“If it goes to six,” he kept murmuring, “we’re ruined—if it goes to six—if—”
“Tick,” sounded the wheel and the sound reverberated like sudden thunder in his ears. His hand was iron, and he raised it slightly. “Six,” said the wheel—his finger quivered—“and a half.”
“Hell!” yelled Taylor. “She’s turned—there’ll be the devil to pay now.” A messenger burst in and Taylor scowled.
“She’s loose in New York—a regular mob in New Orleans—and—hark!—By God! there’s something doing here. Damn it—I wish we’d got another million bales. Let’s see, we’ve got—” He figured while the wheel whirred—“7—7-1/2—8—8-1/2.”
Cresswell listened, staggered to his feet, his face crimson and his hair wild.
“My God, Taylor,” he gasped. “I’m—I’m a half a million ahead—great heavens!”
The ticker whirred, “8-3/4—9—9-1/2—10.” Then it stopped dead.
“Exchange closed,” said Taylor. “We’ve cornered the market all right—cornered it—d’ye hear, Cresswell? We got over half the crop and we can send prices to the North Star—you—why, I figure it you Cresswells are worth at least seven hundred and fifty thousand above liabilities this minute,” and John Taylor leaned back and lighted a big black cigar.
“I’ve made a million or so myself,” he added reflectively.
Cresswell leaned back in his chair, his face had gone white again, and he spoke slowly to still the tremor in his voice.
“I’ve gambled—before; I’ve gambled on cards and on horses; I’ve gambled—for money—and—women—but—”
“But not on cotton, hey? Well, I don’t know about cards and such; but they can’t beat cotton.”
“And say, John Taylor, you’re my friend.” Cresswell stretched his hand across the desk, and as he bent forward the pistol crashed to the floor.
Rich! This was the thought that awakened Harry Cresswell to a sense of endless well-being. Rich! No longer the mirage and semblance of wealth, the memory of opulence, the shadow of homage without the substance of power—no; now the wealth was real, cold hard dollars, and in piles. How much? He laughed aloud as he turned on his pillow. What did he care? Enough—enough. Not less than half a million; perhaps three-quarters of a million; perhaps—was not cotton still rising?—a whole round million! That would mean from twenty-five to fifty thousand a year. Great heavens! and he’d been starving on a bare couple of thousand and trying to keep up appearances! today the Cresswells were almost millionaires; aye, and he might be married to more millions.