What bring they 'neath the midnight,
Beside the River-sea?
They bring the human heart wherein
No nightly calm can be;
That droppeth never with the wind,
Nor drieth with the dew;
O calm it, God; thy calm is broad
To cover spirits too.
The river floweth on.
[On the meaning of the bar of music]
Carlisle Street runs westward from the centre ofJohnstown, across a great black bridge, down a hill and up again, by littleshops and meat-markets, past single-storied homes, until suddenly it stopsagainst a wide green lawn. It is a broad, restful place, with two largebuildings outlined against the west. When at evening the winds come swellingfrom the east, and
the great pall of the city's smoke hangs wearily above the valley, then the redwest glows like a dreamland down Carlisle Street, and, at the tolling of thesupper-bell, throws the passing forms of students in dark silhouette againstthe sky. Tall and black, they move slowly by, and seem in the sinister light toflit before the city like dim warning ghosts. Perhaps they are; for this isWells Institute, and these black students have few dealings with the white citybelow.
And if you will notice, night after night, there is onedark form that ever hurries last and late toward the twinkling lights of SwainHall, -- for Jones is never on time. A long, straggling fellow he is, brown andhard-haired, who seems to be growing straight out of his clothes, and walkswith a half- apologetic roll. He used perpetually to set the quiet dining-roominto waves of merriment, as he stole to his place after the bell had tapped forprayers; he seemed so perfectly awkward. And yet one glance at his face madeone forgive him much, -- that broad, good-natured smile in which lay no bit ofart or artifice, but seemed just bubbling good-nature and genuine satisfactionwith the world.
He came to us from Altamaha, away down there beneath thegnarled oaks of Southeastern Georgia, where the sea croons to the sands and thesands listen till they sink half drowned beneath the waters, rising only hereand there in long, low islands. The white folk of Altamaha voted John a goodboy, -- fine plough-hand, good in the rice-fields, handy everywhere, and alwaysgood-natured and respectful. But they shook their heads when his mother wantedto send him off to school. "It'll spoil him, -- ruin him," they said;and they talked as though they knew. But full half the black folk followed himproudly to the station, and carried his queer little trunk and many bundles.And there they shook and shook hands, and the girls kissed him shyly and theboys clapped him on the back. So the train came, and he pinched his littlesister lovingly, and put his great arms about his mother's neck, and then wasaway with a puff and a roar into the great yellow world that flamed and flaredabout the doubtful pilgrim. Up the coast they hurried, past the squares andpalmettos of Savannah, through the cotton-fields and
through the weary night, to Millville, and came with the morning to the noiseand bustle of Johnstown.
And they that stood behind, that morning in Altamaha, andwatched the train as it noisily bore playmate and brother and son away to theworld, had thereafter one ever-recurring word, -- "When John comes."Then what parties were to be, and what speakings in the churches; what newfurniture in the front room, -- perhaps even a new front room; and there wouldbe a new schoolhouse, with John as teacher; and then perhaps a big wedding; allthis and more -- when John comes. But the white people shook their heads.
At first he was coming at Christmas-time, -- but thevacation proved too short; and then, the next summer, -- but times were hardand schooling costly, and so, instead, he worked in Johnstown. And so itdrifted to the next summer, and the next, -- till playmates scattered, andmother grew gray, and sister went up to the Judge's kitchen to work. And stillthe legend lingered, -- "When John comes."
Up at the Judge's they rather liked this refrain; forthey too had a John -- a fair-haired, smooth-faced boy, who had played many along summer's day to its close with his darker namesake. "Yes, sir! Johnis at Princeton, sir," said the broad-shouldered gray-haired Judge everymorning as he marched down to the post-office. "Showing the Yankees what aSouthern gentleman can do," he added; and strode home again with hisletters and papers. Up at the great pillared house they lingered long over thePrinceton letter, -- the Judge and his frail wife, his sister and growingdaughters. "It'll make a man of him," said the Judge, "collegeis the place." And then he asked the shy little waitress, "Well,Jennie, how's your John?" and added reflectively, "Too bad, too badyour mother sent him off -- it will spoil him." And the waitress wondered.
