Alwyn then undertook to explain the land scheme.
“It is the best land in the county—”
“When it’s cl’ared,” interrupted Johnson, and Simpson looked alarmed.
“It is partially cleared,” continued Alwyn, “and our plan is to sell off small twenty-acre farms—”
“You can’t do nothing on twenty acres—” began Johnson, but Tylor laid his huge hand right over his mouth and said briefly:
Alwyn started again: “We shall sell a few twenty-acre farms but keep one central plantation of one hundred acres for the school. Here Miss Zora will carry on her work and the school will run a model farm with your help. We want to centre here agencies to make life better. We want all sorts of industries; we want a little hospital with a resident physician and two or three nurses; we want a cooperative store for buying supplies; we want a cotton-gin and saw-mill, and in the future other things. This land here, as I have said, is the richest around. We want to keep this hundred acres for the public good, and not sell it. We are going to deed it to a board of trustees, and those trustees are to be chosen from the ones who buy the small farms.”
“Who’s going to get what’s made on this land?” asked Sanders.
“All of us. It is going first to pay for the land, then to support the Home and the School, and then to furnish capital for industries.”
Johnson snickered. “You mean youse gwine to git yo’ livin’ off it?”
“Yes,” answered Alwyn; “but I’m going to work for it.”
“Who’s gwine—” began Simpson, but stopped helplessly.
“Who’s going to tend this land?” asked the practical Carter.
“All of us. Each man is going to promise us so many days’ work a year, and we’re going to ask others to help—the women and girls and school children—they will all help.”
“Can you put trust in that sort of help?”
“We can when once the community learns that it pays.”
“Does you own the land?” asked Johnson suddenly.
“No; we’re buying it, and it’s part paid for already.”
The discussion became general. Zora moved about among the men whispering and explaining; while Johnson moved, too, objecting and hinting. At last he arose.
“Brethren,” he began, “the plan’s good enough for talkin’ but you can’t work it; who ever heer’d tell of such a thing? First place, the land ain’t yours; second place, you can’t get it worked; third place, white folks won’t ’low it. Who ever heer’d of such working land on shares?”
“You do it for white folks each day, why not for yourselves,” Alwyn pointed out.
“‘Cause we ain’t white, and we can’t do nothin’ like that.”
Tylor was asleep and snoring and the others looked doubtfully at each other. It was a proposal a little too daring for them, a bit too far beyond their experience. One consideration alone kept them from shrinking away and that was Zora’s influence. Not a man was there whom she had not helped and encouraged nor who had not perfect faith in her; in her impetuous hope, her deep enthusiasm, and her strong will. Even her defects—the hard-held temper, the deeply rooted dislikes—caught their imagination.