Miller did not reach his destination without interruption. At one point a considerable stretch of the road was under repair, which made it necessary for him to travel slowly. His horse cast a shoe, and threatened to go lame; but in the course of time he arrived at the entrance gate of Belleview, entering which he struck into a private road, bordered by massive oaks, whose multitudinous branches, hung with long streamers of trailing moss, formed for much of the way a thick canopy above his head. It took him only a few minutes to traverse the quarter of a mile that lay between the entrance gate and the house itself.

This old colonial plantation, rich in legendary lore and replete with historic distinction, had been in the Delamere family for nearly two hundred years. Along the bank of the river which skirted its domain the famous pirate Blackbeard had held high carnival, and was reputed to have buried much treasure, vague traditions of which still lingered among the negroes and poor-whites of the country roundabout. The beautiful residence, rising white and stately in a grove of ancient oaks, dated from 1750, and was built of brick which had been brought from England. Enlarged and improved from generation to generation, it stood, like a baronial castle, upon a slight eminence from which could be surveyed the large demesne still belonging to the estate, which had shrunk greatly from its colonial dimensions. While still embracing several thousand acres, part forest and part cleared land, it had not of late years been profitable; in spite of which Mr. Delamere, with the conservatism of his age and caste, had never been able to make up his mind to part with any considerable portion of it. His grandson, he imagined, could make the estate pay and yet preserve it in its integrity. Here, in pleasant weather, surrounded by the scenes which he loved, old Mr. Delamere spent much of the time during his declining years.

Dr. Miller had once passed a day at Belleview, upon Mr. Delamere’s invitation. For this old-fashioned gentleman, whose ideals not even slavery had been able to spoil, regarded himself as a trustee for the great public, which ought, in his opinion, to take as much pride as he in the contemplation of this historic landmark. In earlier years Mr. Delamere had been a practicing lawyer, and had numbered Miller’s father among his clients. He had always been regarded as friendly to the colored people, and, until age and ill health had driven him from active life, had taken a lively interest in their advancement since the abolition of slavery. Upon the public opening of Miller’s new hospital, he had made an effort to be present, and had made a little speech of approval and encouragement which had manifested his kindliness and given Miller much pleasure.

It was with the consciousness, therefore, that he was approaching a friend, as well as Sandy’s master, that Miller’s mind was chiefly occupied as his tired horse, scenting the end of his efforts, bore him with a final burst of speed along the last few rods of the journey; for the urgency of Miller’s errand, involving as it did the issues of life and death, did not permit him to enjoy the charm of mossy oak or forest reaches, or even to appreciate the noble front of Belleview House when it at last loomed up before him.

“Well, William,” said Mr. Delamere, as he gave his hand to Miller from the armchair in which he was seated under the broad and stately portico, “I didn’t expect to see you out here. You’ll excuse my not rising⁠—I’m none too firm on my legs. Did you see anything of my man Sandy back there on the road? He ought to have been here by nine o’clock, and it’s now one. Sandy is punctuality itself, and I don’t know how to account for his delay.”

Clearly there need be no time wasted in preliminaries. Mr. Delamere had gone directly to the subject in hand.

“He will not be here today, sir,” replied Miller. “I have come to you on his account.”

In a few words Miller stated the situation.

“Preposterous!” exclaimed the old gentleman, with more vigor than Miller had supposed him to possess. “Sandy is absolutely incapable of such a crime as robbery, to say nothing of murder; and as for the rest, that is absurd upon the face of it! And so the poor old woman is dead! Well, well, well! she could not have lived much longer anyway; but Sandy did not kill her⁠—it’s simply impossible! Why, I raised that boy! He was born on my place. I’d as soon believe such a thing of my own grandson as of Sandy! No negro raised by a Delamere would ever commit such a crime. I really believe, William, that Sandy has the family honor of the Delameres quite as much at heart as I have. Just tell them I say Sandy is innocent, and it will be all right.”

“I’m afraid, sir,” rejoined Miller, who kept his voice up so that the old gentleman could understand without having it suggested that Miller knew he was hard of hearing, “that you don’t quite appreciate the situation. I believe Sandy innocent; you believe him innocent; but there are suspicious circumstances which do not explain themselves, and the white people of the city believe him guilty, and are going to lynch him before he has a chance to clear himself.”

“Why doesn’t he explain the suspicious circumstances?” asked Mr. Delamere. “Sandy is truthful and can be believed. I would take Sandy’s word as quickly as another man’s oath.”

“He has no chance to explain,” said Miller. “The case is prejudged. A crime has been committed. Sandy is charged with it. He is black, and therefore he is guilty. No colored lawyer would be allowed in the jail, if one should dare to go there. No white lawyer will intervene. He’ll be lynched tonight, without judge, jury, or preacher, unless we can stave the thing off for a day or two.”

“Have you seen my grandson?” asked the old gentleman. “Is he not looking after Sandy?”

“No, sir. It seems he went down the river this morning to fish, before the murder was discovered; no one knows just where he has gone, or at what hour he will return.”

“Well, then,” said Mr. Delamere, rising from his chair with surprising vigor, “I shall have to go myself. No faithful servant of mine shall be hanged for a crime he didn’t commit, so long as I have a voice to speak or a dollar to spend. There’ll be no trouble after I get there, William. The people are naturally wrought up at such a crime. A fine old woman⁠—she had some detestable traits, and I was always afraid she wanted to marry me, but she was of an excellent family and had many good points⁠—an old woman of one of the best families, struck down by the hand of a murderer! You must remember, William, that blood is thicker than water, and that the provocation is extreme, and that a few hotheads might easily lose sight of the great principles involved and seek immediate vengeance, without too much discrimination. But they are good people, William, and when I have spoken, and they have an opportunity for the sober second thought, they will do nothing rashly, but will wait for the operation of the law, which will, of course, clear Sandy.”

“I’m sure I hope so,” returned Miller. “Shall I try to drive you back, sir, or will you order your own carriage?”

“My horses are fresher, William, and I’ll have them brought around. You can take the reins, if you will⁠—I’m rather old to drive⁠—and my man will come behind with your buggy.”

In a few minutes they set out along the sandy road. Having two fresh horses, they made better headway than Miller had made coming out, and reached Wellington easily by three o’clock.

“I think, William,” said Mr. Delamere, as they drove into the town, “that I had first better talk with Sandy. He may be able to explain away the things that seem to connect him with this atrocious affair; and that will put me in a better position to talk to other people about it.”

Miller drove directly to the county jail. Thirty or forty white men, who seemed to be casually gathered near the door, closed up when the carriage approached. The sheriff, who had seen them from the inside, came to the outer door and spoke to the visitor through a grated wicket.

Mr. Wemyss,” said Mr. Delamere, when he had made his way to the entrance with the aid of his cane, “I wish to see my servant, Sandy Campbell, who is said to be in your custody.”

The sheriff hesitated. Meantime there was some parleying in low tones among the crowd outside. No one interfered, however, and in a moment the door opened sufficiently to give entrance to the old gentleman, after which it closed quickly and clangorously behind him.

Feeling no desire to linger in the locality, Miller, having seen his companion enter the jail, drove the carriage round to Mr. Delamere’s house, and leaving it in charge of a servant with instructions to return for his master in a quarter of an hour, hastened to his own home to meet Watson and Josh and report the result of his efforts.