“That’s what we can do with Alabama cotton,” cried John Taylor in triumph.
They turned to him incredulously.
“No ‘buts’ about it; these are the two bales you sent me, woven with a silk woof.” No one particularly noticed that Zora had hastily left the room. “I had it done in Easterly’s New Jersey mills according to an old plan of mine. I’m going to make cloth like that right in this county some day,” and he chuckled gayly.
But Zora was striding up and down the halls, the blood surging in her ears. After they were gone she came back and closed the doors. She dropped on her knees and buried her face in the filmy folds of the Silver Fleece.
“I knew it! I knew it!” she whispered in mingled tears and joy. “It called and I did not understand.”
It was her talisman new-found; her love come back, her stolen dream come true. Now she could face the world; God had turned it straight again. She would go into the world and find—not Love, but the thing greater than Love. Outside the door came voices—the dressmaker’s tones, Helen’s soft drawl, and Mrs. Vanderpool’s finished accents. Her face went suddenly gray. The Silver Fleece was not hers! It belonged—She rose hastily. The door opened and they came in. The cutting must begin at once, they all agreed.
“Is it ready, Zora?” inquired Helen.
“No,” Zora quietly answered, “not quite, but tomorrow morning, early.” As soon as she was alone again, she sat down and considered. By and by, while the family was at lunch, she folded the Silver Fleece carefully and locked it in her new trunk. She would hide it in the swamp. During the afternoon she sent to town for oil-cloth, and bade the black carpenter at Miss Smith’s make a cedar box, tight and tarred. In the morning she prepared Mrs. Vanderpool’s breakfast with unusual care. She was sorry for Mrs. Vanderpool, and sorry for Miss Smith. They would not, they could not, understand. What would happen to her? She did not know; she did not care. The Silver Fleece had returned to her. Soon it would be buried in the swamp whence it came. She had no alternative; she must keep it and wait.
She heard the dressmaker’s voice, and then her step upon the stair. She heard the sound of Harry Cresswell’s buggy, and a scurrying at the front door. On came the dressmaker’s footsteps—then her door was unceremoniously burst open.
Helen Cresswell stood there radiant; the dressmaker, too, was wreathed in smiles. She carried a big red-sealed bundle.
“Zora!” cried Helen in ecstasy. “It’s come!” Zora regarded her coldly, and stood at bay. The dressmaker was ripping and snipping, and soon there lay revealed before them—the Paris gown!
Helen was in raptures, but her conscience pricked her. She appealed to them. “Ought I to tell? You see, Mary’s gown will look miserably common beside it.”
The dressmaker was voluble. There was really nothing to tell; and besides, Helen was a Cresswell and it was to be expected, and so forth. Helen pursed her lips and petulantly tapped the floor with her foot.