The prospects seemed most alluring. Later, Mr. Easterly talked a while on routine business, saying, as he turned away:
“I am more and more impressed, Mrs. Grey, with your wisdom in placing large investments in the South. With peaceful social conditions the returns will be large.”
Mrs. Grey heard this delicate flattery complacently. She had her streak of thrift, and wanted her business capacity recognized. She listened attentively.
“For this reason, I trust you will handle your Negro philanthropies judicially, as I know you will. There’s dynamite in this race problem for amateur reformers, but fortunately you have at hand wise and sympathetic advisers in the Cresswells.”
Mrs. Grey agreed entirely.
Mary Taylor, alone of the committee, took her commission so seriously as to be anxious to begin work.
“We are to visit the school this morning, you know,” she reminded the others, looking at her watch; “I’m afraid we’re late already.”
The remark created mild consternation. It seemed that Mr. Vanderpool had gone hunting and his wife had not yet arisen. Dr. Boldish was very hoarse, Mr. Easterly was going to look over some plantations with Colonel Cresswell, and Mr. Bocombe was engrossed in a novel.
“Clever, but not true to life,” he said.
Finally the clergyman and Mr. Bocombe, Mrs. Grey and Mrs. Vanderpool and Miss Taylor started for the school, with Harry Cresswell, about an hour after lunch. The delay and suppressed excitement among the little folks had upset things considerably there, but at the sight of the visitors at the gate Miss Smith rang the bell.
The party came in, laughing and chatting. They greeted Miss Smith cordially. Dr. Boldish was beginning to tell a good story when a silence fell.
The children had gathered, quietly, almost timidly, and before the distinguished company realized it, they turned to meet that battery of four hundred eyes. A human eye is a wonderful thing when it simply waits and watches. Not one of these little things alone would have been worth more than a glance, but together, they became mighty, portentous. Mr. Bocombe got out his note-book and wrote furiously therein. Dr. Boldish, naturally the appointed spokesman, looked helplessly about and whispered to Mrs. Vanderpool:
“What on earth shall I talk about?”
“The brotherhood of man?” suggested the lady.
“Hardly advisable,” returned Dr. Boldish, seriously, “in our friend’s presence,”—with a glance toward Cresswell. Then he arose.
“My friends,” he said, touching his finger-tips and using blank verse in A minor. “This is an auspicious day. You should be thankful for the gifts of the Lord. His bounty surrounds you—the trees, the fields, the glorious sun. He gives cotton to clothe you, corn to eat, devoted friends to teach you. Be joyful. Be good. Above all, be thrifty and save your money, and do not complain and whine at your apparent disadvantages. Remember that God did not create men equal but unequal, and set metes and bounds. It is not for us to question the wisdom of the Almighty, but to bow humbly to His will.