Before them lay a long island, opening to the south, on the black lake, but sheltered north and east by the dense undergrowth of the black swamp and the rampart of dead and living trees. The soil was virgin and black, thickly covered over with a tangle of bushes, vines, and smaller growth all brilliant with early leaves and wild flowers.
“A pretty tough proposition for clearing and ploughing,” said Bles, with practised eye. But Zora eagerly surveyed the prospect.
“It’s where the Dreams lives,” she whispered.
Meantime Miss Taylor had missed her brooch and searched for it in vain. In the midst of this pursuit the truth occurred to her—Zora had stolen it. Negroes would steal, everybody said. Well, she must and would have the pin, and she started for Elspeth’s cabin.
On the way she met the old woman in the path, but got little satisfaction. Elspeth merely grunted ungraciously while eyeing the white woman with suspicion.
Mary Taylor, again alone, sat down at a turn in the path, just out of sight of the house, and waited. Soon she saw, with a certain grim satisfaction, Zora and Bles emerging from the swamp engaged in earnest conversation. Here was an opportunity to overwhelm both with an unforgettable reprimand. She rose before them like a spectral vengeance.
“Zora, I want my pin.”
Bles started and stared; but Zora eyed her calmly with something like disdain.
“What pin?” she returned, unmoved.
“Zora, don’t deny that you took my pin from the desk this afternoon,” the teacher commanded severely.
“I didn’t say I didn’t take no pin.”
“Persons who will lie and steal will do anything.”
“Why shouldn’t people do anything they wants to?”
“And you knew the pin was mine.”
“I saw you a-wearing of it,” admitted Zora easily.
“Then you have stolen it, and you are a thief.”
Still Zora appeared to be unimpressed with the heinousness of her fault.
“Did you make that pin?” she asked.
“No, but it is mine.”
“Why is it yours?”
“Because it was given to me.”
“But you don’t need it; you’ve got four other prettier ones—I counted.”
“That makes no difference.”
“Yes it does—folks ain’t got no right to things they don’t need.”
“That makes no difference, Zora, and you know it. The pin is mine. You stole it. If you had wanted a pin and asked me I might have given you—”
The girl blazed.
“I don’t want your old gifts,” she almost hissed. “You don’t own what you don’t need and can’t use. God owns it and I’m going to send it back to Him.”
With a swift motion she whipped the pin from her pocket and raised her arm to hurl it into the swamp. Bles caught her hand. He caught it lightly and smiled sorrowfully into her eyes. She wavered a moment, then the answering light sprang to her face. Dropping the brooch into his hand, she wheeled and fled toward the cabin.