“Bang! bang! bang!” again went the hard knuckles down there at the front.
Miss Smith slowly arose, shivering a bit and wondering who could possibly be rapping at that time in the morning. She sniffed the chilling air and was sure she caught some lingering perfume from Mrs. Vanderpool’s gown. She had brought this rich and rare-apparelled lady up here yesterday, because it was more private, and here she had poured forth her needs. She had talked long and in deadly earnest. She had not spoken of the endowment for which she had hoped so desperately during a quarter of a century—no, only for the five thousand dollars to buy the long needed new land. It was so little—so little beside what this woman squandered—
The insistent knocking was repeated louder than before.
“Sakes alive,” cried Miss Smith, throwing a shawl about her and leaning out the window. “Who is it, and what do you want?”
“Please, ma’am. I’ve come to school,” answered a tall black boy with a bundle.
“Well, why don’t you go to the office?” Then she saw his face and hesitated. She felt again the old motherly instinct to be the first to welcome the new pupil; a luxury which, in later years, the endless push of details had denied her.
“Wait!” she cried shortly, and began to dress.
A new boy, she mused. Yes, every day they straggled in; every day came the call for more, more—this great, growing thirst to know—to do—to be. And yet that woman had sat right here, aloof, imperturbable, listening only courteously. When Miss Smith finished, she had paused and, flicking her glove,—
“My dear Miss Smith,” she said softly, with a tone that just escaped a drawl—“My dear Miss Smith, your work is interesting and your faith—marvellous; but, frankly, I cannot make myself believe in it. You are trying to treat these funny little monkeys just as you would your own children—or even mine. It’s quite heroic, of course, but it’s sheer madness, and I do not feel I ought to encourage it. I would not mind a thousand or so to train a good cook for the Cresswells, or a clean and faithful maid for myself—for Helene has faults—or indeed deft and tractable laboring-folk for any one; but I’m quite through trying to turn natural servants into masters of me and mine. I—hope I’m not too blunt; I hope I make myself clear. You know, statistics show—”
“Drat statistics!” Miss Smith had flashed impatiently. “These are folks.”
Mrs. Vanderpool smiled indulgently. “To be sure,” she murmured, “but what sort of folks?”
But Miss Smith had the bit in her teeth and could not have stopped. She was paying high for the privilege of talking, but it had to be said.
“God’s sort, Mrs. Vanderpool—not the sort that think of the world as arranged for their exclusive benefit and comfort.”
“Well, I do want to count—”