The Quest of the Silver Fleece eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 425 pages of information about The Quest of the Silver Fleece.
interest and care.  In return for this she will gradually learn to serve and serve loyally.  Frankly, Mrs. Vanderpool, I would not have chosen you for this task of human education.  Indeed, you would have been my last thought—­you seem to me—­I speak plainly—­a worldly woman.  Yet, perhaps—­who can tell?—­God has especially set you to this task.  At any rate, I have little choice.  I am at my wits’ end.  Elspeth, the mother of this child, is not long dead; and here is the girl, beautiful, unprotected; and here am I, almost helpless.  She is in debt to the Cresswells, and they are pressing the claim to her service.  Take her if you can get her—­it is, I fear, her only chance.  Mind you—­if you can persuade her; and that may be impossible.”

“Where is she now?”

Miss Smith glanced out at the darkening landscape, and then at her watch.

“I do not know; she’s very late.  She’s given to wandering, but usually she is here before this time.”

“I saw her in town this afternoon,” said Mrs. Vanderpool.

“Zora?  In town?” Miss Smith rose.  “I’ll send her to you tomorrow,” she said quietly.  Mrs. Vanderpool had hardly reached the Oaks before Miss Smith was driving toward town.

A small cabin on the town’s ragged fringe was crowded to suffocation.  Within arose noisy shouts, loud songs, and raucous laughter; the scraping of a fiddle and whine of an accordion.  Liquor began to appear and happy faces grew red-eyed and sodden as the dances whirled.  At the edge of the orgy stood Zora, wild-eyed and bewildered, mad with the pain that gripped her heart and hammered in her head, crying in tune with the frenzied music—­“the End—­the End!”

Abruptly she recognized a face despite the wreck and ruin of its beauty.

“Bertie!” she cried as she seized the mother of little Emma by the arm.

The woman staggered and offered her glass.

“Drink,” she cried, “drink and forget.”

In a moment Zora sprang forward and seized the burning liquid in both hands.  A dozen hands clapped a devil’s tattoo.  A score of voices yelled and laughed.  The shriek of the music was drowned beneath the thunder of stamping feet.  Men reeled to singing women’s arms, but above the roar rose the song of the voice of Zora—­she glided to the middle of the room, standing tip-toed with skirts that curled and turned; she threw back her head, raised the liquor to her lips, paused and looked into the face of Miss Smith.

A silence fell like a lightning flash on the room as that white face peered in at the door.  Slowly Zora’s hands fell and her eyes blinked as though waking from some awful dream.  She staggered toward the woman’s outstretched arms....

Late that night the girl lay close in Miss Smith’s motherly embrace.

“I was going to hell!” she whispered, trembling.

“Why, Zora?” asked Miss Smith calmly.

“I couldn’t find the Way—­and I wanted to forget.”

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The Quest of the Silver Fleece from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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