The Quest of the Silver Fleece HTML version
Three: Miss Mary Taylor
Miss Mary Taylor did not take a college course for the purpose of teaching Negroes. Not
that she objected to Negroes as human beings—quite the contrary. In the debate between
the senior societies her defence of the Fifteenth Amendment had been not only a notable
bit of reasoning, but delivered with real enthusiasm. Nevertheless, when the end of the
summer came and the only opening facing her was the teaching of children at Miss
Smith's experiment in the Alabama swamps, it must be frankly confessed that Miss
Taylor was disappointed.
Her dream had been a post-graduate course at Bryn Mawr; but that was out of the
question until money was earned. She had pictured herself earning this by teaching one or
two of her "specialties" in some private school near New York or Boston, or even in a
Western college. The South she had not thought of seriously; and yet, knowing of its
delightful hospitality and mild climate, she was not averse to Charleston or New Orleans.
But from the offer that came to teach Negroes—country Negroes, and little ones at that—
she shrank, and, indeed, probably would have refused it out of hand had it not been for
her queer brother, John. John Taylor, who had supported her through college, was
interested in cotton. Having certain schemes in mind, he had been struck by the fact that
the Smith School was in the midst of the Alabama cotton-belt.
"Better go," he had counselled, sententiously. "Might learn something useful down
She had been not a little dismayed by the outlook, and had protested against his blunt
"But, John, there's no society—just elementary work—"
John had met this objection with, "Humph!" as he left for his office. Next day he had
returned to the subject.
"Been looking up Tooms County. Find some Cresswells there—big plantations—rated at
two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Some others, too; big cotton county."
"You ought to know, John, if I teach Negroes I'll scarcely see much of people in my own
"Nonsense! Butt in. Show off. Give 'em your Greek—and study Cotton. At any rate, I say
And so, howsoever reluctantly, she had gone.
The trial was all she had anticipated, and possibly a bit more. She was a pretty young
woman of twenty-three, fair and rather daintily moulded. In favorable surroundings, she