The Charlotte News

Monday, January 31, 1938


Site Ed. Note: Though we haven't the pleasure yet of partaking of the Bulwer-Lytton story referenced in "Speaking of Ghosts", "The Damned Thing" of Bierce leaves us, candidly, much preferring the ghosts of Hamlet's father, or Banquo or Caesar. Perhaps it comes of growing of age when "Thriller", "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", "One Step Beyond" and "The Twilight Zone", one of the best of which presentations, incidentally, was the dramatization of Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge", proliferated on the airwaves, not to mention the equivalent fare at the movies and in plenty--far the more chilling and suspenseful in black and white, we opine, than in vivid technicolor--although, should the actinic end of the spectrum be caught on film, that would certainly grab our attention--or, do we, without fully realizing it, within those shadow places in photographs, see it anyway?

Perhaps, instead, our reluctance is a function of growing older and thus harder to be swayed to suspend disbelief through the catcalls at the same plot repeated from ten thousand other presentations. (How many times can an intruder in the night, come to slash your throat wide open and taste your vitals, really be that frightful when you've survived it so many times already with a buttery mouth and hand being the only resulting physical change?)

But, now, Cash's own little trip into remembrance of times past, there's a little ghost story, ever so tantalizingly brief in its pretermission...

To bolster our argument, we shall turn to our old friend in the Caribbean for assistance again. You of the attentive and dedicated readers of the herein will, no doubt, readily discern and appreciate our meaning. For the attentive, that tickle on the back of your neck is the recognition and due reminder that justice comes to those who wait.

So, once again, we offer, that our friend, duly verified by unimpeachable prior readers, had never read a whit or even seen the editorials of this date or any at all, save the few in Joseph Morrison's book, when the below was committed in 1992 from the ether--that invisible substance we choose not to call "the damned thing" but rather the blesséd something which illuminates.

Two hours later, as the soft, muted bells echoed seven times from the campanile, they left the hotel with Mary, properly preened, unable to resist the inevitable pun between the name on the lodgepole, Driskill, and her first observation of Wilbur's appearance in cap and gown.

"Well, not so ready, really. I'll be the only one not fit in Ph.D. black."

Mary wrestled with the thought a moment, pushing to keep Wilbur relaxed. "So bring a ram for King Zeus to make it up."

"Ah, but first I must bring for the '...Kinglet, the gold-crested wren, a masculine midge, full formed and entire, to be sacrificed duly by men'. And I see no volunteers. Know any midges?" Wilbur complaisantly grinned.

"One or two. The traitor is good for starters. But I was suggesting that in your brown-wren gown, you are the 'Kinglet'." Mary patted Wilbur's arm.

"Well, the part which troubles me then is who in the hell is 'Zeus'?"

"Oh, probably the steps at Charlottesville place old Zan there occasionally on someone's shoulder." Mary began to intone in gleeful, rhythmic manner, suggesting enigmatic pleasure in the expression of her arcane imagery.

Wilbur looked at her, lifting his brows and rubbing his right supraorbital in puzzlement. "Okay, then where do I find a ram in Texas?"

"I don't know...but I've a funny, funny feeling that Iris...," Mary winged her words slowly, seeming to conjure additional meaning for her own understanding as she spoke them, "that she has gotten by the jackdaw...the same one which resembles the crow... And some will be, doubtless, rather displeased with that. And what's more... I somehow fear that Iris, right now, may be, knowing or not, at the hub of the felly." She stressed Iris on each utterance.

Wilbur pensively grinned and, after a moment softly said, with hopeful uplift in his voice, "Well, perhaps, she's instead reaching the end of the rainbow."

"But to find what? Maybe, the one who looks as the gamecock-plucked plover-page feeding on the myrtle?" She paused with a wide-eyed, clasped-lip, rogatory expression firmly frozen. "The hoopoe calling his winged friends, maybe?" Mary's voice had become strangely shrill as she trailed away.

Wilbur, finding the questions unduly pointed, mumbled hopefully, "Well, why not Simonides or the plain old Poet, maybe?" He lifted a nonchalant shrug and breathed out through his nose; then, paused a moment and took a deep breath as the rimmed halo of the stadium lights came into view from a couple of blocks away. "I need a Lark..."

