Easterly stared at him.
“Good Lord!” he ejaculated; “you’re crazy!”
But Taylor smiled a slow, thin smile, and put away his papers. Easterly continued to stare at his subordinate with a sort of fascination, with the awe that one feels when genius unexpectedly reveals itself from a source hitherto regarded as entirely ordinary. At last he drew a long breath, remarking indefinitely:
“I’ll think it over.”
A stir in the parlor indicated departure.
“Well, you watch the Farmers’ League, and note its success and methods,” counselled John Taylor, his tone and manner unchanged. “Then figure what it might do in the hands of—let us say, friends.”
“Who’s running it?”
“A Colonel Cresswell is its head, and happens also to be the force behind it. Aristocratic family—big planter—near where my sister teaches.”
“H’m—well, we’ll watch him.”
“And say,” as Easterly was turning away, “you know Congressman Smith?”
“I should say I did.”
“Well, Mrs. Grey seems to be depending on him for advice in distributing some of her charity funds.”
Easterly appeared startled.
“She is, is she!” he exclaimed. “But here come the ladies.” He went forward at once, but John Taylor drew back. He noted Mrs. Vanderpool, and thought her too thin and pale. The dashing young Miss Easterly was more to his taste. He intended to have a wife like that one of these days.
“Mary,” said he to his sister as he finally rose to go, “tell me about the Cresswells.”
Mary explained to him at length the impossibility of her knowing much about the local white aristocracy of Tooms County, and then told him all she had heard.
“Mrs. Grey talked to you much?”
“About darky schools?”
“What does she intend to do?”
“I think she will aid Miss Smith first.”
“Did you suggest anything?”
“Well, I told her what I thought about cooeperating with the local white people.”
“Yes—you see Mrs. Vanderpool knows the Cresswells.”
“Does, eh? Good! Say, that’s a good point. You just bear heavy on it—cooeperate with the Cresswells.”
“Why, yes. But—you see, John, I don’t just know whether one could cooeperate with the Cresswells or not—one hears such contradictory stories of them. But there must be some other white people—”
“Stuff! It’s the Cresswells we want.”
“Well,” Mary was very dubious, “they are—the most important.”
When she went South late in September, Mary Taylor had two definite but allied objects: she was to get all possible business information concerning the Cresswells, and she was to induce Miss Smith to prepare for Mrs. Grey’s benevolence by interesting the local whites in her work. The programme attracted Miss Taylor. She felt in touch, even if dimly and slightly, with great industrial movements, and she felt, too, like a discerning pioneer in philanthropy. Both roles she liked. Besides, they held, each, certain promises of social prestige; and society, Miss Taylor argued, one must have even in Alabama.