“Next thing,” wrote Taylor to Easterly, “is to reduce cost of production. Too much goes in wages. Gradually transfer mills South.”
Easterly argued that the labor was too unskilled in the South and that to send Northern spinners down would spread labor troubles. Taylor replied briefly: “Never fear; we’ll scare them with a vision of niggers in the mills!”
Colonel Cresswell was not so easily won over to the new scheme. In the first place he was angry because the school, which he had come to regard as on its last legs, somehow still continued to flourish. The ten-thousand-dollar mortgage had but three more years, and that would end all; but he had hoped for a crash even earlier. Instead of this, Miss Smith was cheerfully expanding the work, hiring new teachers, and especially she had brought to help her two young Negroes whom he suspected. Colonel Cresswell had prevented the Tolliver land sale, only to be inveigled himself into Zora’s scheme which now began to worry him. He must evict Zora’s tenants as soon as the crops were planted and harvested. There was nothing unjust about such a course, he argued, for Negroes anyway were too lazy and shiftless to buy the land. They would not, they could not, work without driving. All this he imparted to John Taylor, to which that gentleman listened carefully.
“H’m, I see,” he owned. “And I know the way out.”
“A cotton mill in Toomsville.”
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“Bring in whites.”
“But I don’t want poor white trash; I’d sooner have niggers.”
“Now, see here,” argued Taylor, “you can’t have everything you want—day’s gone by for aristocracy of old kind. You must have neighbors: choose, then, white or black. I say white.”
“But they’ll rule us—out-vote us—marry our daughters,” warmly objected the Colonel.
“Some of them may—most of them won’t. A few of them with brains will help us rule the rest with money. We’ll plant cotton mills beside the cotton fields, use whites to keep niggers in their place, and the fear of niggers to keep the poorer whites in theirs.”
The Colonel looked thoughtful.
“There’s something in that,” he confessed after a while; “but it’s a mighty big experiment, and it may go awry.”
“Not with brains and money to guide it. And at any rate, we’ve got to try it; it’s the next logical step, and we must take it.”
“But in the meantime, I’m not going to give up good old methods; I’m going to set the sheriff behind these lazy niggers,” said the Colonel; “and I’m going to stop that school putting notions into their heads.”
In three short months the mill at Toomsville was open and its wheels whizzing to the boundless pride of the citizens.
“Our enterprise, sir!” they said to the strangers on the strength of the five thousand dollars locally invested.