy-looking dogs that seemed toinfest the street. Approaching the house he sought, he found a group ofexcitedly talking Negroes gathered around the gate. The group separatedto let him pass, and from it came one or two greetings to Kenneth in theform of “Hello, Doc.” He paid little attention to them, but proceeded upthe path to the house.

Entering, he was surprised to find it furnished more ornately andcomfortably than usual in that section. He knew the place of old,remembering that his father had always warned him against going intothis section. Here it was reported that strange things went on, that araid by the police was not uncommon. He had upon one occasion seen thepatrol wagon, better known as the “Black Maria,” drive away loaded withbottles of whisky and with a nondescript lot of coloured men and women.Most of the property in this section was owned by white people, whichthey held on to jealously. They charged and received rentals two orthree times as high as in other sections of “Darktown.”

Kenneth found in the front room another excited and chattering lot ofmen and women. The men seemed rather furtive and were dressed in“peg-top” trousers with wide cuffs, and gaudily coloured shirts. [95] The women were clad in red andpink kimonos and boudoir caps. With an inclusive “Hello, folks,” Kennethfollowed a woman who seemed to be in charge of the house into the nextroom. In the centre of the darkened room there stood the bed,dishevelled, the sheets stained with blood. On them lay a man fullyclothed, his eyes closed as though in great pain, and breathing heavily,with sharp gasps every few seconds. By the bed, bathing the man’s brow,stood a woman in a rumpled night-dress and kimono. Kenneth recognizedthe man as Bud Ware, sometimes a Pullman porter, who used hisoccupation, it was rumoured, to bring liquor from Atlanta, which hiswife sold. It was his wife Nancy who bathed his brow and who moved awayfrom the bed when Kenneth approached. She informed him that he had comehome unexpectedly from his run, and had been shot. Kenneth said nothingbut went immediately to work. He found Bud with two bullet holes in hisabdomen and one through his right leg. It was evident that he had but afew hours, at most, to live. Kenneth did what he could to relieve Bud’ssuffering. Turning to Nancy, he told her what he had discovered. Shestared at Kenneth wide-eyed for a minute and then burst forth in anagony of weeping.

“Oh, Lawdy, why didn’t I do what Bud tol’ me to do? Bud tol’ me tolet dat man alone! Why didn’t I do it? Why didn’t I do it?”

Her screams mounted higher and higher until they reached ear-piercingshrieks. A head or two were [96] stuck interrogatively through the openeddoor at the sound of Nancy’s woe, and as quickly withdrawn. Kennethadministered an opiate to Bud to relieve his pain and sat by the bed todo what he could in the short while that life remained. The sordidnessof the whole affair sickened him and he longed to get away where hecould breathe freely.

Strengthened by the opiate, Bud’s eyes flickered and then opened fora fraction of a minute. He smiled faintly when he recognized Kenneth. Hemade several ineffectual attempts to speak, but each effort resultedonly in a gasp of pain. Kenneth ordered him to lie still. Bud, however,kept trying to speak. Roused by Nancy’s shrieks, he finally managed togasp out a few words, interrupted by spasms of pain that shook his wholebody.

“I knows I ain’t got long, Doc. Dat’s a’ right, Nancy, I ain’tblamin’ you none. I knows you couldn’t he’p it.”

He fell back on the pillow, coughing and writhing in pain.

“Lif’ me a li’l—hiar—on the pillar, Doc. Dat’s mo’ like—it! Doc—Iain’t been much ‘count. I tol’ dat man Parker—to stop foolin’ with my’oman—but—he keep on—comin’ here—when I’m gone. He knew I wuz sellin’liquor—an’ he tol Nancy he wuz gwine—hav’ his brudder—She’f Parker putme on—chain gang—if she tell me he come here—w’en I wuz gone.”

He had another paroxysm of coughing and lay for a minute as thoughalready dead. Kenneth adminis[97]tered restoratives, meanwhile telling Nancyto keep quiet, which only made her weep the louder. After a few minutesBud began speaking again.

“I come home to-day—an’ kotched him here. W’en I got mad an’ tolhim—to get out—and stahted towards him—he grabbed his gun an’—shot me.”After a pause: “Doc, whyn’t dese white fo’ks—leave our women alone?—Iain’t nevah bothered none of their women.—An’ now—I’s done got—killedjus’ ’cause—I—I⸺”

He half raised himself on the pillow, looking at Nancy.

“Doan cry, Nancy gal—doan cry⸺”

He fell back dead. Kenneth, of no further assistance, left Nancy toher grief after promising to send the undertaker in to prepare Bud’sbody for burial, and made his way out through the crowd, now greatlyincreased in numbers, gathered around the door. He wondered if anythingwould be done about the murder, at the same time knowing that nothingwould. The South says it believes in purity. What was that phrase the KuKluxers used so much—“preservation of the sanctity of the home,protection of the purity of womanhood”? Yes, that was it. Suppose theraces of the two principals had been reversed—that Bud Ware had beencaught with George Parker’s wife. Why, the whole town would have turnedout to burn Bud at the stake. Weren’t coloured women consideredhuman—wasn’t their virtue as dear to them as to white women? Nancy andBud weren’t of much good to the community [98] but if Bud wanted his wife kept inviolate,hadn’t he as much right to guard her person as George Parker to protecthis wife and two daughters? Again he felt himself up against a blindwall in which there was no gate, and which was too high to climb. He haddetermined to stay out of reach of the long arms of the octopus theycalled the race problem—but he felt himself slowly being drawn into itsinsidious embrace.



CentralCity was the county seat of Smith County. The morning after themurder of Bud Ware, Kenneth went down to the County Court House to filehis report on the death. It was a two-story building, originally of redbrick but now of a faded brownish red through the rains and sun of manyyears. It sat back from the street about fifty feet and was surroundedby a yard covered here and there with bits of grass but for the mostpart clear of all vegetation, its red soil trampled by many feet on“co’t day.” The steps were worn thin through much wear of heavy boots.On either side of the small landing at the top, there hung a bulletinboard on which were pasted or tacked yellow notices of sheriff’s sales,rewards for the arrest of criminals, and other court documents. Thefloor of the dark and narrow hallway was stained a reddish colour by themud and dust from the feet of those who had entered the building. Justinside the doorway, on either side, were rectangular boxes filled withsawdust for the convenience of those of a tobacco-chewing disposition,which included most of the male population. The condition of the flooraround the boxes seemed to indicate that only a few of these hadrealized for what purpose the boxes had been [100] placed there. Over all was a liberalcoating of the dust that had blown in the door and windows.

Entering the office of the County Health Commissioner, Kenneth foundthat dignitary in his shirtsleeves, feet comfortably placed on top ofhis desk.

“Good morning, Mr.Lane. I’ve come to make a report of a death.”

At the sound of Kenneth’s voice, County Commissioner of Health HenryLane turned in his chair without moving his feet to see who it was thathad entered. Long, lanky, a two days’ growth of red beard on his face,Mr.Lane removed the corn-cob pipe from his mouth with a rising andfalling of a prominent Adam’s apple. Seeing that his visitor was only aNegro, he replaced his pipe in his mouth and, between several jerkypuffs to get it going again, querulously replied:

“Can’t you see I’m busy? Why don’t you save up them repo’ts till yougit a passel of them, and then bring ‘em in? Got no time t’ be writin’up niggers’ deaths, anyhow. Ev’ry time I turn ‘round, some nigger’sgittin’ carved up or shot or somepin’.”.

“I understand it’s the law, Mr.Lane, that deaths of anybody, whiteor coloured, must be reported by the physician at once.”

“Drat the law. That’s fo’ white folks.”

He drew himself out of his chair with great reluctance and ambledover to the counter, drawing to him a pad and pencil as he turnedtowards Kenneth.

“What nigger’s dead now?” he inquired. [101]

“Bud Ware, who lived at 79 Butler Street,” replied Kenneth.

“How’d he die?” was the next question.

“Shot through the abdomen.”

“Know who shot him?”

“Yes. George Parker.”

“Th’ hell you say! And you come in here to repo’t it?”

Kenneth was somewhat startled at the ferocity of the Commissioner’sexpression, which had replaced that of laziness and resentment at beingdisturbed. “I thought it my duty …” he began.

Lane spat disgustedly.

“Duty, Hell! You’re a God-damned fool and one of these damned niggersthat’s always causin’ trouble ‘round here. I always said eddicationspoiled a nigger and, by God, you prove it. Lemme tell yousomepin’—you’d better remember s’long’s you stay ‘round these parts.When you hear anything ’bout a white man havin’ trouble with a nigger,you’d better keep your mouth shet. They’s lots of niggers been lynchedfor less’n you said this mornin’. Ain’t you got sense enough t’ know youhadn’t any business comin’ in here t’ tell me ‘bout Mr.Parker? Don’tyou know his brother’s sheriff? If y’ aint, goin’ up No’th tuk away whatli’l’ sense you might’ve had befo’ you went.”

Kenneth stood silent, a deep red flush suffusing his face, while theofficial continued his vituperative tirade. His fists, thrust deep intohis pockets, were Elenched until they hurt, but he did not feel thepain. [102] He longed to takethat long, yellow, unshaven neck in his hands and twist it until Lane’seyes popped out and his face turned black. He knew it would be suicideif he did it. He realized now that he had done an unwise thing intelling Lane who had killed Bud Ware—he should have remembered and saidthat he did not know. If he was going to stay in the South, he wouldhave to remember these things.

When Lane had paused for breath, Kenneth bade him good morning andleft the room. As he went down the steps, he heard Lane shouting afterhim:

“You’d better not lemme hear o’you doin’ any talkin’ ‘bout this. Ify’ do, you’ll fin’ yo’self bein’ paid a visit one o’ these nights by theKluxers!”

Hardly had Kenneth left the court house before Lane rushed as fast ashis natural indolence would permit him into the office of Sheriff RobertParker—known throughout the county as “She’f Bob.” Lane was so indignanthe spluttered in trying to speak. The sheriff looked at him amusedly andcounselled:

“Ca’m yo’self, Henry. What’s eatin’ you?”

“Bob, d’you know George shot and killed a nigger buck over in‘Darktown’ yestiddy mornin’ named Ware?” Lane finally managed to getout.

“Yeh. What about it? George tol me about it las’ night,” was thesheriff’s easy reply.

“Well, that nigger doctor Harper who’s been up No’th studyin’ andcome back here las’ fall, come into my office this mornin’ to repo’t it,and he had the gall t’ tell me George done it.”

[103] “Th’ black bastard!What th’ hell’s he got to do with it?”

“Said it was his duty. You bet I tol him good an’ plenty where he gotoff at. Guess he won’t come in here repo’tin’ no more ‘accidents’ likeGeorge run into.”

Sheriff Parker’s face had assumed the colour of an overripe tomato ashe jumped to his feet and banged his right fist on the table with aresounding thwack.

“I’ll keep my eye on that nigger,” he promised. “His daddy was asgood a nigger as ever I did see, but they ain’t no way o’tellin’ whatthese young bucks’ll do. Roy Ewing was saying only this mornin’ thatBob, that nigger doctor’s kid brother, was tellin’ him the other daythat he’d have to stop them boys ‘roun’ the sto’ from botherin’ with th’nigger gals when they pass by. Humph! They ain’t no nigger gal that’spure after she’s reached fo’teen years ol’. Yep, I’ll jus’ kep my eye onthose boys, and the first chance I git, I’ll⸺!”

His eyes narrowed in malevolent fashion as he left his threatunuttered.

In the meantime, Kenneth had gone home. He hesitated to talk thematter over with Bob or tell him what had happened to Bud Ware or whathad taken place at the court house that morning. Bob was so hot-headedand insults made him angry so easily, he was afraid of what might be theoutcome if Bob knew what had occurred. He would breathe a deep sigh ofrelief when Bob left in the fall to go back to [104]er school. Up in Atlanta there wouldn’t beso many chances for Bob to run up against these white people and,besides, Bob’s studies would keep him busy, leaving little time to broodover the indignities he had suffered. Kenneth determined that when Bobhad finished his course at Atlanta University, he would urge him to goto Columbia University or Haryard and study law, and then settle down insome Northern city. It wouldn’t do for Bob to come back as he had doneto Central City. Sooner or later Bob’s fiery temper would give way.

He wondered to whom he could turn to talk this thing out. He feltthat if he didn’t have a chance soon to unburden his soul to somebody,he would go insane. He thought of his mother. No, that wouldn’t do. Hismother had enough to worry about without taking his burdens on hershoulders.

Mamie? No, she wouldn’t do either. She had no business knowing aboutthe sordidness of the affair of Bud Ware and Nancy and George Parker.All her life she had been sheltered and kept away, as much as ispossible in a Southern town, from the viciousness and filth andbrutality of the race relations of the town.

Mr.Wilson, the clergyman? He was ignorant and coarse, but he hadlived in South Georgia all his life and he would know better what to dothan anybody else. He determined to go and talk with Mr.Wilson thatevening as soon as he was free. He had hardly made the decision whenMr.Wilson [105]non himselfentered the reception room and called out to Kenneth as he sat in hisoffice:

“Good mawnin’, Brudder Harper. It certainly has done my heart good tosee you attendin’ chu’ch ev’ry Sunday with your folks. Mos’ of theseyoung men and women, as soon’s they get some learning, thinks they’s toogood to ‘tend chu’ch.But, as I says to them all th’ time, th’ Lawdain’t goin’ t’ bless none of them, even if they is educated, if theydon’t keep close to Him.”

Kenneth rose and showed his visitor to a seat. He did so with aninward repugnance as the coarseness of the man repelled him. Mr.Wilsonseemed always overheated even in the coldest weather, and his face shonewith a greasiness that seemed to indicate that his body excreted oilinstead of perspiration. Yet, perhaps this man could give him some rayof no light, if there was any to be had.

He told Mr.Wilson of his experiences of the past two days. Thepreacher’s eyes widened with a mild surprise and the unctuous,benevolent mask which he wore most of his waking hours seemed to droprapidly as he heard Kenneth through to the end without comment. At thesame time he dropped his illiterate speech much to Kenneth’s surprise,when he finally spoke.

“Dr.Harper, I’ve been watching you since you came back here. I knewthat you were trying to keep away from this trouble that’s always goingon around here. That’s just why I came here to-day. [106] Your case is a hard one, but it’s small towhat a lot of these others are feeling. I have asked a number of themore sensible coloured men to meet at any house to-night. I think itwould be a good thing to talk over these things and try to find a way toavoid any trouble.”

Kenneth looked at him in surprise, not at the idea of holding ameeting, but at the language the man was using.

“I hope you’ll pardon me for asking so personal a question, ReverendWilson, but you don’t talk now as I’ve always heard you before. Why,your language now is that of an educated man, and before you—you—talkedlike a—like a⸺”

Mr.Wilson laughed easily.

“There’s a reason—in fact, there are two reasons why I talk likethat. The first is because of my own folks. Outside of you and yourfolks, the Phil. lips family, and one or two more, all of mycongregation is made up of folks with little or no education. They’veall got good hard common sense, it’s true. They’d have to have that inorder just to live in the South with things as they are. But they don’twant a preacher that’s too far above them they’ll feel that they can’tcome to him and tell him their troubles if he’s too highfalutin. I tryto get right down to my folks, feel as they feel, suffer when theysuffer, laugh with them when they laugh, and talk with them in languagethey can understand.”

Mr.Wilson smiled, almost to himself, as memories of contacts withhis lowly flock came to him.

[107] “I remember when Ifirst started preaching over at Valdosta. I was just out of school andwas filled up with the ambition to raise my people out of theirignorance. I was determined I would free them from a religion thatdidn’t do anything for them but make them shout and holler on Sunday. Iwas going to give them some modern religion based on intelligenceinstead of just on feeling and emotion.”

He chuckled throatily in recollecting the spiritual and religiouscrusade on which he had based such exalted hopes.

“I preached to them and told them of Aristotle and Shakespeare andSocrates. One Sunday, after I’d preached what I thought was a mightyfine sermon, one old woman came up after the services and said to me:“Brer Wilson, dat’s a’ right tellin’ us ‘bout Shakespeare and Homer andall dem other boys. But what we want is for you t’ tell us somethin’‘bout Jesus!’”

Kenneth laughed with the preacher at the old woman’s insistence onhis not straying from the religion to which they were used.

“I had to discard my high-flown theories and come down to my folks ifI wanted to do any good at all.”

He continued:

“These same folks, however, don’t want you to come down too close.Like all people with little education, whether they’re black, white, orany other colour, they like to look up to their leaders. So I use a fewbig words now and then which have a grand and rolling sound, and theyfeel that I am even more [108] wonderful because I do know how to use bigwords but don’t use them often.”

He paused while Kenneth looked at this man and saw him in a newlight. He had known that Mr. Wilson, many years before coming to CentralCity, had attended a theological seminary in Atlanta, and he hadwondered how a man could attend a school of theology of any standing andyet use such poor English. It had never occurred to him that it might bedeliberate.

“And then there’s another reason,” continued Reverend Wilson. “Thewhite folks here are mighty suspicious of any Negro who has too muchlearning, according to their standards. They figure he’ll be stirring upthe Negroes to fighting back when any trouble arises. I had to make adecision many years ago. I decided that somebody had to help these poorcoloured folks bear their burdens, and to comfort and cheer them. I knewthat if I came out and said the things I thought and felt, I wouldeither be taken out of my house some night and lynched, or else I’d berun out of town. So I decided that I’d smile and bear it and be what thewhite folks think they want—what the coloured folks call a ‘white man’snigger.’ It’s been mighty hard, but the Lord has given me the strengthsomehow or other to stand it this far.”

With his deliberately imperfect English, there had gone from thepreacher’s face the subservient smile. Kenneth felt his heart warming tothis man. He found his feeling of distaste and repulsion dissipat[109]ing, now that the shell hadbeen removed and he saw beneath the surface. The simile of theprotective device of the chameleon came to his mind. Yes, the Negro inthe South had many things in common with the chameleon—he had to be ableto change his colour figuratively to suit the environment of the Southin order to be allowed to stay alive. His own trouble with the Parkersand Lane seemed much more trivial now than before. He looked atMr.Wilson and asked:

“What’s the purpose of this meeting to-night? How can I help,Reverend Wilson?”

“It’s like this. A good part of my congregation is made up of folkswho live out in the country. They’ve had a lot of trouble for yearsgetting honest settlements from the landlords on whose land they work.Within the last five years, two of my members have been lynched whenthey wouldn’t stand for being cheated any longer. The folks out thereare in a pretty bad way, and they want us to advise with them as to thebest way to act. I haven’t time to go into the details now, but it’llall be taken up to-night. Can I count on your being there? We need a manlike you, with your education.”

Kenneth deliberated several minutes before giving his answer. WhatMr.Wilson wanted him to do was just exactly what he had determined notto do. But what harm could come from attending the meeting? If he didn’twant to take any part in the plans, he didn’t have to. Anyhow, it seemedthat the more a man tried to keep away from the race question, the [110]mo more deeply involved hebecame in it. Might as well do what little he could to help, if hedidn’t have to take too prominent a part. He’d go anyway. He toldReverend Wilson they could look for him that night.



Kenneth was late in reaching the meeting-placethat night. When he arrived he found all there waiting for him. Besideshimself and Mr.Wilson were the Reverend Richard Young, pastor of BethelAfrican Methodist Episcopal Church, and Herbert Phillips, Jane’s father.There were also three men from the farming district whom Kenneth did notknow, but who were introduced as Tom Tracy, Hiram Tucker, and JamesSwann.

Mr.Wilson opened the meeting after the introductions had beencompleted.

“Brothers, we’ve met here this evenin’ to talk over some way we canhe’p these brothers who live out in the country and who ain’t been ableto get an honest settlement from the folks they’s been farmin’ for. I’mgoing to ask Brother Tucker to tell us just how things are with thefolks out his way. Brother Tucker.”

“Brother” Tucker rose and stood by the table around which they wereseated and on which flickered an oil lamp. He was a man between fiftyand sixty years of age, of medium height and thick-set. His black skinwas wrinkled with age and toil. His hands, as they rested on the tablein front of him, were gnarled and hardened through a lifetime of [112] ploughing and hoeing and theother hard work of farm life. It was Mr.Tucker’s face, however, whichattracted interest. Out of the rolls of skin there shone two kindly,docile eyes. One gained the impression that these eyes had seentragedies on top of tragedies, as indeed they had, and their owner hadbeen taught by dire necessity to look upon them in a philosophic andpacifist manner. One remembered a biblical description: “He was a man ofsorrows and acquainted with grief.” Kenneth, as he looked at him, feltthat Socrates and Aristotle and Jesus Christ must have had eyes likeBrother Tucker’s. His impression was heightened by Mr.Tucker’s hair. Ofa snowy whiteness, his head bald on top, his hair formed a circle aroundhis head that reminded Kenneth of the picture-cards used at Sundayschool when he was a boy, where the saints had crowns of light hoveringover their heads. The only difference was that Mr.Tucker’s halo seemedto be a bit more firmly and closely attached than those of the saints,which he remembered always seemed to be poised perilously in mid-air. Hehad often wondered, as he gazed intently at the pictures, what wouldhave happened had a strong gust of wind come suddenly upon the saints,and blown their haloes away.

Mr.Tucker began speaking slowly, in the manner of one of few wordsand as one unused to talking in public.

“Brudders, me ‘n’ Brudder Tracy, and Brudder Swann ast ReverendWilson here to let us come t’ [113] town some time and talk over with yougent’men a li’l’ trouble we’s been havin’. Y’ see, all of us folks outdat way wuks on shares like dis. We makes a ‘greement wif de landlord towuk one year or mo’. He fu’nishes de lan’ and we puts de crap in desoil, wuks it, and den gathers it. We’s sposed to ‘vide it share andshare alike wif de landlord but it doan wuk out dat way. If us culludfolks ain’t got money enough to buy our seed and fert’lizer and food andthe clo’es we needs du’in’ de year, we is allowed t’ take up dese thingsat de sto’. Den when we goes to settle up after de cott’n and cawn’sdone laid by, de sto’ man who wuks in wif de landlord won’t giv’ us nobill for whut we done bought but jes’ gives us a li’l piece of paper wifde words on it: “Balance Due.”

He paused to wipe the perspiration from his face caused by theunusual experience of speaking at such length. He continued:

“An’ dat ain’t all. W’en we starts to pickin’ our cotton, dey doanlet us ca’y it to de gin and weigh it ourself. De lan’lord send hiswagons down in de fiel’ and as fas’ as we picks it, dey loads it on dewagons and takes it away. Dey doan let us know how much it weighs or howmuch dey sells it for. Dey jus’ tells us it weighs any ‘mount delan’lord wants to tell us, and dey says dey sol’ it at any price deyset. W’en we comes to settle up for de year, dey ‘ducts de balance due’from what we’s got comin’ t’us from our share of de craps. I’s beenwukin’ for nigh on to six years for Mr.Taylor out near [114] Ashland and ev’y year I goesdeeper in debt dan de year befo’. Las’ year I raised mo’ dan twenty-fo’bales of cott’n dat weighed mo’ dan five hundred poun’s each. My boy Tomwhut’s been t’ school figgered out dat at eighten cents a poun’—anddat’s de price de paper said cott’n sol’ at las’ year—I oughter got mo’dan a thousan’ dollars for my share. An’ dat ain’t all neither. Dey wasnearly twelve tons of cott’n seed dat was wuth ‘bout two hundred andfo’ty dollars. An’den dey was mo’ dan three hundred bush’ls of cawn at adollar’n a ha’f a bush’l dat makes fo’ hundred and fifty dollars mo’.All dat t’gether makes nearly three thousan’ dollars an’ I oughter got‘bout fifteen hundred dollars fo’ my share.”

Tucker stopped again and shifted his feet while Tracy and Swannnodded agreement with his statements.

“Las’ year me ‘n’ my wife said we wuz gwine t’ get along withoutspendin’ no mo’ money at de sto’ dan we had to, so’s we could get out ofdebt. We wukked ha’d and all our chillen we made wuk in de fiel’s too.My boy Tom kept account of ev’ything we bought at de sto’, and when deyear ended he figgered it up an’ he foun’ we’d done spent jus’ even fo’hundred dollars. But when we goes to make a settlement at de end of deyear, Mr.Taylor said he sol our cott’n at eight cent a poun’ anddidn’have but sev’n hundred and thutty-five dollars comin’ to us. An’den he claim we tuk up ‘leven hundred dollars wuth of stuff at de sto’which he done paid for, [115]so that leave me owin’ him three hundred ‘n’ sixty-five dollars dat Igot to wuk out next year.”

His face took on a dejected look as though the load had become almosttoo heavy to bear. His voice took on at the same time a plaintive anddiscouraged tone.

“An’ when you adds on dat three hundred dollars dat Mr.Taylor says Iowed him from las’ year, dat makes neah’ly sev’n hundred dollars I owes,and it doan look like I’s evah goin’t git out of debt. An’ I thought wewuz goin’ to be able to sen’ Tom and Sally and Mirandy t’ Tuskegee disyear off de ‘leven hundred dollars I thought I wuz gwine t’ make.”

The discouraged air changed to one of greater courage anddetermination. His voice rose in his resentment and excitement.

“Now I’s tiahed of all dis cheatin’ an’ lyin’! Mr. Taylor mus’ takeme for a fool if he thinks I’m gwine stan’ for dis way of doin’ thingsall de time. I stahted to tell him dat I knew he wuz cheatin’ me inJanua’y w’en he give me dat statemen’, but den I ‘membered whut happent’ Joe Todd two years ago w’en he tol’ dat ol’ man Stanton dat he wukkedfor, de same thing. W’en ol’ man stahted thit Joe, Joe hit him fust andrun. Dey came one night and call Joe to his do’ and tuk him down in deswamp an’ de nex’ mawnin’ dey foun’ Joe full of bullets, hangin’ to atree. De paper say Joe done spoke insultin’ to a white ‘oman, but all decullud folks, an’ de white too, know dat Joe ain’t nevah even seen nowhite ’oman dat day. Dey knew dat if dey say he ‘sulted [116] a white ’oman, de folks upNawth won’t crit’cize dem for lynchin’ a nigger down here in Georgy. SoI jus’ kep’ my mouth close’. Now we wants t’ know if dey ain’t somethin’we c’n do t’ make dese white folks we wuks for stop cheatin’ an’ robbin’us po’ cullud folks.”

He sat down, evidently greatly relieved at finishing a task soarduous. Kenneth had listened in amazement to the story of exploitation,crudely told, yet with a simplicity that was convincing and eloquent.Having lived in the South all his life, he naturally was not unaware ofthe abuses under the “share-cropping” or “tenant-farming” system in theSouth, but it had never been brought home to him so forcefully how closeat hand and how oppressive and dishonest the system really was. Nowonder the South lynched, disfranchised, Jim-Crowed the Negro, hereflected. If the Negro had a yote and a voice in the local governmentof affairs, most of these bankers and merchants and landowners wouldhave to go to work for the first time in their lives instead of waxingfat on the toil of humble Negroes like Hiram Tucker. He turned to Tuckerto get further information on the system.

“Mr.Tucker, have you and the other folks like you ever thought oftrying to get loans from the Federal Government through the banks theyhave established to aid farmers in buying land and raising theircrops?”

“Oh, yes, Doc. Soon’s they started lendin’ money to farmers, I ’pliedfor a loan to buy me a li’l’ place [117] dat I wuz gwine t’ wuk an’ pay for off whutI raised. But dey tol’ me dey didn’ have no funds t’ lento niggers an’dat dey already done loaned all dey had to de white farmers. W’en I astdem to put my name down on de lis’ to get a loan when some mo’ moneycame in, dey tol me dat it wa’n’t no use ‘cause dey already had so manywhite folks’ names down on de lis’ dat dey nevah would come to de culludfolks.”

“Did you think about writing to Washington and telling them that theywere discriminating against Negro farmers?” questioned Kenneth.

“Yas, suh, we done dat too. But dey wrote us back dat de onliest wayany loan could be made was th’u’ de local agents, so dat didn’t come tonuthin’.”

“But, good Lord, they can’t discriminate in that way against youwithout something being done about it!” was Kenneth’s indignantcomment.

Tucker looked at him with a wan smile that was almost pitying at theignorance of the younger man. His voice became paternal.

“Son, dat’s jes’ zactly like de man whut wuz in jail and his frien’come by and ast him whut dey put him in jail for. When de man in jailtol’ him whut he wuz ‘cused of, de man on de outside said: ’Dey can’tput you in jail for dat! De man dat was lookin’ out at him th’u’ de barslaughed and said: ‘But I’se in jail!’ An’ dat’s de way ‘tis wif decullud folks in de Souf. Dey’s lots of things dey can’t do to ’em butdese white folks does it jes’ de same. I reckon you got a lot of thingst’ learn yet, Doc, spite of goin’ up Nawth t’ study.”

[118] Kenneth feltproperly rebuked by this humble man who, though illiterate, was far frombeing ignorant. He joined in, but not very heartily, at the generallaughter at Tucker’s homely sally.

Mr.Wilson, as acting chairman, ended the discussion by calling onTom Tracy. Tracy was a much younger man than Tucker and was aboutKenneth’s age. Tall, well built, intelligent looking, his dark brownface had worn a scowl of discontent and resentment while Tucker had beentalking. He began talking in a clear voice that but poorly masked thebitterness he felt but which he tried to keep out of his voice. Oldermen like Mr.Tucker were always quick to rebuke any sign of “uppishness”in the younger generation.

“I graduated from Tuskegee three years ago. My old mother workedherself almost to death to keep me in school, and I came back heredetermined to earn enough money to let her rest the balance of her life.But she and my father had been living all their lives just likeMr.Tucker here, and they didn’t have anything to give me a start. So Iwent to work on shares, taking that thirty acres that joins on to Mr.Tucker’s farm on the South. I took this land that wasn’t thought to beany good, because it had been exhausted through overworking it yearafter year. I bought some new ploughs and fixed it up fine. I thought Icould put the things I learned at Tuskegee into practice and in a coupleof years pay off all I owed. But instead of doing that, I’m gettingdeeper in debt every year. I rent my place from Ed Stewart and [119] he knows that I know he’scheating and robbing and lying to me, but when I try to show him wherehe is wrong in his figures, all he does is to get mad and start tocussing me and telling me that if I don’t keep a civil tongue in myhead, the Ku Klux Klan will be hearing about this ‘sassy young niggerTracy’ and I’ll wish I had kept my mouth shut. I’m getting sick of thewhole thing, too. If it wasn’t for the old folks, I expect I’d ‘a’started something long ago. They are all talking about me being adangerous character out my way already. Say I’m too ‘uppity’ and I needto be taught a lesson to show me that ‘niggers must stay in theirplaces.’”

