The Quest of the Silver Fleece HTML version

Fourteen: Love
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.
So it rained for one long week, and so for seven endless days Bles watched it with leaden
heart. He knew the Silver Fleece—his and Zora's—must be ruined. It was the first great
sorrow of his life; it was not so much the loss of the cotton itself—but the fantasy, the
hopes, the dreams built around it. If it failed, would not they fail? Was not this angry
beating rain, this dull spiritless drizzle, this wild war of air and earth, but foretaste and
prophecy of ruin and discouragement, of the utter futility of striving? But if his own
despair was great his pain at the plight of Zora made it almost unbearable. He did not see
her in these seven days. He pictured her huddled there in the swamp in the cheerless
leaky cabin with worse than no companions. Ah! the swamp, the cruel swamp! It was a
fearful place in the rain. Its oozing mud and fetid vapors, its clinging slimy draperies,—
how they twined about the bones of its victims and chilled their hearts. Yet here his
Zora,—his poor disappointed child—was imprisoned.
Child? He had always called her child—but now in the inward illumination of these dark
days he knew her as neither child nor sister nor friend, but as the One Woman. The
revelation of his love lighted and brightened slowly till it flamed like a sunrise over him
and left him in burning wonder. He panted to know if she, too, knew, or knew and cared
not, or cared and knew not. She was so strange and human a creature. To her all things
meant something—nothing was aimless, nothing merely happened. Was this rain beating
down and back her love for him, or had she never loved? He walked his room, gripping
his hands, peering through the misty windows toward the swamp—rain, rain, rain,
nothing but rain. The world was water veiled in mists.
Then of a sudden, at midday, the sun shot out, hot and still; no breath of air stirred; the
sky was like blue steel; the earth steamed. Bles rushed to the edge of the swamp and
stood there irresolute. Perhaps—if the water had but drained from the cotton!—it was so
strong and tall! But, pshaw! Where was the use of imagining? The lagoon had been level
with the dykes a week ago; and now? He could almost see the beautiful Silver Fleece,
bedraggled, drowned, and rolling beneath the black lake of slime. He went back to his
work, but early in the morning the thought of it lured him again. He must at least see the
grave of his hope and Zora's, and out of it resurrect new love and strength.
Perhaps she, too, might be there, waiting, weeping. He started at the thought. He hurried
forth sadly. The rain-drops were still dripping and gleaming from the trees, flashing back
the heavy yellow sunlight. He splashed and stamped along, farther and farther onward