“H’m,” he reflected deprecatingly, wiping his brow.
“I need some ready money,” she continued, “to keep from curtailing our work.”
“I have good prospects in a year or so”—the Colonel looked up sharply, but said nothing—“and so I thought of a mortgage.”
“Money is pretty tight,” was the Colonel’s first objection.
“The land is worth, you know, at least fifty dollars an acre.”
“Not more than twenty-five dollars, I fear.”
“Why, you wanted seventy-five dollars for poorer land last year! We have two hundred acres.” It was not for nothing that this lady had been born in New England.
“I wouldn’t reckon it as worth more than five thousand dollars,” insisted the Colonel.
“And ten thousand dollars for improvements.”
But the Colonel arose. “You had better talk to the directors of the Jefferson Bank,” he said politely. “They may accommodate you—how much would you want?”
“Five thousand dollars,” Miss Smith replied. Then she hesitated. That would buy the land, to be sure; but money was needed to develop and run it; to install tenants; and then, too, for new teachers. But she said nothing more, and, nodding to his polite bow, departed. Colonel Cresswell had noticed her hesitation, and thought of it as he settled to his cigar again.
Bles Alwyn arose next morning and examined the sky critically. He feared rain. The season had been quite wet enough, particularly down on the swamp land, and but yesterday Bles had viewed his dykes with apprehension for the black pool scowled about them. He dared not think what a long heavy rain might do to the wonderful island of cotton which now stood fully five feet high, with flowers and squares and budding bolls. It might not rain, but the safest thing would be to work at those dykes, so he started for spade and hoe. He heard Miss Smith calling, however.
He was vexed. “Are you—in a hurry, Miss Smith?” he asked.
“Yes, I am,” she replied, with unmistakable positiveness.
He started off, and hesitated. “Miss Smith, would Jim do to drive?”
“No,” sharply. “I want you particularly.” At another time she might have observed his anxiety, but today she was agitated. She knew she was taking a critical step.
Slowly Bles hitched up. After all it might not rain, he argued as they jogged toward town. In silence they rode on. Bles kept looking at the skies. The south was getting darker and darker. It might rain. It might rain only an hour or so, but, suppose it should rain a day—two days—a week?
Miss Smith was looking at her own skies and despite the promised sunrise they loomed darkly. Five thousand was needed for the land and at least another thousand for repairs. Two thousand would “buy” a half dozen desirable tenants by paying their debts to their present landlords. Then two thousand would be wanted for new teachers and a carpenter shop—ten thousand dollars!