Thus in the far-away Southern village the world laywaiting, half consciously, the coming of two young men, and dreamed in aninarticulate way of new things that would be done and new thoughts that allwould think. And yet it was singular that few thought of two Johns, -- for theblack folk thought of one John, and he was black; and the white folk thought of
another John, and he was white. And neither world thought the other world'sthought, save with a vague unrest.
Up in Johnstown, at the Institute, we were long puzzledat the case of John Jones. For a long time the clay seemed unfit for any sortof moulding. He was loud and boisterous, always laughing and singing, and neverable to work consecutively at anything. He did not know how to study; he had noidea of thoroughness; and with his tardiness, carelessness, and appall- inggood-humor, we were sore perplexed. One night we sat in faculty-meeting,worried and serious; for Jones was in trouble again. This last escapade was toomuch, and so we solemnly voted "that Jones, on account of repeateddisorder and inattention to work, be suspended for the rest of the term."
It seemed to us that the first time life ever struckJones as a really serious thing was when the Dean told him he must leaveschool. He stared at the gray-haired man blankly, with great eyes. "Why,-- why," he faltered, "but -- I haven't graduated!" Then theDean slowly and clearly explained, reminding him of the tardiness and thecarelessness, of the poor lessons and neglected work, of the noise anddisorder, until the fellow hung his head in confusion. Then he said quickly,"But you won't tell mammy and sister, -- you won't write mammy, now willyou? For if you won't I'll go out into the city and work, and come back nextterm and show you something." So the Dean promised faithfully, and Johnshouldered his little trunk, giving neither word nor look to the giggling boys,and walked down Carlisle Street to the great city, with sober eyes and a setand serious face.
Perhaps we imagined it, but someway it seemed to us thatthe serious look that crept over his boyish face that afternoon never left itagain. When he came back to us he went to work with all his rugged strength. Itwas a hard struggle, for things did not come easily to him, -- few crowdingmemories of early life and teaching came to help him on his new way; but allthe world toward which he strove was of his own building, and he builded slowand hard. As the light dawned lingeringly on his new creations, he sat rapt andsilent before the vision, or wandered alone over the green campus peeringthrough and beyond the world of men into a world of thought. And the thoughtsat times puzzled him sorely; he could not
see just why the circle was not square, and carried it out fifty-six decimalplaces one midnight, -- would have gone further, indeed, had not the matronrapped for lights out. He caught terrible colds lying on his back in themeadows of nights, trying to think out the solar system; he had grave doubts asto the ethics of the Fall of Rome, and strongly suspected the Germans of beingthieves and rascals, despite his textbooks; he pondered long over every newGreek word, and wondered why this meant that and why it couldn't mean somethingelse, and how it must have felt to think all things in Greek. So he thought andpuzzled along for himself, -- pausing perplexed where others skipped merrily,and walking steadily through the difficulties where the rest stopped andsurrendered.
Thus he grew in body and soul, and with him his clothesseemed to grow and arrange themselves; coat sleeves got longer, cuffs appeared,and collars got less soiled. Now and then his boots shone, and a new dignitycrept into his walk. And we who saw daily a new thoughtfulness growing in hiseyes began to expect something of this plodding boy. Thus he passed out of thepreparatory school into college, and we who watched him felt four more years ofchange, which almost transformed the tall, grave man who bowed to uscommencement morning. He had left his queer thought-world and come back to aworld of motion and of men. He looked now for the first time sharply about him,and wondered he had seen so little before. He grew slowly to feel almost forthe first time the Veil that lay between him and the white world; he firstnoticed now the oppression that had not seemed oppression before, differencesthat erstwhile seemed natural, restraints and slights that in his boyhood dayshad gone unnoticed or been greeted with a laugh. He felt angry now when men didnot call him "Mister," he clenched his hands at the "JimCrow" cars, and chafed at the color-line that hemmed in him and his. Atinge of sarcasm crept into his speech, and a vague bitterness into his life;and he sat long hours wondering and planning a way around these crooked things.Daily he found himself shrinking from the choked and narrow life of his nativetown. And yet he always planned to go back to Altamaha, -- always planned towork there. Still, more and
more as the day approached he hesitated with a nameless dread; and even the dayafter graduation he seized with eagerness the offer of the Dean to send himNorth with the quartette during the summer vacation, to sing for the Institute.A breath of air before the plunge, he said to himself in half apology.