Tracy finished speaking in a tone that was almost a shout. It couldbe seen that he was very near the breaking-point from brooding over thewrongs he had suffered.

Mr.Phillips, who had said nothing, broke in with a question.

“Tom, why don’t you move away from Ed Stewart’s place if he doesn’ttreat you right?”

Tracy replied bitterly:

“Yes, suppose I tried to leave, what would happen? The same day Ileft, Sheriff Parker would come and get me. They’d put me on trial forjumping my contract and fine me. Old Stewart would be in court totestify against me. He’d pay my fine and then I’d have to go back toStewart’s place and work a year or two for nothing, paying off the fine.A fat chance I’ve got with the cards all stacked against me!”

[120] Mr.Young, of theBethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, nodded assent to Tracy’sstatement.

“Brother Tracy’s right. Look at what happened to Jeff Anderson downnear Valdosta last spring. He ran away and got to Detroit where he had agood job working in an automobile plant. They swore out a warrantagainst him for stealing, brought him back, and the last I heard of himhe was back down there working out a three-hundred-dollar fine. No,Brother Phillips, you’ve been reading the law that applies to whitefolks—not to us coloured people.”

James Swann’s story was along the same lines as the others. The sevenmen entered into a discussion of ways and means of taking some actionwhich would alleviate conditions before the harvesting of the crop whichwas now in the ground. One suggestion after another was offered, only tobe as quickly discarded because of local difficulties. Midnight came,with no decision reached. When it became apparent that nothing would besettled, Kenneth was chosen with Mr.Wilson and Mr.Phillips to work outsome plan to be reported at the meeting to be held one week later.



There was being held another meeting the samenight. Two miles from Central City, to the North, was a naturalauditorium, an amphitheatre formed by three hills. In this place ameeting alfresco was in progress. Though the place was far enough fromthe road to be reasonably free from prying intruders, sentinels pacedthe narrow roads that led to the place of assemblage. Skeleton-likepine-trees formed an additional barrier to the lonely spot, making asthey did a natural fringe atop the three hills.

There was no moon. Light was furnished by pine torches fastened insome instances to trees, in others borne aloft by members of thegathering. About three hundred men were ranged in a circle around arudely carved cross stuck in the ground. Each man was garbed in a longwhite robe reaching to his feet. On the left breast of each hood was across with other strange figures. Over the head of each man was a cowlwith holes for eyelets. It was a meeting of Central City Klan, Knightsof the Ku Klux Klan, Realm of Georgia. The Exalted Cyclops, whose voicebore a remarkable likeness to that of Sheriff Parker, was initiating newmembers into the mysteries of the order. He held in his hand a [122] sheet from which he wasreading the oath which the “aliens” repeated after him with their righthands upraised. Whether through fright or excitement or because thenight air was chilly, the voices of the embryo “knights” had a strangequaver in them. Around them, rank on rank, stood the Klansmen, whofollowed the ceremony closely.

“… will willingly conform—to all regulations, usages, andrequirements—of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan—which do now exist—orwhich may hereafter—be enacted—and will render—at all times—loyalrespect, and steadfast support—to the Imperial Authority of same. …”

The droning voices ended the monotonous recital. The flickeringtorches gave forth a weird light that was lost in the darkness cast bythe trees. The pungent odour of burning resin and the thick stiflingsmoke were blown by vagrant breezes into the faces of the hoodedfigures, causing a constant accompaniment of coughs, sneezes, and cursesto the mumbled words. A recent rain-storm had left the low-lying groundsoggy and damp and mightily uncomfortable underfoot. The crowd shifteduneasily as their feet grew cold with the dampness. Moths, mosquitoes,and other flying insects, attracted by the flaring lights, swarmed,getting beneath the cowls and robes and adding to the discomfort of thewearers. Even the imperfect illumination showed the cheap material ofwhich the disguises were made, exhibited the wrinkles and dirt aroundthe hems, revealed every aspect [123] of the ill-fitting garments. Once from aspluttering torch there fell a bit of blazing resin on the hand of theman holding the light. With a yell he dropped the torch, danced andhowled with pain, a ludicrous figure, until the agony had subsided. Thetorch, flung hastily away, set fire to the underbrush into which it hadbeen cast. An unlooked-for intermission in the ceremonies followed as ascore of the figures, holding the skirts of their robes aloft like oldmaids frightened at the appearance of a mouse, stamped out the fire,circling and yelling like a band of whirling deryishes.

Stodgy, phlegmatic, stupid citizens by day, these by night wentthrough the discomforts of so unprepared a meeting-place, and throughthe absurdities of the rites imposed upon them by clever rogues whoextracted from them fees and donations for the privilege of being madeto appear more silly than is usually apparent. Add to that gullibility anatural love of the mysterious and adventurous and an instinct towardsbrute action restrained only by fear of punishment, by a conjuring ofbogies and other malevolent dangers, and one understands, at least inpart, the presence of these three hundred “white, Gentile, Protestant”citizens of Central City at this meeting.

The initiation ended, the Exalted Cyclops ordered the Kligrapp orsecretary to read several communications from the Imperial Klan Palaceat Atlanta. This he did, struggling manfully through the weird andabsurd verbiage that would have made any of [124] the men present howl with laughter had heheard his children using it in their play. Instead it was listened toattentively, seriously, and solemnly.

Then followed a recital of the work to be done by the local Klan. TheKligrapp consulted a sheet of paper in his hand.

“The eye that never sleeps has been seeking out those in our city whohave acted in a manner displeasing to the Invisible Empire. There is inCentral City a nigger wench named Nancy Ware who has been saying evilthings against our brother, George Parker. In the name of our sacredorder, and in the furtherance of our supreme duty of preservation ofwhite supremacy, she is being watched and will be treated so as to endher dangerous utterances.”

At this statement a robed figure that, even under the disguise,seemed to resemble him who had been “defamed” by Nancy Ware’s tonguenodded approvingly. The Kligrapp continued after a pause:

“Word has also come to us from Brothers Ed Stewart and Taylor thatthere’s a young nigger named Tom Tracy out this way who’s going aroundamong the niggers saying that they have got to stop white people fromrobbing them on their crops. Tracy hasn’t done anything but talk thusfar, but we will keep our eye on him and stop him if he talks too much.”Cowled heads nodded approvingly.

“And then there’s a nigger doctor who came in my office I mean, hewent into the office of Health Commissioner Lane—and had the gall torepo’t the [125] death of anigger bootlegger and say that a white man had killed him for foolingaround with the nigger’s wife. This nigger’s daddy was one of the bestniggers that ever lived here in this town, and this boy’s keeping awayfrom the other trouble-making niggers, but we’ve got to watch all theseniggers that’s been spoiled by goin’ to school.” He added, as anafterthought: “… up Nawth.”

And so he droned on. Negroes, two Jews, three men suspected ofCatholic leanings—all were condemned by the self-appointed arbiters ofmorals and manners. One or two men were singled out as violating thecode of morals by consorting with Negro women. There was not much toreport on this score, as those who were violating this rule in CentralCity had rushed, on formation of a Klan there, to join the order, thatthey might gain immunity from attack and yet continue their extra-legalactivities without check or interference. With the conclusion of theKligrapp’s report, the meeting dispersed, the members silently enteredthe woods and there disrobing, and scattering to their various homes.Some went towards “Factoryville,” some towards the country districts,others climbed into automobiles parked near the road and drove towardsthe residential section of Central City where lived the more affluentmerchants and other upper-class whites of the town.

The place was soon deserted. The ceremony had been a strange mixtureof the impressive and the absurd. There was underneath the ridiculously[126] worded language, theamusing childlike observance of the empty ceremonies, the queerappearance of the robes all designed alike with little regard forfatness or thinness of the prospective wearers, a seriousness whichbetokened a belief in the urgent need of their organizing in such amanner. They had been duped so long by demagogues, deluded generationafter generation into believing their sole hope of existence depended onoppression and suppression of the Negro, that the chains of theignorance and suppression they sought to fasten on their Negroneighbours had subtly bound them in unbreakable fashion. They opposedevery move for better educational facilities for their children, forimprovement of their health or economic status or welfare in general, ifsuch improvement meant better advantages for Negroes.

Creatures of the fear they sought to inspire in others, their livesare lived in constant dread of the things of evil and terror theypreached. It is a system based on stark, abject fear—fear that he whomthey termed inferior might, with opportunity, prove himself notinferior. This unenlightened viewpoint rules men throughout the Southlike those who formed the Central City Klan—dominates their every actionor thought—keeps the whites back while the Negro—in spite of what hesuffers—always keeps his face towards the sun of achievement. …

In spite of the secrecy surrounding the meeting, next morning allCentral City talked of what had taken place on the previous evening. Insuch a town, where little diversion exists, the inhabitants seize with[127] avidity upon everymorsel of news that promises entertainment. Though they had takenfearful oaths of secrecy, it was asking too much of human frailty toexpect three hundred men to refrain even from mysterious hints of theirdoings. With the love that simple minds have of the clandestine, themidnight secrecy, the elaborately arranged peregrinations to the placeof meeting, the safeguards adopted by the leaders not so much to preventinterference as to impress their followers, the “inviolable oath,” thegrips and passwords—all these added to the human desire to be consideredimportant in the eyes of family and friends and neighbours. Thus many ofthe three hundred dropped hints to their wives of what had been said anddone. Over back fences, at the stores on Lee Street, in the numerousplaces where women contrived to meet and gossip, the one topic discussedwas the meeting of the night before. One told her bit of information toanother, who in turn contributed her mite. Each in turn told a third anda fourth. With each telling, the ball of gossip grew, and eachrepetition bore artistic additions of fact or fancy designed to add tothe drama of the story. By noon the compounded result assumed theproportions of a feat bordering on the heroic.

At the noonday meal, known as dinner, the men found themselves viewedin a new and admiring light by their spouses and offspring. They baskedin the temporary glamour and sought to add to the fame of their midnightprowling by elaborate hints of deeds of dark and magnificentproportions.

[128] In turn, to theNegro section of Central City were borne the tales by cooks andlaundresses and maids, servants, with acutely developed ears, in thehouses of the whites. Everywhere in the Negro section, in homes, onstreet corners, over back fences, the news was discussed by the duskyinhabitants of the town. In the eyes of a few, fear could be discerned.Most of the Negroes, however, discussed the news as they would havetalked about the coming of the circus to town. Some talked loudly and inbraggart fashion of what they would do if the “Kluxers” bothered them.Others examined for the hundredth time well-oiled revolvers. Mostgenerally the feeling was a hope the Klan would not bother any colouredperson—but if it did—! …

It was natural that the news should eventually reach Nancy Ware andTom Tracy and, last of all, Kenneth. Mrs.Amos, bustling withimportance, hastened as fast as her rheumatism would allow to tellMrs.Harper what the Klansmen had said or, to be more accurate, whatDame Rumour said the Klansmen had said, about Kenneth and Bob. It wasobvious the two men had taken on a new importance in her eyes in beingsingled out for the attention of the clandestine organization.

That night in Kenneth’s office the brothers talked over the news.Kenneth scoffed at what seemed to him a fantastic and improbable tale.He looked searchingly at his brother.

“Well Bob, what do you make of it?”

“Trouble for somebody,” said Bob positively. [129] “And I have a sort of feeling that thatsomebody is us,” he added after a pause.

“I’m not so sure,” was Kenneth’s doubtful rejoinder. “Some of theseCrackers are just mean enough to start something, but I’m pretty surethere are enough decent white people in Central City to check anytrouble that might start.”

Bob said nothing, though his face showed plainly he did not share hisbrother’s confidence. Kenneth went on:

“Besides, they must have sense enough to know that a sheet andpillow-case won’t scare coloured folks to-day as they did fifty yearsago. It wasn’t hard to scare Negroes then—they’d just come out ofslavery, and believed in ghosts and spooks and all those other sillythings. But to-day⸺”

“I think white people are right sometimes,” broke in Bob withconviction, “when they say education ruins a Negro. One of those timesis when you talk like that.”

The irony in his voice was but thinly veiled. He continued:

“The Southern white man boasts he knows the Negro better than anybodyelse, but he knows less what the coloured man is really thinking thanthe man in the moon. I’ll bet anything you say, that seven out of everyten men in town believe that you and I and all the rest of us colouredfolks are scared to death every time we hear the word ‘Ku Klux.’ Theybelieve the sight of one of those fool robes’ll make us run and hideunder a bed⸺”

[130] “Oh, I don’t goquite that far,” interrupted Kenneth. “I only said I thought some of thegood white people”

“You can name all your ‘good white folks’ on one hand,” replied Bobirritably. “A lot they could do if these poor white trash decide toraise hell. Why, they’d lynch Judge Stevenson or Roy Ewing or anybodyelse if they tried to stop ’em. Look what they did to Governor Slaton atAtlanta just because he commuted the sentence of that Jew, Leo Frank!”he added triumphantly. “A mob even went out to his house to lynchhim—the governor!”

“But that was an extraordinary case,” replied Kenneth.

“Call it what you will, it just shows you how far they will go whenthey are all stirred up. And with this Ku Klux outfit to stir them up,there’s no telling what’ll happen.”

“Bob, do you really believe what you said just now about most of themreally believing Negroes will be scared by the Klan? That seems sofar-fetched.”

“Believe it? Of course I do. Just use your eyes and see how Negroesfool white folks all the time. Take, for instance, old Will Hutchinsonwho works for Mr.Baird. Will cuts all sorts of monkey-shines aroundBaird, laughs like an idiot, and wheedles old Baird out of anything he’sgot. Baird gives it to him and then tells his friends about ‘his goodnigger Will’ and boasts that Will is one ‘darky’ he really knows. ThenWill goes home and laughs at the fool he’s made of Baird by acting likea fool.” Bob [131] laughed atthe memory of many occasions on which Will had bamboozled his employer.“And there are Negroes all over the South doing the same thing everyday!” he ended.

“That’s true,” admitted Kenneth, “but what ought we to do about thismeeting last night?”

“Do?” echoed Bob. A determined look came to his face, his teethclenched, his eyes narrowed until they became thin slits. “Do?” herepeated. “If they ever bother me, I’m going to fight—and fight likehell!”

Long into the night Kenneth sat alone in his office, wondering how itwas all going to turn out.



The next day Kenneth received a letter from JanePhillips. In it she announced that she would arrive in Central City onMonday morning.

Kenneth’s face took on a satisfied smile and deep down in his heartthere was happiness and contentment. Jane had occupied an increasinglylarge portion of his thoughts ever since those wonderful ten days theyhad spent together last December. Kenneth’s life had been singularlyfree from feminine influence, other than that of his mother. It was notthat he was averse to such influence, but his life had been so busy thathe had had no time to spend in wandering through the Elysian fields oflove-making. There had been one girl in New York. He had met her at adance in Harlem. Together they had spent their Sundays and the eveningswhen he was free from his duties at the hospital in wandering throughCentral and Bronx Parks. Occasionally they had attended the theatre. Onenight their hands had touched as they sat in the semi-darkness andwatched the tender love scene on the stage. She had not withdrawn herhand. He sat there thrilled at the touch and had lived the character ofthe make-believe hero as he made ardent love on the stage. Naturally,the heroine was none other than the girl [133] who sat beside him. Afterwards, they hadridden home atop a Fifth Avenue bus, and the whole city seemed filledwith romance. He had imagined himself at the time deeply in love. Butthat tender episode had soon ended when he told her he was planning toreturn to Georgia. “Kenneth!” she had exclaimed. “How can you think ofliving down South again? It’s silly of you even to think of it! I couldnever think of living down there where they are likely to lynch you at amoment’s notice! It’s too barbaric, too horrible an existence toconsider even for a minute!” Kenneth had tried to show her that itwasn’t as bad as it had been painted, that coloured people who mindedtheir own business never had any trouble. But she had been obdurate.Kenneth left the house in a huff, and had never gone back again. Whatsilly notions women have, he had thought to himself. The reason theytalked about the South that way was because of sheer ignorance. As if hecouldn’t manage his own affairs and keep away from trouble! Humph! Wellrid of the silly creature, and he felt glad he had found out beforegoing in too deep.

But now this was different. Jane had no such absurd notions as thosegirls up North had. She wasn’t the sort that couldn’t leave promenadingdown Seventh Avenue in New York or State Street in Chicago or U Streetin Washington. It wasn’t that she didn’t know what it meant to live inthe North. Hadn’t she been to Atlantic City and New York and Washingtonwith her mother? No, Jane was just [134] the sort of girl who would make the rightsort of companion for him in a place like Central City. Intelligent,with a good education, talented musically—she would make an ideal wife.Kenneth found himself musing along in this fashion until aroused by hismother as she called him to supper.

It was darned silly of him, he thought as he arose to comply, to goalong thinking like this. He and Jane had spoken no word of love whenshe had been at home at Christmas. Nor had their letters been other thanthose of good friends. But hadn’t she written him almost every weeksince she left? She must think something of him to have done that. Hedetermined that as soon as he could he would skilfully direct theconversation to the point where he could find out just where he stood.It was time that he was thinking about settling down, anyhow. He wouldbe twenty-nine his next birthday—he was making money—if he acted wiselyhis future was assured. Yes, he would find out how Jane felt. Both hismother and Mamie liked Jane—and Mr.Phillips had called him “my boy”several times lately and had repeated to him snatches of the lettersthat Jane had written home. The only doubtful quantity was the attitudeof Jane herself.

On Monday morning Kenneth reached the railroad station long beforethe train arrived. He tried to sit in the filthy little waiting-roomwith the sign over the door, “FOR COLOURED,” but the air was sooppressive that he chose rather to walk up and down the road outside thestation. At last the train came. [135] He walked down towards the engine where theJim Crow car was. It was half baggage car and half coach. A motley crowdof laughing, shouting Negroes descended, calling out to friends andrelatives in the group of Negroes on the ground. Standing on tiptoe,Kenneth strained his eyes to get glimpse of Jane. The windows of thecoach were too dirty to see inside. At last she appeared on theplatform, dainty, neat, and looking as though she had just emerged fromher own room, in spite of the filth and cindery foulness of the coach.Kenneth thought of the simile of a rose springing up from a bed ofnoisome and unlovely weeds as he hurried forward to help Jane with herbags through the crowd of coloured people that flocked around thesteps.

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Jane greeted him cordially enough, her eyes shining with pleasure atseeing him again. Kenneth, however, felt a vague disappointment. He hadlet his thoughts run riot while she had been away. So far as he wasconcerned, the only things necessary were the actual asking of theall-important question and the choosing of a wedding-day. As he followedher to his car, he turned over in his mind just what it was thatdisappointed him so in her greeting. He couldn’t put his finger on itexactly, but she would have greeted Bob or any other man just as warmlyand he would not have felt jealous at all. Maybe she’s tired from theride in that dirty and noisy car? She’ll be quite different when I goover to see her to-night, he thought.

He inquired regarding her trip—was it pleasant? [136] “Ugh, it was horrible!” she replied,shuddering at the memory of it. “I had a Pullman as far as Atlanta, butthere I had to change to that dirty old Jim Crow car. There was a crowdof Negroes who had three or four quarts of cheap liquor. They werehorrible. Why, they even had the nerve to offer me a drink! And theconductor must have told everybody on the train that I was up front,because all night long there was a constant procession of white menpassing up and down the coach looking at me in a way that made my bloodboil. I didn’t dare go to sleep, because I didn’t know what mighthappen. It was awful!”

She sat silent as she lived over again the horror of the ride. Then,shaking off her mood, she turned to him with a cheerful smile. “ThankGoodness, it’s over now, and I don’t want to think of it any more than Ican help. Tell me all about yourself and what you’ve been doing andeverything,” she finished all in a breath.

He told her briefly what had been going on, of his plans for thehospital, of the meeting at Reverend Wilson’s, and other items ofinterest about life in Central City, until they had arrived at her home.He waited for an invitation to come in, but in the excitement of seeingher mother and father again, she forgot all about Kenneth. Placing herbags on the porch, he turned and left after promising to run over for awhile that evening.

The time seemed to go by on dragging feet that day. It seemed asthough evening never would come. [137] It did at last, however, and as soon as hefinished with the last patient, he went over to Jane’s home. Refreshedby a long rest, she greeted him clad in a dress of some filmy bluematerial. They seated themselves on the porch, shaded by vines from theeyes of passers-by. Over Kenneth there came a feeling ofcontentment—life had not been easy for him and he had been denied aconfidante with whom he could discuss the perplexities he hadexperienced in Central City. The talk for a time drifted from one topicto another. Before he knew it, Kenneth was telling Jane of hisambitions, of the plans he had made before coming back to Central City,of the successes and failures he had met with, of his hopes for thefuture. Jane listened without speaking for some time. Life amongcoloured people is so intense, so earnest, so serious a problem in theSouth, that never do two intelligent Negroes talk very long before therace problem in some form is under discussion. Jane interrupted Kennethin the midst of his recital.

“Kenneth, did you really believe that you could come back here toCentral City and keep entirely away from the race problem?”

“I don’t know that I thought it out as carefully as that, but I hopedto do something like that,” was his uneasy reply. He had the feelingthat she didn’t altogether approve of him. Her next words proved thatshe didn’t.

“Well, you can’t do it. Just because your father got along all rightis no reason why you should do the same things he did. You are living ina time [138] that is asdifferent from his as his was from his great-grandfather’s.”

“But⸺” he attempted to defend himself.

“Wait a minute until I’ve had my say,” she checked him. “Only a fewyears ago they said that as soon as Negroes got property and madethemselves good citizens the race problem would be solved. They saidthat only bad Negroes were ever lynched and they alone caused all thetrouble. But you just think back over the list of coloured people righthere in Central City who’ve had the most trouble during the past twoyears. What do you find? That it is the Negro who has acquired moreproperty than the average white man, they are always picking on. Poorwhites resent seeing a Negro more prosperous than they, and they satisfytheir resentment by making it hard on that Negro. Am I right—or am Iwrong?”

“I suppose there is something in what you say—but what’s the answer?You’re damned if you do—and you’re damned if you don’t!”

“I don’t know what the answer is—if I did, I’d certainly try to putit into use, instead of sitting around and trying to dodge trouble. Ifone of your patients had a cancer, you wouldn’t advise him to useChristian Science in treating it, would you?”

Without pausing for a reply, she went on, her words pouring out in aflood that made Kenneth feel as he did as a boy when spanked by hismother. “No, you wouldn’t! You’d operate! And that’s just what thecoloured people and the white people of [139] the South have got to do. That is, thosewho’ve got any sense and backbone. If they don’t, then this thing theycall the race problem is going to grow so big it’s going to consume theSouth and America. It’s almost that big now.”

She paused for breath. Kenneth started to speak but she checked himwith her hand.

“I’m not through yet! I’ve been thinking over this thing for a longtime, just as every other Negro has done who’s got brains enough to doany thinking at all. I am sick and tired of hearing all this pratingabout the ‘superior race.’ Superior—humph! Kenneth, what you and all therest of Negroes need is to learn that you belong to a race that wascenturies old when the first white man came into the world. You’ve gotto learn that a large part of this thing they call ‘white civilization’was made by black hands, as well as by yellow and brown and red hands,too, besides what white hands have created. You’ve got to learn that theNegro to-day is contributing as much of the work that makes thiscivilization possible as the white race, if not more. Be proud of yourrace and quit whining and cringing! You’ll never get anywhere until youdo! There, I’ve wanted to get that out of my system for a long time eversince we talked together last Christmas. Now it’s out and I’mthrough!”

Kenneth sat quiet. While she had been pouring forth her tirade, hehad thought of several logical arguments he could have advanced. But shehad given him no chance to utter them. Now they seemed [140] weak and useless. He wasresentful—what did women know about the practical problems anddifficulties of life, anyway? His anger was not abated by therealization that Jane felt that he had been trying to avoid hisresponsibility to himself and to his people—that he had been a coward.And yet she was right in a general way in what she had said. Masking aswell as he could the chagrin he felt at her words, he told her of thetrouble Tucker and Tracy and Swann and the other share-croppers werehaving, and gave her further details of the meeting at ReverendWilson’s.

She sensed the wound to his pride that she had inflicted. She did notregret doing what she had done—on the long ride home she had determinedthat she would tell him those very things as soon as she could findopportunity—but, with a woman’s natural tenderness, she regretted thenecessity of hurting him. She put her hand over his for an instant,touched at his dejected manner.

“I’m sorry, Ken, if I hurt you, but I did it because you are too finea man, and you’ve got too good an education, to try to dodge an issue asplain as yours. Why, Kenneth, you’ve had it mighty soft—just think ofthe thousands of coloured boys all over the South who are too poor toget even a high-school training. You’ve never had to get down and digfor what you’ve got—perhaps it would have been better if you had. It’smen with your brains and education that have got to take the leadership.You’ve got [141] to makegood! That’s just the reason they try to make it hard for men likeyou—they know that if you ever get going, their treating the Negro asthey have has got to stop! They’re darned scared of educated Negroeswith brains—that’s why they make it hard for you!”

Kenneth threw out his hands, palms upward, and shrugged hisshoulders.

“I suppose I agree with you in theory, Jane, but what are thepractical ways of doing the things you say I ought to do? How, forexample, can I help Tracy and Tucker and all the rest of the farmerswho’re being robbed of all they earn every year?”

“Don’t get angry now just because I touched your masculine vanity. Iknow about the share-cropping system in a general way. Tell me the factsthat were brought out at the meeting.”

Kenneth told her in detail the things Hiram Tucker and the others hadsaid. She sat in thought for a minute, her chin cupped in the palm ofher hand, her elbow resting on the arm of the chair, as she rocked backand forth. Kenneth sat watching her in what was almost sardonicamusement. He had been wrestling with this same problem ever sinceThursday night and was no nearer a solution than he had been then. Itwould be amusing in a few minutes, after all her high-flown thoughts andelaborate generalities about bucking the race question, when she wouldbe forced to admit that when it came to solving one of the practicalproblems of the whole ques[142]tion her generalizing would be of no avail.He was aroused by a question thrown at him suddenly by Jane.

“Do these folks have to buy their supplies from the landlord?”

“Not that I know of,” he replied. “They buy from the landlord, or themerchant designated by the landlord, because they haven’t the money orthe credit to trade anywhere else.”

There followed another pause while the rocking began again.

“Do you remember any of the economics you learned at school?” was thenext query. He replied that he supposed he did.

“Have you got any books on co-operative societies?” He doubtedwhether he had.

“Well, never mind.” She swung her chair around, facing Kenneth, andleaned forward intently, the light from the arc-lamp in the cornerillumining her face and revealing the eager, enthusiastic look uponit.

“Kenneth, why can’t those coloured people pool their money and buytheir goods wholesale and then distribute them at cost?”

Kenneth laughed, it must be confessed a little cheerfully, that shehad gone from one problem into the mazes of another that was just asdifficult.

“For the very same reason that they are in the predicament they arein to-day. They haven’t got the money. Perhaps you can tell me where themoney to start this co-operative scheme is coming from?” [143]

“That’s an easy one to answer. It’s going to come from you and papaand three or four more of these folks here in town who can afford it!Oh, Ken, can’t you see what a big thing you can do? There are lots ofpeople, white people I mean, right here in Central City, who’d be gladto help these poor Negroes get out of debt. Papa was telling us todayabout a talk he had with Judge Stevenson the other day. The Judge saidhe wished there was some way to help without it making him unpopularwith the other folks here in town. Of course, the folks who are makingmoney off this system, the landlords and the store-keepers, won’t likeit, but you can go and talk with folks like Judge Stevenson andMr.Baird down at the Bank of Central City. If this first trialsucceeds—and I know it will be a success—it’ll spread all over SmithCounty, and then all over Georgia, and then all over the South, and thecoloured folks will have millions of dollars that they’ve been cheatedout of before. That, Kenneth Harper, is one way you can lead, and itwon’t get you in bad with the white people at least the decentones—either.”

Kenneth began to be infected by her enthusiasm. He saw that her ideahad possibilities. But, manlike, he didn’t want to give in too soon ortoo readily.

“There is something in what you say, Jane, but the details will haveto be worked out first before we can tell if it is a practicable idea.I’ll think it⸺”

Jane interrupted him, showing that she hadn’t even been listening tohim.

[144] “When are you tomeet again at Reverend Wilson’s?” she asked.

He told her.

“Well, I tell you what we’ll do. You go home and think over all theways we can put this idea into practice. I’ll do the same thing. Andthen we’ll talk it over again to-morrow night. On Wednesday you go downto see Judge Stevenson and see if he will draw up the papers so it’ll belegal and binding and everything else. Then on Thursday night you canpresent this as your own idea, and I’ll bet you anything you say,they’ll take it up and you’ll be the one chosen to lead the wholemovement.”

After some discussion of details, Kenneth left. The more he thoughtof Jane’s idea, the more it appealed to him. At any rate, she hadsuggested more in half an hour than he had been able to think of in fourdays. Hadn’t the co-operative societies been the backbone of themovement to get rid of the Czar in Russia? If the Russian peasants, whocertainly weren’t as educated as the Negro in America, had made asuccess of the idea, the Negro in the South ought to do it. By Jove,they could do it! Idea after idea sprang to his mind, after the seed hadbeen sown by Jane, until he had visions of a vast cooperative societynot only buying but selling the millions of dollars’ worth of productsraised by the nine million Negroes of the South. And that wasn’t all!These societies would be formed with each member paying monthly dues,like the fraternal organizations. When enough money was in the treasury,they would [145] employ thevery best lawyers money could get to take one of those cases where aNegro had not been able to get a fair settlement with his landlord, andmake a test case of it. What if they did lose in the local court? They’dtake it to the State Supreme Court! What if they did lose even there?They’d take it clear up to the United States Supreme Court! They weresure to win there. Kenneth walked home with his head whirling with theproject’s possibilities. He saw a new day coming when a man in the Southwould no longer be exploited and robbed just because he was black. Andwhen that came, lynching and everything else like it would go too. Hefelt already like Matthew and Andrew and Peter and John and the otherdisciples when they started out to bring the good news to the wholeworld. For wasn’t he a latter-day disciple bringing a new solution and anew hope to his people?

