Mrs. Grey’s decision was due in no little way to Mary Taylor’s reports. Slowly but surely the girl had begun to think that she had found herself in this new world. She would never be attuned to it thoroughly, for she was set for different music. The veil of color and race still hung thickly between her and her pupils; and yet she seemed to see some points of penetration. No one could meet daily a hundred or more of these light-hearted, good-natured children without feeling drawn to them. No one could cross the thresholds of the cabins and not see the old and well-known problems of life and striving. More and more, therefore, the work met Miss Taylor’s approval and she told Mrs. Grey so.
At the same time Mary Taylor had come to some other definite conclusions: she believed it wrong to encourage the ambitions of these children to any great extent; she believed they should be servants and farmers, content to work under present conditions until those conditions could be changed; and she believed that the local white aristocracy, helped by Northern philanthropy, should take charge of such gradual changes.
These conclusions she did not pretend to have originated; but she adopted them from reading and conversation, after hesitating for a year before such puzzling contradictions as Bles Alwyn and Harry Cresswell. For her to conclude to treat Bles Alwyn as a man despite his color was as impossible as to think Mr. Cresswell a criminal. Some compromise was imperative which would save her the pleasure of Mr. Cresswell’s company and at the same time leave open a way of fulfilling the world’s duty to this black boy. She thought she had found this compromise and she wrote Mrs. Grey suggesting a chain of endowed Negro schools under the management of trustees composed of Northern business men and local Southern whites. Mrs. Grey acquiesced gladly and announced her plan, eventually writing Miss Smith of her decision “to second her noble efforts in helping the poor colored people,” and she hoped to have the plan under way before next fall.
The sharpness of Miss Smith’s joy did not let her dwell on the proposed “Board of Trust”; of course, it would be a board of friends of the school.
She sat in her office looking out across the land. School had closed for the year and Bles with the carryall was just taking Miss Taylor to the train with her trunk and bags. Far up the road she could see dotted here and there the little dirty cabins of Cresswell’s tenants—the Cresswell domain that lay like a mighty hand around the school, ready at a word to squeeze its life out. Only yonder, to the eastward, lay the way out; the five hundred acres of the Tolliver plantation, which the school needed so sadly for its farm and community. But the owner was a hard and ignorant white man, hating “niggers” only a shade more than he hated white aristocrats of the Cresswell type. He had sold the school its first land to pique the Cresswells; but he would not sell any more, she was sure, even now when the promise of wealth faced the school.