It was a bright September afternoon, and the streets ofNew York were brilliant with moving men. They reminded John of the sea, as hesat in the square and watched them, so changelessly changing, so bright anddark, so grave and gay. He scanned their rich and faultless clothes, the waythey carried their hands, the shape of their hats; he peered into the hurryingcarriages. Then, leaning back with a sigh, he said, "This is theWorld." The notion suddenly seized him to see where the world was going;since many of the richer and brighter seemed hurrying all one way. So when atall, light-haired young man and a little talkative lady came by, he rose halfhesitatingly and followed them. Up the street they went, past stores and gayshops, across a broad square, until with a hundred others they entered the highportal of a great building.
He was pushed toward the ticket-office with the others,and felt in his pocket for the new five-dollar bill he had hoarded. Thereseemed really no time for hesitation, so he drew it bravely out, passed it tothe busy clerk, and received simply a ticket but no change. When at last herealized that he had paid five dollars to enter he knew not what, he stoodstockstill amazed. "Be careful," said a low voice behind him;"you must not lynch the colored gentleman simply because he's in yourway," and a girl looked up roguishly into the eyes of her fair-hairedescort. A shade of annoyance passed over the escort's face. "Youwill not understand us at the South," he said half impatiently, asif continuing an argument. "With all your professions, one never sees inthe North so cordial and intimate relations between white and black as areeveryday occurrences with us. Why, I remember my closest playfellow in boyhoodwas a little Negro named after me, and surely no two, -- well!" Theman stopped short and flushed to the roots of his hair, for there directlybeside his reserved orchestra chairs sat the Negro he had stumbled over in thehallway. He
hesitated and grew pale with anger, called the usher and gave him his card,with a few peremptory words, and slowly sat down. The lady deftly changed thesubject.
All this John did not see, for he sat in a half-dazeminding the scene about him; the delicate beauty of the hall, the faintperfume, the moving myriad of men, the rich clothing and low hum of talkingseemed all a part of a world so different from his, so strangely more beautifulthan anything he had known, that he sat in dreamland, and started when, after ahush, rose high and clear the music of Lohengrin's swan. The infinite beauty ofthe wail lingered and swept through every muscle of his frame, and put it alla-tune. He closed his eyes and grasped the elbows of the chair, touchingunwittingly the lady's arm. And the lady drew away. A deep longing swelled inall his heart to rise with that clear music out of the dirt and dust of thatlow life that held him prisoned and befouled. If he could only live up in thefree air where birds sang and setting suns had no touch of blood! Who hadcalled him to be the slave and butt of all? And if he had called, what righthad he to call when a world like this lay open before men?
Then the movement changed, and fuller, mightier harmonyswelled away. He looked thoughtfully across the hall, and wondered why thebeautiful gray-haired woman looked so listless, and what the little man couldbe whispering about. He would not like to be listless and idle, he thought, forhe felt with the music the movement of power within him. If he but had somemaster-work, some life-service, hard, -- aye, bitter hard, but without thecringing and sickening servility, without the cruel hurt that hardened hisheart and soul. When at last a soft sorrow crept across the violins, there cameto him the vision of a far-off home, the great eyes of his sister, and the darkdrawn face of his mother. And his heart sank below the waters, even as thesea-sand sinks by the shores of Altamaha, only to be lifted aloft again withthat last ethereal wail of the swan that quivered and faded away into the sky.
