It all ended as matters usually did end, in Harry’s having his way. He came downstairs, expecting, indeed, rather hoping, to find Taylor impatiently striding to and fro, watch in hand; but here he was, ungainly, it might be, but quite docile, drawing the picture of a power-loom for Miss Cresswell, who seemed really interested. Harry silently surveyed them from the door, and his face lighted with a new thought.
Taylor, espying him, leapt to his feet and hauled out his watch.
“Well—I—” he began lamely.
“No, you weren’t either,” interrupted Harry, with a laugh that was unmistakably cordial and friendly. “You had quite forgotten what you were waiting for—isn’t that so, Sis?”
Helen regarded her brother through her veiling lashes: what meant this sudden assumption of warmth and amiability?
“No, indeed; he was raging with impatience,” she returned.
“Why, Miss Cresswell, I—I—” John Taylor forsook social amenities and pulled himself together. “Well,” shortly, “now for that talk—ready?” And quite forgetting Miss Cresswell, he bolted into the parlor.
“The decision we have come to is this,” said Harry Cresswell. “We are in debt, as you know.”
“Forty-nine thousand, seven hundred and forty-two dollars and twelve cents,” responded Taylor; “in three notes, due in twelve, twenty-four, and thirty-six months, interest at eight per cent, held by—”
The Colonel snorted his amazement, and Harry Cresswell cut in:
“Yes,” he calmly admitted; “and with good crops for three years we’d be all right; good crops even for two years would leave us fairly well off.”
“You mean it would relieve you of the present stringency and put you face to face with the falling price of cotton and rising wages,” was John Taylor’s dry addendum.
“Rising price of cotton, you mean,” Harry corrected.
“Oh, temporarily,” John Taylor admitted.
“Precisely, and thus postpone the decision.”
“No, Mr. Cresswell. I’m offering to let you in on the ground floor—now—not next year, or year after.”
“Mr. Taylor, have you any money in this?”
“Everything I’ve got.”
“Well, the thing is this way: if you can prove to us that conditions are as you say, we’re in for it.”
“Good! Meet me in New York, say—let’s see, this is March tenth—well, May third.”
Young Cresswell was thinking rapidly. This man without doubt represented money. He was anxious for an alliance. Why? Was it all straight, or did the whole move conceal a trick?
His eyes strayed to the porch where his pretty sister sat languidly, and then toward the school where the other sister lived. John Taylor looked out on the porch, too. They glanced quickly at each other, and each wondered if the other had shared his thought. Harry Cresswell did not voice his mind for he was not wholly disposed to welcome what was there; but he could not refrain from saying in tones almost confidential: