When Emma, Bertie’s child, came home after a two years’ course of study, she had passed from girlhood to young womanhood. She was white, and sandy-haired. She was not beautiful, and she appeared to be fragile; but she also looked sweet and good, with that peculiar innocence which peers out upon the world with calm, round eyes and sees no evil, but does methodically its simple, everyday work. Zora mothered her, Miss Smith found her plenty to do, and Bles thought her a good girl. But Mrs. Cresswell found her perfect, and began to scheme to marry her off. For Mary Cresswell, with the restlessness and unhappiness of an unemployed woman, was trying to atone for her former blunders.
Her humiliation after the episode at Cresswell Oaks had been complete. It seemed to her that the original cause of her whole life punishment lay in her persistent misunderstanding of the black people and their problem. Zora appeared to her in a new and glorified light—a vigorous, self-sacrificing woman. She knew that Zora had refused to marry Bles, and this again seemed fitting. Zora was not meant for marrying; she was a born leader, wedded to a great cause; she had long outgrown the boy and girl affection. She was the sort of woman she herself might have been if she had not married.
Alwyn, on the other hand, needed a wife; he was a great, virile boy, requiring a simple, affectionate mate. No sooner did she see Emma than she was sure that this was the ideal wife. She compared herself with Helen Cresswell. Helen was a contented wife and mother because she was fitted for the position, and happy in it; while she who had aimed so high had fallen piteously. From such a fate she would save Zora and Bles.
Emma’s course in nurse-training had been simple and short and there was no resident physician; but Emma, in her unemotional way, was a born nurse and did much good among the sick in the neighborhood. Zora had a small log hospital erected with four white beds, a private room, and an office which was also Emma’s bedroom. The new white physician in town, just fresh from school in Atlanta, became interested and helped with advice and suggestions.
Meantime John Taylor’s troubles began to increase. Under the old political regime it had been an easy matter to avoid serious damage-suits for the accidents in the mill. Much child labor and the lack of protective devices made accidents painfully frequent. Taylor insisted that the chief cause was carelessness, while the mill hands alleged criminal neglect on his part. When the new labor officials took charge of the court and the break occurred between Colonel Cresswell and his son-in-law, Taylor found that several damage-suits were likely to cost him a considerable sum.
He determined not to let the bad feelings go too far, and when a particularly distressing accident to a little girl took place, he showed more than his usual interest and offered to care for her. The new young physician recommended Zora’s infirmary as the only near place that offered a chance for the child’s recovery.