It left John sitting so silent and rapt that he did notfor some time notice the usher tapping him lightly on the shoulder and sayingpolitely, "Will you step this way, please, sir?" A little surprised,he arose quickly at the last tap, and, turning to leave his seat, looked fullinto the face of the fair-haired
young man. For the first time the young man recognized his dark boyhoodplaymate, and John knew that it was the Judge's son. The White John started,lifted his hand, and then froze into his chair; the black John smiled lightly,then grimly, and followed the usher down the aisle. The manager was sorry,very, very sorry, -- but he explained that some mistake had been made inselling the gentleman a seat already disposed of; he would refund the money, ofcourse, -- and indeed felt the matter keenly, and so forth, and -- before hehad finished John was gone, walking hurriedly across the square and down thebroad streets, and as he passed the park he buttoned his coat and said,"John Jones, you're a natural-born fool." Then he went to hislodgings and wrote a letter, and tore it up; he wrote another, and threw it inthe fire. Then he seized a scrap of paper and wrote: "Dear Mother andSister -- I am coming -- John."
"Perhaps," said John, as he settled himself onthe train, "perhaps I am to blame myself in struggling against my manifestdestiny simply because it looks hard and unpleasant. Here is my duty toAltamaha plain before me; perhaps they'll let me help settle the Negro problemsthere, -- perhaps they won't. 'I will go in to the King, which is not accordingto the law; and if I perish, I perish.'" And then he mused and dreamed,and planned a life-work; and the train flew south.
Down in Altamaha, after seven long years, all the worldknew John was coming. The homes were scrubbed and scoured, -- above all, one;the gardens and yards had an unwonted trimness, and Jennie bought a newgingham. With some finesse and negotiation, all the dark Methodists andPresbyterians were induced to join in a monster welcome at the Baptist Church;and as the day drew near, warm discussions arose on every corner as to theexact extent and nature of John's accomplishments. It was noontide on a grayand cloudy day when he came. The black town flocked to the depot, with a littleof the white at the edges, -- a happy throng, with "Good- mawnings"and "Howdys" and laughing and joking and jostling. Mother sat yonderin the window watching; but sister Jennie stood on the platform, nervouslyfingering her dress, tall and lithe, with soft brown skin and loving eyespeering from out a tangled wilderness of hair. John rose
gloomily as the train stopped, for he was thinking of the "Jim Crow"car; he stepped to the platform, and paused: a little dingy station, a blackcrowd gaudy and dirty, a half-mile of dilapidated shanties along a stragglingditch of mud. An overwhelming sense of the sordidness and narrowness of it allseized him; he looked in vain for his mother, kissed coldly the tall, strangegirl who called him brother, spoke a short, dry word here and there; then,lingering neither for hand- shaking nor gossip, started silently up the street,raising his hat merely to the last eager old aunty, to her open-mouthedastonishment. The people were distinctly bewildered. This silent, cold man, --was this John? Where was his smile and hearty hand-grasp? "'Peared kind o'down in the mouf," said the Methodist preacher thoughtfully. "Seemedmonstus stuck up," complained a Baptist sister. But the white post- masterfrom the edge of the crowd expressed the opinion of his folks plainly."That damn Nigger," said he, as he shouldered the mail and arrangedhis tobacco, "has gone North and got plum full o' fool notions; but theywon't work in Altamaha." And the crowd melted away.
