“You’ll hardly miss any work Zora does,” he said.
“I’ll make her work. She’s giving herself too many damned airs. I know who’s back of this—it’s that nigger we saw talking to the white woman in the field the other day.”
“Well, don’t work yourself up. The wench don’t amount to much anyhow. By the way, though, if you do go to the school it won’t hurt to see this Taylor’s sister and size the family up.”
“Pshaw! I’m going to give the Smith woman such a scare that she’ll keep her hands off our niggers.” And Harry Cresswell rode away.
Mary Taylor had charge of the office that morning, while Miss Smith, shut up in her bedroom, went laboriously over her accounts. Miss Mary suddenly sat up, threw a hasty glance into the glass and felt the back of her belt. It was—it couldn’t be—surely, it was Mr. Harry Cresswell riding through the gateway on his beautiful white mare. He kicked the gate open rather viciously, did not stop to close it, and rode straight across the lawn. Miss Taylor noticed his riding breeches and leggings, his white linen and white, clean-cut, high-bred face. Such apparitions were few about the country lands. She felt inclined to flutter, but gripped herself.
“Good-morning,” she said, a little stiffly.
Mr. Cresswell halted and stared; then lifting the hat which he had neglected to remove in crossing the hall, he bowed in stately grace. Miss Taylor was no ordinary picture. Her brown hair was almost golden; her dark eyes shone blue; her skin was clear and healthy, and her white dress—happy coincidence!—had been laundered that very morning. Her half-suppressed excitement at the sudden duty of welcoming the great aristocrat of the county, gave a piquancy to her prettiness.
“The—devil!” commented Mr. Harry Cresswell to himself. But to Miss Taylor:
“I beg pardon—er—Miss Smith?”
“No—I’m sorry. Miss Smith is engaged this morning. I am Miss Taylor.”
“I cannot share Miss Taylor’s sorrow,” returned Mr. Cresswell gravely, “for I believe I have the honor of some correspondence with Miss Taylor’s brother.” Mr. Cresswell searched for the letter, but did not find it.
“Oh! Has John written you?” She beamed suddenly. “I’m so glad. It’s more than he’s done for me this three-month. I beg your pardon—do sit down—I think you’ll find this one easier. Our stock of chairs is limited.”
It was delightful to have a casual meeting receive this social stamp; the girl was all at once transfigured—animated, glowing, lovely; all of which did not escape the caller’s appraising inspection.
“There!” said Mr. Cresswell. “I’ve left your gate gaping.”
“Oh, don’t mind ... I hope John’s well?”
“The truth is,” confessed Cresswell, “it was a business matter—cotton, you know.”
“John is nothing but cotton; I tell him his soul is fibrous.”
“He mentioned your being here and I thought I’d drop over and welcome you to the South.”