The quest of the silver fleece

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ProjectGutenberg'sTheQuestoftheSilverFleece,byW E B DuBois ThiseBookisfortheuseofanyoneanywhereatnocostandwith almostnorestrictionswhatsoever Youmaycopyit,giveitawayor re-useitunderthetermsoftheProjectGutenbergLicenseincluded withthiseBookoronlineatwww.gutenberg.net Title:TheQuestoftheSilverFleece ANovel Author:W E B DuBois ReleaseDate:March5,2005[EBook#15265] Language:English ***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKTHEQUESTOFTHESILVERFLEECE*** ProducedbySuzanneShell,MartinPettitandthePGOnlineDistributed ProofreadingTeamathttp://www.pgdp.net THEQUESTOFTHESILVER FLEECE ANovel W.E.B DUBOIS 1911 A.C McClurg&Co Contents NotefromtheAuthor One DREAMS Two THESCHOOL Three MISSMARYTAYLOR Four TOWN Five ZORA Six COTTON Seven THEPLACEOFDREAMS Eight MR HARRYCRESSWELL Nine THEPLANTING Ten MR TAYLORCALLS Eleven THEFLOWERINGOFTHEFLEECE Twelve THEPROMISE Thirteen MRS GREYGIVESADINNER Fourteen LOVE Fifteen REVELATION Sixteen THEGREATREFUSAL Seventeen THERAPEOFTHEFLEECE Eighteen THECOTTONCORNER Nineteen THEDYINGOFELSPETH Twenty THEWEAVINGOFTHESILVERFLEECE Twenty-one THEMARRIAGEMORNING Twenty-two MISSCAROLINEWYNN Twenty-three THETRAININGOFZORA Twenty-four THEEDUCATIONOFALWYN Twenty-five THECAMPAIGN Twenty-six CONGRESSMANCRESSWEL Twenty-seven THEVISIONOFZORA Twenty-eight THEANNUNCIATION Twenty-nine AMASTEROFFATE Thirty THERETURNOFZORA Thirty-one APARTINGOFWAYS Thirty-two ZORA'SWAY Thirty-three THEBUYINGOFTHESWAMP Thirty-four THERETURNOFALWYN Thirty-five THECOTTONMILL Thirty-six THELAND Thirty-seven THEMOB Thirty-eight ATONEMENT THEQUESTOFTHESILVERFLEECE TOONE whosenamemaynotbewrittenbuttowhosetireless faiththeshapingofthesecruderthoughtstoforms morefitlyperfectisdoubtlessdue,this finishedworkisherewithdedicated Note Hewhowouldtellatalemustlooktowardthreeideals:totellitwell,totellit beautifully,andtotellthetruth ThefirstistheGiftofGod,thesecondistheVisionofGenius,butthethirdis theRewardofHonesty InTheQuestoftheSilverFleecethereislittle,Iween,divineoringenious;but, at least, I have been honest In no fact or picture have I consciously set down aught the counterpart of which I have not seen or known; and whatever the finished picture may lack of completeness, this lack is due now to the storyteller,nowtotheartist,butnevertotheheraldoftheTruth NEWYORKCITY August15,1911 THEAUTHOR One DREAMS Nightfell Theredwatersoftheswampgrewsinisterandsullen Thetallpines losttheirslimnessandstoodinwideblurredblotchesallacrosstheway,anda greatshadowybirdarose,wheeledandmelted,murmuring,intotheblack-green sky Theboywearilydroppedhisheavybundleandstoodstill,listeningasthevoice of crickets split the shadows and made the silence audible A tear wandered downhisbrowncheek Theywereatsuppernow,hewhispered—thefatherand old mother, away back yonder beyond the night They were far away; they wouldneverbeasnearasoncetheyhadbeen,forhehadsteppedintotheworld AndthecatandOldBilly—ah,buttheworldwasalonelything,sowideandtall andempty!Andsobare,sobitterbare!Somehowhehadneverdreamedofthe worldaslonelybefore;hehadfaredforthtobeckoninghandsandluring,andto theeagerhumofhumanvoices,asofsomegreat,swellingmusic Yet now he was alone; the empty night was closing all about him here in a strangeland,andhewasafraid Thebundlewithhisearthlytreasurehadhung heavyandheavieronhisshoulder;hislittlehordeofmoneywastightlywadded inhissock,andtheschoollayhiddensomewherefarawayintheshadows He wonderedhowfaritwas;helookedandharkened,startingathisownheartbeats, andfearingmoreandmorethelongdarkfingersofthenight Thenofasuddenupfromthedarknesscamemusic Itwashumanmusic,butof awildnessandaweirdnessthatstartledtheboyasitflutteredanddancedacross thedullredwatersoftheswamp Hehesitated,thenimpelledbysomestrange power,leftthehighwayandslippedintotheforestoftheswamp,shrinking,yet followingthesonghungrilyandhalfforgettinghisfear Aharsher,shrillernote struckin as ofmany and rudervoices;butaboveitflewthefirstsweetmusic, birdlike,abandoned,andtheboycreptcloser The cabin crouched ragged and black at the edge of black waters An old chimneyleaneddrunkenlyagainstit,ragingwithfireandsmoke,whilethrough the chinks winked red gleams of warmth and wild cheer With a revel of shoutingandnoise,themusicsuddenlyceased Hoarsestaccatocriesandpeals of laughter shook the old hut, and as the boy stood there peering through the same mob, now sworn in as deputies, rode with him to search the settlement Theytrampedinsolentlythroughtheschoolgrounds,buttherewasnoshredof evidenceuntiltheycametoRob'scabinandfoundhisgun Theytiedhishands behindhimandmarchedhimtowardtown Butbeforethemobarrivedthenightbefore,Johnsonfeelingthathissafetylay in informing the white folks, had crawled with his gun into the swamp In the morninghepeeredoutasthecavalcadeapproached,andnotknowingwhathad happened,herecognizedColton,thesheriff,andsignalledtohimcautiously Ina momentadozenmenwereonhim,andheappealedandexplainedinvain—the gun was damning evidence The voices of Rob's wife and children could be heardbehindthetwomenastheywerehurriedalongatadogtrot The town poured out to greet them—"The murderers! the murderers! Kill the niggers!" and they came on with a rush The sheriff turned and disappeared in therear Therewasagreatcloudofdust,acryandawildscramble,asthewhite andangryfacesofmenandboysgleamedamomentandfaded Ahundredormoreshotsrangout;thenslowlyandsilently,themassofwomen andmenweresuckedintothestreetsofthetown,leavingbutblackeddiesonthe cornerstothrowbackwardglancestowardthebare,toweringpinewhereswung tworedandawfulthings Thepaleboy-faceofone,withsoftbrowneyesglared up sightless to the sun; the dead, leathered bronze of the other was carved in piteousterror Thirty-eight ATONEMENT Three months had flown It was Spring again, and Zora sat in the transformed swamp—now a swamp in name only—beneath the great oak, dreaming And what she dreamed there in the golden day she dared not formulate even to her ownsoul Sherosewithastart,fortherewasworktodo AuntRachelwasill, andEmmawentdailytoattendher;today,asshecameback,shebroughtnews thatColonelCresswell,whohadbeenunwellforseveraldays,wasworse She must send Emma up to help, and as she started toward the school she glanced toward the Cresswell Oaks and saw the arm-chair of its master on the pillared porch Colonel Cresswell sat in his chair on the porch, alone As far as he could see, therewasnohumansoul Hiseyeswereblood-shot,hischeekssunken,andhis breathcameinpainfulgasps Asortofterrorshookhimuntilheheardthedistant songsofblackfolkinthefields Hesighed,andlyingback,closedhiseyesand thebreathcameeasier Whenheopenedthemagainawhitefigurewascoming uptheavenueoftheOaks Hewatcheditgreedily ItwasMaryCresswell,and shestartedwhenshesawhim "Youareworse,father?"sheasked "Worseandbetter,"hereplied,smilingcynically Thensuddenlyheannounced: "I'vemademywill." "Why—why—"shestammered "Why?"sharply "BecauseI'mgoingtodie." Shesaidnothing Hesmiledandcontinued: "I'vegotitallfixed Harrywasinatightplace—gamblingasusual—andIgave him a lump sum in lieu of all claims Then I gave John Taylor—you needn't look I sent for him He's a damned scoundrel; but he won't lie, and I needed him Iwilledhischildrenalltherestexcepttwoorthreelegacies Onewasone hundredthousanddollarsforyou—" "Oh,father!"shecried "Idon'tdeserveit." "IreckontwoyearswithHarrywasworthaboutthatmuch,"hereturnedgrimly "Then there's another gift of two hundred thousand dollars and this house and plantation Whomdoyouthinkthat'sfor?" "Helen?" "Helen!" he raised his hand in threatening anger "I might rot here for all she cares No—no—but then—I'll not tell you—I—ah—" A spasm of pain shot across his face, and he lay back white and still Abruptly he sat up again and peereddowntheoaks "Hush!"hegasped "Who'sthat?" "Idon'tknow—it'sagirl—I—" Hegrippedhertillshewinced "My God—it walks—like my wife—I tell you—she held her head so—who is it?"Hehalfrose "Oh, father, it's nobody but Emma—little Emma—Bertie's child—the mulatto girl She'sanursenow,andIaskedtohavehercomeandattendyou." "Oh,"hesaid,"oh—"Helookedatthegirlcuriously "Comehere."Hepeered intoherwhiteyoungface "Doyouknowme?" Thegirlshrankawayfromhim "Yes,sir." "Whatdoyoudo?" "Iteachandnurseattheschool." "Good!Well,I'mgoingtogiveyousomemoney—doyouknowwhy?" Aflashofself-consciousnesspassedoverthegirl'sface;shelookedathimwith herwideblueeyes "Yes,Grandfather,"shefaltered Mrs Cresswellrosetoherfeet;buttheoldmanslowlydroppedthegirl'shand and lay back in his chair, with lips half smiling "Grandfather," he repeated softly Heclosedhiseyesaspaceandthenopenedthem Atremorshiveredinhis limbsashestareddarklyattheswamp "Hark!" he cried harshly "Do you hear the bodies creaking on the limbs? It's RobandJohnson Ididit—I—" Suddenlyheroseandstooderectandhiswildeyesstrickenwithdeathstaredfull uponEmma Slowlyandthicklyhespoke,workinghistremblinghands "Nell—Nell! Is it you, little wife, come back to accuse me? Ah, Nell, don't shrink!Iknow—Ihavesinnedagainstthelightandthebloodofyourpoorblack peopleisredontheseoldhands No,don'tputyourcleanwhitehandsuponme, Nell, till I wash mine I'll it, Nell; I'll atone I'm a Cresswell yet, Nell, a Cresswell and a gen—" He swayed Vainly he struggled for the word The shudderofdeathshookhissoul,andhepassed A week after the funeral of Colonel Cresswell, John Taylor drove out to the schoolandwasclosetedwithMissSmith Hissister,installedonceagainfora fewdaysinheroldroomattheschool,understoodthathewasconferringabout Emma's legacy, and she was glad She was more and more convinced that the marriageofEmmaandBleswasthebestpossiblesolutionofmanydifficulties She had asked Emma once if she liked Bles, and Emma had replied in her innocentway, "Oh,somuch." AsforBles,hewasoftensayingwhatadearchildEmmawas Neitherperhaps realizedyetthatthiswaslove,butitneeded,Mrs Cresswellwassure,onlythe lightning-flash,andtheywouldknow Andwhocouldfurnishthatillumination betterthanZora,thecalm,methodicalZora,whoknewthemsowell? Asforherself,onceshehadaccomplishedthemarriageandpaidthemortgage on the school out of her legacy, she would go abroad and in travel seek forgetfulnessandhealing Therehadbeennoformaldivorce,andsofarasshe was concerned there never would be; but the separation from her husband and Americawouldbeforever Her brother came out of the office, nodded casually, for they had little