Motley was dead. Dead as a doornail, or doorknocker, as Eleazor Smitherman would counter whenever the subject was brought up. Smitherman and John Motley had been business partners. They were cotton brokers when cotton was king, and had become filthy rich. But, all the money in the world could not keep ole Motley from meeting his doom. He had passed into eternity seven years ago to the day; Christmas Eve 1853. That was an indisputable and irreversible fact.
Smitherman had been the executor and administrator of Motley's will. He was, in effect, John's only friend, in the very loosest definition of the word. An affable acquaintance would be a more accurate description. Motley cared for money and himself, not others. Eleazor liked that. Thus, he had also been the only mourner on that cold, bleak and lonely day.
The sign outside the office that he kept on Richardson Street in Columbia, South Carolina, still read SMITHERMAN AND MOTLEY. Eleazor had never bothered to have it painted over or replaced. The rusty hinges prevented it from swinging freely, and on blustery days, such as this particular Christmas Eve, it made an odd sort of creaking sound . . .
. . . Smitherman ran over to the window. It had fogged over, but when he wiped it off with his sleeve, he gasped at the sight before him.
In the small courtyard, along with Motley, were many other spirits. All of them were fettered and moaning. Smitherman recognized several of them, including one of the secession delegates who had dropped dead of a heart attack early that very evening . . .
. . . Eleazor noticed a movement under the spirit's robe, and the apparition opened it to reveal two skinny, dirty children with mischievous eyes. "Are they yours?" Smitherman asked.
"They cling to me," the spirit replied. "The boy is Ignorance, and the girl is Want. Fear them! But what's even more terrifying is stupidity - a willful lack of intelligence.
"Evil is the spawn produced when stupidity mates with arrogance, and it is a most unruly offspring. When it runs rampant, so too will want. Your war will produce much of both."
The spirit closed his robe around the children and vanished. Eleazor stood in the cold and cried. His tears ran partway down his cheeks, and then froze to his face.