“Yes—but back of it all, what is it really? What does it look like?”
“Heavens, child! Don’t ask. Really, it isn’t worth while peering back of things. One is sure to be disappointed.”
“Then what’s the use of seeing the world?”
“Why, one must live; and why not be happy?” answered Mrs. Vanderpool, amused, baffled, spurred for the time being from her chronic ennui.
“Are you happy?” retorted Zora, looking her over carefully, from silken stockings to garden hat. Mrs. Vanderpool laid aside her little mockery and met the situation bravely.
“No,” she replied simply. Her eyes grew old and tired.
Involuntarily Zora’s hand crept out protectingly and lay a moment over the white jewelled fingers. Then quickly recovering herself, she started hastily to withdraw it, but the woman’s fingers closed around the darker ones, and Mrs. Vanderpool’s eyes became dim.
“I need you, Zora,” she said; and then, seeing the half-formed question, “Yes, and you need me; we need each other. In the world lies opportunity, and I will help you.”
Zora rose abruptly, and Mrs. Vanderpool feared, with a tightening of heart, that she had lost this strangely alluring girl.
“I will come to-morrow,” said Zora.
As Mrs. Vanderpool went in to lunch, reaction and lingering doubts came trouping back. To replace the daintiest of trained experts with the most baffling semi-barbarian, well!
“Have you hired a maid?” asked Helen.
“I’ve engaged Zora,” laughed Mrs. Vanderpool, lightly; “and now I’m wondering whether I have a jewel or—a white elephant.”
“Probably neither,” remarked Harry Cresswell, drily; but he avoided the lady’s inquiring eyes.
Next morning Zora came easily into Mrs. Vanderpool’s life. There was little she knew of her duties, but little, too, that she could not learn with a deftness and divination almost startling. Her quietness, her quickness, her young strength, were like a soothing balm to the tired woman of fashion, and within a week she had sunk back contentedly into Zora’s strong arms.
“It’s a jewel,” she decided.
With this verdict, the house agreed. The servants waited on “Miss Zora” gladly; the men scarcely saw her, and the ladies ran to her for help in all sorts. Harry Cresswell looked upon this transformation with an amused smile, but the Colonel saw in it simply evidence of dangerous obstinacy in a black girl who hitherto had refused to work.
Zora had been in the house but a week when a large express package was received from John Taylor. Its unwrapping brought a cry of pleasure from the ladies. There lay a bolt of silken-like cambric of wondrous fineness and lustre, marked: “For the wedding-dress.” The explanation accompanied the package, that Mary Taylor had a similar piece in the North.
Helen and Harry said nothing of the cablegram to the Paris tailor, and Helen took no steps toward having the cambric dress made, not even when the wedding invitations appeared.