The Quest of the Silver Fleece HTML version

Twenty: The Weaving Of The Silver Fleece
The Silver Fleece, darkly cloaked and girded, lay in the cotton warehouse of the
Cresswells, near the store. Its silken fibres, cramped and close, shone yellow-white in the
sunlight; sadly soiled, yet beautiful. Many came to see Zora's twin bales, as they lay,
handling them and questioning, while Colonel Cresswell grew proud of his possession.
The world was going well with the Colonel. Freed from money cares, praised for his
generalship in the cotton corner, able to entertain sumptuously, he was again a Southern
gentleman of the older school, and so in his envied element. Yet today he frowned as he
stood poking absently with his cane at the baled Fleece.
This marriage—or, rather, these marriages—were not to his liking. It was a mesalliance
of a sort that pricked him tenderly; it savored grossly of bargain and sale. His neighbors
regarded it with disconcerting equanimity. They seemed to think an alliance with
Northern millions an honor for Cresswell blood, and the Colonel thumped the nearer bale
vigorously. His cane slipped along the iron bands suddenly, and the old man lurching
forward, clutched in space to save himself and touched a human hand.
Zora, sitting shadowed on the farther bale, drew back her hand quickly at the contact, and
started to move away.
"Who's that?" thundered the Colonel, more angry at his involuntary fright than at the
intrusion. "Here, boys!"
But Zora had come forward into the space where the sunlight of the wide front doors
poured in upon the cotton bales.
"It's me, Colonel," she said.
He glared at her. She was taller and thinner than formerly, darkly transparent of skin, and
her dark eyes shone in strange and dusky brilliance. Still indignant and surprised, the
Colonel lifted his voice sharply.
"What the devil are you doing here?—sleeping when you ought to be at work! Get out!
And see here, next week cotton chopping begins—you'll go to the fields or to the chain-
gang. I'll have no more of your loafing about my place."
Awaiting no reply, the Colonel, already half ashamed of his vehemence, stormed out into
the sunlight and climbed upon his bay mare.
But Zora still stood silent in the shadow of the Silver Fleece, hearing and yet not hearing.
She was searching for the Way, groping for the threads of life, seeking almost wildly to
understand the foundations of understanding, piteously asking for answer to the puzzle of
life. All the while the walls rose straight about her and narrow. To continue in school