It was not until Kenneth had gone to bed that he realized that thoughhe had been with Jane all the evening, he had had not one minute when hecould have spoken of love to her. Musing thus, he fell asleep.



Early the next morning Kenneth rose and rummagedthrough his books until he found his old and battered text-books oneconomics.

Into these he dipped during the intervals between patients, makingnotes of ideas which seemed useful in the organization of theco-operative society. The more he read, the more feasible the planseemed. Properly guided and carefully managed, there was no reason, sofar as he could see, why the society should not be a success. Eighty percent of the farmers of the South, white and coloured, he estimated,suffered directly or indirectly from the present economic system. Thoughhis interest was in the Negro tillers of the soil, success in their casewould inevitably react favourably on the white just as oppression andexploitation of the Negro had done more harm to white people in theSouth than to Negroes. Kenneth felt the warm glow of the crusader in arighteous cause. Already he saw a new day in the South with white andcoloured people free from oppression and hatred and prejudice—prosperousand contented because of that prosperity. He could see a lifting of theclouds of ignorance which hung over all the South, an awakening of thebest in all the people of the South. Thus has youth dreamed [147] since the beginning of time.Thus will youth ever dream. And in those dreams rests the hope of theworld, for without them this world with all its defects would sink intothe black abyss of despair, never to rise again.

His work finished for the day, he went as soon as he decently couldto talk with Jane. She, too, had been at work. Eagerly they plannedbetween them the infinite details of so ambitious a scheme. Confidentlythey discounted possible difficulties they might expect to encounter—theopposition of the whites who were profiting from the present system, thepetty jealousies and suspicions of those who would gain most from thesuccess of their scheme. They realized that the Negro had been robbed somuch, both by his own people and by the whites, that he was chary of newplans and projects. They knew he was contentious and quarrelsome. Thesethings seemed trivial, however, for with the natural expansiveness ofthe young they felt that difficulties like these were but trifles to beairily brushed aside.

Jane was not too much engrossed in their plans to notice the changein Kenneth’s manner. She had watched him closely during the times shehad seen him since his return. He had been almost morose, his minddivided between his work and the effort to keep to a“middle-of-the-road” course in his relations with the whites. Theinevitable conflict within himself, the lack of decisiveness in hisdaily life that he consciously developed and which was so diametri[148]cally opposite to that he usedin his profession, had begun to create a complex personality that wasfar from pleasing. In a freer atmosphere Kenneth would have been adirect, straightforward character, swift to decision and quick ofaction. One cannot, however, compromise principle constantly andconsciously without bearing the marks of such conflicts.

His compromises were not all conscious ones, though. He believedhonestly it was wisest that he observe some sort of half-way groundbetween rank cowardice and uncompromising opposition to the conditionswhich existed. In doing so, he had no sense of physical or moraltimidity. He knew no Negro could yet safely advocate complete freedomfor the Negro in the South. He felt there had been improvement duringthe past half-century in those conditions. He believed that in time allof the Negro’s present problems would be solved satisfactorily. If, bynot trying to rush things, he could help in that solution, he wascontent. In believing thus, Kenneth was different in no way from themajority of intelligent Negroes in the South: temporizing with thetruth, it may be, yet of such temporizations and compromises is the lifeof the Negro all over the South.

With the evolving of a plan which enabled him to be of help and, atthe same time, involved him in no danger of trouble with his whiteneighbours, Kenneth took on an eagerness which was at marked var[149]iance with his former manner.His eyes shone with the desire to make their plan a success. Of a tenderand sympathetic nature, almost with the gentleness of a woman, herealized now that the burdens of his race had lain heavy upon him. Hehad suffered in their suffering, had felt almost as though he had beenthe victim when he read or heard of a lynching, had chafed under thebonds which bound the hands and feet and heart and soul of his people.But launched as he now was on a plan to furnish relief from one of theworst of those bonds, he had changed overnight into a determined andpurposeful and ardent worker towards the goal he and Jane had set forthemselves. Jane rejoiced at the changed air of Kenneth—he seemed tohave emerged from the shell in which he had encased himself and,womanlike, she rejoiced that he had done so through her own work.

So absorbed had they been in discussion of their plans that the timehad flown by as though on wings. Ten o’clock was announced byMr.Phillips in the room above by the dropping of his shoes, one afterthe other, on the floor. Kenneth needed no second signal, he rose to go.Jane went to the door with him.

“Kenneth, you’re entirely different from the way you were yesterday.I’m so glad. …”

The next morning he called on Judge Stevenson. The Judge’s office wasabove the Bon Ton Store in a two-story brick building on Lee Street.Kenneth [150] climbed theflight of dingy, dusty stairs which bore alternately on the verticalportions tin signs inscribed:

Richad P. Stevenson, Attorney-at-Law


Dr.J. C. Carpenter, Dentist.

The judge’s office was at the head of the stairs and in it Kennethfound the old lawyer seated near the window, his coat off, and in hismouth the long, thin, villainous-looking cigar without which few personsin Central City ever remembered seeing him, though none had ever seenone of them lighted. He chewed on it ruminatively when in repose. Whenengaged in an argument, either in or out of a courtroom, and especiallywhen opposition caused his choleric temper to be aroused, he chewedfuriously as though he would have enjoyed treating his enemy of themoment in similar fashion. He was tall and thickset, his snow-white hairbrushed straight back from his forehead like the mane of a lion. Skinreddened by exposure to sun and wind, bushy eyebrows from under whichgleamed fiery eyes that could shift in an instant from twinkling goodhumour to flashing indignation or anger, thin nose and ample mouth, hisface was one that would command respect or at least attention in almostany gathering. He wore loosely fitting, baggy clothes that draped hisample figure with a gracefulness that added to his distinguishedappearance. Many thought he resembled at first glance that famousKentuckian, [151] HenryWatterson, and indeed he did bear an unmistakable likeness to “MarseHenry.”

The judge’s life had been a curious combination of contradictions. Hehad fought valiantly in the Confederate army as a major, serving under“Stonewall” Jackson, whose memory he worshipped second only to that ofhis wife, who had died some ten years before. He bore a long scar,reminder of the wound that had laid him low during the battle ofAtlanta. His mode of brushing his hair back was adopted to cover themark, but when he talked, as he loved to do, of his martial experiences,he would always, at the same time in the narrative, brush, with onesweep of his hand, the hair down over his forehead and reveal the jaggedscar of which he was inordinately proud.

With the end of the Civil War, he had reconciled himself to theresult though it had meant the loss of most of his wealth. He harbouredlittle bitterness towards the North, unlike most of his comrades in armswho never were willing to forgo any opportunity to vent their venomoushatred of their conquerors. Judge Stevenson had counselled against sucha spirit. So vigorously had he done it, he had alienated most of thosewho had been his closest friends. Following a speech he had delivered atone of the reunions of Confederate veterans in which he urged hiscomrades at least to meet half-way the overtures of friendliness fromthe North, he had been denounced from the floor of the convention as a“Yankee-lover,” and threatened with violence. Judge Stevenson withflashing eye and belligerent [152] manner had jumped to his feet, offered tofight any man, or any ten men, who thought him guilty of treachery tothe cause of the Confederacy, and when none accepted the challenge,denounced them as cowards and quit the convention.

He had hoped that, with the passing on, one by one, of theunreconstructed veterans of the Confederacy, a newer and less embitteredgeneration, with no personal memories of the gall of defeat, would rightthings. Instead had come the rise of the poor whites with none of theculture and refinement of the old Southern aristocracy, a nation ofpetty minds and morals, vindictive, vicious, dishonest, and stupid.Lacking in nearly all the things that made the old South, at least theupper crust of it, the most civilized section of America at that time,he saw his friends and all they stood for inundated by this flood ofcrudeness and viciousness, until only a few remained left high and drylike bits of wreckage from a foundered ship cast up on the shore to rotaway, while all around them raged this new regime, no longer poor inpurse but eternally impoverished in culture and civilizing influences.On these the judge spat his contempt and he poured upon theirunconcerned heads the vials of his venom and wrath.

The second devastating blow he suffered was the succumbing, one byone, of his children to the new order. Nancy, his eldest daughter, hadrun away from home and married a merchant whose wealth had been gainedthrough the petty thievery of padding accounts and other sharp practiceson poorer [153] whites andNegroes. Mary Ann, his other daughter, whom he loved above all others ofhis children, had fallen victim to an unfortunate love affair with adashing but worthless son of their next-door neighbour. She had died ingiving birth to her child, which, fortunately, the judge thought, hadbeen born dead. His son had “gone in for politics.” He had beensuccessful, as success was measured by the present-day South, but in hisfather’s eyes, judged by the uncompromising standards of that member ofan older and nobler generation, he had sunk to levels of infamy fromwhich he could never recover.

The crowning misfortune dealt the judge by an unkind fate was theloss of his gentle, kindly wife. She had uncomplainingly borne theirmisfortunes one after another, had calmed and soothed her husband’sirascible tantrums, had been a haven to which he could come and findrepose when buffeted by a world which he did not and could notunderstand. As long as she lived, he had been able to bear up despitethe bitter disappointments life had dealt him. He had gone away to try acase in a near-by county, had returned after a two days’ absence andfound her with a severe cold and fever.

For three weeks he did not leave her bedside, drove away in anger thetrained nurse Dr.Bennett brought to the house, ministered gently to hiswife’s every need, and held her in his arms as she breathed her lastbreath. Frantic at this last and most crushing blow, he cursed thedoctor, though Dr.Bennett had done all he could in his bungling way,cursed God, [154] cursedeverything and everybody he could think of in his grief. He neverrecovered from this loss. His hair rapidly became white, he neglectedhis profession and sat by the hour, his eyes half closed, dreaming ofhis dead wife. …

Had he chosen to adapt himself to the new order, he could have mademoney. This, however, he refused to do. He boasted proudly that neverhad he cheated any man or been a party to any transaction from which heemerged with any stain on his honour. Friend he was to all in hisgentle, kindly manner—a relic of a day that had passed. …

He started, roused from one of his usual reveries, when Kennethknocked on the open door. The gentle breezes of late spring stirred themane of white hair as he brought his chair to the floor with athump.

“Come in, Ken, come right in.” He welcomed Kenneth heartily, thoughin accordance with the Southern custom he did not offer to shake handswith his visitor. “How’s your maw? Heard you’re doing right well sinceyou been back. Mighty glad to hear it, because yo’ daddy set a heap byyou.”

Kenneth assured him he was progressing fairly well, told him hismother was well, and answered the innumerable questions the judge askedhim. He knew that these were inevitable and must be answered before thejudge would talk on any matter of business. After a few minutes of thedesultory and perfunctory questions and answers, Kenneth told, whenasked, the purpose of his visit. Chair tilted back again, elbows restingon the arms of the chair, fin[155]gers placed end to end, and his chin restingon the natural bridge thus formed, the judge listened to Kenneth’srecital of his plan without comment other than an occasionalnon-committal grunt.

“… And what I would like from you, Judge Stevenson, is, first, do youthink the plan will work, and, second, will you draw up the articles ofincorporation and whatever other legal papers we need?” Kenneth ended.As an afterthought he added:

“You see, we want to do the job legally and above board, so therewon’t be any misunderstanding of our motives.”

For a long time Judge Stevenson said nothing, nor did he give anyindication that he was aware Kenneth had stopped speaking. In fact heseemed oblivious even of Kenneth’s presence. Knowing better than tointerrupt him, Kenneth awaited somewhat anxiously the judge’s opinion.When the silence had lasted nearly five minutes, a vague alarm began tocreep over Kenneth. Suppose the judge wasn’t as friendly towardscoloured people as he had supposed? A word from him could start serioustrouble before they got started. He wondered if he had acted wisely inrevealing so much of their plans. He felt sure he had done wrong when hesaw a look of what appeared to be anger pass over the judge’s face.

At last the old lawyer cleared his throat, his usual preliminary tospeech. But when he did talk he began on another subject.

“What’re the folks out your way saying about these [156] Kluxers? Any of you gettingworried about these fools parading ’round like a bunch of damnfools?”

“To tell you the truth, Judge, I don’t really know yet what thecoloured people are thinking.” He felt that on this subject he couldspeak frankly to the judge, as he was too sensible a man to take muchstock in the antics of the Klan. Yet, he was not too sure—colouredpeople must always keep a careful watch on their tongues when talking towhite people in the South.

“You ain’t getting scared out there, are you?” the judge pressed thepoint.

“No, I wouldn’t call it scared. Most of those with whom I’ve talkeddon’t want any trouble with anybody—they want to attend to their ownbusiness and be let alone. But if they are attacked, I’m afraid therewill be considerable trouble and somebody will get hurt.” He paused,then went on: “And that somebody won’t be entirely composed of Negroes,either.”

“I reckon you’re right, Ken. These fools don’t know they’re playingwith dynamite.” His voice took on a querulous tone. “We’ve been gettingalong all right here, ‘cept when some of these po’ whites out of themill or from the tu’pentine camps or some bad nigras tank up on badliquor or moonshine.” He did not say “Negro” nor yet the opprobrious“nigger,” but struck somewhere between the two—“nigra.” “And now thesefools are just stirring up trouble Lord knows where it’ll end.”

He ran his hand through his hair—a favourite trick of his whenexcited, and paced up and down the room.

[157] “I’ve been tellingsome of the boys they’d better stay away from that fool business ofgallivanting around with a pillow-slip over their heads. They talk aboutbeing against bootleggers and men runing around with loosewomen—humph!—every blamed bootlegger and blind tiger and whoremaster intown rushed into the Klan ’cause they know’d that was the only way theycould keep from getting called up on the carpet! A fine bunch theyare!”

The judge spat disgustedly.

“Now about this plan you got—have you thought about the chances ofyour being misunderstood? Suppose some of these ornery whites get itinto their heads you’re trying to start trouble between the races.What’re you going to do then?” he asked.

“That’s just why we want to do the job right,” answered Kenneth. “Wewant to do everything legally so there can’t be any wrong ideas aboutthe society. I know every time coloured people start forming any kind ofan organization besides a church or a burial society, there are whitepeople who begin to get suspicious and think that Negroes are organizingto start some mischief. That’s why we want you and the other good whitepeople to know all about our plans from the start.”

“I ain’t trying to discourage you none,” replied Judge Stevensondoubtfully, “but do you think you are wise in starting coloured folks tothinking about organizing when this Klan’s raising hell all over theSouth?”

[158] “How else are wegoing to do anything?” asked Kenneth. “Farmers have been robbed so longthey are getting tired of it. If something isn’t done, there’s going tobe lots more trouble than a society like ours can possibly cause. Thisshare-cropping business causes more trouble than any other thing that’sdone to Negroes. Lynching is mighty bad, but after all only a fewNegroes are lynched a year, while thousands are robbed every year oftheir lives.”

“That’s so. That’s so,” agreed the judge, but the doubt had not beendispelled from his voice nor removed from his face. He removed his cigarfrom his mouth, viewed its mangled appearance through much chewing uponit, threw it with an expression of disgust out of the window, narrowlymissing a man passing in the street below. He chuckled as he placed afresh cigar in his mouth.

“’Taint no harm in trying, though,” he said, half to himself.

“Besides, our plan is to enlist the support of every white man in thecounty who stands for something,” went on Kenneth, eager to gain the oldman as a staunch ally. “We know there’ll be opposition from some of thelandlords and merchants and bankers who are making money off thissystem, but we figure there are enough decent white people here to helpus through. …”

“Mebbe so. Mebbe so,” replied the judge, though there was a distinctnote of doubt in his voice now. “I wouldn’t be too sure, though. Iwouldn’t be too sure.”

[159] “But, Judge⸺”interrupted Kenneth. The judge silenced him with a movement of hishand.

“Ken, have you ever thought out what a decent white man goes throughwith in a town like Central City? Have you thought what he has to put upwith all over the South? There ain’t a whole lot of them, but justfigure what’d happen to a white man to-day who tried to do anythingabout cleaning up this rotten state of affairs we got here. Why, he’d berun out of town, if he wasn’t lynched!”

“But, Judge,” began Kenneth again, “take lynching, for example. Youknow, and I know, and everybody in the South knows that if a Negro isarrested charged with criminal assault on a white woman, if he’s guilty,there isn’t one chance in a million of his going free. Why don’t theybring them to trial and execute them legally instead of hanging andburning them?”

“Why? Why?” The judge repeated the interrogative as though it were aword he had never heard before. “You know, and so do I and all the restof us here in the South, that nine out of ten cases where these triflingwomen holler and claim they been raped, they ain’t been no rape. Theyjust got caught and they yelled rape to save their reputations. And theylynch the nigra to hush the matter up.”

Kenneth was amazed at the old man. Not amazed at what he said, forthat is common knowledge in the South. He was astounded that even soliberal a man as the judge should frankly admit that which is denied inpublic but known to be true. He hesitated to [160] press the inquiry further, and thought itexpedient to shift the conversation away from such dangerous ground.

“Why don’t men like yourself speak out against the things you knoware wrong, Judge?”.

“What would happen to us if we did? Count me out ‘cause I’m so old Icouldn’t do much. But take right here in Central City the men I’vetalked with just like I’m talking to you. How many of them could saywhat they really want to? I don’t mean on the race question. I mean onany question—religion, politics—oh—anything at all. Suppose Roy Ewing orany other white man here said he was tired of voting the Democraticticket and was going to vote Republican or Socialist. Suppose he decidedhe didn’t believe in the Virgin Birth or that all bad folks were burnedeternally in a lake of fire and brimstone after they died. If theydidn’t think he was crazy, they’d stop trading with him and all thewomenfolks would run from Roy’s wife and daughter like they had thesmallpox. That’s the hell of it, Ken. These po’ white trash stoppedeverybody from talking against lynching nigras, and they’ve stopped usfrom talking about anything. And far’s I can see, things’re gettingworse every day.”

“Couldn’t you organize those white people who think like you do?”asked Kenneth.

“No, that ain’t much use either. It all goes back to the sameroot—self-interest—how much is it going to cost me? I tell you, Ken, themost tragic figure I know is the white man in the South who [161] wants to be decent. This heresystem of lynching and covering up their lynching with lying has grownso big that any man who tries to tackle it is beat befo’ he starts.Specially in the little towns. Now in Atlanta there’s some folks canspeak out and say most anything they please, but here⸺” The old lawyerthrew out his hands in a gesture of hopelessness.

“Why can’t the South see where their course is leading them?” askedKenneth. “Suppose there wasn’t a white man in the South who wasinterested in the Negro. Suppose every white man hated every Negro wholived. Why couldn’t they see even then that they are doing more harm tothemselves than they could ever do to the Negro? With all its richnatural resources, with its fertile soil and its wonderful climate, theSouth is farther behind in civilization than any other part of theUnited States—or the world, for that matter. Aren’t they ever going tosee how they’re hurting themselves by trying to keep the Negrodown?”

“That’s just it,” replied the judge. “A man starts out practisingcheating in a petty way, and before he knows it he’s crooked all the waythrough. He starts being mean part of the time, and soon he’s mean allover. Or he tries being kind and decent, and he turns out to be prettydecent. It’s just like a man drinking liquor—first thing he knows, he’sliable to be drunk all the time.”

The judge shifted his cigar to a corner of his mouth and let fly astream of tobacco juice from the [162] other corner, every drop landing squarelyin the box of sawdust some ten feet away. He went on:

“That’s just what’s the matter with the South. She’s been brutal andtricky and deceitful so long in trying to keep the nigras down, shecouldn’t be decent if she tried. If acting like this was going to getthem anywhere, there might be some reason in it all, but they’ve shuttheir eyes, they refuse to see that nigras like you ain’t going to behandled like yo’ daddy and folks like him were.”

“What are we going to do—what can we do?” asked Kenneth. Never had hesuspected that even so fine a man as Judge Stevenson had thought thingsthrough as their conversation had indicated. He felt the situation wasnot entirely hopeless when men like the judge felt and talked as he did.Perhaps they were the leaven that would affect the lump of ignorance andviciousness that was the South.

“What are we going to do?” echoed the elder man. “God knows—I don’t!Mebbe the lid will blow off some day—then there would be hell to pay!One thing’s going to help, and that’s nigras pulling up stakes and goingNorth. When some of these white folks begin to see their fields going toseed, they’ll begin to realize how much they need the nigra—just likesome of ’em are seeing already.”

“But are they seeing it in the right way?” asked Kenneth. “Instead oftrying to make things better so Negroes are willing to stay in theSouth, they’re trying more oppressive methods than ever before. They’rebeating up labour agents, charging them a [163] thousand dollars for licences, lynchingmore Negroes, and robbing them more than ever.”

“Oh, they’ll be fools enough until the real pinch comes. Far’s I cansee, instead of stopping nigras from going North, them things arehurrying them up. Wait till it hits their pocket-books hard. Then thewhite people’ll get some sense.”

“Let’s hope so,” was Kenneth’s rejoinder as he rose to go. “It’s beenmighty comforting to talk like this with you, Judge. Things don’t seemso hopeless when we’ve got friends like you.”

“’Tain’t nothing. Nothing at all,” replied the judge. “Just like totalk with somebody’s got some sense. It’s a pity you’re coloured, Ken,you got too much sense to be a nigra.”

Kenneth laughed.

“From all we’ve been saying, a coloured man’s got to have some senseor else he’s in a mighty poor fix nowadays.”

He did not resent the old man’s remark, for he knew the judge couldnot understand that he was much more contented as a member of a racethat was struggling upward than he would have been as one of that racethat expended most of its time and thought and energy in exploiting andoppressing others. The judge followed him to the door promising to drawup the necessary legal documents for the co-operative society. WhenKenneth broached the subject of payment, the old man waved his handagain in protest.

“Ain’t got long to live, so’s I got to do what little [164] I can to help. ’Tain’t much Ican do, but I’ll help all I can.”

Thanking him, Kenneth started to leave, but the judge recalled himafter he had reached the hallway. “Ken, just consider all I said asbetween us. Can’t tell what folks’d say if they knew I been running onlike this.”

There was almost a note of pleading in his voice. Kenneth assured thejudge their conversation would be treated as confidential. As he walkedhome, he reflected on the anomalous position the judge and men like himoccupied, hemmed in, oppressed, afraid to call their souls their own,creatures of the Frankenstein monster their own people had created whichseemed about to rise up and destroy its creators. No, he said tohimself, he would much rather be a Negro with all his problems than bemade a moral coward as the race problem had made the white people of theSouth.

The judge stood at the window, dim with the dust of many months, andgazed at Kenneth’s broad back as he swung down Lee Street. Long after hehad disappeared, the old man stood there, chewing on the cigar which bynow was a mangled mass of wet tobacco. At last he turned away andresumed his seat in the comfortable old chair where Kenneth had foundhim. He shook his head slowly, doubtfully, and murmured, half tohimself, half to the dusty, empty room:

“Hope this thing turns out all right. Hope he don’t get in notrouble. But even if he does, there’ll [165] be more like him coming on—and they got toomuch sense to stand for what nigras been made to suffer. Lord, if weonly had a few white folks who had some sense …”

It was almost a prayer.



From Judge Stevenson’s office Kenneth wentdirectly to tell Jane of the interview. So absorbed was he incontemplation of the wider vision of the problem he was attacking whichthe judge’s words had given him, he forgot to telephone her to ask if itwas agreeable for him to call at so unconventional an hour. He found herclad in a bungalow apron busily cleaning house and singing as sheworked.

They sat on the steps of the back porch while he told her all thathad been said. Taken out of his preoccupation with his own affairs,Kenneth had shaken off his negative air and now he talked convincinglyof their plans. Jane said nothing until he had finished.

“That’s fine!” she exclaimed when he had ended. “Even if JudgeStevenson is doubtful of how much we can accomplish, we can dosomething. Now all that remains is for you to present your plan⸺”

“Not mine, yours,” he corrected

“No, it will have to be yours,” she answered. “You know how folks arein the South—they think all that women can do is cook and keep house andbear children. If you want the thing to go, it’ll be best to make themthink it’s your scheme.”

[167] Kenneth demurred,but in vain. She would have it no other way. She felt no jealousy. Sheknew of the peculiar Southern prejudice which relegated women to aposition of eternal inferiority. Though she felt the injustice of sucharbitrary assumptions, she did not resent it. Like all women, colouredwomen, she realized that most of the spirit of revolt against the wrongsinflicted on her race had been born in the breasts of coloured women.She knew, and in that knowledge was content, that most of the work ofthe churches and societies and other organizations which had done somuch towards welding the Negro into a racial unit had been done bywomen. It was amusing to see men, vain creatures that they are, preenthemselves on what they had done. It was not so amusing when they, intheir pride, sought to belittle what the women had done and take all thecredit to themselves. Oh, well, what did it matter? The end was theall-important thing—not the means. Jane appreciated Kenneth’sthoughtfulness and felt no tinge of jealousy if her idea—theiridea—should be a success in forming societies to help poor, helplessNegroes out of the morass in which they were bogged. Of such materialhas the coloured woman been made by adversity.

She watched Kenneth as he told her the developments of which he hadthought, the details he had worked out. Each day, it seemed to her,Kenneth became more keenly alive each day saw a brighter sparkle in hiseyes, a springiness in his step that had not been there before. Thereare many men who [168] couldwillingly have followed—and do follow—without revolt or much inwardconflict a course of self-abnegation such as he had mapped out forhimself. Not so, however, with Kenneth. He was almost puritanical in hisdevotion to the fixed moral code he had worked out for his own guidance.It was not a superimposed one, but an integral part of his very being.Nothing could have induced him to surrender to deliberate malice orguile or what he considered dishonesty or cowardice. His was a simplenature, free from the barnacles of pettiness which encumber the averageman. He was not essentially religious in the accepted meaning of theword. He believed, though he had not thought much on the subject ofreligion, so immersed had he been in his beloved profession, in somesort of a God. Of what form or shape this being was, he did not know. Hehad more or less accepted the beliefs his environment had forced uponhim. He doubted the malignity of the God described by most of theministers he had heard. As a matter of fact, he was rather repelled andnauseated by the religion of the modern Church. Narrow, intolerant ofcontrary opinion, prying into the lives and affairs of its communicantswith which it had no concern, its energies concentrated on raising moneyand not on saving souls, of little real help to intelligent people toenable them to live more useful lives here on earth, and centeringinstead on a mysterious and problematical life after death, he felt theChurch of Jesus Christ had so little of the spirit of the Christ that hehad little [169] patiencewith it. He went to services more as a perfunctory duty than through anydeep-rooted belief that he could get any real help from them in meetingthe problems of life he faced. He bore the Church no grudge or illwill—it simply was not a factor in the life of to-day as he saw it.

Nevertheless he had a deep religious or, better, an ethical sense.When he was about to return to Central City, that ethical code had beenadapted to conditions he expected to find there. It was galling to himto accept a position of subserviency to things he knew were unjust andwrong, tacitly to admit his inferiority to men to whom he knew he wassuperior in morals and training and in all the decencies of life, solelybecause of the mere accident that they had been born with skins whichwere white and he with one which was not white. When doubts had assailedhim, he had quieted or salved his conscience by the constant reminderthat he was following such a course for greater eventual good. On hisreturn, when he had found a course such as he had charted for himselfwas becoming increasingly difficult, he had refused to face the factshis mind told him were true and had plunged more deeply into his work,seeking in it an opiate. Only when Jane had confronted him with theutter futility of his course and had, in effect, accused him of being amoral quitter in considering only himself and blinding himself to thefar greater problems of those so closely bound to him by race, did hiseyes begin to be opened. Wearied of illusory hopes of peace throughcompromise, [170] he hadgrasped the tangible reality of work towards a definite end, throughmeans which he had created and which he would guide and develop as faras he could. With the buoyant hopes and ambitions of the young,especially of the very young, he felt that he had already created thatwhich he was hoping to create.

Like a traveller who has lost his way in a dense forest, anindefinable restlessness had pervaded his being and made him sorelydiscontented. Now that he had found what seemed the path which wouldlead him into the clear, open air, the clouds of doubt and perplexitywere cleared away just as the bright sun, as it bursts forth after ashower in spring, drives away the moisture in the air.

They sat there in the warm sunlight of early summer, dreaming andplanning all the great things they were going to accomplish. It hadrained earlier in the morning and from the ground rose a misty vapour.The odour of warm wet earth mingled with the aroma of the flowers. Hensscratched industriously for food to feed the cluster of tiny chicksaround them. A cat sneaking along the fence slyly crept near. With agreat fluttering of wings and raucous cackling, the hens drove him away.From afar off came the voices of two women, resting for a minute fromtheir morning toil, gossiping with much loud laughter. It was apeaceful, restful scene. To Kenneth as he sat there, problems seemedremote and out of place in that place where all was so calm.

He looked at the girl by his side. It seemed [171] Jane had never looked more charming clad inher bungalow apron, dust-cloth in hand. He was glad she had made nosilly, conventional excuses because of her dress. The usual girl wouldhave tried to rush indoors and change her dress. Most women, hereflected, looked like angels at night, but in the harsh glare ofmorning looked terrible. Jane seemed to him to be even prettier withoutpowder or the soft light of evening. He felt a thrill of pleasure as hesaw her dusting furniture in their home.

They rose as Kenneth started to leave. Jane was telling him of sometrivial incident, but Kenneth heard nothing of what she said. He turnedtowards her suddenly.

She divined his intentions—she could almost feel the words that wereon his lips. Quickly wishing him success in the meeting to be held thatnext evening, she bade him good-bye.

After Kenneth had gone, Jane sat for some time struggling with theproblem she was facing. What was she to do? As a little girl she hadloved Kenneth with a simple, childlike love though he, with the infinitedifference of eight years of age, had paid no attention to her. She wasnot at all sure now of the nature of her feelings towards him. She likedhim, it is true, but when it came to anything deeper than that, she wasnot so certain. She had been told, and had always believed, that lovecame as a blinding, searing, devastating passion which swept everythingbefore it. She felt none of this passion and [172] experienced no bit of that completesurrender which she had believed was a part of the thing called love.Jane was much in the position of the sinner on the mourner’s bench whohad been told that when he became a Christian, angels and all sorts ofheavenly apparitions would miraculously appear before him, and, seeingnone, feels that he is being cheated.

