“But you mean to say you can’t even advise her?”
“Oh, no; we can. But—we’re not—er—exactly welcomed. In fact,” said Cresswell gravely, “the chief criticism I have against your Northerners’ schools for Negroes is, that they not only fail to enlist the sympathy and aid of the best Southerners, but even repel it.”
“That is very wrong—very wrong,” commented the Englishman warmly, a sentiment in which Mrs. Grey hastened to agree.
“Of course,” continued Cresswell, “I am free to confess that I have no personal desire to dabble in philanthropy, or conduct schools of any kind; my hands are full of other matters.”
“But it’s precisely the advice of such disinterested men that philanthropic work needs,” Mr. Vanderpool urged.
“Well, I volunteered advice once in this case and I sha’n’t repeat the experiment soon,” said Cresswell laughing. Mrs. Grey wanted to hear the incident, but the young man was politely reluctant. Mary Taylor, however, related the tale of Zora to Mrs. Grey’s private ear later.
“Fortunately,” said Mr. Vanderpool, “Northerners and Southerners are arriving at a better mutual understanding on most of these matters.”
“Yes, indeed,” Cresswell agreed. “After all, they never were far apart, even in slavery days; both sides were honest and sincere.”
All through the dinner Mr. Smith had been preoccupied and taciturn. Now he abruptly shot a glance at Cresswell.
“I suppose that one was right and one was wrong.”
“No,” said Cresswell, “both were right.”
“I thought the only excuse for fighting was a great Right; if Right is on neither side or simultaneously on both, then War is not only Hell but Damnation.”
Mrs. Grey looked shocked and Mrs. Vanderpool smiled.
“How about fighting for exercise?” she suggested.
“At any rate,” said Cresswell, “we can all agree on helping these poor victims of our quarrel as far as their limited capacity will allow—and no farther, for that is impossible.”
Very soon after dinner Charles Smith excused himself. He was not yet inured to the ways of high finance, and the programme of the cotton barons, as unfolded that day, lay heavy on his mind, despite all his philosophy.
“I have had a—full day,” he explained to Mrs. Grey.
The rain was sweeping down in great thick winding sheets. The wind screamed in the ancient Cresswell oaks and swirled across the swamp in loud, wild gusts. The waters roared and gurgled in the streams, and along the roadside. Then, when the wind fell murmuring away, the clouds grew blacker and blacker and rain in long slim columns fell straight from Heaven to earth digging itself into the land and throwing back the red mud in angry flashes.