The Quest of the Silver Fleece
Harry Cresswell was scowling over his breakfast. It was not because his apartment in the
New York hotel was not satisfactory, or his breakfast unpalatable; possibly a rather
bewildering night in Broadway was expressing its influence; but he was satisfied that his
ill-temper was due to a paragraph in the morning paper:
"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?"