Jane had seen in Kenneth’s eyes that soon he would make some sort ofdeclaration of his love. What was she going to say? She did not know.…

So pleasant had it been sitting there in the warm sunlight talkingwith Jane, Kenneth had forgotten the time. Entering his office, he foundhalf a dozen patients waiting somewhat impatiently for him. As heentered his private office, he heard old Mrs.Amos, in her chronicquarrelsomeness, mutter:

“Dat’s just what I allus say. Soon’s a nigger begin to get up in theworld, he thinks hisself better’n us po’ folks. Thinks he can treat usany way he please.”

Kenneth laughed and, with a few bantering words, mollified theirascible old woman. The coloured doctor has to be a diplomat as well asa physician—he must never allow the humblest of his patients to gain theimpression that he thinks himself better than they. Of all races thatmake up the heterogenous populace of America, none is more self-criticalthan the Negro—its often unjust and carping criticism of those who standout from the mass serves as an excellent antidote for undue pride andconceit. …

The next evening the seven men met again at Mr. [173] Wilson’s. Kenneth stopped by forMr.Phillips, but he did not see Jane. The Reverend Stewart, Tucker,Tracy, Swann, and Mr.Wilson sat awaiting them. Tom Tracy wasexhibiting, somewhat proudly it seemed, a note he had found tacked tohis door that morning. It was crudely lettered in red ink on acheap-quality paper. It read:


K. K. K.

Beneath the three initials was a crude skull and cross-bones. Thoughall seven of the men knew that the warning was not to be disregarded,that it might possibly portend a serious attempt on the life of Tracy,that any or all of them present might receive a similar grim reminder ofthe ill will of the hooded band, there was a complete absence of fear asthey sat around the table and conjectured as to the possible result ofthe warning. The calmness with which they accepted the omen of troublewould probably have amazed the senders of the warning. Perhaps theclearest indication of how little the South realizes the changes thathave taken place in the Negro is this recrudescence of the Klan. Wherestark terror followed in the wake of the Klan rides of the seventies,the net result of similar rides to-day is a more de[174]termined union of Negroes against all thatthe Klan stands for, tinctured with a mild amusement at the Klan’sgrotesque antics. It was fortunate for Kenneth, in a measure, that Tracyhad received the threat on the day it came. With such a reminder beforethem, the seven felt there was greater need than ever before fororganization for mutual protection.

They discussed means of protecting Tracy, but he assured them he wasamply able to take care of himself. He had sent his parents that day tostay with friends until the trouble had blown over, telling them nothingof the warning, as he did not want them to be worried by it. Two of hisfriends had agreed to stay with him at night. He was well supplied withammunition and was sure the three of them could successfully repel anyattack that might be made upon him. Such trying periods have happened toNegroes so frequently in the South that they have become inured to them.The subject was soon dropped.

Then Kenneth presented his plan. He outlined in detail how thesociety should be organized. He proposed that the first lodge be formedat Ashland, then gradually spread until there was a branch in everysection of the county. They left until later the problem of extendingthe society’s activities to other parts of Georgia and the neighbouringStates. Each member would be required to pay an initiation fee of onedollar. Men would pay monthly dues of fifty cents each, womentwenty-five. The sums thus secured were to be pooled. Half of the amount[175] was to purchasesupplies like sugar, flour, shoes, clothing, fertilizer, seeds, farmimplements, and the other things needed to satisfy the simple wants ofthe members. To make up any deficit, Kenneth and Mr.Phillips agreed tolend money that the supplies might be purchased for cash, effectingthereby a considerable saving. The other half was to be used as thenucleus of a defence fund with which a test case might be made in thecourts when any member was unable to secure a fair settlement with hislandlord.

Similarly were other details presented and discussed and adopted ormodified. A name had to be chosen. Kenneth would have preferred a short,simple one, but here he was overruled. That it might appeal to thesimple, illiterate class to which most of the prospective membersbelonged, a sonorous, impressive name was necessary. They decided on“The National Negro Farmers’ Co-operative and Protective League.”

At first the plan was considered a bit too ambitious, but as Kennethwarmed up to it in presenting it as simply and forcefully as he could,the objections, one by one, were overcome. One change, however, had tobe made. It came from Hiram Tucker.

“Ain’t you figgerin’ on havin’ no signs and passwords and a grip likedey have with de Odd Fellers and de Masons and de Knights of Pythias?”he asked.

“I didn’t think that was necessary,” replied Kenneth.

[176] “Well, lemme tellyou somethin’, son. Ef you figgers on gettin’ a big passel of thesecullud folks ’round here to jine in with us, you’ll have t’ have some‘ficials with scrumptious names, and passwords and grips. Dese hereign’ant folks needs somethin’ like dat to catch their ’magination. Ifyou put dat in, they’ll jine like flies ’round molasses.”

Kenneth had hoped that the society would be run on a dignified andintelligent basis, but he realized that Hiram Tucker might be rightafter all. Most of the share-croppers were ignorant—at least,illiterate. Mere show and pomp and colourful uniforms and high-soundingnames played a large part in their lives, which, after all, wasn’t somuch a racial as a human trait. Hadn’t the Ku Klux Klan outdone, inabsurdity of name and ceremony and dress, anything that Negroes had evereven thought of?

This question was disposed of, after more discussion, by the adoptionof Hiram Tucker’s suggestion. Kenneth was appointed to work out thedetails of organization, and the meeting adjourned. The National NegroFarmer’s Co-operative and Protective League had been born.



The days that followed were full of interest forKenneth and Jane. The constitution and bylaws were drafted and approvedand sent to Atlanta to be printed by a coloured printing firm. JudgeStevenson prepared the articles of incorporation and did the necessarylegal work, still refusing any pay for his services. Kenneth had offeredto pay him out of his own pocket, but the judge told him: “Keep yourmoney, Ken, I c’n wait. I’m gettin’ along in years now and I’ve beenhopin’ that this problem that’s cursin’ the South would be settled befo’I passed on. But what with these damn fool Kluxers kickin’ up hell’round here, I don’t know whether I’ll see it or not. Your idea may dosome good—I don’t know whether it will or not—but if I c’n help, let meknow.” Kenneth thanked him and had been immeasurably encouraged by theold man’s attitude.

As soon as the literature they had ordered was received, the firstmeeting was called by Tucker and Tracy at Ashland. Jane and her fatherdrove out with Kenneth, who was to present the plan to the groupgathered. The meeting was held at a little wooden church, whitewashed onthe outside, and furnished within only with rude benches. On the wallswere one or two highly coloured lithographs of reli[178]gious subjects. The hall seated not morethan two hundred and was crowded to capacity. Even the windows werecomfortably filled by those unable to obtain a seat on the floor. Theillumination was furnished by four kerosene lamps attached to the walls,two on each side.

Hiram Tucker acted as chairman, while Tom Tracy took minutes of themeeting. After a preliminary announcement of the purpose of thegathering by the chairman, Kenneth was called upon to outline the planthat had been proposed. At the outset, having had no experience as apublic speaker, he stumbled and faltered and knew not what to do withhis hands. After a few minutes he jammed them into the side pockets ofhis coat and, warming to his subject, swung into a clear, forceful, andconvincing recital of the purpose and possibilities of the co-operativesocieties. His enthusiasm became infectious. His audience began to sharehis zeal. Humble and lowly folks, their vision limited by the life theyled, they had the feeling, as Kenneth talked on, of having been face toface with a blank wall of immeasurable height and impenetrablethickness. Under the spell of his words they seemed to see themiraculous opening of a door in this wall. Hope, which had been crushedto earth year after year by disappointing settlements for their labour,began to mount.

As for Kenneth, he had forgotten his self-imposed inhibitions andprohibitions. Gone was the hesitation and doubt. He had seen a lightwhere he had thought there was no light. His voice rang true and [179] firm, and there was a look ofeager earnestness on his face as the pale, flickering light from the oillamps illumined it.

He finished with a flourish so dear to the hearts of colouredaudiences. It was what the old-style coloured preacher used to call “de’rousements.”

“You husbands and sons and brothers, three years ago you were calledon to fight for liberty and justice and democracy! Are you getting it?”He was answered by a rousing “No!” “What are you going to do about it?”he demanded. “Single-handed, you can do nothing! Organized, you canstrike a blow for freedom, not only for yourselves but for countlessgenerations of coloured children yet unborn! No race in all history hasever had its liberties and rights handed to it on a silver platter—suchrights can come only when men are willing to struggle and sacrifice andwork and die, if need be, to obtain them! I call on you here to-night tojoin in this movement which shall in time strike from our hands and feetthe shackles which bind them, that we may move on as a race together tothat greater freedom which we have so long desired and which so long hasbeen denied us! Only slaves and cowards whine and beg! Men and womenstand true and firm and struggle onwards and upwards until they reachtheir goal!” He paused impressively while the audience sat mute. Helooked over the assemblage for a full minute and then demanded in aringing voice: “What do you choose to be slaves or men?”

He sat down. A salvo of applause greeted him. [180] A Daniel had arisen to lead them! Kennethtook on a new importance and affection in the eyes and minds of hishearers. He had heard their Macedonian cry and answered it.

As he mopped his brow, Kenneth felt that he had made a goodbeginning, although he was a bit ashamed of having made so direct anappeal at the end to emotion instead of to reason. At the same time heknew that it had been necessary. “’Rousements” were absolutely essentialto awaken the response needed to get the co-operative societies underway. Without them his humble audience might not have been aroused to thepoint of action that was so necessary.

Following Kenneth, Mr.Wilson made a stirring appeal to the crowd tocome forward and give their names if they wanted to join the newlyformed society. Those who had the money were urged to join at once. Atfirst, only a few came forward. Then they came in numbers until aroundthe table at which sat Secretary Tracy there was an excited, chattering,milling throng.

After the meeting Mr.Phillips accepted Mr.Wilson’s invitation toride home in his car. Kenneth did not object—it enabled him to be alonewith Jane. They talked of the meeting as they walked to the car. Janegave Kenneth’s hand a faint squeeze. “Oh, Kenneth, you were splendid!”she declared.

It was a perfect night—one created for making love. A soft lightfiltered through the leaves of [181] the trees, casting a lace-like shadow onthe earth. The air was soft and languorous, as it can be only on aspring evening in the South, as soft and caressing as the touch of ababy’s hands. From near at hand came the mingled odour of honeysuckleand cape jasmine and magnolia blossoms and roses. The world seemed atpeace. No sound disturbed the air save the chattering and singing of amockingbird, as lovely as the sob of velvety, full-throated violins, andthe voices, growing fainter and fainter, of the crowd leaving the nowdeserted church. It would have taken a much stronger man than Kenneth toresist the spell of so perfect an evening. He was not mawkishlysentimental—rather he detested the moon-calfish type of man who rolledhis eyes and whispered empty, silly compliments in the ear of whatevergirl he met. On the other hand, he was amazingly ignorant of women. As ayoungster he had been exceedingly chary of the little girls of theneighbourhood, preferring to spend his time playing baseball or shootingmarbles. This shyness had never entirely left him. From his youth on hehad had but one strong passion in his life that passion had possessedhis every thought and in it was centred his every ambition—his desireand determination to become a great surgeon. His one serious ventureinto the realm of love-making had been the affair with the girl in NewYork, but that had not taken a strong enough hold upon him to leave muchof a mark. So rapidly had it begun and ended that he had had in itlittle experience in the great American sport of [182] “petting.” It was thus easy for him to fallhead over heels in love with Jane, for she was, in fact, the first girlin his life outside of his sister who had come into his life in morethan a casual way.

Jane, on the other hand, had, innocently enough, flirted as everypretty girl (and many who are not pretty) will do. She appreciatedKenneth’s fine qualities: he was capable, industrious, and handsome in away. He annoyed her at times by his almost bovine stupidity inexpressing his love. She naturally liked the idea of having the love ofa man who is naïve, who has not run the whole gamut of emotions inaffairs with other girls; yet, also naturally enough, she did expect himto have at least some savoir faire, to be able to win her withsome degree of the finesse that every girl wants and expects. Sheresented his business-like matter-of-factness in seeking her—as coldlycalculating, it seemed to her, as though he were operating on one of hispatients. In this she was doing him an injustice. Underneath his surfaceplacidity Kenneth’s love had become a raging flame—he cursed the shellof professional dignity which had crossed over and become a part ofhimself.

Thus they walked through the soft spring air, she wishing he would dothat which he in his ignorance felt would be the unwisest thing he couldattempt. Thus is life made up of paradoxical situations where a word, alook, an otherwise insignificant gesture, would clear away at one fellswoop mountainous clouds of doubt and misunderstanding.

[183] Jane stood, one footon the ground, the other on the step, her hand resting on the openeddoor of the car. A faintly provocative smile flitted over her face.Kenneth longed to seize this elusive, seductive girl in his arms, pressher close to him, and tell her of his love. She wanted him to. Insteadhe steeled himself against yielding to the impulse that almost overcamehim, and helped her with complete decorum into the car. …

They did not say much on the way home. Jane bade him good night, hethought somewhat coldly—as though she were vexed. He told her he wasleaving the next morning for Atlanta to operate on Mrs. Tucker. She madeno comment. He wondered as he drove home what he had done to offend her.…

As he neared the house, he suddenly remembered that he had promisedto look in on old Mrs.Amos, whose “rheumatics” had been giving herconsiderable pain. It was charity work, as she would never be able topay him. She had sent for him several times during the day, but he hadbeen kept so busy he had had no time to go. He was annoyed at himselffor promising to call to see the quarrelsome old woman who was far moredictatorial and exacting than most of the patients who paid himpromptly. With a muttered imprecation at being bothered with her justafter his annoying experience with Jane and her inexplicable behaviour,he drove through the darkened streets to Mrs.Amos’ home. He found hersitting in a creaky rocking-chair. She began immediately to pourmaledictions on his head for neglect[184]ing her all day. He answered her shortly,gave her her medicine, and left.

Carefully guiding the car through the gullies and holes in theunpaved street, he set out for home. Nearing the corner of Harris andState Streets, he heard a sound as of several automobiles. He lookeddown Harris Street just in time to see three closed cars stop suddenlyat the corner. From one of them two white-robed figures descended,lifting a large, black bundle that seemed exceedingly heavy. This done,the figures jumped hurriedly into the car, and it with the other twospeeded away in the direction from which they had come.

Kenneth, his curiosity aroused, turned his car around and drove tothe spot to see what was going on. As he slowed his car at the corner, amuffled groan came from the object lying there in the street. Hastilygetting down, he turned it over and in the half-light found it to be thebody of a human being. His hands felt sticky. Holding them close to hisface, he found them smeared with tar.

He got from his car a small flashlight. Going back to the inert mass,he turned the ray of light on the body and found it to be that of anaked woman, covered with tar yet warm to the touch. Between the dabs ofthe sticky mess on the woman’s back were long welts, some of thembleeding, as though a heavy-thonged whip had been applied with greatforce. The hair was dishevelled and in its strands were bits of themelted tar. Kenneth experienced a feeling of nausea at the revoltingsight. The woman lay on her [185] face. From her mouth and nose there ran astream of blood which already was forming a little pool beneath her facethat became bloody mud as it mixed with the dust in the road. Seizingher by her left shoulder, Kenneth half raised the body and turned hisflashlight on the woman’s face. It was Nancy Ware, the wife of the Negrokilled by George Parker. Half carrying, half dragging the limp form,Kenneth managed in some fashion to get Nancy to her own home a few doorsaway. The door stood open as though Nancy had left it for a minute tocall on one of her neighbours. On the table in the front room, therestood a lamp yet burning, the chimney blackened with the soot caused bythe wind blowing upon it. Beside the lamp lay a garment on which Nancyhad been sewing.

Kenneth placed her on the bed and hurried next door to summon help.His efforts were unsuccessful. He pounded on the door with both fists,calling out in his excitement to the occupants to open up. After whatseemed an infinite delay, a window to the left of the door cautiouslyopened and an inquiring voice wanted to know what was the matter. Seeingwho it was, the owner of the voice disappeared and a minute later openedthe door. Kenneth hastily told what had happened, brushing aside amuttered excuse that the delay in answering was due to the fact that “Ididn’ know but whut you might ‘a’ been the p’lice.”

On going back to Nancy’s cottage, Kenneth gave her a restorative andendeavoured to relieve her suf[186]fering. She began to revive after a fewminutes. In the meantime the neighbours called by Kenneth arrived, andthey removed as much as they could of the tar from Nancy’s body. Kenneththen examined her back, finding it covered with long and ugly gashesthat bled profusedly. He dressed them and Nancy was arranged ascomfortably as possible. He found himself so tired after the hard workand excitement of the day and evening that he was almost ready to dropin his tracks. At the same time he had an uncontrollable desire to findout just what had happened to Nancy Ware. He was almost certain the KuKlux Klan had done it, but he wanted to hear the story from Nancy’s ownlips. The neighbours had gone, with the exception of an evil-looking,elderly woman who had volunteered to remain with Nancy untilmorning.

After the application of restoratives regularly for an hour, shebegan to show signs of returning consciousness. Kenneth watched hereagerly. Five minutes later her eyelids fluttered. She gave a lowmoan—almost a whimper. Suddenly she cried out in the terror of delirium:“Doan let ‘em whip me no mo’! Doan let ’em whip me no mo?!” and writhedin her agony. She struggled to arise but Kenneth, sitting by the side ofthe bed, managed with the aid of the other woman to restrain Nancy andcalm her. Afterwards she became more rational. Her eyes opened. In themwas a gleam of recognition of Kenneth and he knew she was regainingconsciousness.

[187] Another wait. Then,at Kenneth’s questioning, she began to tell what had happened. For weekshe had thought but little of her and the tragedy that had taken place inthis same house, other events having crowded it out of his mind.

“Doc, you won’t let ’em get me again, will you?” she pleaded with awhimper like a child’s. Kenneth assured her he wouldn’t.

“Doc, I ain’t done nuthin’ t’ them Kluxers. Hones’ t’ Gawd, I ain’t.”Kenneth told her soothingly that he knew she hadn’t.

“I was jes’ sittin’ here tendin’ to my own business when dey come arap on de do’. W’en I open de do’, dere wuz two o; dem Kluxers standin’dere—befo’ I could holler dey grab me and put a rag in my mouf.” Ashudder passed through her body as the terror came back to her at thememory of what she had been through.

“Dey put me in a automobile and ca’ied me way out yonder in de woodsby de fact’ry. Dey pull all my clo’es off me and den dey whip me till Icouldn’ stan’ up no mo’. Den dey tell me I been talkin’ too much. Doc, Iain’t said a word t’ nobdy ‘cept dat dey oughter do somethin’t that manGeorge Parker for killin’ my man Bud. … Den dey po’ed tar all over meand kick me and spit on me some mo’. … Said I oughter had mo’ sense dant’ talk ’bout no white gemmen. Oh—oh—oh—ain’t dey nothin’ to he’p us po’cullud fo’ks—ain’t dey nobody—ain’t dey nobody?”

It was just as Kenneth had suspected. Good God, [188] and these were the self-elected defendersof morals in the South! What if Nancy wasn’t all that she should havebeen?—whose was the greater fault—hers or George Parker’s? He could seehim now in the bank—smug, a hypocritical smile on his face, talkingabout what the white people have got to do to stop these troublesome“niggers” from getting too cheeky—about protecting “pure” Southernwomanhood from attacks by “black, burly brutes.” And the Klan with allits boasted and advertised chivalry—twenty or thirty strong men to beatup and maltreat one lone woman, because she “talked too much” about thebrutal, cold-blooded murder of her husband! Kenneth’s optimism over theorganization of the cooperative societies began to cool—in its steadthere came a blind, unreasoning hatred and furious rage against the menwho had done this deed to Nancy Ware. God, but he would have givenanything he owned to get them all together and kill them one byone—slowly, with all the tortures he could devise! The damned, cowardlydevils! The filthy, smug-faced hypocrites!

Nancy was resting easily Kenneth, shaken by the fury of his anger,more devastating because he knew that he could do nothing but hurlsilent imprecations on the heads of those who had done thisdeed—impotent because his skin was black and he lived in the South—wenthome to roll and toss during the few hours of the night which remainedbefore he took the train to Atlanta.



Itseemed to Kenneth he had just fallen into a troubled slumber when he wasaroused by the tinkling of the telephone bell at the side of his bed. Itwas Hiram Tucker.

“Doc, I reck’n you won’t have to go t’ Atlanty today, after all. Mywife, she tol’ me to tell you she’s changed her min’ ‘bout thatop’ration. … What’s dat? … Naw, suh, she’s kinder skeered she won’ wakeup from dat chlo’form. … Yas, suh, yas, suh, I knows ‘rangements beenmade but, Doc, you ain’t married, so you don’t know nuthin’ ‘tall ’boutwimmenfolks. … Some day you’ll learn dat when dey says dey ain’t gwinedo somethin’ dey’s done sot dere minds on not doing, dey ain’t gwine t’do it. … Hello. … Hello. … Hello!”

But Kenneth had hung up. He telephoned the local telegraph office tosend a wire to the hospital in Atlanta to cancel the arrangements he hadmade for the operation on the following day, and tumbled back in bed tosleep like a log until late in the morning. He was awakened by Bob, whoinformed him that the reception room was half filled with patients whowere no longer patient at being kept waiting so long. He arosereluctantly, his eyes still filled with sleep. Bob leaned against thewall, hands in pockets, and [190] looked at his brother with a smile ofamusement. Kenneth, not thoroughly awakened as yet, paid no attention tohim for a time, but at last noticed Bob’s smile.

“Why this early morning humour? I’ve seen many ’possums with a moreengaging smile then the one that distorts your face now!” hehalf-grumblingly, half-cheerfully observed.

Bob but grinned the more at Kenneth’s remark.

“I was just thinking that if Jane could only get one glimpse of youin the morning before breakfast, your chances would be mighty slim withher.”

“Jane? What have my looks to do with her?” Kenneth retorted with someheat, in a vain attempt to spar for time.

Bob addressed the world in general, calling on it for some aid inunderstanding this brother of his.

“Jane?” he mimicked Kenneth’s tone of surprise. “You talk like aten-year-old boy with his first love affair. Isn’t he the innocent one,though? Why, you poor maligned creature, everybody in Central City whoisn’t blind knows that you are head over heels in love with JanePhillips. And,” he added as an afterthought, “those who are blind havebeen told it. But to return to my original observation, if there wassome means by which, with all propriety, all the girls in the world whoare in love could see, and be seen by, the poor boobs with whom they areso infatuated, marriage-licence bureaus would be closed that day, neverto open again.” This last with an omniscient air of worldly wisdom thatcaused [191] Kenneth to burstinto a roar of laughter, while Bob watched him, somewhatdiscomfited.

“What’re you laughing at?” he demanded in an aggrieved tone. Kennethlaughed all the harder. “Why, you poor little innocent, you haven’tgotten rid of your pin feathers, and yet you are talking as though youwere a philosopher like Schopenhauer. You’d better wait until you finishschool and see something of the world. Then you can talk a little—thoughonly a little as you did just now. By the way, it’s about time for youto be planning for school this fall. Still thinking about going back toAtlanta?”

“I don’t know what I want to do,” was Bob’s troubled rejoinder. “I’veseen too much of what’s going on around this town since papa died to besatisfied with school again. I’ve probably seen more of the realsordidness and meanness and deviltry of this place since I’ve beensettling up papa’s affairs than you’ll see in five years. At any rate, Ihope you don’t,” he finished somewhat doubtfully.

“Bob”—Kenneth walked over and put his arm around his brother’sshoulders—the trouble with you is that you’re too darned sensitive. Iknow things aren’t all they ought to be around here, but we’ve got tobuckle down and make them that way. And perhaps I’ve seen more of thisdeviltry than you think.”

He told Bob of what had happened to Nancy Ware the night before. Along whistle of surprise escaped from Bob’s lips.

[192] “And this happenedright here in the coloured section?” he asked in surprise. Kennethnodded in assent.

“I felt they were planning some mischief but I didn’t think theywould have the nerve to come right here in ‘Darktown’ and do it. Iwonder,” he said musingly, “if that dirty little Jim Archer who saidthose filthy things to Minnie Baxter that day is a member of the Klan. Ipassed him on Lee Street this morning and he grinned at me like a catthat has just eaten a fat mouse.”

“He may be,” Kenneth replied. “Nancy Ware told me last night sherecognized the voices of Sheriff Parker and Henry Lane and George Parkerand two or three other prominent white people here.”

“That settles it,” Bob answered determinedly. “When you first cameback here I thought you were foolish to do so after having been inFrance. I said I was going to get out of this country as soon as I couldand live in France or Brazil or any old place where a man isn’t judgedby the colour of his skin. But I’ve decided that I’d be a coward if Idid run away like that. Ken,” he said in voice that showed he had passedin spite of his years from childhood into the more serious things ofmanhood, “I’m going to Harvard this fall. I’m going to take whatevercourse I need to get into the law school. I’m going to make myself thebest lawyer they can turn out. And then I’m coming back here to theSouth like you did and give my time to fighting for my people!”

Bob’s eyes flashed. In them was a light of [193] high resolve such a look as might haveshone in the eyes of Garibaldi or of Joan of Arc.

Kenneth said nothing, but he gripped Bob’s hand in his and therepassed between the two brothers a look of mutual understanding andsympathy that was more potent and meaningful than words.

Kenneth went down to attend to his patients and nothing more was saidof the incident between them. Bob took on a new interest in life. Hismoodiness, his brooding over the constant irritations and insults he hadto suffer in his dealings as a coloured man with the whites of the town,his resentment at the attitude of condescension on the part of the poorand ignorant whites who had neither his intelligence, his education, norhis wealth—all these disappeared in his eager preparations for the newlife he had mapped out for himself. He already saw himself a powerfulchampion of his race and he gloried in that vision with all of theimpetuosity and idealistic fervour of youth.

As for Kenneth, he divided his time between his practice, Jane, andthe formation of more branches of the N.N.F.C.P.L.

Kenneth knew there was nothing to be done towards the punishment ofthe men who had so brutally beaten Nancy Ware. He knew that it wouldeven be unwise for him to talk too much about it. If Sheriff Parker washimself a member of the Klan, reporting the outrage to him would be ineffect a serving of notice that he was meddling in the affairs of theKlan which might bring disastrous results at a [194] time when Kenneth was most anxious to avoidsuch a complication, certainly until the co-operative societies werewell under way and actively functioning. Much as he chafed under therestraint and at his own impotence in the situation, Kenneth knew thathis interference would be a useless and foolhardy butting of his headagainst a stone wall.

It occurred to him to tell what had happened to Judge. Stevenson. Hecould be trusted and was as much opposed to the outlawry of the Klan asKenneth himself. The judge listened gravely to the end without commentother than a question here and there. “That looks worse than I thought,”he said half to himself. “A few mo’ cracks like that and there’ll behell to pay ‘round here. But ’twon’t do no good for you t’ meddle init,” he observed in answer to Kenneth’s question as to what he could do.“If Nancy’s right about Bob Parker being in it, your sayin’ anythingwill only set them on you. You’d better go ahead and get your societieson their feet and then you’ll have somethin’ behin’ you. Then you won’tbe playin’ a lone hand.”

As for the coloured people, there were several days of excited gossipover what had happened to Nancy Ware. There was not much to go on, asshe had been so frightened by her terrible experience that she refusedfor once to talk. The only tangible effect was that mysterious parcelsmarked with the names of household implements began to arrive at thehomes of the coloured people, but which contained fire-arms andammunition. There was also a notice[195]able tightening of the lips and thedevelopment of a less cordial relationship between white and black.Negroes, feeling that there was no help they could expect from the law,felt that their backs were being slowly pressed against the wall. Withina few hours the old esprit cordial between white and black hadbeen wiped out. Negroes who had been happy-go-lucky, care-free, andkindly in manner began to talk among themselves of “dying fighting” ifforced to the limit.

July came with all its heat. August passed with yet more heat. Withthe coming of September there had been formed in Smith County aloneseven branch societies of the Co-operative and Protective League with amembership of more than twelve hundred. Kenneth worked as one inspired,one who knew neither heat nor cold, fatigue nor hunger. During the dayhe was busy with his practice, but it mattered not how busy he had been,he was always ready and willing to drive five, ten, fifteen miles atnight to aid in establishing new branches or directing and guiding andadvising those already established.

The Ashland Branch, through the hard work of Hiram Tucker and TomTracy, had enrolled three hundred and fifteen members. In its treasuryit had $657.85, to which it was constantly adding as new members wereenrolled. At a meeting held during the latter part of August the membersdecided that they would forgo the purchasing of their supplies in bulkthat year but would use the money raised towards prosecuting one of thecases of dishonest [196]settlements when the time came for such settlements, usually in Decemberor January. This step was decided upon after due and lengthydeliberation, as it was felt that if they could end the cheating of thefarmers through court action, then these same farmers would have moremoney through the settlement of their accounts for the present seasonand could then begin the co-operative buying and distribution thefollowing year.

News of the new society that was going to end the unsatisfactoryrelations share-croppers had with their landlords spread rapidlythroughout the surrounding counties. Letters, crudely and cumbersomelyworded and with atrocious spelling, came to Kenneth and oftenindividuals came in person to ask that he come to their counties toorganize societies there. Kenneth was elated at this sign of interest.He had expected a great deal of opposition from the coloured farmers.Bickering and carping criticism there was aplenty, but most of themregarded him as a new Moses to lead them into the promised land ofeconomic independence. Minor disputes over authority in the localsocieties there were in abundance. But none of them was hard to settle,for the members themselves were too eager to get out of bondage totolerate much petty politics and selfishness on the part of theirofficers.

As a loyal ally Kenneth learned to rely on Jane more and more. Oftenshe went with him to attend meetings and to talk to groups not yetorganized. While Kenneth talked to the men, Jane circulated [197] among the women, who weresubtly flattered that one so daintily clad and well educated shouldspend so much of her time and energy talking to lowly ones likethemselves.

