“It is stated on good authority that the widow of the late multimillionaire, Job Grey, will announce a large and carefully planned scheme of Negro education in the South, and will richly endow schools in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas.”
Cresswell finally thrust his food away. He knew that Mrs. Grey helped Miss Smith’s school, and supposed she would continue to do so; with that in mind he had striven to impress her, hoping that she might trust his judgment in later years. He had no idea, however, that she meant to endow the school, or entertained wholesale plans for Negro education. The knowledge made him suspicious. Why had neither Mary nor John Taylor mentioned this? Was there, after all, some “nigger-loving” conspiracy back of the cotton combine? He took his hat and started down-town.
Once in John Taylor’s Broadway office, he opened the subject abruptly—the more so perhaps because he felt a resentment against Taylor for certain unnamed or partially voiced assumptions. Here was a place, however, for speech, and he spoke almost roughly.
“Taylor, what does this mean?” He thrust the clipping at him.
“Mean? That Mrs. Grey is going to get rid of some of her surplus cash—is going to endow some nigger schools,” Taylor drily retorted.
“It must be stopped,” declared Cresswell.
The other’s brows drew up.
“Why?” in a surprised tone.
“Why? Why? Do you think the plantation system can be maintained without laborers? Do you think there’s the slightest chance of cornering cotton and buying the Black Belt if the niggers are unwilling to work under present conditions? Do you know the man that stands ready to gobble up every inch of cotton land in this country at a price which no trust can hope to rival?”
John Taylor’s interest quickened.
“Why, no,” he returned sharply. “Who?”
“The Black Man, whose woolly head is filled with ideas of rising. We’re striving by main force to prevent this, and here come your damned Northern philanthropists to plant schools. Why, Taylor, it’ll knock the cotton trust to hell.”
“Don’t get excited,” said Taylor, judicially. “We’ve got things in our hands; it’s the Grey money, you know, that is back of us.”
“That’s just what confounds me,” declared the perplexed young man. “Are you men fools, or rascals? Don’t you see the two schemes can’t mix? They’re dead opposite, mutually contradictory, absolutely—” Taylor checked him; it was odd to behold Harry Cresswell so disturbed.
“Well, wait a moment. Let’s see. Sit down. Wish I had a cigar for you, but I don’t smoke.”
“Do you happen to have any whiskey handy?”
“No, I don’t drink.”
“Well, what the devil—Oh, well, fire away.”
“Now, see here. We control the Grey millions. Of course, we’ve got to let her play with her income, and that’s considerable. Her favorite game just now is Negro education, and she’s planning to go in heavy. Her adviser in this line, however, is Smith, and he belongs to us.”