The meeting of welcome at the Baptist Church was afailure. Rain spoiled the barbecue, and thunder turned the milk in theice-cream. When the speaking came at night, the house was crowded tooverflowing. The three preachers had especially prepared themselves, butsomehow John's manner seemed to throw a blanket over everything, -- he seemedso cold and preoccupied, and had so strange an air of restraint that theMethodist brother could not warm up to his theme and elicited not a single"Amen"; the Presbyterian prayer was but feebly responded to, and eventhe Baptist preacher, though he wakened faint enthusiasm, got so mixed up inhis favorite sentence that he had to close it by stopping fully fifteen minutessooner than he meant. The people moved uneasily in their seats as John rose toreply. He spoke slowly and methodically. The age, he said, demanded new ideas;we were far different from those men of the seventeenth and eighteenthcenturies, -- with broader ideas of human brotherhood and destiny. Then hespoke of the rise of charity and popular education, and particularly of thespread of wealth and work. The question was, then, he added reflectively,
looking at the low discolored ceiling, what part the Negroes of this land wouldtake in the striving of the new century. He sketched in vague outline the newIndustrial School that might rise among these pines, he spoke in detail of thecharitable and philanthropic work that might be organized, of money that mightbe saved for banks and business. Finally he urged unity, and deprecatedespecially religious and denominational bickering. "To-day," he said,with a smile, "the world cares little whether a man be Baptist orMethodist, or indeed a churchman at all, so long as he is good and true. Whatdifference does it make whether a man be baptized in river or washbowl, or notat all? Let's leave all that littleness, and look higher." Then, thinkingof nothing else, he slowly sat down. A painful hush seized that crowded mass.Little had they understood of what he said, for he spoke an un- known tongue,save the last word about baptism; that they knew, and they sat very still whilethe clock ticked. Then at last a low suppressed snarl came from the Amencorner, and an old bent man arose, walked over the seats, and climbed straightup into the pulpit. He was wrinkled and black, with scant gray and tufted hair;his voice and hands shook as with palsy; but on his face lay the intense raptlook of the religious fanatic. He seized the Bible with his rough, huge hands;twice he raised it inarticulate, and then fairly burst into words, with rudeand awful eloquence. He quivered, swayed, and bent; then rose aloft in perfectmajesty, till the people moaned and wept, wailed and shouted, and a wildshrieking arose from the corners where all the pent-up feeling of the hourgathered itself and rushed into the air. John never knew clearly what the oldman said; he only felt himself held up to scorn and scathing denunciation fortrampling on the true Religion, and he realized with amazement that all unknow-ingly he had put rough, rude hands on something this little world held sacred.He arose silently, and passed out into the night. Down toward the sea he went,in the fitful starlight, half conscious of the girl who followed timidly afterhim. When at last he stood upon the bluff, he turned to his little sister andlooked upon her sorrowfully, remembering with sudden pain how little thought hehad given her. He put his
arm about her and let her passion of tears spend itself on his shoulder.
Long they stood together, peering over the gray unrestingwater.
"John," she said, "does it make every one-- unhappy when they study and learn lots of things?"
He paused and smiled. "I am afraid it does," hesaid. "And, John, are you glad you studied?"
"Yes," came the answer, slowly but positively.
She watched the flickering lights upon the sea, and saidthoughtfully, "I wish I was unhappy, -- and -- and," putting botharms about his neck, "I think I am, a little, John."
It was several days later that John walked up to theJudge's house to ask for the privilege of teaching the Negro school. The Judgehimself met him at the front door, stared a little hard at him, and saidbrusquely, "Go 'round to the kitchen door, John, and wait." Sittingon the kitchen steps, John stared at the corn, thoroughly perplexed. What onearth had come over him? Every step he made offended some one. He had come tosave his people, and before he left the depot he had hurt them. He sought toteach them at the church, and had outraged their deepest feelings. He hadschooled himself to be respectful to the Judge, and then blundered into hisfront door. And all the time he had meant right, -- and yet, and yet, somehowhe found it so hard and strange to fit his old surroundings again, to find hisplace in the world about him. He could not remember that he used to have anydifficulty in the past, when life was glad and gay. The world seemed smooth andeasy then. Perhaps, -- but his sister came to the kitchen door just then andsaid the Judge awaited him.
