THE SECRET AT THE CROSSROADS
All eyes centred on me. Clifford's face, the reckless face of my own cousin, unseen and almost forgotten in fifteen years, stared at me blankly for a second. "George!" he burst out. "Of all people! What in hell are you doin' here with this low-down 'nigger-kisser? Of course I wasn’t goin' to shoot him—just scare him a little. But you've got no business here takin' up for him!"
"I've got a doctor's right to treat a case," I said, my whole body shaking, "and you and your crowd have got no right to do this poor fellow like hell-hounds till he's afraid to his soul his own. How could a Baldwin ever do that?"
"Because he takes up with niggers and has nothing to do with decent white people."
"Because you’ve driven him to it," I protested. "He's told me all about it. And he's clean as a hound's tooth, too. Clifford, I swear to you, this man's doing your dirty work, all by himself, doing the best he knows to smooth out this nigger trouble like a good white man—because he's got a heart and got nerve. And none of you ever reach him a helping hand."
Agard was hanging on my words like a culprit on his attorney's.
"Then what's he doing hiding out this Negro murderer?" demanded my cousin, his voice rising to renewed wrath.
I told him that Agard had no intention of letting any murderer get away; that he only wanted to save his own neck if he could; that the Negro had no chance, in any event. "Look over there, gentlemen, if you want to see a man die," I addressed the others.
It was a gruesome, almost unreal spectacle, not to be dwelt upon. It had a revealing effect upon the beholders. There was a mixture, a beginning reversal, of emotion—a new kind of interest in the concerns and doings of the quack doctor. John did not expire quietly. He was a magnificent brute, of untold powers of resistance. But he never could have survived; of that I am certain.
"My God!" Agard suddenly exclaimed, and toppled over. A weakness came over me also; but I did not find it necessary to divulge the unprofessional ruse involved in the manner of John's taking off. I am accountable to no man for knowl-