He carried it to Zora in the wood, and unrolled it before her eyes that danced with glad tears. Of course, it was long and wide; but he fetched needle and thread and scissors, too. It was a full month after school had begun when they, together back in the swamp, shadowed by the foliage, began to fashion the wonderful garment. At the same time she laid ten dollars of her first hard-earned money in his hands.
“You can finish the first year with this money,” Bles assured her, delighted, “and then next year you must come in to board; because, you see, when you’re educated you won’t want to live in the swamp.”
“I wants to live here always.”
“But not at Elspeth’s.”
“No-o—not there, not there.” And a troubled questioning trembled in her eyes, but brought no answering thought in his, for he was busy with his plans.
“Then, you see, Zora, if you stay here you’ll need a new house, and you’ll want to learn how to make it beautiful.”
“Yes, a beautiful, great castle here in the swamp,” she dreamed; “but,” and her face fell, “I can’t get money enough to board in; and I don’t want to board in—I wants to be free.”
He looked at her, curled down so earnestly at her puzzling task, and a pity for the more than motherless child swept over him. He bent over her, nervously, eagerly, and she laid down her sewing and sat silent and passive with dark, burning eyes.
“Zora,” he said, “I want you to do all this—for me.”
“I will, if you wants me to,” she said quietly, but with something in her voice that made him look half startled into her beautiful eyes and feel a queer flushing in his face. He stretched his hand out and taking hers held it lightly till she quivered and drew away, bending again over her sewing.
Then a nameless exaltation rose within his heart.
“Zora,” he whispered, “I’ve got a plan.”
“What is it?” she asked, still with bowed head.
“Listen, till I tell you of the Golden Fleece.”
Then she too heard the story of Jason. Breathless she listened, dropping her sewing and leaning forward, eager-eyed. Then her face clouded.
“Do you s’pose mammy’s the witch?” she asked dubiously.
“No; she wouldn’t give her own flesh and blood to help the thieving Jason.”
She looked at him searchingly.
“Yes, she would, too,” affirmed the girl, and then she paused, still intently watching him. She was troubled, and again a question eagerly hovered on her lips. But he continued:
“Then we must escape her,” he said gayly. “See! yonder lies the Silver Fleece spread across the brown back of the world; let’s get a bit of it, and hide it here in the swamp, and comb it, and tend it, and make it the beautifullest bit of all. Then we can sell it, and send you to school.”
She sat silently bent forward, turning the picture in her mind. Suddenly forgetting her trouble, she bubbled with laughter, and leaping up clapped her hands.