Read CHAPTER V of The Hindered Hand / The Reign of the Repressionist, free online book, by Sutton E. Griggs, on ReadCentral.com.

Rather Late In Life To Be Still Nameless.

On the morrow following our ride into Almaville on the passenger train, toward twilight Ensal Ellwood sat upon the front porch of his pretty little home, a sober look in his firm, kindly eyes. By his side sat his aged mother, whose sweet dark face of regular features was crowned with hair that was now white from the combined efforts of time and sorrow. Her usually placid countenance wore a look of positive alarm. She had just been a listener to a conversation between her son and Gus Martin.

Gus Martin was a Negro of brownish hue, whose high cheek bones, keen eyes, coarse black hair and erect carriage told plainly of the Indian blood in his veins. Gus was a great admirer of both Ensal and Earl Bluefield and the three had gone to the Spanish-American war together, Ensal, who was a minister, as chaplain, Gus and Earl as soldiers. These three were present at the battle of San Juan Hill, and Gus, who was himself notoriously brave, scarcely knew which to admire the more, Ensal’s searching words that inspired the men for that world-famous dash or Earl’s enthusiastic, infectious daring on the actual scene of conflict.

Gus could read and write in a fashion, but was by no means as well educated as either Ensal or Earl, his friends, and consequently looked to them largely for guidance.

Earl had made efforts to secure promotion upon the record of his services in battle, but had failed, because, according to common opinion, of the disinclination of the South to have Negro officers in the army. Gus Martin took Earl’s failure to secure promotion more to heart than did Earl himself. Gus was a follower but not a member of the church of which Ensal was pastor, and he had come to pour forth his sentiments to Ensal anent the failure of his friend Earl to be rewarded. Ordinarily the well-known tractability of the Negro seemed uppermost in him, but this evening all of his Indian hot blood seemed to come to the fore. His voice was husky with passion and his black eyes flashed defiance. He questioned the existence of God, and, begging pardon, asserted that the Gospel was the Negro’s greatest curse in that it unmanned the race. As for the United States government, he said, “The flag aint any more to me than any other dirty rag. I fit fur it. My blood run out o’ three holes on the groun’ to keep it floatin’, and whut will it do fur me? Now jes’ tell me whut?”

Ensal endeavored to show that the spirit of the national government was very correct and that the lesser governments within the government caused the weakness. He held that in the course of time the national government would mould the inner circles of government to its way of thinking.

“Excuse me, Elder; but that kind o’ talk makes me sick. You are a good Christian man, I really think; but like most cullud people you are too jam full o’ patience an’ hope. I’ll be blessed if I don’t b’lieve Job was a cullud man. I ganny, I got Indian blood in me and if they pester this kid they are goin’ to hear sump’in’ drap.”

It was to this conversation that Ensal’s mother had listened with disturbed feelings. She believed firmly in God and her only remedies for all the ills of earth were prayer and time. Therefore it ruffled her beyond measure to have a new spirit appearing in the race.

“Ensal, there isn’t any good in that Gus Martin,” said she, in earnest, tremulous tones, nodding her head in the direction of the departing Gus. “I may be dead, my son, but you will see that the devil will be to pay this side of hearing the last of him,” she continued.

Ensal did not look in his mother’s direction, but stole one of her thin worn hands and placed it between his own. He felt that his mother’s prediction with regard to Gus Martin was only too likely to be fulfilled.

At this juncture two young women appeared at the gate and entered. They were Foresta Crump and the young woman whom we saw taken to Foresta’s home on the preceding evening. Being informed that the stranger desired a conference with him, Ensal retired to his study, lighted the room and invited her to enter. Foresta remained upon the porch and entertained Mrs. Ellwood, with whom she was a favorite, because of her peculiarly lovable disposition and her attention to the aged.

When the young woman was seated, Ensal took a seat and looked in her direction, saying, “Consider me at your service, please.” There was an air of unnatural calm about the young woman. She now removed her hat from her head and Ensal noted that her hair was so arranged as to allow her face to fully stand as nature gave it to her, unrelieved. He also noticed that her attire was of a simple order throughout, though good taste and ample means were needed to produce the results attained by her dress. The light of the train that had told Ensal that she was beautiful, had only hinted at the attractiveness of form and feature as disclosed upon closer inspection.

The young woman seemed in no haste to begin the conversation about the matter that had brought her there, and chatted with Ensal in a desultory manner. She was studying Ensal and was affording him an opportunity to study her. Ensal had been so highly spoken of to her, and in her present state of mind she was so anxious to meet such a person as he was represented to be that she was calling into requisition all the powers of intuition of which her soul was capable.

At length an instant of quiet on the part of his visitor told Ensal that she was now to approach the matter that had given rise to her call.

“Mr. Ellwood,” began the young woman, “it sometimes happens in the course of human life that we are compelled to appeal to the faith that people have in us. Life is more or less a matter of faith anyway, but ordinarily there is some sort of buttress for our faith in surrounding circumstances. To-night, I bring not one shred of circumstance, not one bit of history from my past life, and yet I appeal to you for faith in me, absolute unquestioning faith.”