Her mother’s health had not been of the best during the summer. Thathad been throughout the summer her only worry. In August her mother hadsuffered an attack of paralysis, her second one. Jane decided to remainat home instead of going to Oberlin to resume her music. Dr.Bennett hadbeen dismissed and Kenneth was now treating Mrs.Phillips. During hermore serious illness in August, Jane often sat on one side of hermother’s bed until late in the night while Kenneth sat on the other,ministering to the aged woman’s wants. There came a new and strongerfeeling of companionship between the two. Often Kenneth would look upsuddenly and catch in Jane’s eyes a new tenderness. Without knowing whatit meant, he felt a subtly conveyed encouragement in them.

He had, however, spoken no word of love to her, preferring to bidehis time until a propitious occasion arose. He had told her that heloved her—had he not done so, she would have known—he was content towait until she could decide what she wanted to do. At times the task washard not to tell her again and again of his love. Often as she sat byhis side and talked of inconsequential things, he would again be seizedby that consuming impulse to sweep away all her objections and demolishby the very violence of his love the obstacles that held him back frompossess[198]ing her. He foundhimself more and more filled with a wonderment that bordered on dismayas he tried to suppress this devastating longing with less success everytime this feeling came over him. He tried staying away from Jane. Atfirst he had seen her but once a week and that on Sunday evenings. Thenhe began dropping by to see her on Wednesdays. Of late his visits hadnumbered three and four a week. On those nights when he was away, he wasrestless and irritable. This became so noticeable that Mamie threatenedjokingly one night to go over and beg Jane to marry Kenneth or throw himdown hard or anything that would make him less like a bear around thehouse. She and Jane had become fast friends—which pleased Kenneth not alittle, as it meant that Jane would be more frequently in the house thanotherwise would have been the case.

As for Jane, in spite of herself, she found herself more and moreinterested in Kenneth and the things he was doing. She found herselfeagerly looking forward to the evenings when he called. She wondered ifshe were entirely honest in seeing so much of him.

Why didn’t Kenneth say something now? She felt rather annoyed at himfor being so considerate. With a woman’s prerogative of inconsistency,she resented his obeying so implicitly her demand that he wait until shehad made up her mind. Men were so silly—you told them to do a thing andthey went like fools and did it. Why didn’t he talk about something elsebesides his old co-operative societies [199] and the Ku Klux Klan and his old hospitaland what that old Judge Stevenson had said to him that day? Life is sucha funny thing.

But Kenneth went along his way, not even suspecting what was going onin Jane’s mind. He was like the majority of men—wise in their own mindsbut amazingly naïve and ignorant when they left the beaten paths ofeveryday affairs.

The end of the first week in September came. Bob had completed allarrangements to leave the following week for Cambridge, there to takehis entrance examinations, after studying for them all summer. Kennethhad written to an old friend there who had made the necessarynegotiations. Bob was an entirely new individual from the one he hadbeen when Kenneth had returned to Central City. His air of moodyresentment had been replaced by an eager earnestness to begin the coursehe had planned for himself. The bond had grown closer between him andKenneth, and many hours they spent together discussing and planning forthe years to come. Often the two brothers and Mamie, sometimes Mrs.Harper also, sat until far in the night talking of the future. If Mamiefelt saddened by the broader and more active life her brothers wereplanning which she, as a woman, was denied, it never showed on her faceor in her voice. She might have been married long before in fact, therehad been three or four men who wanted to marry her. None of them wouldshe have. Decent enough men they were. But she was unwilling to settledown to the humdrum life of [200] marriage with a man so far beneath her inintelligence, in ideals, in education. Being a normal, warmhearted humanbeing, naturally she often pictured to herself what marriage in CentralCity would be like. But, keenly sensitive and ambitious, she shrank frommarrying the type of men available, farmers, small merchants, and thelike—she shuddered when she visualized herself bearing children to sucha man to be brought up in a place like Central City. She yearned forlove and as steadfastly put it from her. There are thousands oftragedies—for tragedy it is—like Mamie’s in the South, and the worldknows it not. When Kenneth or Bob teased her about marrying, sheanswered him with a brave and all-concealing smile-all-concealing, thatis, to masculine eyes. Only her mother and Jane knew her secret, andtheir lips were sealed in the bond which women seldom, if ever, break.…

That night Jane looked better than Kenneth had ever seen her lookbefore. They seldom went out except for a short ride in his car. Forthere was no place to which they could go. Central City boasted oneplace of public amusement—the Idle Hour Moving Picture Palace. And tothat no Negro could go. Once they had admitted Negroes to the gallery.None of the better element ever went, as they had to go through a darkand foul-smelling alleyway to reach the entrance they had to use. Thetype of Negroes whose pride permitted them to go were so boisterous andlaughed so loud that even they were soon barred.

[201] As usual they sat onthe vine-covered porch where a breath of cool air was more likely to behad than in the parlour. That day he had had one of his more frequentlyrecurring spells when he felt that he could not keep his promise a daylonger to wait until Jane had made up her mind. At first he had thoughtof telephoning her and saying that he was ill or busy—any old excuse tostay away. But he wanted to see her too much for that patent evasion. Hewould go over to see her but would talk of nothing but business orco-operative societies. That’s it, he would keep in “safe” territory.But Jane had never looked more lovely than on that particular night.Kenneth’s heart jumped as he greeted her after she had kept him waitingjust the right length of time. He likened her instinctively to aflame-coloured flower of rare beauty. All of the suppressed passionsurged upward in him. He felt himself slipping. He turned away to gaincontrol of himself. Had he not done so, he would have seen the swiftlook of disappointment on her face at his restraint.

Keeping his eyes resolutely in front of him, he talked wearily andwearisomely of the meeting he had attended the night before, of howtroublesome and irritating Mrs.Amos had been that day with herrheumatism, of his having at last persuaded Mrs. Hiram Tucker to go toAtlanta to have the operation she had so many times postponed. Janeanswered him abstractedly and in monosyllables. At last she moved,almost with obvious meaning, to the canvas porch swing and there restedagainst the pillows piled [202] in one corner. And yet Kenneth talkeddrearily on and on and on. He spoke at length of a conversation he hadhad with Bob that morning—of how glad he was that Bob was going away toschool. Jane swung gently back and forth—and said nothing. Mr.Phillipscame out on the porch and offered Kenneth a cigar, which he accepted andlighted. Mr.Phillips sat down and talked garrulously while the two mensmoked. Jane felt that she could hardly keep from screaming. After whatseemed an hour, Mr.Phillips, his topics of conversation exhausted, andat a sign from Jane that was not to be disregarded, rose heavily andlumbered into the house again.

Kenneth threw away the stump of his cigar. It had suddenly occurredto him that Jane hadn’t said very much for the past hour. He rose togo.

Jane sat silent as though unmindful of his having risen. He lookedclosely at her. Tears of he knew not what stood in her eyes. He droppedto the seat beside her, wondering what he had done to hurt her so.“Jane, what’s the matter?” he asked in a troubled voice. “What have Idone?” She looked at him. … He didn’t know what happened next. Suddenlyhe found her in his arms. He strained her to him with all the passion hehad been restraining for the months that seemed like years. He kissedher hair. He mumbled incoherently, yet with perfect understanding, toJane, tender endearments. At length she raised her face from where ithad been buried on his chest, gazed straight into his eyes. [203] Their lips met in a long,clinging, rapturous kiss. …

“How long have you known?” he asked her. Men are such idiots—they arenever satisfied to take what comes to them—they must ask silly andnonsensical questions.

She told him. Of her long struggle, of her decision, of her annoyanceat his blindness. They talked eagerly until long past the hour of ten.He heard Mr.Phillips moving chairs and dropping his shoes—obvious hintsthat the time to go had long since passed. They paid no attention tothese danger signals but laughed softly to themselves.

Everything must end eventually. Kenneth walked homewards through thesoft light of the September moon. Amusedly, the phrase “walking on air”occurred to him. He laughed aloud. “Walking on air” was as the rheumaticstumping along of old Mrs.Amos compared to the way he felt. …



Itwas the next night. In the gully on the road leading from that one outof Central City which went northward, there was being held a hastilycalled meeting of Central City Klan, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Realmof Georgia. Before, there had been three hundred robed figures.To-night, three months later, the popularity of organized intolerancewas attested to by the presence of fully five hundred. What had happenedto Nancy Ware had acted as a powerful incentive to the recruiting of newconverts. It was mighty fine to have a strong and powerful organizationto shut mouths of those who talked too much about the night-time deedsof loyal Klansmen. And, by gum, if you’re doing anything you don’t wantknown or stopped, you’d better be on the inside.

A figure whose arms waved excitedly as he talked was haranguing thecrowd, which paid close attention to him. Had Tom Tracy been there, hewould certainly have recognized the voice of the speaker. Ed Stewart’swife, had she been there, would also have recognized it and dragged thespeaker home by force had he resisted.

“White civilization in the South is tottering on its [205] throne!” he shouted. “We whohold in our hands the future of civilization have been asleep! While wehave gone about our ways, the damn niggers are plottin’ to kill us allin our beds! Right now they’re bringing into our fair city great passelsof guns and ammunition marked ‘sewin’ m’chines’ and ‘ploughs’! They’remeetin’ ev’ry night in these nigger churches all over the county andthey’re plottin’ an’ plannin’ to kill ev’ry white man, woman an’ chilein this county and take the lan’ for themselves! They’re led by a damnnigger doctor right here in Central City named Harper! I know it’s so,‘cause another nigger doctor named Williams tol’ me yestiddy mornin’ allabout it and said that this nigger Harper was leadin’ this vile plot!He’s been goin’ all over the county stirrin’ up the damn niggers andincitin’ them to murder all of us! What’re you men goin’ to do?” hechallenged in a voice that shrilled in pretended rage and terror.

A deep-throated roar answered him. Cries of “Kill the bastards!”“Lynch ’em!” “Kill every black bastard befo’ mornin!” It was theage-long voice of the mob bent on murder—the pack in full cry. But itwas more than the voice of the mob of the Roman Colosseum, for thatancient cry was one of pleasure at the death of a single Christian. Thiswas the shout of those intent on a wild, murderous rampage that sparedneither man, woman, nor child.


A voice like that of a bull roared until the tumult had subsided. Itwas the Exalted Cyclops of the [206] Central City Klan. He stood in silenceuntil the group of hooded figures was still.

“The noble order of the Ku Klux Klan don’t handle situations such asthis like a mob!” The figures stood expectantly, eagerly waiting to hearwhat would come next.

“We have listened to the story told by our fellow Klansmen. Hol’yo’se’ves ready for the call of the Invisible Empire at any minute. Wehave planned the way to en’ this dastardly plot and to punish thoseresponsible with death!”

“That’s right! Kill ‘em! Lynch ’em! Burn th’ bastards!” shouted thecrowd.

“That’ll be done till ev’ry one is killed!” promised the ExaltedCyclops. “But it can’t be done so’s it can be laid to our noble order!Already our enemies are charging us with crimes! The Fed’ral Gov’nmentwill be down on our heads!”

There were cries of “Damn the Gov’nment!” from some of the morehot-headed. But calmer judgment prevailed. Something was to be done, butwhat that ominous “something” might be, was not revealed. Each man wasto be ready for instantaneous duty upon call of the Klan. Immediateaction was not wise, for the Klan investigators had not completed theirwork. Action must wait until that had been done, for it was essentialthat not one of the plotters should escape.

This last point was emphasized. At last the crowd became more calmwith the determination to postpone its vengeance until it was certain ofbeing complete. [207] It thendispersed its several ways, dissolving into separate groups that talkedexcitedly of the astounding and terrifying news, the need of promptaction, the great luck the white folks had had in discovering the plotso soon, violent denunciation of the Negroes in the plot.

In one of the groups the conversation was different. One of the groupwas the Exalted Cyclops, in private life Sheriff Bob Parker; another wasthe Kligrapp, otherwise Henry Lane, Commissioner of Health; the thirdwas the speaker who had revealed the plot, Ed Stewart, Tom Tracy’slandlord.

Sheriff Parker chuckled softly. “Well, Ed, looks like somethin’ isabout to break loose, eh?” he observed.

“Yep, I reck’n you’re right. Them damn niggers’ve got a hell of anerve! Formin’ sassieties to ‘stop robbin’ share-croppers’! When we getthrough with ’em, they’ll be formin’ coal-shov’lin’ sassieties in hell!”The other two joined in the laugh at his grim joke. “We’ll put in th’papers they was formin’ to kill white folks and they’ll never know butwhat that ain’t true.”

Parker laughed again. Waving his hand at the departing Klansmen,there came to his face a cynical sneer. “An’ them damn fools reallythink they’re sho’ly goin’ to be murdered by the damn niggers!”

In another section of Central City there was being enacted at thesame time another scene of poignant drama that threatened to translateitself into tragedy. [208]The place was a darkened bedroom in the home of Roy Ewing on GeorgiaAvenue, and the actors in it were four in number. Roy Ewing, owner andmanager of the Ewing General Merchandise Store, whom Kenneth had seenbut little since Ewing had discontinued his nocturnal visits toKenneth’s office, was one of the actors. His wife, whose face still boreevidences of a youthful beauty that was fast fading, was a second. Athird was old Dr.Bennett, who sat by the bed, his hair dishevelled, hisface lined with perplexity and anxiety, as he apprehensively watched thefourth actor in the drama, a girl of nineteen who was restlessly tossingin pain on the bed. Row Ewing stood at the foot of the bed. His wife saton the other side uttering little snatches of phrases of soothingsympathy which her daughter did not hear.

Dr.Bennett was plainly worried and at a loss what to do to relievethe torture Ewing’s daughter was so clearly experiencing. He turned toEwing. “Roy, to tell you the truth, it don’t seem like I can find outwhat’s the matter with Mary. When she had that first attack, I thoughtshe had appendicitis, but she ain’t got no fever to speak of, so itcan’t be her appendix that’s botherin’ her. Looks like t’ me she’s gotsome sort of bleedin’ inside, but I can’t tell.”

Ewing and his wife looked anxiously first at their daughter, theninterrogatively and pleadingly at the old physician as he watched thesufferer in her con[209]tortions of pain and agony. Mary, marriedtwo months and her husband working in Atlanta, had lived with herparents after a short honeymoon. She had her mother’s beauty—that is,the delicate, patrician, statuesque charm that had been her mother’swhen Roy Ewing had courted and won her two decades ago in Charleston,South Carolina. It was not the harsh-lined, blonde beauty of Georgia butthe fragile old-world, French loveliness of that spot in South Carolinawhere French tradition and customs and features had not yet beenbarbarized by the infusion of that Anglo-Saxon blood which is the boastof the South. She lay there, a pitiful sight. Her face was pale, coveredwith cold, clammy perspiration; all blood had fled from it. She breathedwith great difficulty in short and laboured respiratory efforts. Herpulse was failing, very rapid and thready; at times it was barelyperceptible. She had been seized with the attack around seven o’clock,when she began vomiting. Now she appeared to be so weakened with thepain she had endured that a state of coma was obviously fastapproaching. At least it seemed so. Dr.Bennett tried to revive her, butwith little success. The absence of fever puzzled him. He feared aninternal hæmorrhage—all signs pointed to such a condition—yet he did notknow. Roy Ewing and his wife were among his closest friends. He wouldhave tried an operation had they not been. That he feared to risk withtheir daughter. Yet, what could he do? Mary was obviously so weak that[210] he knew she could notbe moved to Atlanta, three hundred miles away. Nor would a physician beable to get to Central City in time to operate.

“I’m puzzled, Roy, mighty puzzled,” he said, turning to Ewing. “Imight as well tell you the truth. Looks like t’ me she c’n hardly lasttill mornin’.” It was gall and wormwood for him to admit his impotency,but he did it.

“Dr.Bennett, you’ve got to do somethin’! You’ve got to! You’ve gotto!”

It was Mrs.Ewing who cried out in her agony—the piteous cry of amother who sees her first-born dying before her eyes. Her face was asblanched as Mary’s—every drop of blood seemed to have been drained fromit. She looked pleadingly at him, chill terror gripping her heart as sherealized from his words that her Mary, who had been so happy and wellthat morning, was about to die.

“If you—all wasn’t such good friends of mine, I’d try it anyhow,”Dr.Bennett answered her, his voice as agonized as hers. “But I’mskeered to op’rate or do anythin’ that might hasten her on.”

Ewing walked over to the doctor, grasped the older man’s shoulders sofiercely that he winced in pain.

“By God,” he shouted at Dr.Bennett, “you’ve got to operate! I can’tsee my little Mary die right here befo’ my eyes! Go ahead and do whatyou think best. It’ll be better’n seein’ her die while we stand heredoin’ nothin’!”.

“Roy,” Dr.Bennett groaned, “you know there ain’t anythin’ I wouldn’tdo for you—’cept this.” [211]He waved his hand vaguely towards the bed. As he did so, he looked withkeen appraisement at Ewing in the dim light. He seemed to be debating inhis mind whether or not he dared take a very long chance. If the chancewould not be more disastrous. If Mary’s life might not be better lostthan that! Ewing almost stopped breathing as he saw the momentaryindecision in the physician’s face. Mrs.Ewing saw none of this by-play,for she had sunk down on the bed, where her body was shaken with thesobs she could not restrain.

“There’s jus’ one chance t’ save her,” Dr.Bennett hesitatinglybegan. Ewing leaned forward in his eagerness.

“There’s jus’ this one hope,” Dr.Bennett repeated, “but I don’t knowif you’d be willin’ to take that chance.”

“I don’t give a damn what it is!” Ewing shouted in his anxiety. “I’lltake it! What is it, Doc? I don’t care what it costs! What is it?” Hequivered as with a chill in his excitement—the excitement of thedrowning man who sees a possible rescuer as he is about to go down forthe third time. Mrs.Ewing had stopped crying—she seemed as though shehad forgotten to breathe. They both waited eagerly for the older man tospeak. At last he did. He paused after each word.

“Th’only—man—I know—near enough—to op’rate—intime—is—a—nigger-doctor—here—named—Harper!”

“Oh, my God!” groaned Ewing as he sank to his [212] knees beside the bed and buried his face inhis hands. “A nigger—seein’ my Mary—operatin’ on her—Good God! I’drather see her dead than have a nigger put his hands on her! No! No!No!” He fairly screamed the last in his fury.

“I didn’t think you’d do it,” said Dr.Bennett miserably. “I jus’felt I oughter tell you. He’s jus’ out of school—studied in one of thebes’ schools up No’th—and in France. He might save Mary—but I can’tblame you none for not havin’ him.”

While he was speaking, Ewing jumped to his feet and paced up and downthe room like a caged and wounded tiger. On the one hand was the life ofhis daughter—on the other his inherent, acquired, environmentalprejudice. None but those who know intimately the depth and passion ofthat prejudice as it flourishes in the South can know what torture whata hell—what agony Ewing was going through. Prejudice under almost anycircumstances is hard enough to bear—in Ewing’s case his very soul wastormented at such an unheard-of thing as a Negro operating on hisdaughter.


He turned abruptly at the sound of his wife’s voice, having forgottenfor the time everything—wife, surroundings, all—as he struggled with theproblem he faced.

“Roy!” Her voice was weak because of the ordeal through which she waspassing. She ran to him, seizing his arm and looking up at himpleadingly.

[213] “Roy! I can’t seeour Mary die! I can’t let her die!”

“Would you have a nigger see her naked?” he demanded of her fiercely.“Would you? Would you?”

Her head went back sharply at the roughness of his tone. In her eyesflashed that brilliant, burning look of mother love that submits to nodangers, no obstacles.

“I’d do anything to save her!” she cried.

“No, no, Mary,” Ewing pleaded, “we can’t do that! We can’t!”

She did not hear him. Brushing past him, she caught Dr.Bennett bythe arm as he rose to his feet. “Get that doctor here quick!” shedemanded of him. …

When Dr.Bennett telephoned him to come to Roy Ewing’s home asquickly as he could, Kenneth was somewhat puzzled. He went at once,deciding that one of the servants was sick. When told that it was MaryEwing he was to treat, he could not conceal his amazement. He followedRoy Ewing and the doctor to her room, the while he was trying to makehimself realize that he, Kenneth Harper, a Negro doctor, had been calledto treat a white person—a white woman—in the South. Reaching thebedside, though, he put aside his bewilderment and began at once thediagnosis to discover what the trouble was. He listened without speakingto Dr.Bennett as the old man told him the symptoms Mary had shown andwhat [214] he thought was thematter. Ewing was sent from the room. Kenneth rapidly examined thepatient—and decided that she was having severe internal hæmorrhages. Itlooked like an acute and dangerous case.

Immediate operation seemed the only hope. And even that hope was aslim one. He informed Dr. Bennett of his diagnosis.

Ewing was summoned. Briefly Kenneth told him his theory of thetrouble—that the only hope was immediate operation. Ewing faltered,hesitated, seemed about to refuse to allow it. At that moment a loudscream of pain was wrung from Mary’s lips. He winced as though he hadbeen struck. He shrugged his shoulders in assent to the operation. …

Kenneth telephoned Mrs.Johnson, the nurse who had helped him before,to be ready to go with him for an operation in ten minutes. He droverapidly home, secured his instruments, ether, sterilizer, gown and otherequipment, bundled them into his car, called for Mrs.Johnson,explaining briefly to her the nature of the case as he drove as rapidlyas he could to the Ewing home.

Mary was carried downstairs and placed on the dining-room table.Dr.Bennett agreed to give the anæsthesic. Kenneth went rapidly, yetsurely, to work. In his element now, he forgot time, place, the unusualcircumstances, and everything else. Swiftly he began the delicate andperilous task as soon as Dr. Bennett had sufficiently etherized thepatient. Yet, even in the stress of the moment, he could not [215] keep down the ironicalthoughts that crept to his brain in spite of all efforts to bar them.The South’s a funny place, he mused. Must have been a mighty hard thingfor old Bennett to have to admit that he, a Negro, knew more aboutoperating in a case like this than he did himself. Roy Ewing must havehad a bad half-hour deciding whether or not he’d let a Negro do theoperation on his daughter. Hope nothing goes wrong—if it does, might aswell pick out some other town to go to. Oh, well, won’t let that worryme. Have to make the best of it—save her if possible.

Weakened by the severe hæmorrhages she had been having, Mary was in acondition of extreme shock. The least slip, Kenneth realized, andnothing could save her. Her face wan and drawn, Mary’s life hungprecariously in the balance—the odds were all against her while the grimspectre of death crept slowly but surely upon her.

Beads of perspiration stood upon Kenneth’s brow as he fought for herlife. Though he could not have done the operation himself, Dr.Bennettsensed the gravity of the situation. The older man leaned forward in hisanxiety—hardly daring to breathe for fear of interrupting the deft, suretouch of the operator. Ten—fifteen—twenty—thirty—forty—fifty minutescrept by on lagging feet—to the two doctors and the nurse each minuteseemed an hour.

Despite all his efforts, Kenneth knew Mary was rapidly sinking. Theloss of blood and strength, the severity of the shock, the enervatingspasms of [216] pain she hadsuffered, had sapped her strength until all resistive power was gone.Kenneth knew that Dr.Bennett knew this too—even in the desperatestruggle he wondered what the other would say and do—if the girl died.He tried to shake off the fear that seized him—fear of what would happenif it became known among the whites that Mary Ewing had died while aNegro was operating on her. No mortal could have done more. Even werethat known and admitted, it would not save him, Kenneth knew.

The tense situation became too much for him. When he should have beensteadiest, the double strain on his nerves caused his hand to slip.Blood spurted forth. Kenneth feverishly caught the bleeding artery witha hæmostatic and sought to repair the damage he had done.

“Tough luck,” muttered Dr.Bennett. Kenneth looked up at him. Theolder man grunted and smiled encouragingly. A burden seemed lifted fromKenneth’s shoulders. Mrs.Johnson wiped the perspiration that streamedfrom Kenneth’s face. She seemed endowed with a sixth sense that told herhis needs almost before he was aware of them himself.

It was a strange sight. Anywhere in America. In Georgia it wasamazing beyond belief. A white woman patient. A white anæsthetizer. Ablack nurse. A black surgeon. …

All things must come to an end. Kenneth rapidly sewed up theincision. He bandaged the wound tightly. She yet breathed.

Kenneth opened the door and admitted Ewing, who [217] had paced the hall since the operationbegan. Every minute of the hour he had been there, he had had to fighthard to keep himself from bursting into the room and stopping theoperation. He had been restrained by the positiveness with which he hadbeen ejected from the room by Kenneth—there was something in thephysician’s air that had warned him without words that he must notinterfere. Something within him told him Kenneth was right—knew what hewas doing. The colour and race of the surgeon had been almost forgottenin the strange circumstances. “Will she live?” he asked, his wordswhispered in so hoarse a tone they could hardly be heard.

“I don’t know—it’ll be forty-eight hours before we can tell—if shelives that long,” answered Kenneth. The strain had been greater than hehad known. Kenneth felt a strange weakening—lassitude gripped hisbody—he felt a nausea that came with the reaction after the mentalordeal. Ewing stood by the table on which lay his child. Tears which heforgot to wipe away stood in his eyes as he watched her labouredbreathing. Dr.Bennett put his hand on Ewing’s shoulder.

“He did all he could!” he declared, nodding at Kenneth. There wasadmiration in the old doctor’s voice.

Ewing rushed off to give the news to his wife. …

The three men carried the unconscious form to her room. With a short“Good night” to Dr.Bennett, Kenneth left the house with Mrs.Johnsonand drove away. …

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The following day Kenneth was kept busyarranging his affairs in order to leave the following morning forAtlanta for the operation on Mrs.Tucker. It had been a most difficulttask for him to persuade her to have it done. He had been at lastsuccessful when he made her realize that it would mean either theoperation or death. She dreaded the trip to Atlanta but Kenneth refusedto perform the operation except at a hospital and there was none nearerthan Atlanta at which a Negro could operate.

During the day he had been kept so busy that he had not had time togo out of the coloured section except once, and that when in the lateafternoon he drove through Lee Street to see how Mary Ewing was faring.He had been so busy with his own thoughts that he had paid littleattention to the whites who were standing around on the streets. He didnot see the threatening and hostile looks they gave nor did he noticethe excited whispering and muttering when he came into their sight.

Ed Stewart had partly told the truth at the meeting of the Klan whenhe said that Dr.Williams had informed him of the organization Kennethand the others were forming. Kenneth had seen little of the [219] pompous and intensely jealousphysician since the time when he had forced Dr.Williams to assist himin the appendicitis operation on Mrs.Emma Bradley. Kenneth had feltnothing but an amused contempt for his fellow-practitioner, for he knewthat Dr.Williams covered his deficiencies in medical knowledge andskill with the bombastic and self-important air he affected.

Dr.Williams, on the other hand, had never forgiven Kenneth for theincident in which Kenneth had shown him up in a manner that injured theformer’s pride far more than Kenneth had suspected. Dr. Williams feltthat the younger man had deliberately and with malice aforethoughtoffered a gratuitous insult to him as dean of the coloured medicalprofession of Central City, though that profession numbered but twomembers. Kenneth’s success as a physician in Central City, having takenas he had some of the best of Dr.Williams’ own patients whom he hadconsidered peculiarly his own, the insult plus Kenneth’s success hadrankled in his breast until, being of a petty and mean disposition, hehated the younger man with a deep and vindictive hatred.

He had not, however, intended that his conversation with Ed Stewartshould assume the proportions that it eventually did. On the day beforethe meeting of the Klan at which Kenneth had been named as the oneresponsible for the organization of the Negroes, Dr.Williams had met EdStewart driving out along a country road near Ashland. Williams wasreturning from making a professional call in that [220] neighbourhood. Stewart, a big, raw-boned,and lanky “Cracker” or “Peck,” as they are called by Negroes in theSouth, was going to inspect the cotton crops of his tenant-farmers, thathe might estimate how big the crops would be and might know accordinglyhow large the tenants’ bills should be for supplies furnished.

They had stopped to pass the time of day and for Stewart to findwhich of the Negroes on his place was sick. He wanted to know if thatsick one was too sick to work the crop, as the loss of even one workerduring cotton-picking time was serious, what with the number of Negroeswho had gone North. Having gained the information, he started toquestion Dr. Williams in a way that he thought was exceedingly adroitand clever, but through which ruse the coloured doctor saw instantly andclearly.

“Say, Doc, you know anything ‘bout these niggers ’round here holdin’these meetin’s nearly ev’ry night? Seems t’ me it’s mighty late for themto be holdin’ revival services and indo’ camp-meetin’s?” he queried inas casual a tone as he could manage.

An idea sprang full-grown to Williams’ mind. Kenneth Harper wasgetting far too popular through the organization of his co-operativesocieties. Williams was shrewd enough to see that if they were assuccessful as they gave promise of being, Kenneth would be the leadingNegro of the town, if not of that entire section of Georgia. Andcorrespondingly he, Williams, would become less and less the prominentfigure he had been before Kenneth had come [221] back from France to Central City. That wasit! Stewart was one of the biggest planters in Smith County. It was alsorumoured he was prominent in the Ku Klux Klan. Stewart’s fortunes wouldbe the hardest hit in the county if Kenneth’s societies achieved theirpurpose, for he, Stewart, had as many share-croppers and tenant-farmersas any other man in the county if not more. Stewart also had thereputation, a long-standing one, of being the hardest taskmaster on hisNegro tenants in the county—the one who profited most through juggledaccounts and fraudulent dealings. He could have cut, had he chosen, fivenotches in the handle of his gun, each one signifying a Negro who haddared to dispute the justness of settlements for crops raised.

All these thoughts raced through Williams’ brain while Stewart waitedfor a reply to his questions. Williams had no intention of theexaggeration of his statements which Stewart later made. He merelyintended that by telling Stewart of the societies, Kenneth’s rapidlyincreasing prominence in the community should receive a check throughobstacles which Stewart and his fellow-landlords might put—in fact, weresure to put—in the way of success of the farmers’ organizations.

“No, sir, they ain’t holdin’ revivals, Mr.Stewart. I reckon if youwhite folks knew what was goin’ on, you wouldn’t feel socomfortable.”

Williams was playing with Stewart as is done so often by Negroes inthe South with the whites, though the latter, in their supremeconfidence that they be[222]long to an eternally ordained “superiorrace,” seldom realize how often and how easily they are taken in byNegroes. Williams enjoyed the look of concern that had come to Stewart’sface at his words.

“What’s goin’ on, Doc?” he asked in an eager tone, from which hetried with but little success to keep the anxiety that he felt.

