The Unknown

July 8, 1896
Charles Birchwood

“Tell me who they are.” I demanded.

I walked straight up to Alexander Carrington, my gaze unwavering as I approached. He could not meet my eyes and started to turn away until I grabbed his arm.

“Tell me.” I said louder.

“I do not know their names or faces.” He replied.

“You know something, Carrington. Tell me.”

“I know enough not to get involved.”

I slugged him with a right punch to the jaw sending him tumbling to the ground. Mrs. Carrington cried out and started to run toward us until he waved her back with hand.

“You let a woman die and another one still might. How do you figure you are not involved? Will you pretend you did not know Pollyanna or Edith?” I said with rage shaking my voice.

“I have a family to protect first.” he replied slowly picking himself up off the ground.

“Silence in the face of evil will protect no man, woman or child. The sheriff must know everything.”

“He all ready knows as much as I do.”

“Then why not tell me?”

“You don’t want to know Charles.”

“If I didn’t want to know, I wouldn’t be asking.”

Alexander shook his head.

I turned around to leave but my temper got the better of me and I spun around and slugged him again. He was not as off guard this time though and staggered through the blow while returning one of his own. I jabbed into his gut with a sharp left and he nearly knocked me down with a blow to the side of my head. I rammed myself into him until he slammed against the wall. As he staggered forward I cut him with a right and sent him down to the floor again. Blood trickled from nose and I tasted it in my mouth.

“What in the hell is going on here?” The newly arrived sheriff barked from behind me.

I turned to face him.

“That is precisely what I am trying to find out. Everybody around here seems to know what is going on and who is behind it but not a soul is talking.” I said.

“A shot of whiskey works better than a bloody nose, Mr. Birchwood.” The sheriff said.

I nodded in agreement.

“I’ll buy a whole damn bottle if someone will start talking.” I said.

“There ain’t much to be said from what I know. There are some men, probably former pupils of the esteemed Brown University who feel threatened by Primrose College.” The sheriff said.

“If nobody knows who these men are why is everybody so afraid of them?”

“I think you just answered your own question.” The sheriff replied.

“You cannot be afraid of a man you don’t even know if he exists or not.” I said.

“Are you a God fearing man?” Alexander said.

“As much as the next man.” I replied.

“You never met God I trust?”

“If I have he failed to properly introduce himself.”

“Then I’d say you know pretty well how to fear a man you’ve never seen.”

Oddly enough, that actually made sense.

“Tell me sheriff, should I be packing my bags and getting my family out of danger?”

“I can’t see that you have much to be worried about, Mr. Birchwood. The trouble this all about happened before you ever got here.” The sheriff said.

I nodded.

“How is Edith?” I asked.

“She’ll be all right in a few days. The Doc said plenty of rest and liquids for her but she was spared any breaks.” The sheriff replied.

“Good to hear. I’ll stop by and see her later.”

“Don’t bother, the good Doc isn’t let anyone in to see her.”

“I see. What about the Dean? Any news?” I asked.

“Nothing. I think we have to assume he has been killed. The board should be notified to convene and select a new Dean before the start of the new semester.”

“I’ll see to it.” Mr. Carrington said.

When I left Carrington manor I stopped off in town and had a bottle of single malt sent to the sheriff with my thanks. Then I went home to Caroline.

“Charles, I’m scared.” She said.

“I know. I cannot see any reason anyone would bother us but I would be a liar to say I am not concerned.”

“Maybe, it would be best if the kids and I went to stay with my father for a little while. Until things settle down here?” Caroline said.

I did not like the thought of it. Not for one minute did I want to be sending my family away but the reasonable part of me knew it would be for the best. I nodded my head.

“Get your things packed. I’ll send a wire to your father and arrange the tickets.”

A tear rolled out of her eye before she wrapped her arms around me and kissed my cheek. I held her in my arms for as long as she wanted. It felt good and safe and for just a moment I could forget the horror outside, the hell that was quickly becoming my life.

I sent the wire and bought the tickets, first class all the way. The train left at 9PM. I waited on the platform until all I could see was the wispy steam from the stack off in the horizon. All my life I have wanted to teach at a college but right now all I want is to be on that train with my family.


Ashley J said...

To Paul and Reggie,

Lynching in late 19th century America was most commonly done to the African American population as an intimidation tactic. It was however also done to individuals of any race to serve as a warning, usually political in basis. Most suffragettes never found more trouble than a few days in jail and a small fine, but there were exceptions and educational revolutionaries were a part of those exceptions.

While you might not think of Ms. Maple and Edith as revolutionaries, in our story they are in the midst of one the biggest and most important changes in educational history in America. The change was short lived, in part do to some violent protest but it stands as a historic event and paved the way for the modern collegiate environment.

Paul said...

Ashley, thanks for the explanation, I knew about the African Americans.
I had no idea that educational reform raised such anger and heat.
I'm always happy to learn, specially in such an enjoyable way.
Thank you.
Warm hugs,