He cleared his throat and slightly stammered in a quiet, obeisant voice. "'ve the point, I guess. That song went, after all: 'Toro-toro-toro-torotinx!/ Kikkabau, kikkabau!/ Toro-toro-toro-toro-lililinx'!/ Trioto, trioto, totobrinx!'."

Mary smirked: "Well, I think you're probably playing it backwards, but I think I get the point."

So, is the "hub of the felly", spinning while "[t]he sand hissed gently as it followed the felloes around", explained in the splattered patterns, perhaps, of "Two on a Spot", all of which was interrupted ever so briefly only at the "broken water wheel beside the shallow stream at the bottom..."?

Or, maybe we're just buggy?

Yet, that circle of truth, quite unplanned, quite unplannable in the concursus fortuitus, would suggest itself once again.

Well--do you believe in the violet light which you can't see? Or, is that occasional sudden brisk waft of pale white in the dark merely the shadow of your imagination chasing itself around the room, then merely happening to project itself with a concomitant creak on the floor in the hall; that formless touch on the arm, a mere somatic reaction of the nerves, susceptible of explication fully by science, not seance?

Another piece, from the book-page of January 26, 1936, of which "Du Temps Perdu" is reminiscent is "Said Files on Parade: Memories of a Parlor".

The rest of the page, meanwhile, exists, ghostly, here.

Grist for the Mill*

About the merits of Social Security in general, we have no doubts. In our society, unemployment and old age insurance are as necessary as, say, traffic lights. Nevertheless, the taking of judgments against the five Charlotte employers to the tune of $1200 for failing to pay up last year reminds us that, as the law is written, it is most devilishly hard to keep up with.

If a printer comes into our shop to work a day in place of somebody who is out sick, a deduction and a contribution have to be made. Moreover, the transaction has to be entered on our books and separate reports made to Washington and Raleigh. Multiply that by the number of our employees--approximately 175--and you have the certainty that Social Security is going to keep the bookkeepers busy.

And now it appears that the lawyers are going to have a good thing in it, too. Already suits have begun to be filed as between the Government and a relatively few employers, but just wait until litigation between the millions of beneficiaries and the Government commences.

Du Temps Perdu

How dreadfully old we are getting on to be is painfully recalled to our mind as we read in the papers that the Smithsonian Institution in Washington has placed on display, along with the bones of the brontosaurus and the railroad train that made the first journey on the Baltimore and Ohio lines in 1832--a buggy.

We recall readily enough when, with the family carriage or the farm wagon (according to the economic and social strata to which you happened to belong), the contraption was actually the prevailing means of locomotion. We have, really, ridden in the things many a time. We remember one road in particular... Sometimes it wound along, white and flat and a little indefinite among the pines or past farmhouses, out of which hound dogs came and bayed on your trail for a long time. The sand hissed gently as it followed the felloes around, and there was a smell of sun on leather. And sometimes it was red and cut down deep between high banks, and the wild plum trees overhung it and now and then brushed against the buggy top, breaking their branches and loosing their sharp, bitter smell. There was a long red hill, too, with an old mill and a broken water wheel beside the shallow stream at the bottom...

But ah, now, we had better haul up, or we shall be getting sentimental and proving ourselves older than we are willing to admit. Home, James.

Two on a Spot

Two people the Wagner-Van Nuys Anti-Lynching Bill seems to have on the spot are Alben W. Barkley, Senator from Kentucky and majority leader, and--Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Though the measure is not formally an administration one, Senator Barkley has got himself committed to it, and as majority leader is supposed, of course, to round up the votes for its passage. But, unhappily for the Senator, Kentucky is practically as Southern in sentiment as South Carolina or Mississippi when it comes to this question. The passage of the bill is almost certain to make trouble for the Senator. Kentucky's Governor, A. B. (Happy) Chandler, has already announced, indeed, that he intends to run for the Senator's seat, with the latter's support of the Wagner-Van Nuys bill as the principal issue.

And as for President Roosevelt, the Republicans have taken advantage of the filibuster by Southern Democrats to jockey him into the position of having to decide whether he'll use pressure to have the bill passed. Nominally, they are all for it, these Republicans, but they aid and abet the Southerners in keeping it from coming to a vote, and everybody is agreed that only the President can force that. If he doesn't, he'll stand to lose the Northern Negro vote, for which he and Democratic Party leaders have been making a strong bid. And if he does, he'll further alienate the Southern Senators and their constituents.