“Heh, heh, heh!” laughed Williams in a throaty chuckle. “TheseNegroes are figurin’ on takin’ some of these landlords to court that’sbeen cheatin’ them on their crops. Of course,” he added hastily, “thatdon’t need to worry you none, Mr.Stewart, but from what I hear, thereare some ’round here that the news will worry.”

Stewart flushed, for he was conscious of a vague feeling thatWilliams might have been indirectly hitting at him when he had said thatthe court proceedings wouldn’t affect him. He fell back on the oldcustom of flattering and praising fulsomely the Negro from whom a whiteman wants information regarding the activities of other Negroes.Williams, like every other Negro in the South, knew what value to put onit, but he was playing a far deeper game than Stewart suspected.

“Doc, why ain’t all these niggers good, sensible ones like you? Ifall the niggers in the South were like you, there never would be anytrouble.”

“That’s right, Mr.Stewart, that’s right. As I was sayin’ to some ofthe folks out your way this mornin’, they’d better stop followin’ afterthe fool ideas of these coloured men who’ve been up No’th.”

[223] He looked at Stewartshrewdly and appraisingly to see if he had penetrated the subtlety ofhis remark. Stewart, slow of thought, had not fully done so, it seemed.Williams continued:

“You see, it’s like this, Mr.Stewart. Folks like you and me couldlive here for a hundred years and there’d never be no trouble. There’dnever be no race problem if they was only like us. But”—and his voicetook on a doubtful and sorrowful sound—“the most of this trouble we’rehavin’ is caused by fool Negroes who go up No’th to school and runaround with those coloured folks in New York and Chicago who tell ‘emhow bad we po’ coloured folks are bein’ treated in the South. They getall filled up with ‘social equality’ ideas, and then they come back downhere and talk that stuff to these ignorant Negroes and get them allstirred up⸺”

Stewart was seeing more clearly what Williams was driving at.

“I see,” he said reflectively. “I alw’ys said too much educationsp’iled niggers—that is, some niggers,” he added hastily for fearWilliams might take offence before he had done with him. “Co’se it don’tbother sensible ones like you, Doc.” The last was said conciliatingly.“Let’s see, mos’ this trouble’s stahted since that other doctor’s beenback, ain’t it?” he asked as casually as he could.

“I ain’t sayin’ who’s doin’ it,” replied Williams as he started theengine of his car. “But you’re a good guesser, Mr.Stewart,” he threwback over his shoulder as he drove away. …

[224] Stewart clucked tohis horse and rode in deep thought down the road. His mind was busydevising schemes to circumvent the action of the societies to take intocourt men like himself who had been robbing Negroes. They’d lose in thelocal courts, he knew, but suppose they raised enough money to take acase to the United States Supreme Court. No, that would never do! He’dsee Parker and talk it over with him right away! He put the whip to hishorse and drove rapidly into town. Mustn’t let the damn niggersorganize, that would be hell! …

Kenneth was going about his business on the day following the meetingof the Klan that had been caused by Dr.Williams’ talk with Stewart, inblissful ignorance of the storm rapidly gathering about his head. Hismind was intent on a number of things—but trouble on account of theco-operative societies was furthest from his mind. Had he been toldthere was any trouble, such news would probably have been greeted with alaugh of unconcern. All the white people of the South weren’t scoundrelsand thieves like Stewart and Taylor and their kind! They were but a few.Besides the poor whites, the majority of whites would undoubtedlyheartily approve his plan when it had been developed to the point whereit could be made public.

But Kenneth thought of none of those things. His mind was too full ofother events that loomed on the horizon. First, of course, he thought ofJane. He thought of his great good fortune in knowing a girl like her.There was a girl for you! He thought of [225] the home he would build for her—he wasmighty glad his father had been in fairly comfortable circumstances andthat he had been successful in his practice. He would be able to build amighty nice home for Jane. They wouldn’t bother with the cheap andflashy furniture, fumed oak or mission, to be obtained in Central City.Oh, no! Soon’s Mrs.Phillips was better, the three of them would go toAtlanta and buy everything they needed there. They’d have thebest-looking home in Central City, white or coloured! His mother andMamie wanted him to bring Jane into the house. He might do that … butthe house which had seemed so comfortable before, now seemed tooordinary to bring a girl like Jane to. … He’d talk that over with herto-night. … And then after a time there might be a little Jane … and aKenneth, Jr.… Kenneth laughed softly to himself as he saw Jane andhimself sitting by the fire of an evening with two little rascalsplaying on the floor. … And later they’d go off to school. He’d see thatthey got the best there was in life. … So his thoughts ran.

And then he thought of Roy Ewing and the operation of the nightbefore. Must have been a mighty terrible ordeal for them to have to calla Negro in to operate on their daughter. Race prejudice is a funnything! A white man will eat food prepared by black hands, have it servedby black hands, have his children nursed by a black nurse who most ofthe time was more a mother to them than their own mother, let hisclothes be taken into a black home to [226] be washed, allow all the most intimatedetails of his life to be handled by black folks. … Even lots of themwould consort with black women at night to whom they wouldn’t raisetheir hats in the daytime. … But when it came to recognizing a Negrooutside of menial service, then there came the rub. … Yet in a matter oflife and death like Ewing’s case, they forgot prejudice. … Maybe in timethe race problem would be solved just like that … when some great eventwould wipe away the artificial lines … as in France. … He thought of theterrible days and nights in the Argonne. … He remembered the night hehad seen a wounded black soldier and a wounded white Southern one, drinkfrom the same canteen. … They didn’t think about colour in those times.… Wouldn’t the South be a happy place if this vile prejudice didn’texist? … He wondered why folks didn’t see it as clearly as he did. …

At last the long, busy day ended. He went over to have supper withJane. That dress she had on the night they had told each other of theirlove, that reddish-coloured one, that had been a beauty. Butto-night—ah, the other one wasn’t nearly so pretty! It was of white,simply made. Satin slippers, silk stockings, also of white. Her hairpiled high and pierced with a large tortoise-shell comb. Always shebrought pictures to Kenneth’s mind. To-night it was again of thedark-eyed, seductive Spanish señorita on a balcony. After supper, theysat in the canvas porch swing. They talked of their plans—im[227]petuously,enthusiastically—with all the glorious dreams of youthful love. All thelittle things—little, but so great when one is young and in love theysaid to each other. The things they said when the Pyramids were beingbuilt. The things they will say a thousand years from now.

To-night there were no warning signals from Mr. Phillips when teno’clock came. He had been glad, and had said so, when Kenneth asked himfor Jane. “We don’t feel we’re losing a daughter—we’re gaining a soninstead!” he had said.

They talked on until there was no other sign of life discernible inthe neighbourhood, save for the passage of a prowling cat, or the soundof the crickets in the grass. At last he had to go. Early the nextmorning he was to leave for Atlanta with Mrs. Tucker. Three days he wasto be gone. He would return on Friday.

In October they were to be married. Mrs.Phillips’ health was notimproving as they had hoped. She was cheerful but she wanted Jane to behappily married before she died. They had decided to live at his housewith his mother and Mamie. They’d refurnish it and do over all therooms. Later on, when he had made lots of money, they’d build.

Mamie and Jane and Kenneth were to go to Atlanta the latter part ofSeptember, there to buy the furniture and all the other things, theywould need. Mrs. Phillips was too ill to stand the strain of the longjourney and the excitement of the shopping.

Jane tiptoed into the house so as not to wake her [228]mother. She returned in a few minutes with afluffy white mass in her arms. It was her wedding-gown which she was tomake herself. They sat silent for a minute at the token of what itmeant.

Tears stood in Jane’s eyes when he went down the stairs. He saw themwhen he looked back to say the last soft good-bye.

“Three days is an awful long time,” she said plaintively.

Of course, there was nothing else for him to do but go back up thesteps and kiss her good-bye all over again. …



Bob was packing for his journey to Cambridge,whistling cheerfully the while. It was certainly great to be going awayup to Boston to school. All his life he had wanted to live there for awhile where he could learn the things which he knew of only at secondhand now. He pictured in his mind how he would arrange his life atschool. There’d be none of the kiddish pranks he had read about thatcollege boys did. He was too old for that. He had seen too much of theseamy and sordid side of life to waste his time playing. He’d studyevery minute he could. He’d make a record in scholarship that would makehis mother and Mamie and Kenneth proud of him. He’d go to summer schoolso as to finish the rest of his college course in two years instead ofthree. And then, law school. By jiminy, he’d be the best lawyer therewas! Not the best coloured lawyer. The best lawyer! Never did youth havemore brilliant dreams of life than Bob. He paused at the sound whichcame from downstairs through the half-opened door. It couldn’t be inKen’s office, for he had gone to Atlanta with Mrs. Tucker that morning.It sounded like crying—as one would cry who had suffered some greatbereave[230]ment or terriblemisfortune. He went out in the hall and leaned over the balustrade, thebetter to find out what was the matter.

It was Mamie and his mother. He looked puzzled, for he could think ofnothing to make Mamie cry that way. His mother was trying to soothe andcalm her as Mamie told her the cause of her weeping. Bob crept down thestairs as softly as he could to hear.

Mamie between sobs was telling her mother of some accident that hadbefallen her.

“I had been—to Ewing’s Store and that Jim Archer—and CharleyAllen—and two or three other white boys—that hang around Ewing’sStore—said nasty things to me when I came out—I hurried home they musthave followed me.”

Here she broke down again while her mother crooned softly to her,pleading with her not to cry so hard. Mamie choked back her sobs andwent on. Bob’s face became terrible to see. He hung there on the stepsalmost breathless, waiting, and dreading what he felt was coming.

“At that old field-near the railroad—they jumped out—and grabbed meoh, my God! My God! Why didn’t they kill me? Why didn’t they kill me?”Mamie’s screams were horrible to hear. “Then—oh, God! God help me!”

For a minute Bob stood there as one frozen to the spot. Then a blind,unreasoning fury filled him. He ran up the stairs to Kenneth’s room andgot the [231] revolver heknew Kenneth kept there. Without hat or coat he ran down the stairs. Outthe door and down the street. Mamie and her mother were roused by hisaction. Mamie, lying on the floor with her head in her mother’s lap, herclothes torn and bloody, her face and body bruised, struggled to herfeet. She ran to the open door through which Bob had disappeared. Aneven greater terror, if such was possible, was on her face.

“Bob! Bob! Come back! Come back!” she cried in ever louder cries.

“Bob! Bob!”

But Bob was too far away to hear her.

In front of Ewing’s Store there sat a group of nine or ten men andboys. They were gathered around one who seemed to be relating a highlyinteresting and humorous story. Every few minutes there’d be a loudlaugh and a slapping of each other on the back. Suddenly, silence. Ahatless and coatless figure was running down the street toward them. Thegroup opened as its members started to scatter. In the middle of itthere stood Jim Archer and Charley Allen. The former had been tellingthe story.

Bob walked straight up to Jim Archer, whose face had turned evenpaler than its usual pasty colour. He turned to run but it was too late.Without saying a word, his eyes burning with a deadly hatred, Bob raisedthe revolver he had in his hand and fired once—twice—into Archer’sbreast. Charley Allen [232]rushed upon Bob to overpower him. He met head-on the two bullets thatcame to meet him, and fell gasping and coughing on the ground at Bob’sfeet.

The rest of the crowd had fled.

Without hurrying, Bob stepped into a Ford delivery truck that hadbeen left at the curb, its engine running. Before the crowd which withmiraculous suddenness filled the street could stop him, he drovestraight down Lee Street, turned into Oglethorpe Avenue, and headed forthe country beyond the town. …

Three miles out of town the Ford spluttered, coughed, shook mightily,and stopped. Its gasolene tank was empty. Shoving it into the underbrushon the side of the road, far enough to be out of sight, Bob ran on. Ifhe could only get across country as far as the railroad going North, hemight be able to get to Macon, where he could hide. When the excitementdied down, he could go on farther North. Perhaps he could eventuallyreach Canada. He fought his way through brushes, across vast fields ofcotton that seemed to have no end. Near midnight he could go no farther.He had eaten nothing since breakfast—he had been too excited over hispacking to eat any dinner. Bitterly he thought of the change a few hourshad brought forth. Twelve hours before, he had been eagerly planning toleave for school. Now, his sister ruined, he a murderer twiceover—fleeing for his life! He hoped that he had killed both of them! Itwould be too ironical a fate for them to live. … He thought for a moment[233] of what would happen ifthey caught him. He put the thought away from him. God, that was tooterrible! Mustn’t think of that! I’ll lose my nerve. …

What was that? Lord, he must have fallen asleep! What is that? Dogs?Bloodhounds! Great God!

I must get away! How did they get away from bloodhounds in books?That was it! Water!

He’d find a stream and wade in it. Then the damned dogs would losethe scent.

The thought of water reminded him suddenly that he wasthirsty—terribly thirsty. God, but his throat was dry! Felt like tenthousand hot needles were sticking in it!

His legs and thighs ached. He dragged them along like a paralysedman. He thought petulantly of a paralysed man he had seen once inAtlanta. What was his name? Bill? No, that wasn’t it. Jim? No, not thateither. Some sort of a name like that.

Wonder how Mamie was? Mamie? Who’s Mamie? What had happened to her?He racked his brain to remember. At last he gave it up. No use trying.Old—old—brain don’t work right.

Wonder what’s the matter with it?

His delirious brain was suddenly cleared by an ominous baying closeat hand. Those damned dogs again. They’d never take him alive! He feltin his pockets to see if the gun was still there. It was. He felt in theother pocket to count the cartridges there while he ran.One—two—three—four—five[234]—six—seven—eight! All there! Seven for themob! One—for—Bob!

An old barn suddenly loomed up before him in the rapidly approachinglight of dawn. He dragged himself into it and barred the door. Not muchprotection! But—a little! Just a little! Better’n none! He sat down onan old box by the door, There was a knot-hole farther over. He draggedthe box in front of it. Reloaded the revolver. One—two—three—fourcartridges! Two that hadn’t been used! That left six in the gun! Andfour more! Listen! The dogs sound like they’re near!

There they are! He wouldn’t waste his precious bullets on dogs! Oh,no! He’d save them for the human dogs! God damn ’em! He’d show ’em a“damned nigger” knew how to die! Like a man! Here they come! God, but itwas tough to have to die! Just when life seemed so sweet! Wonder who’dsit in his seat at Harvard! Hope a coloured boy’d get it! Harvard seemedso far away from where he was! Looked like it was as far’s the moon!Might as well be for him!

Look at ’em spreading out! Whyn’t they come up like men and get him?There’s Jim Archer’s brother! Bang! Got him! Look at ’im squirm!

That’s two Archers won’t run after coloured girls any more! Bang!Damn it, I missed ’im! Can’t waste ’em like that! Got to be morecareful! Must take better aim next time! Bang! Bang! Hell, I missedagain! Nope! Got one of ’em!

One—two—three—four gone! Six left! Five [235] for the “Crackers”! One for me! Bang!Bang!

Got another! Must reload! One—two—three four! Nearly all gone!Five—ten—fifteen minutes to live! Why did they pick on Mamie?

Whyn’t they take one of those girls that live in those houses onButler Street? That’s always running around after men? Why’d they bothera nice girl like Mamie?

Bang! Listen at ’im howl? That’s music for you! Listen to the damn“Peck” squalling!

What’s th’ matter? Looks like they’ve gone! Wonder if I can make arun for it? Th’ damn cowards! Fifty—one hundred—a thousand—fivethousand—to one! That’s the way “Crackers” always fight coloured folks!Never heard yet of one “Cracker” fighting one Negro! Have to havethousan’ to kill one little fellow like Bob Harper!

Smoke? Can’t be smoke! Yes, it is! Goin’ t’ burn me up! Bang! Bang!Got one of ’em!

My God! Only one bullet left! Never take him alive! Lynch him! Mightburn him! Burned coloured boy last month ’n Texas! Better not let ’emget him! Good-bye, everybody! Good-bye!

Good-bye! Good⸺ Bang …

It was some time after Bob had died before the posse dared enter thebarn which by this time was burning rapidly. They feared the cessationof firing was only a ruse to draw them into the open. At last, afterriddling the burning structure with bullets, a few of the more daringcautiously approached the barn, entered, and found Bob’s body. After thebul[236]let from his own gunhad entered his head, killing him instantly, his body had fallenbackwards from the box on which he had been sitting. His legs wereresting on the box, his thighs vertical, his body on the floor and hishead slightly tilted forward as it rested against a cow-stall. His armswere widespread. The empty revolver lay some ten feet away, where he hadflung it as he fell backwards. His face was peaceful. On it was asardonic smile as though he laughed in death at cheating the howlingpack of the satisfaction of killing him.

The mob dragged the body hastily into the open. The roof of the oldbarn was about to fall in. Before dragging it forth, they had taken nochances. A hundred shots were fired into the dead body. Partly in angerat being cheated of the joy of killing him themselves. They tied it tothe rear axle of a Ford. Howling, shouting gleefully, the voice of thepack after the kill, they drove rapidly back to town, the dead body,riddled and torn, bumping grotesquely over the holes in the road. …

Back to the public square. In the open space before the ConfederateMonument, wood and excelsior had been piled. Near by stood cans ofkerosene. On the crude pyre they threw the body. Saturated it and thewood with oil. A match applied. In the early morning sunlight the fireleaped higher and higher. Mingled with the flames and smoke the exultingcries of those who had done their duty—they had avenged and upheld whitecivilization. …

The flames died down. Women, tiny boys and [237] girls, old men and young stood by, astrange light on their faces. They sniffed eagerly the odour of burninghuman flesh which was becoming more and more faint.

… Into the dying flames darted a boy of twelve. Out he came, laughinghoarsely, triumphantly exhibiting a charred bone he had secured,blackened and crisp. … Another rushed in. … Another. … Another. … Here arib. … There an armbone. … A louder cry. … The skull. … Good boy!Johnny! … We’ll put that on the mantelpiece at home. … Five dollars forit, Johnny! … Nothin’ doin’! … Goin’ to keep it myself! …

The show ended. The crowd dispersed. Home to breakfast.



Three men sat around a table that evening in theoffice of Sheriff Parker in the court-house. The sheriff was one.Another was Commissioner Henry Lane. The third was Ed Stewart.

The latter was talking.

“Yep, after I talked to that nigger Williams, I rustled ‘round amongthe niggers on my place. At fust, they wouldn’t talk much. But I found away to make ’em! By God, a taste of a horse-whip’ll make any of ’em openup! Found they’s only two niggers we got to worry ’bout. One’s thisnigger doctor. The other’s my nigger Tom Tracy. She’ff, if you hear’ntell of an accident out to my place in the nex’ few days, you needn’tbother to come out to investigate. It’ll be se’f-defence. Tom Tracy’sgoin’t come up on me with an open knife. I’m goin’ t’ shoot t’ save mylife.”

The three laughed at the good joke. The sheriff agreed not to bother.“Good riddance!” he commented.

Stewart went on:

“Now ‘bout this other nigger. He’s the brains of the whole thing. Butwe’ve got to be mighty careful, ’cause these other niggers thinks hesome sort of a tin god. Ef they think he’s bumped off ’cause of theselodges he’s been organizing, they might raise [239] hell. Ev’ry nigger out my way would gothrough hell ’n’ high water for him. Never seen ‘em think so much ofanother nigger befo’. Mos’ the time they’ll come and tell me ev’rythin’that any them other niggers doin’. This nigger Harper’s got ‘em hoodooedor somethin’.”

The sheriff broke into Stewart’s monologue in a complaining,reminiscent fashion:

“Don’t know what’s gettin’ into the niggers nowadays. They ain’t likethey useter be. Take this nigger’s daddy, f’r example. Old man Harperwas as good a nigger’s I ever seen. If he met you on the street twentytimes a day, he’d take off his hat ’n’ bow almos’ to the groun’ ev’rytime. But these new niggers, I can’t make heads nor tails of ‘em. Takethat uppity nigger they burned this mornin’. Always goin’ ’round with aface on ’im like he’s swallowed a mess of crabapples. What if that JimArcher did have a little fun with the nigger’s sister? ’Twon’t hurt anigger wench none. Oughter be proud a white man wants her.”

His voice took on at the next remark a tone of pained and outragedsurprise.

“Nigger gals gettin’ so nowadays they think they’re’s good as whitewomen! And what ‘chu think that old fool Judge Stev’nson said t’ meto-day? Had the nerve t’ sayt’ me that he don’t blame that nigger Bobfor killin’ Jim Archer!”

He demanded of his companions in an almost ludicrous surprise:“What’s goin’t come of the South when white men like the judgesay such things? [240] Guesshe’s gettin’ so old he’s kind of weak in the head! I tol’ him he’dbetter not say that to nobody else. Somethin’ might happen tohim!

“Damn Judge Stevenson!” broke in Stewart, anxious to get a chance totell his story. “He alw’ys was a sort of ‘nigger-lover’ anyway!”

Henry Lane spoke for the first time.

“Reck’n the Gov’nor’d say anythin’ ‘bout this burnin’?” he asked in atone that anticipated the answer.

Parker laughed ironically.

“What kin he do?” he demanded. He answered his own question.“Nothin’! Under the laws of Georgy, he can’t even sen’ a man down hereto investigate unless he’s officially asked by citizens of th’ county!And who’s goin’ t’ ask him?” He laughed again. “If anybody’s fool enoughto ask him, they’ll be havin’ a visit paid ‘em one of these nights!Reck’n we don’t need to bother none ’bout the Gov’non meddlin’ in ouraffairs,” he ended assuredly.

“Le’s get back to this Harper nigger ’n’ quit all this foolin’’round,” Stewart demanded, irritably. “How’re we goin’ t’ settle him?”He added, after a pause: “Without stirrin’ up the niggers all over thecounty?”

“An’ they ain’t all we got to look out for,” added Sheriff Parker.“They’s some white folks ’round here who’ll kick up a stink if we ain’tcareful.” “Who’ll do that?” asked Stewart contemptuously. “JudgeStev’nson can’t do it all by hisse’f.” “Well, there’s him an old Bairdan’ Fred Gris[241]wold. An’then the one’s mos’ likely to raise the mos’ fuss is Roy Ewing. Hethinks a lot of that nigger lately for some reas’n.Ain’t been able t’figger it out as yet, but he sets a heap by him.” He scratched his headin an abstracted manner. “Tol me over t’ the sto’ yestiddy that thisHarper’s a fine type of nigger t’ have ‘round Central City ’n’ that weoughter encourage other niggers to be like him.”

“Another one gettin’ ol and weak-minded befo’ his time!” wasStewart’s comment. “But I want t’ know if we’re goin’ to sit here allnight talkin’ ‘bout things that’s goin’ t’ keep us from punishin’ thisnigger or if we’re goin’ to get down to business. Fust thing we know,we’ll be ‘lectin’ this nigger mayer the town!” His sarcasm was thinlyveiled, if veiled at all. Parker and Lane showed by the sudden flush ontheir faces that the shot had reached its mark.

“You don’t have to be so cantankerous ’bout it, Ed.” Parker showed inhis voice, as well as on his face, that he didn’t particularly care forStewart’s brand of irony. “You know we’re jus’ as anxious as you to getrid of him. But we got to be careful. You live out in the country ‘n’you don’t know the situation here in town like me ‘n’ Henry.”

He sat meditatively for a time. Stewart fidgeted in his chair, andHenry Lane sat lost in thought. Parker suddenly sat up eagerly.

“I got it!” he exclaimed. The others looked at him inquiringly.

“We’ll fix it so’s we can say that Harper insulted a whitewoman!”

[242] His companionslooked slightly disappointed and doubtful.

“How’re you goin’ t’ do that?” asked Lane. “This nigger, as fur’s Ican see, since he been back’s been stayin’ out where he b’longs in thenigger section. Only time he comes over this way’s when he comes to thebank or the sto’ or here to th’ court-house. That’s one thing I can sayin his fav’r! Bein’in France ain’t sp’iled him none so fur’s whitewomen’s concerned. If he ran around with them Frog women, he never triedany of it ’round here.”

“It ain’t necessary for him to bother with white women in CentralCity for us to put that on ’im,” Parker declared defensively. “Nearlyall white folks ev’n up No’th b’lieves that ev’ry time a nigger’slynched down this a way, its ’cause he’s raped a white woman.” Hismanner became triumphant. “Here’s how we’ll fix it.”

The three men, although they were alone in the dark court-house andthere was none to hear, drew their chairs together. Their heads wereclose for more than ten minutes, while they talked excitedly together.Occasionally there would be a low burst of laughter—again an oath. Atlast Stewart rose, took a paper-bound book from the desk, copied forsome time from it, and left the court-house.

The next morning each of fifteen “white, Protestant, Gentile”citizens of Central City received a letter. There was no writing of anysort on the envelope save their names and addresses. They were ofordinary quality such as can be purchased at five [243] cents a package in any cheap stationerystore. In it was a letter typed on plain paper, of a quality to matchthe cheapness of the envelope. There was no printing of any sort on theletter, nor was it addressed other than: “Dear Sir.” It read:


“You have been chosen, as one known to be loyal, brave, and discreet,to meet a situation affecting the welfare of the Nation, the State, andthe Community. You are hereby commanded to be present at the time andplace and date given on the enclosed card.

“Be wise! Be discreet! Discuss this with no one! Fail not!


There was a plain card enclosed, also of cheap and easily obtainedquality, on which was typed a date, time, and place. …

Mirabile dictu, each of the fifteen recipients of this crypticmissive was a Ku Klux Klansman. …



Mrs.Tucker was operated on at Atlanta on Thursday morning at theAuburn Infirmary, owned and conducted by a group of coloured physiciansof that city, as none of them could operate in the white hospitals.Kenneth keenly enjoyed being in a hospital again, with all itsconveniences. The operation finished and Mrs.Tucker resting easily, hepurchased, after much picking and choosing, Jane’s engagement ring—abeautiful, blue-white diamond solitaire.

That important task performed, he telephoned Dr. Scott, to whom JudgeStevenson had given him a letter of introduction. So engrossed had hebeen in the operation and the purchasing of the ring, he had almostforgotten the promise made to the judge to see and talk with Dr.Scott,known to be a liberal leader of Southern public opinion and one deeplyconcerned with the problem of race relations.

“That’s a mighty intelligent plan you’ve worked out,” Dr.Scottboomed over the wire. “I’d like to have you talk that over with me andone or two others here. Can you do it before going home?”

Kenneth told him he had to leave early next morning for Central City.As Dr.Scott had a meeting [245] that would keep him engaged all afternoon,it was decided that they should meet that evening at an office in abuilding downtown in the business section.

It was with a deal of eagerness—and with some degree of anxiety, forhe did not know how he would be received by Dr.Scott and theothers—that Kenneth set forth that evening for the meeting. He foundthree men awaiting him in the office of John Anthony, who was one of thethree. His footsteps echoed in ghostlike fashion as he walked down thehallway of the deserted building. From the open window there floatedfrom the street below the subdued clatter of automobiles, the cries ofnewsboys, the restless shuffling of the leisurely crowd as it moved upand down Peachtree Street. Kenneth sought to weigh the three, who were,he felt, representatives of that “new South” of which so much was heard,but signs of whose activities he had so seldom seen. He was seeking tofind out their motives, their plans of accomplishing that spirit of fairplay toward the Negro, to determine how far they would go towardschallenging the established order that was damning the Southintellectually, morally, economically. Kenneth, with too-high ideals forhis environment, was almost naïve in his eager search for the greatchampion he had dreamed of who would brave danger and contumely and evendeath itself for a newer and brighter day for his people in the South.That hope had been dulled somewhat by the things he had seen since hisreturn to Central City, for he was not of an unreflective mind. Yet hehad not seen far [246] enoughbeneath the surface of that volcano of passion and hate and greed whichis the South to realize that the South had never produced a martyr toany great moral cause one who had possessed sufficient courage tooppose, regardless of consequences, any one of the set, dogmatic beliefsof the South. True it was that there were some who had fought in theCivil War with firm belief that the South was right—even though it hadbeen shown that their idealism was a perverted one. But even then thesehad moved with the tide of sectional sentiment and not against it.

Educated in Southern schools where the text-books of history alwaysexalted the leaders of the Confederacy, raising Lee and Jackson andJohnston and Gordon to heights but little lower than the heroes ofGrecian mythology, and ever tending to disparage and revile the Unioncause and its leaders, Kenneth, like many coloured youths, had acceptedthe readymade and fallacious estimates set before him. It was,therefore, but natural that he set his hopes for stalwart, unafraidleadership too high and, at the same time, failed to realize that theSouth had never begotten an Abraham Lincoln, a Garrison, a Sumner, oreven a meteor-like John Brown, bursting into brilliance born ofindignation against stupidity or ignorance or wrong and dying gloriouslyfor that cause. Kenneth’s eyes had partially been opened by hismemorable talk with Judge Stevenson. Etched upon his mind by the acid ofbitter truths were the judge’s words that the boasted Anglo-Saxonism ofthe South [247] had curdledinto moral cowardice on all subjects by the repression incident to therace problem. Nevertheless Kenneth was too inexperienced as yet in theways of life to comprehend the full import of the older man’s cynicism.He yet sought him who would fulfil his ideal of a great leader who, likea latter-day Crusader, would guide white and black together out of theimpasse in which the South seemed to be. Kenneth thus anxiously examinedthe three before him to see if by chance any one of them bore theaccolade which would stamp him the Moses that he sought.

Naturally enough, his eyes first went to Dr.Scott, as it was of himthat Judge Stevenson had spoken most favourably. Minister to one of thelarger Atlanta churches, he had spoken frequently and with considerablevigour for Georgia in behalf of greater kindness and fairness toward theNegro. He was very tall. His more than ordinary height with hisattenuated and lanky slenderness gave him an almost cadaverousappearance which the loose suit of black mohair he wore accentuated.From beneath the folds of a low collar there sprang a whitestarched-linen bow tie, the four ends standing stiffly, each in aseparate direction, like the arms of a windmill. His rather large headwas bald on top but around the edges ran a fringe of yellowish-whitehair with curling ends that made his face appear rounder than it was.Bushy eyebrows shaded pale blue eyes that twinkled in unison with theready smile which revealed large yellow teeth. Into his conversation Dr.[248] Scott injected atfrequent intervals ministerial phrases—“the spirit of Jesus”—“beingChristians”—“our Lord and Saviour.” He always addressed his whitecompanions as “Brother Anthony” and “Brother Gordon.” Kenneth he alwayscalled “Doctor.”

