“Yes, it is!” he cried vehemently. “The more to take up the fight, the surer the victory.”
She laughed at his earnestness.
“You are refreshing,” she said. “Well, we’ll dine next Tuesday, and we’ll have the cream of our world to meet you.”
He knew that this was a great triumph. It flattered his vanity. After all, he was entering this higher dark world whose existence had piqued and puzzled him so long. He glanced at Miss Wynn beside him there in the dimly lighted parlor: she looked so aloof and unapproachable, so handsome and so elegant. He thought how she would complete a house—such a home as his prospective four or six thousand dollars a year could easily purchase. She saw him surveying her, and she smiled at him.
“I find but one fault with you,” she said.
He stammered for a pretty speech, but did not find it before she continued:
“Yes—you are so delightfully primitive; you will not use the world as it is but insist on acting as if it were something else.”
“I am not sure I understand.”
“Well, there is the wife of my Judge: she is a fact in my world; in yours she is a problem to be stated, straightened, and solved. If she had come to you, as she did to me yesterday, with her theory that all that Southern Negroes needed was to learn how to make good servants and lay brick—”
“I should have shown her—” Bles tried to interject.
“Nothing of the sort. You would have tried to show her and would have failed miserably. She hasn’t learned anything in twenty years.”
“But surely you didn’t join her in advocating that ten million people be menials?”
“Oh, no; I simply listened.”
“Well, there was no harm in that; I believe in silence at times.”
“Ah! but I did not listen like a log, but positively and eloquently; with a nod, a half-formed word, a comment begun, which she finished.”
“As a result,” continued Miss Wynn, “I have a check for five hundred dollars to finish our cooking-school and buy a cast of Minerva for the assembly-room. More than that, I have now a wealthy friend. She thinks me an unusually clever person who, by a process of thought not unlike her own, has arrived at very similar conclusions.”
“But—but,” objected Bles, “if the time spent cajoling fools were used in convincing the honest and upright, think how much we would gain.”
“Very little. The honest and upright are a sad minority. Most of these white folk—believe me, boy,” she said caressingly,—“are fools and knaves: they don’t want truth or progress; they want to keep niggers down.”
“I don’t believe it; there are scores, thousands, perhaps millions such, I admit; but the average American loves justice and right, and he is the one to whom I appeal with frankness and truth. Great heavens! don’t you love to be frank and open?”