Zora was looking on her world with the keener vision of one who, blind from very seeing, closes the eyes a space and looks again with wider clearer vision. Out of a nebulous cloudland she seemed to step; a land where all things floated in strange confusion, but where one thing stood steadfast, and that was love. When love was shaken all things moved, but now, at last, for the first time she seemed to know the real and mighty world that stood behind that old and shaken dream.
So she looked on the world about her with new eyes. These men and women of her childhood had hitherto walked by her like shadows; today they lived for her in flesh and blood. She saw hundreds and thousands of black men and women: crushed, half-spirited, and blind. She saw how high and clear a light Sarah Smith, for thirty years and more, had carried before them. She saw, too, how that the light had not simply shone in darkness, but had lighted answering beacons here and there in these dull souls.
There were thoughts and vague stirrings of unrest in this mass of black folk. They talked long about their firesides, and here Zora began to sit and listen, often speaking a word herself. All through the countryside she flitted, till gradually the black folk came to know her and, in silent deference to some subtle difference, they gave her the title of white folk, calling her “Miss” Zora.
Today, more than ever before, Zora sensed the vast unorganized power in this mass, and her mind was leaping here and there, scheming and testing, when voices arrested her.
It was a desolate bit of the Cresswell manor, a tiny cabin, new-boarded and bare, in front of it a blazing bonfire. A white man was tossing into the flames different household articles—a feather bed, a bedstead, two rickety chairs. A young, boyish fellow, golden-faced and curly, stood with clenched fists, while a woman with tear-stained eyes clung to him. The white man raised a cradle to dash it into the flames; the woman cried, and the yellow man raised his arm threateningly. But Zora’s hand was on his shoulder.
“What’s the matter, Rob?” she asked.
“They’re selling us out,” he muttered savagely. “Millie’s been sick since the last baby died, and I had to neglect my crop to tend her and the other little ones—I didn’t make much. They’ve took my mule, now they’re burning my things to make me sign a contract and be a slave. But by—”
“There, Rob, let Millie come with me—we’ll see Miss Smith. We must get land to rent and arrange somehow.”
The mother sobbed, “The cradle—was baby’s!”
With an oath the white man dashed the cradle into the fire, and the red flame spurted aloft.
The crimson fire flashed in Zora’s eyes as she passed the overseer.
“Well, nigger, what are you going to do about it?” he growled insolently.