Kenneth felt a certain doubt of Dr.Scott’s sincerity. He tried topenetrate what seemed to be a mask over the minister’s face thateffectively hid all that revolved in the mind behind it. Somethingintangible but nevertheless real blocked his path—an unctuous affabilitythat seemed too oily to be sincere. No, Kenneth reflected, Dr.Scott isnot the man. All of this examination had taken but a few seconds, yetKenneth’s mind was made up. In prejudging him so hastily, Kenneth did aninjustice to Dr.Scott that was unconscious but real. In his heart ofhearts Dr. Scott had realized that to accomplish anything at all in theSouth towards enlightenment he must necessarily become, at least asdiscretion seemed to dictate, a mental chameleon. He had sufferedbecause of that decision, for had circumstances placed him in a moreliberal and intelligent environment, he would have been far moreadvanced in his religious and other beliefs. The traces of gold in theore that was his mind had been revealed in the suffering which had cometo him through his speaking out against a system that seemed to himwrong.

He had been reviled, misunderstood both deliberately and by those whowere not so advanced as he. He had borne in silence whatever had come tohim, [249] even threats oftarring and of death from the Ku Klux Klan, seeking a course directed bywisdom if not by valour.

While he was being introduced by Dr.Scott, Kenneth examinedcritically the other two men. Mr. Anthony, who had volunteered the useof his office for the conference, as no comment would be likely if thefour of them were seen in the office building, was first presented.

John Anthony might well have posed as model for a typical Americanbusiness man or lawyer. Of rotund figure, well-fed appearance, hairclose-cut, his face clean-shaven, clad in neatly tailored butundistinguished clothing, he sat leaning slightly forward, his fingersinterlocked, his thumbs and forefingers holding his cravat while hiselbows rested on the arms of his chair. He acknowledged the introductionto Kenneth with a brief “Pleased t’ meetcha.” He did not rise, norextend his hand in greeting, but he at once shrewdly appraised andcatalogued Kenneth. John Anthony’s interest in interracial affairs hadbeen first aroused by the war-time migration of Negroes to the North.His personal fortunes had been touched directly by this loss of labour,and the resultant decrease in profits had caused him to inquire into theproblem of the labourers who had been always so plentiful. Like mostAmericans, and particularly those in Southern States, he had had no ideaof, or interest in, what Negroes were forced to endure. Though near tothis problem, he had been a living example of those in the proverb who“live so [250] close to thetrees, they cannot see the woods.” His inquiry, conducted with theclear-sightedness and energy he had acquired from long businesstraining, had revealed brutalities and vicious exploitation that hadamazed and sickened him. He was too shrewd to believe that Negroes wouldbe restrained from leaving the South by attempts to picture Negroesfreezing to death in the North, or to try to beguile them by transparentfalsehoods to the effect that the Southern white man is the Negro’s bestfriend. Though he did not voice it save to his more intimate friends, hefelt naught but contempt for the hypocrisy of those who too late wereattempting to flatter the Negro to keep him in the South. His motiveswere therefore curiously mixed in his support of efforts towardinterracial goodwill. Economic in part were they, because retention ofNegro labour meant the continuation of his own successful businesscareer. Equally, almost, did they proceed from a hitherto latent senseof moral indignation against the treatment which the South had accordedto Negroes in the past. Direct of speech, analytical of mind, he wentstraight to the heart of the problem with that same perspicacity thathad won for him more than usual success in his business of conductingone of the South’s largest department stores.

Here again did Kenneth figuratively shake his head and decide thatJohn Anthony was not destined to be the Moses of the new South. He couldnot for the life of him dissociate Anthony’s interest in behalf ofjustice from his direct financial interest in [251] keeping Negroes in the South, where, withthe inevitable working of the law of demand and supply, a surplusage ofNegro labour would mean continued high profits for men like Anthony.Kenneth was too young to know that the more largely a man profits from aliberal cause, the more loyal will be his support of that cause and thelesser likelihood of his defection when difficulties arise.

Of the three men, Kenneth felt greatest hope in the third—DavidGordon—younger than Kenneth, alert, capable, and with an engagingfrankness of face and of manner to which Kenneth warmed instinctively.Gordon was a graduate of Harvard, where he for the first time in hislife had learned to know coloured fellow-students as men and humanbeings instead of as “niggers.” At first he had rebelled strenuously,his every instinct had revolted against dining in the same room, howeverlarge, with a “nigger.” So indignant had he been that he had taken it upwith the president. Benign, kindly, clearheaded, and patriarchal, theolder man calmly and dispassionately and without rancour had shownGordon the injustice of his position—how unfair it was to deny aneducation to a man for the sole offence of having been born with a blackskin. Before he quite knew how it had happened, Gordon found himselfashamed of what now was seen to be petty nastiness on his part. Sointerested had he become after his eyes were thus opened that he hadmade a special study of the Negro problem. After finishing both hiscollege and law courses, he had returned to [252] Atlanta to practise law with his father.His interest in the race question had increased since his return. He wasnow one of that liberal and intelligent few who are most free fromprejudice an emancipated Southerner. Some inner voice told Kennethinstantly that greatest hope of the three lay in David Gordon—and menlike him. …

The introductions completed, Dr.Scott opened the conversation.

“Doctor, we’ve heard of the society you’ve started in Central City.Tell us how you’re getting along.”

“You have heard of it?” asked Kenneth in surprise. He did not knowhis fame had preceded him.

“Oh, yes,” answered Dr.Scott. “You see, I know a man in the Klanheadquarters here. They’ve got, so I understand, a pretty full accountof your movements.”

“They honour me,” laughed Kenneth, a note of irony in his voice. Hewas not a physical coward—threats bothered him little. He had paidlittle attention to the report of the Klan meeting at Central City,though it had worried his mother and Bob considerably. No more would hebe perturbed by any reports of his activities the Klan might have intheir files.

“Then, too, Judge Stevenson’s been writing me about you,” continuedDr.Scott. “We are all interested in what you’re doing, Doctor, and wewant you to talk frankly. You can to us,” he added.

The three men were genuinely interested in the [253] plan on which Kenneth was working. Theywere too intelligent to fail to see that something would have to be donetowards adjustment of race relations in the South to avert an inevitableclash. What that something was they did not know. They felt the time wasnot ripe for a challenge to the existing order, and they would not, inall probability, have been willing to issue such a fiat had the timebeen propitious. Yet they were anxious to examine the plans of thiscoloured man, hoping against hope that therein might lie an easysolution of the problem.

Frankly and clearly Kenneth told of the simple scheme. Occasionallyone of his hearers would interrupt him with a question, but for the mostpart they heard him through in silence. The story ended, the three mensat in silence as each revolved in his mind the possibilities of theplan. John Anthony was the first to speak, and then he approached thewhole race problem instead of Kenneth’s plan for attacking one phase ofit.

“Doctor,” asked Mr.Anthony, “do you believe there is any solution tothe race problem? Just what is the immediate way out, as you seeit?”

“It would take a wiser man than I to answer that,” laughed Kenneth.“You see, we’re in the habit of thinking that we can find a simple A-B-Csolution for any given problem, and the trouble is there are mighty fewthat are simple enough for that.”

“Yes—yes—I know all that,” interjected Mr.Anthony, rather testily.“What I want to hear is what you, as an intelligent Negro, think. I wantyou to [254] tell us exactlywhat men like you are saying among yourselves.”

“Well, we’re talking about lynching—poor schools—the way Negroes aredenied the ballot in the South” began Kenneth.

“Er—that’s a thing we can’t discuss,” hastily interrupted Dr.Scott.“Conditions in the South are too unsettled to talk about giving theNegro the vote as yet.”

“As yet,” echoed Kenneth. “If we can’t discuss it now, when can wetalk about it?”

“It’ll be a long time,” answered Dr.Scott frankly. “There are a lotof white people in the South who know disfranchisement is wrong. We knowthat we can’t keep the ballot from the Negro always. But,” he ended witha shrug of his shoulders and a thrust-ing-out of his hands, palmsupward, in a gesture of perplexity and despair Kenneth was learning toknow so well that he was associating it instinctively with the Southernwhite man, “we’d stir up more trouble than we could cope with.”

“And while you’re waiting for the opportune time, conditions aregetting steadily worse, the problem is getting more complicated, andit’ll be harder to solve the longer you put off trying to solve it,”urged Kenneth. It was with an effort that he kept out of his voice theimpatience he felt. “Why don’t men like you three band together withthose who think as you do, so you can speak out?” he asked.

“That’s just what we are trying to do, but we have to go verycautiously,” answered Dr.Scott. “We [255] must use discretion. How much are Negroesthinking about voting?”

“They think about it all the time,” replied Kenneth. “We know themere casting of a ballot isn’t going to solve all our problems, but wealso know we’ll never be able to do much until we do vote.”

“You must be patient—wait until the time is ripe⸺” cautionedDr.Scott.

“Patience can be a vice as well as a virtue.” It was David Gordon whospoke.

Kenneth looked at him gratefully.

“Your race’s greatest asset,” continued Dr.Scott, addressing hisremark to Kenneth, yet seeking to impart a gentle rebuke to Gordon, “hasbeen its wonderful gentleness under oppression. You must continue to besweet-tempered and patient⸺”

“That’s all very well to advise, but how would you or any other whiteman act if you had to suffer the things the Negro has had to suffer?”demanded Kenneth. “Suppose you saw your women made the breeding-groundof every white man who desires them, saw your men lynched and burned atthe stake, saw your race robbed and cheated, lied to and lied about,despised, persecuted, oppressed—how would you feel, Dr.Scott, ifsomebody came to you and said: ‘Be patient’?”

Kenneth poured forth his words like a burning flood oflava—indicative of the raging fires of resentment smouldering beneath.He paused, completely out of breath. Dr.Scott flushed until his facebecame a dull brick-red in colour. He restrained [256] with an effort the anger caused by thecoloured man’s impetuous words.

“I know—I know,” he said soothingly. “It’s hard, I know, but you mustremember the words of Jesus to his disciples: ‘When men shall persecuteand revile you⸺’ The spirit of Jesus is growing in the hearts of theSouth—it will come to your rescue in due season.”

“We’re always hearing about this liberal white opinion,” rejoinedKenneth, nettled by the unctuous suavity of the words, “but we so seldomsee any signs of it—almost never in places like Central City. SometimesI think it’s like trying to put your finger on mercury—when your fingeris about to touch it, it rolls away—it’s somewhere else. Meanwhilelynching goes on.”

“You’re right, Doctor,” broke in John Anthony, who had been followingthe conversation with deep interest though he had taken little part init. “We’ve got to do something, and that soon—the only problem is how todo it. Now about your society in Smith County—tell us how we can helpyou make it a success. Do you need any money to get it workingproperly?”

Kenneth turned to the quiet man who had proposed the first tangibleoffer to help.

“Thanks a lot for the offer,” replied Kenneth. “There are two thingsI can think of that’ll be immediately helpful. One is that you andDr.Scott and Mr.Gordon do what you can to help mould pub[257]lic sentiment so this liberalwhite opinion will become a force in the South against the Ku Klux Klanand lynching and all the other forms of prejudice. That’s what seems tome to be most needed.”

“Yes—yes—I agree with you, but tell us just exactly how we can helpyou.” Anthony, in his direct way, was impatient of theorizing. “Do youneed any money—credit—legal advice—that is, any we can give quietlywithout it getting out that we gave it?”

“Yes, there is something,” answered Kenneth. “Most of the men in oursocieties have been working on shares for so many years that instead ofhaving any money, they owe their landlords large sums. The big problemis credit for the things they need until they sell their crops nextfall.”

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Kenneth gave a detailed statement of their needs and their plans.John Anthony took notes as he talked and agreed to see what he could dotowards securing credit when they needed it. David Gordon volunteeredhis aid as a lawyer. They rose to go. Anthony gazed intently at Kennethas he asked gravely:

“Doctor, have you thought of the possibility of—er—trouble if yourmotives are not understood? That is, suppose some of the poor whites arestirred up by the landlords and merchants you’re trying to take thesecoloured farmers away from—have you figured out what might be theresult?”

“Yes, I have,” responded Kenneth. “I realize [258] there might be some who’d break up ourgroups⸺”

“No—No—I mean to you personally,” interjected Anthony.

“I don’t think they’ll bother me,” was Kenneth’s confident reply.“But if something should happen—well, if I can feel I’ve perhaps pointeda way out for my people, I can die happy. … At any rate, killing orrunning me away wouldn’t kill the spirit of revolt these coloured peoplehave it might stir it even higher. Not that I’ve any ambition formartyrdom,” he ended with a laugh.

Kenneth spoke with no bravado, with none of the cant of the poseur.His words, rather, were uttered with the simplicity of the earnestseeker after truth—the unheroic but sincere worker in a cause that isjust.

“Let’s hope you’ll come through,” said Anthony. “I’m a Southernerwith all the traditions and prejudices of the South, but I wish youluck.” He added after a pause: “You’ll need it.”

After Kenneth had gone, the three men looked at each otherquestioningly.

“What do you think of him and his plan?” asked Dr.Scott, half tohimself.

It was Gordon who answered.

“It’s a good scheme—if it works. I’m mighty afraid, though, he’sgoing to run into deep water if his societies grow very large. And thepity of it is that we in Atlanta can’t help him if we dared.” Anthonygrunted.

[259] “And yet the Southis trying to solve the race problem and leave educated Negroes likeHarper entirely out of the equation. It’s about time we woke up.”



Early Friday morning Kenneth left for CentralCity, before the Atlanta Constitution appeared on the streets forsale. Soon after his train left Macon on the way South, the engine blewout a cylinder head. They remained there until another could bedispatched from Macon to replace it. There had come to hisstopping-place in Atlanta, a few minutes after he had left, a telegramwhich had been sent from a town twenty miles distant from Central City,telling him to remain in Atlanta until further notice. Jane had paid aman liberally to drive through the country to get the telegram off intime. It would not have done to send such a wire from Central City. Allthese things had so happened as though the very fates themselves were inleague against Kenneth.

In total ignorance of what had happened to Mamie and Bob and theeventful chain of happenings since he had left Central City three daysbefore, Kenneth sat in the stuffy, odorous, and dirty Jim Crow car,busied with his thoughts. A noisy and malodorous Negro sat next to himwho seemed to know some person at every one of the thousand and onestations at which they stopped. Kenneth sat next to the window. Hiscompanion leaned over him to stick his [261] head out of the window to shoutloud-mouthed and good-natured greetings to his friends on the ground. Atthose few stations where he knew no one, he would ask foolish, sometimeshumorous questions of those he did not know. Kenneth stood it as long ashe could and then requested the troublesome fellow to be less annoying.Kenneth, though vexed, was amused at the man’s complaint to another ofhis kind behind him. “Humph!” he grunted. “Tha’s whut I say ‘bout adressed-up nigger—thinks he owns the train. I paid jes’ as much,” hedeclared more aggressively, “as he did, an’ ef he don’t like it, he cangit off and walk.” At this, a long laugh at his own witty remark, butKenneth looked out of the window and paid no attention to him. Histhoughts were busy with other things.

Every few minutes he would feel the lump in the lower right-handvest-pocket with a touch that was almost loving in its tenderness. Hehoped Jane would like the ring—it had cost a little more than he hadexpected to pay or could afford, but the best was none too good for agirl like her. He could see Jane’s eyes now when he opened the littlebox and she for the first time saw the glittering facets of thebeautiful stone. He smiled in anticipation of her joy. And then he’d putit on her finger and she’d put her arms around his neck and he’d feelagain her warm, soft, passionate, clinging lips. Lucky he didn’t get toodeeply tied up with that girl years ago in New York. She had kissed asthough she’d had long practice at it. Too sophisti[262]cated—nothing like Jane. Jane wasn’texperienced in kissing—but the thrill it gave him! It was funny aboutgirls. Most of them didn’ think a kiss meant very much. He had kissedone—two—three—four—oh, lots of them! But all of them put togethercouldn’t begin to equal in warmth, the vividness of one kiss fromJane.

And just think of it—six weeks from now, and Jane would beMrs.Kenneth B. Harper! My, but that sounded good! Reverend Wilson wouldmarry them. Then they’d go to Atlantic City for their honeymoon.

Hoped the cotton crop would turn out well. Then he’d be able tocollect some of those long-outstanding accounts from the farmers. Thatmoney would come in mighty handy right now. That’s the devil of being acountry doctor. You had to wait until the cotton crop was gathered andsold before you could collect the bulk of what’s due you. And if thecotton failed or the market was so flooded the price was down, you’dhave to wait on the most of them until the next year. Sometimes two orthree years. Dr.Johnson over at Vidalia had some accounts that’re sixyears old. Oh, well, they’re good anyway. Couldn’t expect to practise inthe country districts unless you were willing to wait for yourmoney.

Wonder why this darned train doesn’t make better time. Slow as alloutdoors. Like molasses in winter-time. If it only gets in on time, I’llsurprise Jane by running in on her on the way home. [263] Due in at five-fifty. Let’s see, it’sfour-thirty now. Where are we now? Hoopersville. Nearly ninety miles yetto go. Good Lord, won’t get in until nearly eight o’clock! Hope we won’tlose any more time. Don’t see why so darned many people are travellingto-day anyhow. Just slows up the train, getting on and off with theirten bundles and suitcases each.

Wonder how Bob feels about going to school.

Hope he’ll like the shirts I bought him. Ought to. Cost four dollarsapiece. Prices are certainly high. Few years ago you could get the bestshirts on the market for a dollar and a half apiece—not more than twodollars.

I can see Jane now. Let’s see, it’s five o’clock. Probably gettingsupper. Glad she can cook so well. Most girls nowadays can’t boil waterwithout burning it.

He reflected on the unusual conversation he had had the night beforewith Dr.Scott, John Anthony, and Gordon. It was good to know there weresome white men who were thinking seriously on the race problem. Andtrying to be fair. Most white Southerners were modern Pontius Pilates.Figuratively and literally, mentally and morally, they washed theirhands of all personal responsibility for the increasing complexities ofthe race question. He wondered how many more men there were in the Southlike those three. Broadminded but afraid to speak out. Ewing, JudgeStevenson, Scott, Anthony, Gordon—all by word or action seemed [264] mortally afraid lest thepublic know they were even thinking of justice. How soon, he wondered,would they gain sufficient courage to take a manly stand? Would thattime come before the inevitable clash that continued oppression wouldcause?

Coloured folks weren’t going to stand it much longer. They wereorganizing up North and even in the South to use legal means to bettertheir lot. But some of them were getting desperate. Armed resistancewould be foolish. Would be certain death. At any rate, even that wouldbe better than what has been going on.

Good Lord, he reflected, let’s forget the race problem awhile! ANegro never gets away from it. He has it night and day. Like the swordof Damocles over his head. Like a cork in a whirling vortex, it tosseshim this way and that, never ceasing. Have to think about something elseor it’ll run him crazy. Guess Mary Ewing’s about out of danger now.

Glad when she’s all right again. Don’t like to be going over there tothose white folks’ house. Neighbours might begin to talk. How much can Icharge Roy Ewing? Two hundred dollars? Yes, he can stand it. Hope he’llpay me soon. Can use it when Jane and I go on our honeymoon. Just aboutcover our expenses. Honeymoon. Always thought it a darned silly name.But it doesn’t sound so bad now. Not when it was mine and Jane’s.

Thank Goodness, there’s Ashland! Next stop’s Central City. Be home inan hour. Guess I’ll go home first and take a bath and put on some clean[265] clothes. Feel dirty allover and there are a thousand cinders down my back. Ugh, but this is anasty ride! Hope Bob’ll be at the train with the car. …

Kenneth descended from the train and looked for Bob. He wasn’t there.He looked around for some other coloured man to drive him home. He knewit was useless to try and get any of the white taxi-drivers to take himhome—they would have considered it an insult to be asked to drive aNegro. He thought it strange that there were no Negroes to be seen.Usually there were crowds of them. It formed the biggest diversion ofthe day for white and coloured alike to see the train come in. It wasthe familiar longing for travel—adventure contact with the larger andmore interesting things of the outside world, though none of them couldhave given a reasonable statement of the fundamental psychologicalreactions they were experiencing when they went to the station. Theynever thought of it in that light—it was simply a pleasurable item inthe day’s course. That was enough.

When he found no one around, Kenneth picked up his bag and starteddown the platform to the street. He noticed, but paid little attentionto, the silence that fell over the various groups as he passed. He hearda muttered oath but it never occurred to him that it might have anypossible connection with himself. Intent on reaching home, seeing thefolks, telephoning Hiram Tucker that his wife had passed safely throughher operation and was resting well[266]—eager to get freshened up and go over toJane’s, he cut across a field that would save a half-mile walk insteadof going the longer route through Lee Street and town. Swinging along ina long, free stride reminiscent of his army days, he continued themusing he had done on the train.

He thought nothing of the fact that his house was darkened. He rangthe bell but no one answered. Thinking his mother and Mamie were outvisiting in the neighbourhood, he dug down in his bag, got his keys, andlet himself into the house. His mother was coming down the stairs, anoil lamp in her hands. As he went up to kiss her, he noticed her eyeswere sunken and red. Anxiously he inquired the reason.

“Oh, Kenneth, my boy—my boy—haven’t you heard?”

She burst into a torrent of weeping, her head on his shoulders. Hetook the lamp from her hand perplexedly and placed it on the table.

“Heard what, mamma? What’s the matter? What’s happened? Why are youcrying like this? What’s wrong?”

The questions poured out of him like a flood. For some time hismother could not speak. Her sobs racked her body. Though she tried tocontrol herself, every effort to do so but caused her to weep the more.Kenneth, puzzled, waited until she could gain control of herself. Hethought it funny she carried on this way—she’d never acted like thisbefore. She had always been so well poised. But [267] his alarm and feeling of impending disasterincreased to definite proportions when the flood of tears seemedendless.

“Where’s Bob?” he asked, thinking that he could find out from hisbrother what had gone wrong. At this a fresh burst of weeping greetedhim. He led her into his reception room and sat her down on the loungeand himself beside her. At last, between body-tearing sobs, she toldhim.

“Great God!” he shouted. “No! No! Mamma, it can’t be true! It can’tbe true!” But even as he demanded that she tell him it was not true, heknew it was. …

Mrs.Harper’s lamentations were even as those of that other Rachelwho wept for her children because they were not. Kenneth sat stunned. Itwas too terrible—too devastating—too cataclysmic a tragedy tocomprehend! Mamie—his own dear little sister—torn, ravished, her liferuined! Bob—with all his fire and ambition, his deep sensitiveness toall that was fine and beautiful, as well as his violent hatred of themean, the petty, the vicious, the unjust, the sordid-Bob-hisbrother—dead at the hands of a mob! Thank God, he had died before theylaid hands on him!

He laughed—an agonized, terrible mockery that made his mother look athim sharply. He had been a damned fool! He thought bitterly of histhoughts on the train a few hours before. Good God, how petty, howtrivial they seemed now! Surely that couldn’t have been just hours ago?It must have [268] beencenturies—ages—æons since. He heard the crickets chirping outside thewindow. From down the street there floated a loud laugh. His wiltedcollar annoyed him. Cinders from the train scratched his back. Hewondered how in such a circumstance he could be conscious of suchmundane things.

He laughed again. His mother had ceased her loud wails of grief andsat rocking to and fro, her arms folded tightly across her breast asthough she held there the babe who had grown up and met so terrible afate. Low, convulsive sobs of anguish seemed to come from her innermostsoul. … She anxiously touched Kenneth on the shoulder as he laughed. Ithad a wild, a demoniacal, an eerie ring to it that terrified her. …

What was the use of trying to avoid trouble in the South, he thought?Hell! Hadn’t he tried? Hadn’t he given up everything that mightantagonize the whites? Hadn’t he tried in every way he could to secureand retain their friendship? By God, he’d show them now! Thewhite-livered curs! The damned filthy beasts! Damn trying to be a goodNegro! He’d fight them to the death! He’d pay them back in kind for whatthey had brought on him and his!

He sprang to his feet. A fierce, unrelenting, ungovernable hatredblazed in his eyes. He had passed through the most bitter five minutesof his life. Denuded of all the superficial trappings of civilization,[269] he stood there theprimal man—the wild beast, cornered, wounded, determined tofight—fight—fight! The fire that lay concealed in the flint untilstruck, now leaped up in a devastating flame at the blows it hadreceived! All the art of the casuist with which he had carefully builthis faith and a code of conduct was cast aside and forgotten! He woulddemand and take the last ounce of flesh—he would exact the last drop ofblood from his enemies with all the cruelty he could invent!

His mother, whom he had forgotten in the intensity of his hatred,became alarmed at the light in his eyes. He shook off the hand withwhich she would have restrained him.

“Oh, Ken!” she cried anxiously. “What’re you going to do?”

“I’m going to kill every damned ‘Cracker’ I find!” She fell to herknees in an agony of supplication and clung to him, the while he triedto loose her arms from around his knees. He shook as with a chill—hisface had become vengeful, ghastly. Filled with a Berseker rage, he waseager to tear with his hands a white man—any white man—limb fromlimb.

“Kenneth, my boy! My boy!” cried his mother. “You’re all I’ve gotleft! Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me! My little Bob is dead! My Mamie isruined! You’re all I’ve got! You’re all I’ve got! Don’t leave me,lambkins! Don’t leave your old mother all alone, honey!”

In her torture at the prospect of losing this, her [270] last child, she used againthe endearing names she had called him when he was a babe in herarms—endearments she had not used since.

“Mamma, I’ve got to! I’ve got to! God, if I only can find those whokilled him!” he shouted. She, like a drowning person, clutched at thefragile straw his last words implied. Her voice was almost a prayer.

“But you don’t know, Ken, you don’t know who was in the mob!” shecried. “That Jim Archer and Charley Allen—they’re the only ones Mamierecognized! And they’re dead—they’ve paid! My little Bob killed them!Who’re you going to get? How’re you going to find out to-night who theothers were? You can’t, Ken, you can’t!”.

She realized this was her only hope. If she could only keep him inthe house the rest of the night, when morning came she was sure he wouldbe more calm. He would realize then how foolish and foolhardy hisintentions of the night before had been. She pleaded—she begged—shemoaned in her terror. He tried to shake her off. He did loosen her griparound his knees where she had clung like death itself. As he leanedover to pry her hands loose and was about to succeed, she grasped hisarm and held on. He tried to jerk his arm loose and rush from the house.She was struggling now with that fierce, grim, relentless tenacity andcourage of the mother fighting for her young. She held on. His jerksdragged her over the floor but she was conscious neither of the act northe pain. She would have [271] died there gladly if by so doing she couldrestrain her boy from rushing forth to certain death. Oh, yes, he mightget one or two before he died. Maybe five or ten. But the odds were allagainst him. Death would most surely overtake him before morning.

Kenneth raged. He cursed in spite of himself. She did not evencomprehend what he said nor the significance of his words. She did noteven consciously hear them. He damned without exception every white manliving. The damned cowards! The filthy curs! The stinking skunks,fighting a thousand against one!

“Superior race”! “Preservers of civilization”! “Superior,” indeed!They called Africans inferior! They, with smirking hypocrisy, reviledthe Turks! They went to war against the “Huns” because of Belgium! Noneof these had ever done a thing so bestial as these “preservers ofcivilization” in Georgia! Civilization! Hell! The damned hypocrites!

The liars! The fiends! “White civilization”! Paugh! Black and brownand yellow hands had built it! The white fed like carrion on the rottingflesh of the darker peoples! And called their toil their own! And burnedthose on whose bodies their vile civilization was built!

Bob had been right! Bob had been a man! He’d fought and died like aman! He, Kenneth, with all his professed and vaunted wisdom, was thecoward! He cursed himself! Building a fool’s paradise! A house of cards!To hell with everything! What [272] was life worth anyway? Why not end it allin one glorious orgy of killing?

In his agonized fulmination against the whites and in his vow ofvengeance on those who had dealt him so cruel and heart-sickening ablow, Kenneth forgot those who had been and were true friends of theblack man—who had suffered and died that he might be free. He forgotthose who, though few in number and largely inarticulate, were fightingfor the Negro even in the South. Kenneth’s grief, however, was too deepand the blow too crushing for him to think of these in his hour ofdespair.

At length his raging subsided a little. His mother was pleading withhim with a fervour he had never believed she possessed. Snatches of herwords penetrated his mind.

“… and who’ll protect Mamie and me? … all alone … you’re all we’vegot! … need you … need you now as never before … mustn’t leave us now …mustn’t leave …”

He sank to the floor exhausted by the fierceness of his rage. Afeeble cry came from above stairs. “It’s Mamie!” his mother whispered,frightened. She left him lying there to rush to her other child. Beforeshe left she made Kenneth promise he wouldn’t go out before shereturned. He lay on the floor as in a stupor. It was his Gethsemane. Hefelt as though some giant hand was twisting his very soul until it bled.He thought of the hours Mamie had lain in the field after the fiends hadaccomplished their foul purpose on her. Bleeding, torn, rayished! [273] Mamie, always tender, sounselfish, so unassuming—God, why hadn’t he thought more of her and beenmore considerate of her? No, he’d been so wrapped up in his ownhappiness and future he’d never given her much attention or thought. Whyhadn’t he? Why had he been so selfish? How could he make up to her forall his remissness of the past?

That brought to his mind what his mother had said. They did need himnow! More than ever before! How could he have started on his rampage ofrevenge had his mother not held him? Where and on whom would he havebegun?

But wasn’t this cowardice not to exact some kind of revenge? He hatedhimself at the mere thought of cowardice at this time. Good God, he hadhad enough of that all along! Wouldn’t Bob in death curse him if hefailed now to play the man? Or wouldn’t it take more courage to live?The thought comforted him.

