The Quest of the Silver Fleece HTML version

Four: Town
John Taylor had written to his sister. He wanted information, very definite information,
about Tooms County cotton; about its stores, its people—especially its people. He
propounded a dozen questions, sharp, searching questions, and he wanted the answers
tomorrow. Impossible! thought Miss Taylor. He had calculated on her getting this letter
yesterday, forgetting that their mail was fetched once a day from the town, four miles
away. Then, too, she did not know all these matters and knew no one who did. Did John
think she had nothing else to do? And sighing at the thought of to-morrow's drudgery, she
determined to consult Miss Smith in the morning.
Miss Smith suggested a drive to town—Bles could take her in the top-buggy after
school—and she could consult some of the merchants and business men. She could then
write her letter and mail it there; it would be but a day or so late getting to New York.
"Of course," said Miss Smith drily, slowly folding her napkin, "of course, the only people
here are the Cresswells."
"Oh, yes," said Miss Taylor invitingly. There was an allurement about this all-pervasive
name; it held her by a growing fascination and she was anxious for the older woman to
amplify. Miss Smith, however, remained provokingly silent, so Miss Taylor essayed
"What sort of people are the Cresswells?" she asked.
"The old man's a fool; the young one a rascal; the girl a ninny," was Miss Smith's
succinct and acid classification of the county's first family; adding, as she rose, "but they
own us body and soul." She hurried out of the dining-room without further remark. Miss
Smith was more patient with black folk than with white.
The sun was hanging just above the tallest trees of the swamp when Miss Taylor, weary
with the day's work, climbed into the buggy beside Bles. They wheeled comfortably
down the road, leaving the sombre swamp, with its black-green, to the right, and heading
toward the golden-green of waving cotton fields. Miss Taylor lay back, listlessly, and
drank the soft warm air of the languorous Spring. She thought of the golden sheen of the
cotton, and the cold March winds of New England; of her brother who apparently noted
nothing of leaves and winds and seasons; and of the mighty Cresswells whom Miss Smith
so evidently disliked. Suddenly she became aware of her long silence and the silence of
the boy.
"Bles," she began didactically, "where are you from?"
He glanced across at her and answered shortly:
"Georgia, ma'am," and was silent.