“There is not the slightest doubt, Miss Wynn,” Senator Smith was saying, “but that the schools of the District will be reorganized.”
“And the Board of Education abolished?” she added.
“Yes. The power will be delegated to a single white superintendent.”
The vertical line in Caroline Wynn’s forehead became pronounced.
“Whose work is this, Senator?” she asked.
“Well, there are, of course, various parties back of the change: the ‘outs,’ the reformers, the whole tendency to concentrate responsibility, and so on. But, frankly, the deciding factor was the demand of the South.”
“Is there anything in Washington that the South does not already own?”
Senator Smith smiled thinly.
“Not much,” drily; “but we own the South.”
“And part of the price is putting the colored schools of the District in the hands of a Southern man and depriving us of all voice in their control?”
“Precisely, Miss Wynn. But you’d be surprised to know that it was the Negroes themselves who stirred the South to this demand.”
“Not at all; you mean the colored newspapers, I presume.”
“The same, with Teerswell’s clever articles; then his partner Stillings worked the ‘impudent Negro teacher’ argument on Cresswell until Cresswell was wild to get the South in control of the schools.”
“But what do Teerswell and Stillings want?”
“They want Bles Alwyn to make a fool of himself.”
“That is a trifle cryptic,” Miss Wynn mused. The Senator amplified.
“We are giving the South the Washington schools and killing the Education Bill in return for this support of some of our measures and their assent to Alwyn’s appointment. You see I speak frankly.”
“I can stand it, Senator.”
“I believe you can. Well, now, if Alwyn should act unwisely and offend the South, somebody else stands in line for the appointment.”
“As Treasurer?” she asked in surprise.
“Oh, no, they are too shrewd to ask that; it would offend their backers, or shall I say their tools, the Southerners. No, they ask only to be Register and Assistant Register of the Treasury. This is an office colored men have held for years, and it is quite ambitious enough for them; so Stillings assures Cresswell and his friends.”
“I see,” Miss Wynn slowly acknowledged. “But how do they hope to make Mr. Alwyn blunder?”
“Too easily, I fear—unless you are very careful. Alwyn has been working like a beaver for the National Education Bill. He’s been in to see me several times, as you probably know. His heart is set on it. He regards its passage as a sort of vindication of his defence of the party.”
“Now, the party has dropped the bill for good, and Alwyn doesn’t like it. If he should attack the party—”