“Come,” she said, “Mrs. Grey, we’ll talk this matter over again later. I am sure Miss Smith does not mean quite all she says—she is tired and nervous. You join the others and don’t wait for me and I will be along directly.”
Mrs. Grey was only too glad to escape and Mr. Bocombe got a chance to talk. He drew out his note-book.
“Awfully interesting,” he said, “awfully. Now—er—let’s see—oh, yes. Did you notice how unhealthy the children looked? Race is undoubtedly dying out; fact. No hope. Weak. No spontaneity either—rather languid, did you notice? Yes, and their heads—small and narrow—no brain capacity. They can’t concentrate; notice how some slept when Dr. Boldish was speaking? Mr. Cresswell says they own almost no land here; think of it? This land was worth only ten dollars an acre a decade ago, he says. Negroes might have bought all and been rich. Very shiftless—and that singing. Now, I wonder where they got the music? Imitation, of course.” And so he rattled on, noting not the silence of the others.
As the carriage drove off Mary turned to Miss Smith.
“Now, Miss Smith,” she began—but Miss Smith looked at her, and said sternly, “Sit down.”
Mary Taylor sat down. She had been so used to lecturing the older woman that the sudden summoning of her well known sternness against herself took her breath, and she sat awkwardly like the school girl that she was waiting for Miss Smith to speak. She felt suddenly very young and very helpless—she who had so jauntily set out to solve this mighty problem by a waving of her wand. She saw with a swelling of pity the drawn and stricken face of her old friend and she started up.
“Sit down,” repeated Miss Smith harshly. “Mary Taylor, you are a fool. You are not foolish, for the foolish learn; you are simply a fool. You will never learn; you have blundered into this life work of mine and well nigh ruined it. Whether I can yet save it God alone knows. You have blundered into the lives of two loving children, and sent one wandering aimless on the face of the earth and the other moaning in yonder chamber with death in her heart. You are going to marry the man that sought Zora’s ruin when she was yet a child because you think of his aristocratic pose and pretensions built on the poverty, crime, and exploitation of six generations of serfs. You’ll marry him and—”
But Miss Taylor leapt to her feet with blazing cheeks.
“How dare you?” she screamed, beside herself.
“But God in heaven help you if you do,” finished Miss Smith, calmly.