“They want us to revive the Farmers’ League?” he fiercely demanded.
“Yes,” Harry calmly replied.
“And throw the rest of our capital after the fifty thousand dollars we’ve already lost?”
“And you were fool enough to consent—”
“Wait, Father—and don’t get excited. Listen. Cotton is going up—”
“Of course it’s going up! Short crop and big demand—”
“Cotton is going up, and then it’s going to fall.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“I know it; the trust has got money and credit enough to force it down.”
“Well, what then?” The Colonel glared.
“Then somebody will corner it.”
“The Farmers’ League won’t stand—”
“Precisely. The Farmers’ League can do the cornering and hold it for higher prices.”
“Lord, son! if we only could!” groaned the Colonel.
“We can; we’ll have unlimited credit.”
“But—but—” stuttered the bewildered Colonel, “I don’t understand. Why should the trust—”
“Nonsense, Father—what’s the use of understanding. Our advantage is plain, and John Taylor guarantees the thing.”
“Who’s John Taylor?” snorted the Colonel. “Why should we trust him?”
“Well,” said Harry slowly, “he wants to marry Helen—”
His father grew apopletic.
“I’m not saying he will, Father; I’m only saying that he wants to,” Harry made haste to placate the rising tide of wrath.
“No Southern gentleman—” began the Colonel. But Harry shrugged his shoulders.
“Which is better, to be crushed by the trust or to escape at their expense, even if that escape involves unwarranted assumptions on the part of one of them? I tell you, Father, the code of the Southern gentleman won’t work in Wall Street.”
“And I’ll tell you why—there are no Southern gentlemen,” growled his father.
The Silver Fleece was golden, for its prices were flying aloft. Mr. Caldwell told Colonel Cresswell that he confidently expected twelve-cent cotton.
“The crop is excellent and small, scarcely ten million bales,” he declared. “The price is bound to go up.”
Colonel Cresswell was hesitant, even doubtful; the demand for cotton at high prices usually fell off rapidly and he had heard rumors of curtailed mill production. While, then, he hoped for high prices he advised the Farmers’ League to be on guard.
Mr. Caldwell seemed to be right, for cotton rose to ten cents a pound—ten and a half—eleven—and then the South began to see visions and to dream dreams.
“Yes, my dear,” said Mr. Maxwell, whose lands lay next to the Cresswells’ on the northwest, “yes, if cotton goes to twelve or thirteen cents as seems probable, I think we can begin the New House”—for Mrs. Maxwell’s cherished dream was a pillared mansion like the Cresswells’.
Mr. Tolliver looked at his house and barns. “Well, daughter, if this crop sells at twelve cents, I’ll be on my feet again, and I won’t have to sell that land to the nigger school after all. Once out of the clutch of the Cresswells—well, I think we can have a coat of paint.” And he laughed as he had not laughed in ten years.