“It evidently didn’t,” Mrs. Vanderpool interjected.
Cresswell arose. “I tell you, Mr. Easterly, I object—it mustn’t go through.” He took his leave.
Mrs. Vanderpool did not readily give up her plea for Alwyn, and bade Zora get Mr. Smith on the telephone for discussion.
“Well,” reported Easterly, hanging up the receiver, “we may land him. It seems that he is engaged to a Washington school-teacher, and Smith says she has him well in hand. She’s a pretty shrewd proposition, and understands that Alwyn’s only chance now lies in keeping his mouth shut. We may land him,” he repeated.
“Engaged!” gasped Mrs. Vanderpool.
Zora quietly closed the door.
How Zora found the little church she never knew; but somehow, in the long dark wanderings which she had fallen into the habit of taking at nightfall, she stood one evening before it. It looked warm, and she was cold. It was full of her people, and she was very, very lonely. She sat in a back seat, and saw with unseeing eyes. She said again, as she had said to herself a hundred times, that it was all right and just what she had expected. What else could she have dreamed? That he should ever marry her was beyond possibility; that had been settled long since—there where the tall, dark pines, wan with the shades of evening, cast their haunting shadows across the Silver Fleece and half hid the blood-washed west. After that he would marry some one else, of course; some good and pure woman who would help and uplift and serve him.
She had dreamed that she would help—unknown, unseen—and perhaps she had helped a little through Mrs. Vanderpool. It was all right, and yet why so suddenly had the threads of life let go? Why was she drifting in vast waters; in uncharted wastes of sea? Why was the puzzle of life suddenly so intricate when but a little week ago she was reading it, and its beauty and wisdom and power were thrilling her delighted hands? Could it be possible that all unconsciously she had dared dream a forbidden dream? No, she had always rejected it. When no one else had the right; when no one thought; when no one cared, she had hovered over his soul as some dark guardian angel; but now, now somebody else was receiving his gratitude. It was all right, she supposed; but she, the outcast child of the swamp, what was there for her to do in the great world—her, the burden of whose sin—
But then came the voice of the preacher: "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.”
She found herself all at once intently listening. She had been to church many times before, but under the sermons and ceremonies she had always sat coldly inert. In the South the cries, contortions, and religious frenzy left her mind untouched; she did not laugh or mock, she simply sat and watched and wondered. At the North, in the white churches, she enjoyed the beauty of wall, windows, and hymn, liked the voice and surplice of the preacher; but his words had no reference to anything in which she was interested. Here suddenly came an earnest voice addressed, by singular chance, to her of all the world.