intercoursethesedays,androdeaway SherushedintoMissSmith andfound her sitting there—straight, upright, composed in all save that the tears were streamingdownherfaceandshewasmakingnoefforttostopthem "Why—MissSmith!"shefaltered MissSmithpointedtoapaper Mrs Cresswellpickeditupcuriously Itwasan official notification to the trustees of the Smith School of a legacy of two hundredthousanddollarstogetherwiththeCresswellhouseandplantation Mrs Gresswellsatdowninopen-mouthedastonishment Twiceshetriedtospeak,but thereweresomanythingstosaythatshecouldnotchoose "TellZora,"MissSmithatlastmanagedtosay Zora was dreaming again Somehow, the old dream-life, with its glorious phantasies,hadcomesilentlyback,richerandsweeterthanever Therewasno tangible reason why, and yet today she had shut herself in her den Searching downinthedepthsofhertrunk,shedrewforththatfilmycloudofwhite—silkbordered and half finished to a gown Why were her eyes wet today and her mind on the Silver Fleece? It was an anniversary, and perhaps she still remembered that moment, that supreme moment before the mob She half slippedon,halfwoundabouther,thewhitecloudofcloth,standingwithparted lips,lookingintothelongmirrorandgleaminginthefadingdaylikemidnight gowned in mists and stars Abruptly there came a peremptory knocking at the door "Zora!Zora!"soundedMrs Cresswell'svoice Forgettingherinformalattire,she openedthedoor,fearingsomemishap Mrs Cresswellpouredoutthenews Zora receiveditinsuchmotionlesssilencethatMarywonderedatherwantoffeeling Atlast,however,shesaidhappilytoZora: "Well,thebattle'sover,isn'tit?" "No,it'sjustbegun." "Justbegun?"echoedMaryinamazement "Thinkoftheservileblackfolk,thehalfawakenedrestlesswhites,thefatland waitingfortheharvest,themassespantingtoknow—why,thebattleisscarcely evenbegun." "Yes, I guess that's so," Mary began to comprehend "We'll thank God it has begun,though." "ThankGod!"Zorareverentlyrepeated "Come,let'sgobacktopoor,dearMissSmith,"suggestedMary "Ican'tcomejustnow—butprettysoon." "Why?Oh,Isee;you'retryingonsomething—howprettyandbecoming!Well, hurry." As they stood together, the white woman deemed the moment opportune; she slippedherarmabouttheblackwoman'swaistandbegan: "Zora,I'vehadsomethingonmymindforalongtime,andIshouldn'twonderif youhadthoughtofthesamething." "Whatisit?" "BlesandEmma." "Whatofthem?" "Theirlikingforeachother." ZorabentamomentandcaughtupthefoldsoftheFleece "Ihadn'tnoticedit,"shesaidinalowvoice "Well,you'rebusy,yousee They'vebeenverymuchtogether—histakingherto her charges, bringing her back, and all that I know they love each other; yet something holds them apart, afraid to show their love Do you know—I've wondered if—quite unconciously, it is you? You know Bles used to imagine himselfinlovewithyou,justashedidafterwardwithMissWynn." "Miss—Wynn?" "Yes, the Washington girl But he got over that and you straightened him out finally Still,Emmaprobablythinksyoursisthepriorclaim,knowing,ofcourse, nothingoffacts AndBlesknowsshethinksofhimandyou,andI'mconvinced ifyousaytheword,they'dloveandmarry." Zorawalkedsilentlywithhertothedoor,where,lookingout,shesawBlesand Emmacomingfrom AuntRachel's Hewashelping herfromthecarriagewith smilingeyes,andherinnocentblueeyeswerefastenedonhim Zoralookedlongandsearchingly "Please run and tell them of the legacy," she begged "I—I will come—in a moment."AndMrs Cresswellhurriedout Zora turned back steadily to her room, and locked herself in After all, why shouldn't it be? Why had it not occurred to her before in her blindness? If she hadwantedhim—andah,God!wasnotallherlifesimplythewantofhim?