“Are you going back there when you finish?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think you ought to—and work for your people.”
She stopped, puzzled, and looked about. The old horse jogged lazily on, and Bles switched him unavailingly. Somehow she had missed the way today. The Veil hung thick, sombre, impenetrable. Well, she had done her duty, and slowly she nestled back and watched the far-off green and golden radiance of the cotton.
“Bles,” she said impulsively, “shall I tell you of the Golden Fleece?”
He glanced at her again.
“Yes’m, please,” he said.
She settled herself almost luxuriously, and began the story of Jason and the Argonauts.
The boy remained silent. And when she had finished, he still sat silent, elbow on knee, absently flicking the jogging horse and staring ahead at the horizon. She looked at him doubtfully with some disappointment that his hearing had apparently shared so little of the joy of her telling; and, too, there was mingled a vague sense of having lowered herself to too familiar fellowship with this—this boy. She straightened herself instinctively and thought of some remark that would restore proper relations. She had not found it before he said, slowly:
“All yon is Jason’s.”
“What?” she asked, puzzled.
He pointed with one sweep of his long arm to the quivering mass of green-gold foliage that swept from swamp to horizon.
“All yon golden fleece is Jason’s now,” he repeated.
“I thought it was—Cresswell’s,” she said.
“That’s what I mean.”
She suddenly understood that the story had sunk deeply.
“I am glad to hear you say that,” she said methodically, “for Jason was a brave adventurer—”
“I thought he was a thief.”
“Oh, well—those were other times.”
“The Cresswells are thieves now.”
Miss Taylor answered sharply.
“Bles, I am ashamed to hear you talk so of your neighbors simply because they are white.”
But Bles continued.
“This is the Black Sea,” he said, pointing to the dull cabins that crouched here and there upon the earth, with the dark twinkling of their black folk darting out to see the strangers ride by.
Despite herself Miss Taylor caught the allegory and half whispered, “Lo! the King himself!” as a black man almost rose from the tangled earth at their side. He was tall and thin and sombre-hued, with a carven face and thick gray hair.
“Your servant, mistress,” he said, with a sweeping bow as he strode toward the swamp. Miss Taylor stopped him, for he looked interesting, and might answer some of her brother’s questions. He turned back and stood regarding her with sorrowful eyes and ugly mouth.
“Do you live about here?” she asked.
“I’se lived here a hundred years,” he answered. She did not believe it; he might be seventy, eighty, or even ninety—indeed, there was about him that indefinable sense of age—some shadow of endless living; but a hundred seemed absurd.