The Judge sat in the dining-room amid his morning's mail,and he did not ask John to sit down. He plunged squarely into the business."You've come for the school, I suppose. Well John, I want to speak to youplainly. You know I'm a friend to your people. I've helped you and your family,and would have done more if you hadn't got the notion of going off. Now I likethe colored people, and sympathize with all their reasonable aspirations; butyou and I both know, John, that in this country the Negro must remainsubordinate, and can never expect to be the equal of white men. In their place,
your people can be honest and respectful; and God knows, I'll do what I can tohelp them. But when they want to reverse nature, and rule white men, and marrywhite women, and sit in my parlor, then, by God! we'll hold them under if wehave to lynch every Nigger in the land. Now, John, the question is, are you,with your education and Northern notions, going to accept the situation andteach the darkies to be faithful servants and laborers as your fathers were, --I knew your father, John, he belonged to my brother, and he was a good Nigger.Well -- well, are you going to be like him, or are you going to try to put foolideas of rising and equality into these folks' heads, and make themdiscontented and unhappy?"
"I am going to accept the situation, JudgeHenderson," answered John, with a brevity that did not escape the keen oldman. He hesitated a moment, and then said shortly, "Very well, -- we'lltry you awhile. Good-morning."
It was a full month after the opening of the Negro schoolthat the other John came home, tall, gay, and headstrong. The mother wept, thesisters sang. The whole white town was glad. A proud man was the Judge, and itwas a goodly sight to see the two swinging down Main Street together. And yetall did not go smoothly between them, for the younger man could not and did notveil his contempt for the little town, and plainly had his heart set on NewYork. Now the one cherished ambition of the Judge was to see his son mayor ofAltamaha, representative to the legislature, and -- who could say? -- governorof Georgia. So the argument often waxed hot between them. "Good heavens,father," the younger man would say after dinner, as he lighted a cigar andstood by the fireplace, "you surely don't expect a young fellow like me tosettle down permanently in this -- this God-forgotten town with nothing but mudand Negroes?" "I did," the Judge would answer laconically; andon this particular day it seemed from the gathering scowl that he was about toadd something more emphatic, but neighbors had already begun to drop in toadmire his son, and the conversation drifted.
"Heah that John is livenin' things up at the darkyschool," volunteered the postmaster, after a pause.
"What now?" asked the Judge, sharply.
"Oh, nothin' in particulah, -- just his almighty airand up-
pish ways. B'lieve I did heah somethin' about his givin' talks on the FrenchRevolution, equality, and such like. He's what I call a dangerous Nigger."
"Have you heard him say anything out of theway?"
"Why, no, -- but Sally, our girl, told my wife a lotof rot. Then, too, I don't need to heah: a Nigger what won't say 'sir' to awhite man, or -- "
"Who is this John?" interrupted the son.
"Why, it's little black John, Peggy's son, -- yourold playfellow."
The young man's face flushed angrily, and then helaughed.
"Oh," said he, "it's the darky that triedto force himself into a seat beside the lady I was escorting -- "
But Judge Henderson waited to hear no more. He had beennettled all day, and now at this he rose with a half-smothered oath, took hishat and cane, and walked straight to the schoolhouse.
For John, it had been a long, hard pull to get thingsstarted in the rickety old shanty that sheltered his school. The Negroes wererent into factions for and against him, the parents were careless, the childrenirregular and dirty, and books, pencils, and slates largely missing.Nevertheless, he struggled hopefully on, and seemed to see at last someglimmering of dawn. The attendance was larger and the children were a shadecleaner this week. Even the booby class in reading showed a little comfortingprogress. So John settled himself with renewed patience this afternoon.
"Now, Mandy," he said cheerfully, "that'sbetter; but you mustn't chop your words up so: 'If -- the-man -- goes.' Why,your little brother even wouldn't tell a story that way, now would he?"
"Naw, suh, he cain't talk."
"All right; now let's try again: 'If the man -- '
The whole school started in surprise, and the teacherhalf arose, as the red, angry face of the Judge appeared in the open doorway.
"John, this school is closed. You children can gohome and get to work. The white people of Altamaha are not spending their moneyon black folks to have their heads
crammed with impudence and lies. Clear out! I'll lock the door myself."
