The three men started to retire. “Wait,” said Dr. Zackland, “let us see if he is dead.”
Belton had now returned to consciousness but kept his eyes closed, thinking it best to feign death. Dr. Zackland cut off the hair in the neighborhood of the wound in the rear of Belton’s head and began cutting the skin, trying to trace the bullet. Belton did not wince.
“The nigger is dead or else he would show some sign of life. But I will try pricking his palm.” This was done, but while the pain was exceedingly excruciating, Belton showed no sign of feeling. “You may go now,” said the doctor to his three attendants, “he is certainly dead.”
The men left. Dr. Zackland pulled out his watch and said: “It is now 10 o’clock. Those doctors from Monroe will be here by twelve. I can have everything exactly ready by that time.”
A bright ray of hope passed into Belton’s bosom. He had two hours more of life, two hours more in which to plan an escape. Dr. Zackland was busy stirring about over the room. He took a long, sharp knife and gazed at its keen edge. He placed this on the dissecting table near Belton’s feet. He then passed out of doors to get a pail of water, and left the door ajar.
He went to his cabinet to get out more surgical instruments, and his back was now turned to Belton and he was absorbed in what he was doing. Belton’s eyes had followed every movement, but in order to escape attention his eyelids were only slightly open. He now raised himself up, seized the knife that was near his feet and at a bound was at the doctor’s side.
The doctor turned around and was in dread alarm at the sight of the dead man returned to life. At that instant he was too terrified to act or scream, and before he could recover his self-possession Belton plunged the knife through his throat. Seizing the dying man he laid him on the dissecting board and covered him over with a sheet.
He went to the writing desk and quickly scrawled the following note.
“I have stepped out for a short
Don’t touch the nigger until I come.
He pinned this note on that portion of the sheet where it would attract attention at once if one should begin to uncover the corpse. He did this to delay discovery and thus get a good start on those who might pursue him.
Having done this he crept cautiously out of the room, leapt the back fence and made his way to his boarding place. He here changed his clothes and disappeared in the woods. He made his way to Baton Rouge and sought a conference with the Governor. The Governor ordered him under arrest and told him that the best and only thing he could do was to send him back to Cadeville under military escort to be tried for murder.
This was accordingly done. The community was aroused over the death of Dr. Zackland at the hands of a negro. The sending of the military further incensed them. At the trial which followed, all evidence respecting the mob was excluded as irrelevant. Robbery was the motive assigned for the deed. The whole family with which Belton lived were arraigned as accomplices, because his bloody clothes were found in his room in their house.