It was a great temptation. And yet, once in the hands of these past-masters of debt-manipulation, would her school be safe? Suppose, after all, this Grey gift—but she caught her breath sharply just as a wet splash of rain struck upon her forehead. No. God could not be so cruel. She pushed her bonnet back: how good and cool the water felt! But on Bles as he raised the buggy top it felt hot and fiery.
He felt the coming of some great calamity, the end of a dream. This rain might stay for days; it looked like such a downpour; and that would mean the end of the Silver Fleece; the end of Zora’s hopes; the end of everything. He gulped in despairing anger and hit the staid old horse the smartest tap she had known all summer.
“Why, Bles, what’s the matter?” called Miss Smith, as the horse started forward. He murmured something about getting wet and drew up at the Toomsville bank.
Miss Smith was invited politely into the private parlor. She explained her business. The President was there and Colonel Cresswell and one other local director.
“I have come for a mortgage. Our land is, as you know, gentlemen, worth at least ten thousand dollars; the buildings cost fifteen thousand dollars; our property is, therefore, conservatively valued at twenty-five thousand dollars. Now I want to mortgage it for”—she hesitated—“five thousand dollars.”
Colonel Cresswell was silent, but the president said:
“Money is rather scarce just now, Miss Smith; but it happens that I have ten thousand dollars on hand, which we prefer, however, to loan in one lump sum. Now, if the security were ample, I think perhaps you might get this ten thousand dollars.”
Miss Smith grew white; it was the sum she wanted. She tried to escape the temptation, yet the larger amount was more than twice as desirable to her as the smaller, and she knew that they knew it. They were trying to tempt her; they wanted as firm a hold on the school property as possible. And yet, why should she hesitate? It was a risk, but the returns would be enormous—she must do it. Besides, there was the endowment; it was certain; yes—she felt forced to close the bargain.
“Very well,” she declared her decision, and they handed her the preliminary papers. She took the pen and glanced at Mr. Cresswell; he was smiling slightly, but nevertheless she signed her name grimly, in a large round hand, “Sarah Smith.”
MRS. GREY GIVES A DINNER
The Hon. Charles Smith, Miss Sarah’s brother, was walking swiftly uptown from Mr. Easterly’s Wall Street office and his face was pale. At last the Cotton Combine was to all appearances an assured fact and he was slated for the Senate. The price he had paid was high: he was to represent the interests of the new trust and sundry favorable measures were already drafted and reposing in the safe of the