Uses of a Baumes Law*

Bill Payne and Wash Turner, with the verdict against them Saturday night, have finally come to the end of their rope. But what a long, slack rope it was, and how the law gave them every opportunity to do exactly what they did in the end, which was to kill a nice young Highway Patrolman.

Look at Turner's record:

San Diego, 1921, arrested for grand larceny.

El Paso, 1922, violation of the Dyer Act.

Greensboro, 1927, arrested for violation of the Harrison Act and larceny.

Raleigh, eight years for store-breaking; escaped prison. Recaptured, he was convicted on an old charge of stealing an automobile, and had five to eight years added to his sentence.

Rowan County, 1934, 23 years for bank robbery. Escaped prison in February, 1937.

Payne's record is not so extensive, but it makes up for it in assiduousness:

Three years for stealing an automobile in 1924. Later he was sent up for bank robbery and other crimes. Yet again he drew a twenty-year sentence for bank robbery. He had escaped prison twice before his break with Turner from Caledonia in February, 1937.

Both these men were notorious felons long before they became outlaws terrorizing two states. The law had failed, probably, at reforming them so that they might resume their places in a free society; yet forebore to send them up for life as chronic offenders, and failed to keep them securely during the successive times it had hold of them.

What this state needs for men like Payne and Turner is a Baumes Law, which means life sentences for all four-time felons, and an Alcatraz in which to lay them away. It is too late now to save Patrolman Penn, but there will be other Turners and other Paynes and other Penns

A Characteristic Mood

It is a mood of five phases, Dr. Glenn Frank says, in which the Republican Party should approach its--er--responsibilities. We have an idea that the responsibility of which the party is most acutely conscious is to get itself back into office; but never mind that just now, and never mind Moods No. 1, 2, 4, 5. It is No. 3 that concerns us at the moment.

And Mood 3, as Dr. Frank puts it, is for the party--

"... to expose the growing practice in American politics, of which itself may have been guilty at times, of auctioning off the country to a succession of any highly-organized pressure group that can muster enough votes to be impressive."

Probably the most highly-organized pressure group in recent American experience has been the veterans of the World War. They have been no worse than their predecessors of the Civil War and the Spanish engagement, but they have been a sight more numerous, and therefore a sight more costly. And it was under the aegis of the Republican Party that a law was enacted granting allowances to World War veterans for disabilities suffered long after the war was over and in no way attributable to their war service.

And while it was the Democratic Party, principally, that gave in to the veterans and paid the bonus eight years before it was due, the Republicans did their best to capitalize politically upon it. Their membership in the Senate voted 16 to 7 to override President Roosevelt's veto, and with that help it was overridden.

Speaking of Ghosts

That seems to have been a pretty fair ghost story which, with the aid of our Mr. Paul, performed in and around the house on Herrin Avenue. It must have been passably grisly-looking to have scared that taxi-driver practically into running fits. And when a citizen was unearthed who actually had a wrestling match with the ectoplasmic visitor--why, yes, it was a pretty satisfactory ghost, calculated to start up the backhair even on our own skeptical necks.

Nevertheless, by and large, we still prefer the ghosts of fiction to practicing ghosts. For these latter rarely show any considerable imagination. The best they can do, usually, is to groan hollowly, clank some chains, open a few doors, start up draughts, and sigh while you pass trembling hands through their ethereal substance. But in fiction--Hamlet's father and Banquo and the ghost at Phillippi leave something to be desired, we grant. But, ah, citizens, did you ever look into old Bulwer-Lytton's "The House and the Brain?" Or into the yarn of Ambrose Bierce's called "The Damned Thing," wherein two men watch the invisible moving through the wheat, drawing swiftly closer, until in the end it strangles one of them. There, if you really want your hackles titillated, is your meat.

"Now, Kitty, let's consider who it was that dreamed it all. This is a serious question, my dear, and you should NOT go on licking your paw like that--as if Dinah hadn't washed you this morning! You see, Kitty, it MUST have been either me or the Red King. He was part of my dream, of course--but then I was part of his dream, too! WAS it the Red King, Kitty? You were his wife, my dear, so you ought to know--Oh, Kitty, DO help to settle it! I'm sure your paw can wait!" But the provoking kitten only began on the other paw, and pretended it hadn't heard the question.

Which do YOU think it was?


A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July--

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear--

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream--
Lingering in the golden gleam--
Life, what is it but a dream?

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