The Quest of the Silver Fleece
Eighteen: The Cotton Corner
All over the land the cotton had foamed in great white flakes under the winter sun. The
Silver Fleece lay like a mighty mantle across the earth. Black men and mules had
staggered beneath its burden, while deep songs welled in the hearts of men; for the Fleece
was goodly and gleaming and soft, and men dreamed of the gold it would buy. All the
roads in the country had been lined with wagons—a million wagons speeding to and fro
with straining mules and laughing black men, bearing bubbling masses of piled white
Fleece. The gins were still roaring and spitting flames and smoke—fifty thousand of them
in town and vale. Then hoarse iron throats were filled with fifteen billion pounds of
white-fleeced, black-specked cotton, for the whirling saws to tear out the seed and fling
five thousand million pounds of the silken fibre to the press.
And there again the black men sang, like dark earth-spirits flitting in twilight; the presses
creaked and groaned; closer and closer they pressed the silken fleece. It quivered,
trembled, and then lay cramped, dead, and still, in massive, hard, square bundles, tied
with iron strings. Out fell the heavy bales, thousand upon thousand, million upon million,
until they settled over the South like some vast dull-white swarm of birds. Colonel
Cresswell and his son, in these days, had a long and earnest conversation perforated here
and there by explosions of the Colonel's wrath. The Colonel could not understand some
"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."