There was not much excitement until I named Gen. Lowrie and two other men as the persons who had destroyed the Visiter office. Then there was a perfect howl of oaths and cat-calls. Gen. Lowrie was on the ground himself, loading his forces outside. A rush was made, stones hurled against the house, pistols fired, and every woman sprang to her feet, but it was to hear and see, not shriek. Harry held the doorway into the hall; Henry that into the dining room. Brown had joined Harry, and I said in a low, concentrated voice:
He turned and pressed up to the rostrum.
“Don’t fail me! Don’t leave me! Remember!”
“I remember! Don’t be afraid! I’ll do it! But I’m going to do some other shooting first.”
“Save two bullets for me!” I plead, “and shoot so that I can see you.”
“I will, I will,” but all the time he was looking to the door; Mrs. Hyke was clinging to me sobbing:
“We’ll go together; no one can part us.” The mob were pressed back and comparative quiet restored, and when I finished the reading of my address I began to extemporize. What I said seemed to be the right words at the right time. A hushed attention fell upon the audience, inside and out. Then there was applause inside, which called forth howls from the outside, and when I stepped from the platform, I was overwhelmed with congratulations, and more astonished than any one, to learn that I could speak in public.
T.H. Barrett, a young civil engineer, was chairman of the committee on resolutions, and brought in a set which thrilled the audience. They were a most indignant denunciation of the destruction of the office, an enthusiastic endorsement of the course of the Visiter, and a determination to re-establish it, under the sole control of its editor. They were passed singly by acclamation until the last, when I protested that they should take time to think—should consider if it were not better to get another editor. There could be no peace with me in the editorial chair, for I was an abolitionist and would light slavery and woman-whippers to the death, and after it. There was a universal response of “Good! Good! give it to ’em, and we’ll stand by you.”
This was the beginning of the final triumph of free speech, but the end was yet in the dim distance, and this I knew then as well as afterwards. T.H. Barrett, who carried that meeting, is the man who fought the last battle of the Rebellion at the head of his negro troops away down in Texas, ten days after Lee’s surrender, and before that news had reached him, Brown was charged with cowardice, in having kept back among the women, and I had to explain on his account.
A FAMOUS VICTORY.