The Quest of the Silver Fleece HTML version

Thirty-three: The Buying Of The Swamp
"It's a shame," asserted John Taylor with something like real feeling. He was spending
Sunday with his father-in-law, and both, over their after-dinner cigars, were gazing
thoughtfully at the swamp.
"What's a shame?" asked Colonel Cresswell.
"To see all that timber and prime cotton-land going to waste. Don't you remember those
fine bales of cotton that came out of there several seasons ago?"
The Colonel smoked placidly. "You can't get it cleared," he said.
"But couldn't you hire some good workers?"
"Niggers won't work. Now if we had Italians we might do it."
"Yes, and in a few years they'd own the country."
"That's right; so there we are. There's only one way to get that swamp cleared."
"Sell it to some fool darkey."
"Sell it? It's too valuable to sell."
"That's just it. You don't understand. The only way to get decent work out of some
niggers is to let them believe they're buying land. In nine cases out of ten he works hard a
while and then throws up the job. We get back our land and he makes good wages for his
"But in the tenth case—suppose he should stick to it?"
"Oh,"—easily, "we could get rid of him when we want to. White people rule here."
John Taylor frowned and looked a little puzzled. He was no moralist, but he had his code
and he did not understand Colonel Cresswell. As a matter of fact, Colonel Cresswell was
an honest man. In most matters of commerce between men he was punctilious to a degree
almost annoying to Taylor. But there was one part of the world which his code of honor
did not cover, and he saw no incongruity in the omission. The uninitiated cannot easily
picture to himself the mental attitude of a former slaveholder toward property in the
hands of a Negro. Such property belonged of right to the master, if the master needed it;
and since ridiculous laws safeguarded the property, it was perfectly permissible to