As though the sounds were worlds away, he heard his mother moving inthe room above as she ministered to Mamie’s wants. He heard the noisesof the street. Miles away a dog barked. Nearer a rooster crowed. Hethought of a sermon Reverend Wilson had preached the Sunday before. Ofthe Christ in his hour of betrayal. Of Peter denying his Lord. And thecock crowing thrice. Wasn’t he denying his duty—his family—hisconscience—his all? Back again over the same ground he had alreadytravelled so thoroughly, his mind went. …

For hours he lay there. The noises of the street [274] ceased. He heard no more his mother above.Exhausted with the ordeal through which she had passed, she had probablyfallen asleep. … And yet he did not move. He heard the clock in the hallstrike eleven. … He counted the strokes, marvelling the while that timewas yet measured in hours and minutes and days. … His soul was even asthe body of a woman in travail. …



Kenneth lay on the floor he knew not how long.At last he awakened to the realization that his telephone was ringingfuriously.

Subconsciously he was aware of the fact that it had been ringing forsome time. He lay there and let it ring.Telephone—office—house—profession—life itself—all seemed vague andnebulous phenomena remote from his existence far from him and asuninteresting to him as life on Mars.

The raucous dissonance continued. “R-r-r-r-r,” the bell seemed toscream in its existence. It was like a mosquito in a darkened room whenone wanted to get to sleep. “Damn the telephone!” he cried aloud. “Letthe fool thing ring its head off!”…

He thought of Jane. He wondered if she would be content to remain inCentral City after the disasters to Mamie and Bob. If she didn’t, thenthey’d part. He was going to stay there if all hell froze over until hefound who had composed the mob that had killed Bob. Until he had wreakedthe utmost in vengeance upon them. … But Jane would feel just as he did.She was no coward! Hadn’t she been the one to awaken him to theasininity of his own course in trying to keep away from the race [276] problem? No, she’d stick! Shewasn’t the quitting kind! …

The telephone bell shrilled as though it were human—it sounded like avinegar-dispositioned virago berating her spouse. It paused only,apparently, to catch enough breath to break forth again. Its shriekingreverberations beat upon his eardrums in wave after wave of sound untilit seemed as though he would go mad. “Why doesn’t the fool get itthrough his head that there’s nobody here to answer?” he exclaimed invexation that bordered on hysteria. He pressed the heels of his palmsagainst his ears as tightly as he could. That was better! He could hearhimself think now. …

Mamie and her mother couldn’t stay in Central City, though. Tooterrible for them—especially for Mamie to stay here where she couldn’thelp but see, every day, things that’d remind her of her awfulexperience. And where fool people would come in with long faces tosympathize with her and drive her mad. People were such asses! Whydidn’t they have sense enough to show their sympathy by staying away?Instead of coming in and sitting around, talking empty nothings by thehour? Old Mrs.Amos would be that way. And Mrs.Bradley. They were suchnuisances. Wonder if he hadn’t better send Mamie and mamma toPhiladelphia to his Uncle Will? Or would it be best to send them toVirginia to his Uncle Jim? No, that wouldn’t do. Best for them to leavethe South entirely. Where [277] they could get away from everything that’dremind them of Georgia. No, they’d go to Philadelphia. SupposeMrs.Tucker’s about able to take some slight nourishment now. Good Lord,had he performed the operation only yesterday morning?

That couldn’t be possible! Too much has come in between then and now.Must have operated on her in a previous existence. And died since.Reincarnation? Yes, that’s the word. Never thought he’d actuallyexperience it himself. …

His arms and hands became tired from pressing on his ears. His earsached. He loosened the pressure on them a bit. The telephone was yetringing. Lord, he moaned, the thing will drive me crazy! Won’t be ableto live long enough to get those damned scoundrels who murdered Bob. Hedecided to answer it, curse the voice on the other end, and hang up. Hetried to get up from the floor. There was a terrible pain in his legs.He was sore all over. He crawled over to the desk in his office andpainfully pulled himself to a seat in his office chair. He stretched hisarm out to pull the telephone to him. A sharp twinge shot through hisarm and he groaned. He caught the cord in his hands and slowly pulledthe instrument to him and placed the receiver to his ear. At first hecould not speak. He made several ineffectual efforts. At last a faint,hoarse “Hello” was wafted into the mouthpiece.

“Oh, Rachel, I’m so glad to hear your voice. This isMrs.Ewing—Mrs.Roy Ewing over on Georgia [278] Avenue. I’ve been trying to get you forhalf a hour. Has your son come home from Atlanta yet?”

The voice went chattering on while Kenneth tried to moisten hisparched throat sufficiently to speak. It seemed to him that hissaliva-producing gland must have died along with his hope of a peacefulexistence in Central City. Finally, he was able to speak. He answeredMrs.Ewing wearily:

“This isn’t Mrs.Harper, Mrs.Ewing. This is Dr.Harper.”

“Oh, my God! Why did you come back?” she exclaimed.

Puzzled at her tone, Kenneth abruptly answered: “Why shouldn’t I havecome back?”

She laughed nervously

“Nothing—oh, nothing. But I’m awfully sorry about what’s happened.”At a disbelieving grunt that came to her over the wire, she hastened toadd: “Really I am—I am from the very bottom of my heart!”

She went on philosophically before Kenneth could reply.

“But everything’ll come out all right, don’t you fear. Doctor, I’m soglad for one reason you’re back. Mary’s had a set-back and she’s in anawful fix. Dr.Bennett can’t do nothing for her. I know it’s awful hardto ask you, but can’t you come over and see what you⸺”

“No, damn it, no!” shouted Kenneth into the mouthpiece. His voicemounted higher and higher in the rage that possessed him. “No, I hopeshe’ll [279] die—I hopeshe’ll die! And every other white beast that’s living! No! No! No! No!”he shouted as though mad.

He started to slam the receiver down upon its hook. The voice ofMrs.Ewing came to him in an agonized moan and made him pause.

“Oh, Doctor, don’t take it out on my po’ little Mary. I know just howyou feel, but don’t blame it on her! Please, Doctor, please come overand I’ll never bother you again! If you don’t come, I jus’ know she’lldie!” she begged.

Kenneth’s fit of passion had passed. In its stead there came a cold,terrifying calmness that was but another form of the raging torment andfury in his breast. He spoke with biting directness into thetelephone:

“Mrs.Ewing, if by raising one finger I could save the whole whiterace from destruction, and by not raising it could send them allstraight down to hell, I’d die before I raised it! You’ve murdered mybrother, my sister’s body, my mother’s mind, and my very soul! No, Iknow that,” he said to her interjected remark, which he repeated. “Iknow you didn’t do it with your own hands! But you belong to the racethat did! And the race that’s going to pay for every murder it’scommitted!”

He paused for breath and then continued his vitriolic diatribeagainst the white race. It was relieving his brain, he found, to be ablethus to vent his spleen on a white person. He went on in the same voiceof deadly calm and precision of statement:

[280] “And where’s thatcowardly husband of yours?” he demanded in a voice of rising fury. “Whydidn’t he come and ask me to save your daughter? No, he’s like the restof the damned cowards—makes his wife do it, thinking I’m fool enough notto know he’s there at the telephone telling you what to say. No, no,wait until I’m through! … He’s where? Atlanta? What’s he doing there?Why did he leave his daughter when he knew she might die any minute? Oh,no! You can’t feed me any bait like that! I’m through, I tell you—I’mthrough listening to the lying flattery you white folks use to foolignorant and blind Negroes like me! What? Why—I don’t see—don’tunderstand! Oh, well, I suppose I might as well, then. Yes, I’ll be overwithin ten minutes. Tell Dr.Bennett to wait there until I come. What?He’s gone! All right, I’ll come! Good-bye!”

Slightly puzzled, he hung up the receiver and sat for a minute gazingat the desk pad in front of him, but seeing nothing. Why should RoyEwing have gone to Atlanta to see him? Ewing knew he’d be back onFriday. He had told him so before leaving. It was mighty strange for himto act that way.

His mother entered the room, awakened by the sound of his shoutingover the telephone. She spoke to him apologetically for having left himso long.

“Mamie was so restless,” she explained, “and when I got her quiet atlast, I must have fallen asleep sitting there by her bed.” On her facethere came a [281] wistfulsmile. “You see, I haven’t been to sleep for three days now.”

Kenneth went to her and put his arm around her.

“That’s all right, mamma, that’s all right. I’m glad you did get aminute’s rest. You needed it. What’s that? Oh, yes, I feel much betternow. The storm has passed for a time, I reckon. I’m going to run over tothe Ewings’ for a minute—Mary’s in a bad way. Oh, that’s all right, youneedn’t worry,” he hastily interjected at his mother’s cry of alarm.“The streets are empty now—everybody’s in bed. I’ll go there and comestraight back as soon as Mary’s resting easily again,” he promised inorder to quiet her fears. “There won’t be anybody for me to see on thestreets, much less start any trouble with. You go to bed and I’ll comein and sit with you for a few minutes when I come back.”

With this promise Mrs.Harper had to be content. Her fears allayed,Kenneth kissed her and helped her up the stairs to her room. Going backto his office, he put the things in his bag he would be likely to need,went out to the garage in the rear, cranked up the Ford, and drove overto Georgia Avenue to treat a white patient less than seventy-two hoursafter the double catastrophe which had descended upon him and his familyat the hands of those same white people.

As he drove out of the yard, he heard his mother call from herwindow: “Hurry back, sonny.” It had been more than fifteen years sinceshe had last [282] called himthat. … He drove through the darkened streets of Central City-down LeeStreet past the deserted business houses, past the Confederate Monument,and on across that intangible, yet vivid line that separated the éliteof the whites of Central City from the less favoured. …

His mind intent on his own tragedy, Kenneth drove on, guiding his carwithout conscious volition, mechanically. His conscious mind was toobusy revolving the string of events and trying to find some solid spot,it mattered not how small, on which he could set mental foot. …



Fifteen men sat around a table in an office onLee Street. There was above them a single electric-light bulb,fly-specked, without a shade over it. At eleven o’clock they hadsilently crept up the stairs after looking cautiously up and down thedeserted expanse of Lee Street to see if they were observed. Like somesilent, creeping, wolf-like denizen of the forest, each had stolen asnoiselessly as possible up the stairs. The window carefully covered, noray of light could be seen from the outside. Though unsigned, themysterious note each of the fifteen had received that morning hadbrought them all together promptly.

A fat man, with tiny eyes set close together, looking from amazingconvolutions of flesh which gave him the appearance of a Poland-Chinahog just before slaughtering-time, was giving instructions to the men asthey eagerly and closely followed his words. He occasionally emphasizedhis points by pounding softly on the pine table before him with large,over-sized fists covered profusely with red hair. He was clad in anondescript pair of trousers, a reddish faded colour from much wear andthe red dust of his native hills, a shirt open at the neck and of thesame colour as the trousers, the speaker’s neck [284] innocent of collar and tie. He was endinghis instructions:

“… Now you-all mus’ r’member all I said. You mus’n’ fail! When theaccident happens”—here he laughed softly as he emphasized the word“accident,” and was rewarded by an appreciative titter from his audience“when the accident happens, you ain’t t’breathe a word to anybody ‘boutit! Even th’ others here to-night!”

He paused impressively and allowed his eyes slowly to traverse thegroup, resting upon each man in turn a penetrating, malevolent stare.Measuring his words carefully, he spat them out like bullets from aBrowning gun.

“Th’ mos’—important—thing—you got to r’member is this! You’re not—torepo’t—back to me or any off’cer—of the Invis’ble Empire!” He pausedagain. “After—the “accident”—happens!” he added.

“I reck’n that’s all you need to know,” he said in dismissal. “Hecame back t’night from Atlanty! We’ve got the newspaper fixed! Ef any ofyou is arrested, I don’t reck’n She’ff Parker’ll hol’ you long!” heconcluded with a confident laugh in which his companion joined. …

Though there was none to hear or see, they dispersed with silent andcautious movements and voices. They crept down the unlighted stairs,hands extended, fingers touching the walls on either side to aid them inmaking as little noise as possible. As the foremost reached the landingat the botton, he drew back sharply as he was about to step into thestreet.

[285] “Sh-h-h-h!” hecautioned the others behind him. “Somebody’s comin’ lickety-split downthe road in a Ford!”

They all waited with bated breath. The leader peered forth cautiouslyto see who it was stirring about at that time of night. The otherswaited, poised on the stairs above him.

Lee Street was bathed alternately in moonlight and shadow as avagrant moon wove its way in front of and behind small patches ofclouds. The clattering car approached—came abreast the doorway—andpassed rapidly by

“It’s that damn nigger himself!” he exclaimed to the men behind him.“What’n th’hell’s he doin’ out this time of night ‘round here? An’headed towards Georgy Avenue, too! It’s damn funny!”

There was an outburst of excited whispering. Various speculativesurmises were offered. None was able to offer a sensible reason forKenneth’s nocturnal pilgrimage. One proposed that Kenneth be followed tosee where he went and why he went there. Afar off could be heard theputtering of the engine. And then it stopped.

“Ain’t gone far,” one of them declared. They set out to trail theautomobile. Before they had gone two blocks, they saw Kenneth down thestreet as he tinkered with the engine of the car, the hood raised. Oneof the wires connecting with a sparkplug had become loosened. He quicklyscrewed it tight again, started the engine, and drove off, as he wasclosely watched from the shadows of trees and [286] fences by his trailers. They pushed forwardto keep as close as they could, hoping to be guided by the sound of theengine.

He drove but a few yards more and then drew up and stopped in frontof Roy Ewing’s house. Getting out, he took his bag from the floor of thecar and entered the house quickly as the door opened to admit him.

There was another short session of excited whispering among thewatchers.

“What’n the hell’s he goin’ to Roy Ewing’s house for?” one of themdemanded. “Roy Ewing went t’Atlanty this mornin’ on important business!Heard him tell George Baird down t’ the bank to-day he was goin’!”

“Th’ damn sneaky bastard!” another one declared venomously. “Ithought he was mighty slick, but didn’t know he was foolin’ ‘round witha woman like Roy Ewing’s wife! I allus said these niggers who went toFrance an’ ran with those damn French-women’d try some of that samestuff when they came back! Ol’ Vardaman was right! Ought never t’ havelet niggers in th’army anyhow!”

And so it went. They had caught the “slick nigger” with the goods onhim! They talked eagerly among themselves in subdued tones as to whatwould be the best course to pursue. Some were all for rushing into thehouse and catching them together. None of them entertained the opinionthat Kenneth could have gone to Roy Ewing’s house with Roy Ewing out oftown for any other purpose than for [287] sexual adventure. Their convictions werestrengthened when the light in the lower hall which had been shiningwhen the door was opened to admit Kenneth was extinguished, and anotherappeared in a few minutes in the bedroom on the second floor which facedon the streets, and the shades lowered. …

The fat man who had been speaking in the office on Lee Street a fewminutes before abruptly ended the conjecturing.

“‘Tain’t no use t’ stand here all night talkin?!” he asserted. “We’lljus’ stay here and see what’s goin’ t’ happen! Looks damn funny t’ me!Tom! You ‘n’ Sam ‘n’ Jake go ‘roun to th’ back do’ an’ watch there!Bill! You ‘n’ Joe ‘n’ Henry watch that side do’! Me ‘n’ the res’ll stayhere and watch th’ front do’! Then, when he sneaks out, we’ll get himany way he comes!” …

Within the house, Kenneth, all unaware of what was going on outside,was listening to Mrs.Ewing as she excitedly told him of Mary’s changefor the worse, and as she explained her husband’s absence. She was soworried over her daughter’s condition that Kenneth realized she wouldnever be able to solve the mystery of her words over the telephone untilhe had done what he could for Mary. He therefore asked no questions butfollowed her up the stairs to Mary’s room, although his brain waswhirling, it seemed to him, like the blades of an electric fan.

Mary Ewing was in a worse condition than even her mother knew. ThisKenneth realized as soon [288] as he looked into her flushed face andmeasured her pulse and temperature. He questioned Mrs.Ewing as to herdaughter’s diet. The cause of her relapse became clear to him when shetold him with a naïve innocence that since Mary had begged so hard thatday for something to eat, she had, with Dr.Bennett’s consent, given hera glass of milk and a small piece of fried chicken. Kenneth set to work.He knew it was useless to berate the mother for disregarding his expressorders that Mary should be given no solid food for at least ten days. Heknew that Dr.Bennett’s word counted more than his. This in spite of thefact that Dr.Bennett had done nothing but the ordinary measuring-out ofpills and panaceas which he had been taught almost half a century ago ina third or fourth-rate Southern medical school. Dr. Bennett knewmedicine no later than that of the early eighties. But Dr.Bennett was awhite man—he a Negro!

As he laboured, he suffered again the agony of those hours he hadspent on the floor in his reception room earlier that night. It broughtto life again his bitterness. His skin was black! Therefore, though hehad studied in the best medical school in America, though he had been aninterne for one whole year in the city hospital at New York, though hehad had army experience, though he had spent some time in study in thebest university in France, and, save in pre-war Germany, the bestmedical school in Europe, his word and his medical knowledge and skillwere inferior to that of an ignorant, lazy country doctor [289] in Georgia! When, oh, when,he thought, will Americans get sense enough to know that the colour of aman’s skin has nothing whatever to do with that man’s ability orbrain?

A fleeting, devilish temptation assailed him. He tried to put it fromhim. He succeeded for a time. And then back it came, leeringloathsomely, grinning in impudent, demoniac fashion at him! Here, lyinghelpless before him, was a representative of that race which had doneirreparable, irremedial harm to him and his. Why not let her serve as avicarious sacrifice for that race? It wouldn’t be murder! He did notneed to do anything other than hold back the simple things needed tosave her life. No one would ever know. He’d tell the Ewings that theyhad killed their own daughter by giving food she should not have had.Old Bennett didn’t know enough to detect that he, Kenneth Harper, aNegro, a “damned nigger,” had failed to do the things he could havedone.

The thought charmed him. He toyed with it in his mind. He examined itfrom every possible angle. Yes, by God! He’d do it! It’d serve theEwings right! The punishment would be just what they deserved! It wouldbe a double one. They’d lose their daughter. And they’d be eaten up withremorse the rest of their days because by disobeying his orders ingiving food to Mary Ewing they themselves, her parents, had killed her!Murderers!

That’s what they’d be! Like all the rest of their stinking brood!

He pictured the scene in which he’d play the lead[290]ing rôle on the following day. Thepleasurable tingle this thought brought him caused a hard smile to cometo his lips. Mary’d be lying downstairs in the parlour in her coffin.Roy Ewing and his damned, snivelling wife would be howling and cryingand mourning upstairs. He, Kenneth Harper, a Negro, a “damned nigger,”would be standing triumphantly over them, castigating and flaying theirvery souls with his biting words of denunciation! Tongue in cheek, he’drage! He’d tell them they were fools, villains, murderers,child-killers!

The words he’d use sprang to his mind. “You murdered Maryyourselves!” he’d say. “Didn’t I tell you not to give her any food forten days?” he’d demand. And then they’d shiveringly admit that he hadtold them those very words. “But, no,” he’d go on, “you wouldn’t listento a ‘damned nigger’s’ word! Old Bennett, who doesn’t know as much aboutmedicine as a horse-doctor—probably less—he’s got a white skin! Andmine’s black! Therefore—” his sarcasm would be great right there as hebowed in mock humility—“therefore you listened to him instead ofme! And, doing so”—here another low bow—“you killed your own daughter!”Here his voice would rise in violent denunciation: “You’re murderers!Yes, that’s what you are! You’re murderers! You’ve murdered your owndaughter! And I’m glad of it! I wish every one of you and your dirtybreed lay in the coffin with her! You, who think you’re God’s own petlittle race! You, who think that all the wisdom in the world is[291] wrapped in yourdirty little carcasses! And all the virtue! And all the brains!Everything! Everything! EVERYTHING!”

Oh, yes, he’d finish with infinite scorn: “And you’ve got nothing!Nothing! NOTHING! Nothing but lies and deceit and conceit and filthy,empty pride!”

Lord, but he’d be magnificent! Booth and Tree and Barrymore and allthe rest of the actors they called great, rolled into one, couldn’tequal his scorn, his raising and lowering of voice, his tremendousclimax! And then he’d walk magnificently from the room, leaving themhuddled there like whipped curs!

His maniacal exultation swept him on and on. He had stoppedministering to the sick girl on the bed before him. He leaned back witha terrible leer on his face as he watched the half-unconscious formbefore him struggling in her pain. The strain of the horrible day whichhad started out so radiantly and optimistically had been too much forhim. He gloried in the kindly fate that had delivered so opportunelyinto his hands one who should serve as a vicarious victim for those whohad struck him mortal blows without cause. He felt that Bob, whatever hewas, was smiling even now in approval of his actions. …

The minutes sped by. Half past twelve! One o’clock! Half past one!Mrs.Ewing sat anxiously by the bed, not daring to speak. She hadmisinterpreted Kenneth’s smile. It had frightened her a little. It’sbecause he’d been through so much to-[292]day, she thought. I’ll turn down the lightso it won’t be too great a glare. She did. It never occurred to her thatKenneth’s smile could mean anything other than that he was gainingground in his fight for her little girl’s life. …

Outside, the fifteen waited. … Minutes, hours passed. It grew cold.The strain was getting irksome. They watched the room where shone only afaint light now. They pictured what was going on in that room. It madetheir blood boil and grow cold alternately. Two o’clock! They began togrumble. “Le’s go in an’ get the damn nigger and roast him alive!” somedemanded. “We can’t do that!” the fat man declared. “The damned bitch’llyell and wake up the neighbours! She, a white woman, with hernigger lover! Can’t let it get out she consented! We’ll get him outsidean’ say he was unsuccessful in th’attempt!”… With that they had to besatisfied. They grumbled, but they knew he was right. Can’t let theniggers know a white woman willingly went to bed with a nigger! … That’dnever do! Must preserve the reputation of white women! …

Kenneth still sat by Mary’s bed. His eyelids felt heavy. It was hardto keep them open. Revenge began to lose its savour. Wasn’t so sweet asit had seemed. What’s the use, he thought, of telling what he hadplanned to the Ewings? They wouldn’t understand. They’d never seen greatactors on the stage. All they’d seen was mushy movie actors and sillywomen. Like casting pearls before swine! [293] They’d never appreciate the wonder of hisacting! No, not acting. Irony. Sarcasm. Vials of wrath. Beakers ofgall.

Why does the air seem so heavy? Can’t keep eyes open. Feel likebathing in chloroform.

Kenneth awakened suddenly from his stupor. Mary was coughinghorribly—gasping—strangling. Her mother cried out sharply. Kennethrapidly regained his senses. God! That had been an awful dream.Feverishly he worked. He called to his aid every artifice known to him.Valiantly, eagerly, desperately he toiled. Mary had been almost gone.After what seemed hours, she began to recover the ground she had lostwhile Kenneth gloated over his fancied revenge. My God! Just think I wasabout to let her die! May the Lord forgive me! …

At last she passed the danger point. She sank into a deep slumber.She was safe!

Kenneth, wearied beyond measure, rose and stupidly, weariedly, madepreparations to go home.

Mrs.Ewing stopped him.

“You haven’t asked me to tell you why Mr.Ewing went to Atlanta,” shesaid.

Dully he asked why he had gone away with his daughter in such acritical condition, what she had meant by her cryptic remarks over thetelephone. She spoke gladly.

“I couldn’t tell you over the telephone,” she explained. “If anyonehad been listening, it would have been bad for all of us. He went toAtlanta this morning—it’s yestiddy morning, now—to do [294] two things. First, to warnyou not to come back to Central City until things has blown over,because he’d heard threats against you. And most of all to see theGov’nor!”

“See the Governor for what?” Kenneth asked.

“Why, to get him to do somethin’ to protect you!” she cried as thoughamazed at his ignorance in not seeing.

“Protect me?” Kenneth echoed with a rising, questioninginflection.

“Yes, to protect you. Y’ see, he knew She’ff Parker couldn’t bedepended on ’cause he’s in with this gang ’round here. He knew the onlychance was through the Guy’nor.”

“But why should I need protection now?” Kenneth askedwonderingly. “Good God, haven’t these devils done enough to my familyand me already?”

She explained patiently as though talking to a child. Neither of themrealized the unusualness of their situation. Both had forgotten racelines, time, circumstances, and everything else in the tenseness of themoment.

“B’cause the Ku Kluxers are after you!” she whispered.

“Why should they be after me? I’ve done nothing! My Lord, I’ve triedin every way I could since I’ve been back in this rotten place to keepaway from trouble⸺” he declared querulously.

“Wait a minute an’ I’ll tell you!” she interrupted him. She took hisarm and led him into the next room where they would not disturb Mary.“Roy [295] heard them talkingabout you and cursin’ you out about some kind of a society you’ve beenformin’ among the nig—the coloured people. He told ‘em they oughter letcoloured men like you alone ’cause you were a credit to the community.The nex’ mornin’ he foun’ a warnin’ on the front po’ch from theKluxers, sayin’ he’d better stop defendin’ niggers or somethin’d happ’nto him!”

“Oh, that’s all tommyrot, Mrs.Ewing!” Kenneth declared in adisgusted and disdainful tone. “These silly night-riders wouldn’t daredo anything to your husband! I don’t believe they’d even try and doanything to me!”

“You mustn’t talk that way!” she sharply broke in. “They’d doanythin’! Roy says She’ff Parker’s one of ‘em, and a whole lotmo’ of the folks you wouldn’ believe was in it!”

Kenneth’s voice became hard and bitter.

“Mrs.Ewing, I’ve tried—God knows I have—to keep away from troublewith these white people in Central City. If they bother me, I’m going tofight—you hear me I’m going to fight—and fight like hell! They’ll get mein the end—I know that—but before I go I’m going to take a few alongwith me!”

He left her standing there and went back into Mary’s room. He securedhis bag and started down the stairs. Mrs.Ewing ran after him and caughthim just as he opened the front door. She had to seize his arm to holdhim, as he was impatient to be gone. He felt as though he never wantedto see a [296] white faceagain as long as he lived. He did not know, nor did Mrs.Ewing, thatseveral white faces were looking at them as he stood there with Mrs.Ewing clinging to his arm.

“You will be ca’ful until Roy comes back, won’t you, Doctor?” shepleaded.

Promising her impatiently, without even comprehending what hepromised, he ran down the steps, eager to get home.



Kenneth did not see the dark forms that crouchedlike tigers in the shrubbery on either side of the long walk that led tothe gate. But as he reached the ground, he turned just in time to see ashadowy body hurl itself upon him. Instinctively his right arm shotoutwards and upwards. His clenched fist met flush on the point of thejaw the man who had attempted to hurl him to the ground. His would-beassailant gave a deep grunt and fell to the ground at Kenneth’sfeet.

Before he hit the ground, however, Kenneth found himself surroundedby a cursing, howling crowd. He lashed out blindly—hitting wherever hesaw what seemed to be a form. Madly, desperately, gloriously he fought!For a time he was more than a match for the fifteen that assailed him.He did not know that they had expected to take him by surprise. Thesurprise was now theirs. He heard a voice shout at him in rage:“Sleepin’ with a white woman, eh! You dirty black bastard!” Withsuperhuman strength born of hatred, bitterness, and despair, he lungedat the speaker. Almost at the same time that his fist landed in theman’s face, his foot went into his stomach with a vengeance. He put intothe blow and [298] the kickall the repressed hatred and passion the day’s revelations had broughtforth.

It seemed to him he had been fighting there for hours, days, months!The odds fifteen to one against him—his strength was as of the fifteencombined. No Marquis of Queensberry rules here! He knew it was a fightto the death, and he yelled aloud for sheer joy of the combat! In thedarkness his assailants could not lay hands on him, for he was here,there, everywhere—hitting, kicking, whirling, ducking blows, jumpingthis way and that—a veritable dervish of the deserts in his gyrations!One after another his opponents went down at his feet! Windows began tobe raised at the tumult. Shouts and cries of inquiry filled the air. Butstill Kenneth fought on.

At last he saw an opening. Out went his fist! Down went the man whomet it with his face! Shaking off one who sought to grasp him frombehind, Kenneth stepped over the body of the one who had just gone downbefore him, and, like an expert half-back running in a broken field,darted out to the sidewalk. Fifty—forty—thirty—twenty—ten—five moreyards and he’d be in his car and away! At last, he reached it!Feverishly he wrenched open the door! He started to spring in! They’dnever get him now!

A shot rang out! Another! Another! Kenneth’s arm flew up. With a lowmoan he sank to the street beneath the car. He tried to rise. Hecouldn’t. [299] The bullethad shattered his leg! On they came, howling, gloating fiendishly—theirrage increased by the mess they’d made of what was intended should be aneasy job! Kenneth saw them come! He groaned and tried to draw the gunfrom his hip pocket. It hung in his clothing, pinned down as he was! IfI only can get one or two of them, he thought, before they get me! Onthey came! The gun stuck! They had him! They pulled him out from beneaththe car! …

The next morning, in a house in the coloured section of Central City,there sat a girl. … Her eyes were dry. … Her face was that of despair. …Her grief was too deep for tears. … In her lap there lay a soft, white,lustrous, fluffy mass. … It looked like cream charmeuse … looked like awedding-gown. … A woman entered the room. … Her eyes were haggard. …Around her shoulders an apron. … She’d put it on, thinking it a shawl.…

“Honey! Honey!” she cried. “Mamie was sleeping … so I ran over aminute.”… She put her arms around the younger woman tenderly. … The dambroke. … The relief of tears came. … Hot, blinding, scalding tearsrained down on the soft mass that now would never be used. … And thewomen cried together. …

In the newspapers of the country there appeared the same day anAssociated Press dispatch. It was [300] sent out by Nat Phelps, editor of theCentral City Dispatch and local agent for the Associated Press.It read:


CENTRAL CITY, Ga., Sept.15.—“Doc” Harper, a negro, was lynched hereto-night, charged with attempted criminal assault on a white woman, thewife of a prominent citizen of this city. The husband was away from thecity on business at the time, his wife and young daughter, who isseriously ill, being alone in the house. Harper evidently becamefrightened before accomplishing his purpose and was caught as he ranfrom the house. He is said to have confessed before being put to deathby a mob which numbered five thousand. He was burned at the stake.

This is the second lynching in Central City this week. On Thursdaymorning Bob Harper, a brother of the Negro lynched to-day, was killed bya posse after he had run amuck and killed two young white men. No reasoncould be found for their murder at the hands of the Negro, as they hadalways borne excellent reputations in the community. It is thought theNegro had become temporarily insane.

In a telegram to the Governor to-day, Sheriff Parker reported thatall was quiet in the city and he anticipated no further trouble.


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