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

Mists That Vanish.

In his far away peaceful Northern home, Norfleet, friend of Ramon Mansford, received the following letter:

“MY DEAR NORFLEET: I am about at the end of one of the most shocking and most mystifying affairs known to the human race. In keeping with my resolve I disappeared into the Negro race for the purpose of fathoming the mystery of the murder of my beloved Alene. The fact that I could so disappear is one of far-reaching significance. It shows what an awful predicament the Negroes are in. Any white criminal has the race at his mercy. By dropping into the Negro race to commit a crime and immediately thereafter rejoining the white race, he has a most splendid opportunity to escape. And men who commit the darker crimes are not failing to take advantage of the open door; but I picked up my pen to tell you my weird story.

“Well, I actually became a boarder in the home of Aunt Dilsy, the mother of the man accused of murdering my Alene. By mingling with the Negroes I came in contact with three persistent beliefs which I investigated.

“First of all, the Negroes were practically a unit in holding
that Bud Harper had not committed the crime.

“On the next point to be mentioned the popular belief was divided. The more intelligent class held that the Negro lynched was not Bud Harper, but some strange Negro resembling him. When confronted with the fact that Dilsy Harper accepted it as the body of her son Bud, they shrugged their shoulders and said that that report came from the white officers who would pretend that a Negro had said just anything and that Aunt Dilsy would hardly know Bud after the mob got through mutilating him. They believed that Bud was living and that he had come home while the body supposed to be his was lying there. The more superstitious among them held that Bud was unjustly killed and his ghost had come to the wake, and that it could be seen almost any night on the bridge.

“I found whispered around in a rather select circle the belief that Arthur Daleman, Jr., had killed Alene. It was thought that Arthur was secretly in love with his foster sister and in a fit of uncontrollable jealousy had murdered her. A Negro woman, who went to the Daleman’s to care for the house, was reputed to have found in Arthur’s room appliances for making one assume the appearance of a Negro.

“Now all of these rumors I investigated and I came to the
conclusion that the truth of the matter was as follows:

“1. Bud Harper did not kill Alene.

“2. Bud Harper was not hanged.

“3. Bud Harper and not his ghost appeared at his home.

“4. Dilsy Harper accepted the body as that of Bud to prevent a
further quest of Bud.

“5. Arthur Daleman, Jr., bore some relation to Alêne’s murder.

“The fifth conclusion was forced upon me by the guilty
hangdog appearance of Arthur Daleman, Jr., which some people
mistook for sorrow over Alêne’s death.

“Now let me tell you the strange manner in which I received confirmation of these things. On taking up my abode at Dilsy Harper’s I noticed that she and her husband had no dealings with each other, though they lived in the same house. To-day I came home and found the door unbarred and Silas Harper sitting in his wife’s room, his face all wreathed in smiles. Mrs. Harper had been called away and he proceeded to unfold the cause of his previous strained relations with his wife and his present happy state. He had separated himself from her by the process of the barred door, because she had borne him a son that stood unpurged of a charge of having murdered a woman. While thus separated from his wife, brooding over the disgrace brought upon his name by his reputed son, he became very sick. His wife offered to nurse him, but he refused her services.

“In order that Mrs. Harper might be near her husband in his affliction, she gave him information that actually cured him lifted him from his bed. She explained to him that she would have told him before, but feared that he would tell abroad what she confided to him, and thereby occasion more trouble. He promised to never divulge what she had said and kept his promise by telling me, the first man that he had seen since he was told. And here is the strange story that disentangles a deep mystery and solves a question which I was determined to probe to the bottom. I give in my own words the story told me by Silas Harper.

“This couple, Silas and Dilsy Harper, had had two sons so very
much alike that hardly anyone save Mrs. Harper could readily
distinguish them when they were attired alike.

“Dave was one day walking along the street with a young lady when a policeman collided with them. Words passed between them and in the fight that ensued Dave wounded the policeman and was sentenced to prison for twenty years. Another lad, a consumptive was sentenced the same day for two years. The guard that took them to the prison did not know one from the other, and at the suggestion of the consumptive the two exchanged names and sentences. When Dave Harper’s name was called the consumptive stepped forward and registered, and when the latter’s name was called Dave stepped forward. The prison officials, not dreaming that a man with a two years’ sentence would exchange with one having twenty years’ sentence, the matter was arranged without difficulty. In less than a year’s time the consumptive, regarded as Dave Harper, died and was buried as such.

“The real Dave Harper served the consumptive’s two years’ sentence and was duly released from prison. He was so chagrined over the disgrace that his incarceration in prison had brought upon his family, he did not make himself known at home when released. Desiring to live in Almaville and yet be free from the danger of being identified as Dave Harper, he found employment in a saloon patronized only by whites. It was here that he overheard Arthur Daleman, Jr., telling his companions of a pretty ‘coon,’ Foresta Crump, whom he had slated for his next victim. Knowing that Foresta was Bud’s fiancee he determined to look into the matter. As he watched the Daleman residence he saw Arthur Daleman, Jr., enter the servant girl’s room. Judging that Foresta was favorably receiving his attentions Dave determined upon the killing of them both. Thus it was that my dear Alene lost her life. She received a blow that was drawn to her by the wicked plannings of her foster brother.

“Dave Harper supposing that he killed Foresta and Arthur Daleman, Jr., ran by home, made himself known to his mother and confessed all to her. He told his mother that Leroy Crutcher had seen him and no doubt mistook him for Bud and that he would therefore be compelled to hover near the city so that he might return and confess to the committing of the crime in case Bud was about to be made to suffer for his deed.

“Such are the facts as they came to me from Aunt Dilsy’s
husband. I have confronted Arthur Daleman, Jr., with the matter
and he has confessed to his part of the awful tragedy.

“I have now changed back to the white race. In my capacity of a white man I have assured Aunt Dilsy that Bud Harper shall not be molested and have assured Mrs. Crump that it is safe for Foresta to return. The two women are happy souls. I have succeeded in locating Bud and Foresta and shall leave at once for the purpose of restoring them to their families and their friends.

“My dear Norfleet, in view of the terrible way things get
twisted down here, don’t you think it is an awful shame that
this weak and often hated race is denied the right of trial by
jury?

“RAMON.”