Her earnest tones and the pleading look in her beautiful eyes and the trembling of her form burned those words into Ensal’s memory:

“I have the necessary faith,” said Ensal, earnestly and quietly.

“I have come to Almaville to begin life anew. This has become necessary through no act of my own. This is all I care to say on that point, and I do not promise to ever break the seal of silence with regard to the past. I wish to find a name and I wish to find friends among the really good people of Almaville, the good Negroes. I am lately from New York and I am your friend. With these facts and only these, can you name me, can you place me in touch with your friends?” said the young woman.

“Name you?” enquired Ensal.

“Name me as I was named when a babe. The name that I have borne shall know me no more,” replied the young woman.

As pastor of a Negro church at a period when almost the entire leadership of the race was centered in that functionary, Ensal was accustomed to having all sorts of matters placed before him, but the present requirement was rather unique in all of his experience as a pastor. He arose from the chair and began to walk slowly to and fro across the room, having asked the indulgence of the young woman for resorting to his favorite method of procedure when engaged in serious reflection. If we must tell the truth of this young man, the question which he was debating most was somewhat at variance with those raised by her requests.

Ensal had come to the conclusion many years previous that marriage was not for him, and hitherto woman had had no entrance into the inner chambers of his thoughts. And this beautiful stranger, nameless and homeless, had almost wrested the door of his heart from its hinges, without even an attempt thereat, and the young man was trying to grapple with the new experiences born into his consciousness.

Finding that he lost ground by trying to reason with his heart, Ensal let the wilful member alone and engaged in the more honest task of naming his visitor. Turning toward the young woman, glad that he had something to say, so that he might look into her beautiful face again, he said:

“I name you Tiara.”

Ensal assigned the name with so much warmth that Tiara dropped her eyes, and the faintest symptoms of a smile appeared on her face.

“You have forgotten the latter part of my name,” she remarked.

Ensal resumed his walking. Happening to look up at the top of his desk he caught sight of a sculptured bust of Frederick Douglass. He paused, and pointing to the bust, said:

“Behold one whose distinctive mission in the world was to serve as a harbinger for his race! A star of the first magnitude, he rose in the night of American slavery, attracted the admiring gaze of the civilized world, and so thrilled the hearts of men that they broke the chains of all his kind in the hope of further enriching the firmament of lofty human endeavor with stars like unto him. I name you Tiara Douglass.”

Ensal turned to Tiara, his face enkindled with enthusiasm. He stepped back, threw up his hands, and plainly showed in his eyes the unbounded surprise which he felt at the way in which Tiara had received his suggestion for a surname. There Tiara sat, tears evidently long pent-up freely flowing and her body shaking with, emotion.

To find a word expressive of Ensal’s bewildered state of mind is a problem to be handed over to the type of man engaged in the search for perpetual motion and does not come within the purview of a simple author. Man who tames the lion, harnesses the winds, makes a whimperer of steam and cowers the lightning this same vainglorious, triumphant man is simply helpless in the presence of a woman’s tears! Ensal stole quietly to his seat and sat there in a state of amazement.

Tiara looked up through her tears, a few pretty locks of hair having now fallen in beautiful disorder across her brow.

“Mr. Ellwood, I cannot endure the name Douglass and I cannot explain,” said she.

Ensal now perceived that this name Douglass had somehow made the girl’s thoughts touch upon the very core of her life’s troubles.

“Douglass, Douglass, Douglass; no not Douglass,” repeated Tiara in passionate tones, evidently trying to accept the name for Ensal’s sake and yet being unable to do so.

“Your name shall be Tiara Merlow,” said Ensal.

“Merlow Merlow. I like that,” said Tiara.

“I will arrange for you to stop with Mrs. Helen Crawford,” said Ensal.

“Thank you,” said Tiara.

Tiara now arose to go, but it was evident that there was something yet unspoken. As she reached the door of the room she turned around and looked Ensal directly in the face. Ensal had been following her to the door, and the two now stood near each other.

“She is just tall and large enough to be grand in appearance, which, coupled with her beauty of face and symmetry of form, make her fit to set a new standard of loveliness in woman,” mentally observed Ensal.

“Mr. Ellwood,” said Tiara, “I perceive that you are an admirer of Frederick Douglass. Do you approve of his marriage to a white woman?”

Ensal was about to answer, when something in Tiara’s look told him that he was somehow about to pass final judgment upon himself. He looked at Tiara to see if he could glean from her countenance a hint of her leaning, but her countenance was purposely a blank. He now tried to recall the tone in which she asked the question, but as he remembered it, that, too, was noncommittal. He was not seeking to divine Tiara’s opinion with a view to shaping his own accordingly. If it was apparent that he and she agreed, he was of course ready to answer. If they were to differ, he preferred to postpone answering until such a time as he might be able to accompany his answer with his reason for the same.

Ensal now said smilingly, “Practice suspension of judgment in my case. In some way I may let you know my views on the matter later on.”

“All right,” said Tiara, slowly turning to leave.

It was evident to Ensal that further progress in her favor was largely contingent upon his answer, and the marriage of Frederick Douglass to a white woman became an exceedingly live question with him. He accompanied Tiara and Foresta home and the moonlight and starlight never before appeared so glorious to him or nature so benign.

After all the heart makes its world.