— whyhadshenotboundhimtoherwhenhehadofferedhimself?Whyhadshe notboundhimtoher?Sheknewassheasked—becauseshehadwantedall,nota part—everything,love,respectandperfectfaith—notonethingcouldshespare then—not one thing And now, oh, God! she had dreamed that it was all hers, sincethatnightofdeathandcirclingflamewhentheylookedateachothersoul tosoul Buthehadnotmeantanything Itwaspityshehadseenthere,notlove; andsheroseandwalkedtheroomslowly,fastandfaster With trembling hands she drew the Silver Fleece round her Her head swam againandthebloodflashedinhereyes Sheheardacallingintheswamp,and the shadow of Elspeth seemed to hover over her, claiming her for her own, dragging her down, down She rushed through the swamp The lagoon lay there before her presently, gleaming in the darkness—cold and still, and in it swamanawfulshape Sheheldherburninghead—wasnoteverythingplain?Wasnoteverythingclear? ThiswasSacrifice!ThiswastheAtonementfortheunforgivensin Emma'swas thepuresoulwhichshemustofferuptoGod;foritwasGod,acoldandmighty God,whohadgivenittoBles—herBles Itwaswell;Godwilledit Butcould shelive?Mustshelive?DidGodaskthat,too? All at once she stood straight; her whole body grew tense, alert She heard no soundbehindher,butknewhewasthere,andbracedherself Shemustbetrue Shemustbejust Shemustpaytheuttermostfarthing "Bles,"shecalledfaintly,butdidnotturnherhead "Zora!" "Bles,"shechoked,buthervoicecamestronger,"Iknow—all Emmaisagood girl I helped bring her up myself and did all I could for her and she—she is pure;marryher." Hisvoicecameslowandfirm: "Emma?ButIdon'tloveEmma Ilove—someoneelse." Her heart bounded and again was still It was that Washington girl then She answereddully,gropingforwords,forshewastired: "Whoisit?" "Thebestwomaninalltheworld,Zora." "Andis"—shestruggledatthewordmadly—"isshepure?" "Sheismorethanpure." "Thenyoumustmarryher,Bles." "Iamnotworthyofher,"heanswered,sinkingbeforeher Then at last illumination dawned upon her blindness She stood very still and lifteduphereyes Theswampwasliving,vibrant,tremulous There where the firstlongnoteofnightlayshotwithburningcrimson,burstinsuddenradiance the wide beauty of the moon There pulsed a glory in the air Her little hands gropedandwanderedoverhisclose-curledhair,andshesobbed,deepvoiced: "Willyou—marryme,Bles?" L'ENVOI Lendmethineears,OGodtheReader,whoseFathersaforetimesentmine down into the land of Egypt, into this House of Bondage Lay not these wordsasideforamoment'sphantasy,butliftupthineeyesupontheHorror inthisland;—themaimingandmockingandmurderingofmypeople,and the prisonment of their souls Let my people go, O Infinite One, lest the worldshudderat TheEnd EndofProjectGutenberg'sTheQuestoftheSilverFleece,byW E B DuBois ***ENDOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKTHEQUESTOFTHESILVERFLEECE*** *****Thisfileshouldbenamed15265-h.htmor15265-h.zip***** Thisandallassociatedfilesofvariousformatswillbefoundin: http://www.gutenberg.net/1/5/2/6/15265/ ProducedbySuzanneShell,MartinPettitandthePGOnlineDistributed ProofreadingTeamathttp://www.pgdp.net Updatededitionswillreplacethepreviousone theoldeditions willberenamed Creatingtheworksfrompublicdomainprinteditionsmeansthatno oneownsaUnitedStatescopyrightintheseworks,sotheFoundation (andyou!)cancopyanddistributeitintheUnitedStateswithout 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