Up at the great pillared house the tall young sonwandered aimlessly about after his father's abrupt departure. In the housethere was little to interest him; the books were old and stale, the localnewspaper flat, and the women had retired with headaches and sewing. He tried anap, but it was too warm. So he sauntered out into the fields, complainingdisconsolately, "Good Lord! how long will this imprisonment last!" Hewas not a bad fellow, -- just a little spoiled and self-indulgent, and asheadstrong as his proud father. He seemed a young man pleasant to look upon, ashe sat on the great black stump at the edge of the pines idly swinging his legsand smoking. "Why, there isn't even a girl worth getting up a respectableflirtation with," he growled. Just then his eye caught a tall, willowyfigure hurrying toward him on the narrow path. He looked with interest atfirst, and then burst into a laugh as he said, "Well, I declare, if itisn't Jennie, the little brown kitchen-maid! Why, I never noticed before what atrim little body she is. Hello, Jennie! Why, you haven't kissed me since I camehome," he said gaily. The young girl stared at him in surprise andconfusion, -- faltered something inarticulate, and attempted to pass. But awilful mood had seized the young idler, and he caught at her arm. Frightened,she slipped by; and half mischievously he turned and ran after her through thetall pines.
Yonder, toward the sea, at the end of the path, came Johnslowly, with his head down. He had turned wearily homeward from theschoolhouse; then, thinking to shield his mother from the blow, started to meethis sister as she came from work and break the news of his dismissal to her."I'll go away," he said slowly; "I'll go away and find work, andsend for them. I cannot live here longer." And then the fierce, buriedanger surged up into his throat. He waved his arms and hurried wildly up thepath.
The great brown sea lay silent. The air scarce breathed.The dying day bathed the twisted oaks and mighty pines in black and gold. Therecame from the wind no warning, not a whisper from the cloudless sky. There wasonly a black man hurrying on with an ache in his heart, seeing neither sun nor
sea, but starting as from a dream at the frightened cry that woke the pines, tosee his dark sister struggling in the arms of a tall and fair-haired man.
He said not a word, but, seizing a fallen limb, struckhim with all the pent-up hatred of his great black arm, and the body lay whiteand still beneath the pines, all bathed in sunshine and in blood. John lookedat it dreamily, then walked back to the house briskly, and said in a softvoice, "Mammy, I'm going away -- I'm going to be free."
She gazed at him dimly and faltered, "No'th, honey,is yo' gwine No'th agin?"
He looked out where the North Star glistened pale abovethe waters, and said, "Yes, mammy, I'm going -- North."
Then, without another word, he went out into the narrowlane, up by the straight pines, to the same winding path, and seated himself onthe great black stump, looking at the blood where the body had lain. Yonder inthe gray past he had played with that dead boy, romping together under thesolemn trees. The night deepened; he thought of the boys at Johnstown. Hewondered how Brown had turned out, and Carey? And Jones, -- Jones? Why, he wasJones, and he wondered what they would all say when they knew, when they knew,in that great long dining-room with its hundreds of merry eyes. Then as thesheen of the starlight stole over him, he thought of the gilded ceiling of thatvast concert hall, heard stealing toward him the faint sweet music of the swan.Hark! was it music, or the hurry and shouting of men? Yes, surely! Clear andhigh the faint sweet melody rose and fluttered like a living thing, so that thevery earth trembled as with the tramp of horses and murmur of angry men.
He leaned back and smiled toward the sea, whence rose thestrange melody, away from the dark shadows where lay the noise of horsesgalloping, galloping on. With an effort he roused himself, bent forward, andlooked steadily down the pathway, softly humming the "Song of theBride," --
"Freudig gefuhrt, ziehet dahin."
Amid the trees in the dim morning twilight he watchedtheir shadows dancing and heard their horses thundering toward
him, until at last they came sweeping like a storm, and he saw in front thathaggard white-haired man, whose eyes flashed red with fury. Oh, how he pitiedhim, -- pitied him, -- and wondered if he had the coiling twisted rope. Then,as the storm burst round him, he rose slowly to his feet and turned his closedeyes toward the Sea.
And the world whistled in his ears.