Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chapter 10

      Roderick received word that Biggers had returned from his long needed rest in the country. After the blockades were lifted, he had suffered exhaustion after working long tedious hours to get his old  back-logged shipments out.  The stench of rotting crops inside the warehouse was nauseating. Roderick found him arranging for a cargo of bricks and blown glass to be shipped to one of the American plantations.  "Do you smell it?" He asked Roderick.
    "The smell of rot still burns in my nostrils. I am surprised that you cannot smell it. Ah, so much was  lost!" He meant lost profits.  "I suppose that you are wanting passage to Charleston."
     "Could you arrange it?"
      Biggers exuded a frustrated sigh and threw up his hands.  "Everyone wants to ship today!"
     "Where is this one going?" Roderick asked, pointing to the bricks.
     "New England."
     "I should be content with any passage," Roderick said while removing Lord Neville's letter from his coat pocket.  "In the meanwhile, I brought another purse from Mr. Mans with instructions."
     Mr. Biggers read the letter carefully, then paused. There was a gleam in his eye. "So, it appears that the generosity of Mr. Mans is intent upon rescuing your Ashley Loche and with so rich an investment he would not like it if I sent you to New England to find your way home from there."
     "Yes sir, but I need your advice on something."
     "Come with me!" He said suddenly, stepping spritely outside of the warehouse and onto
 the wharf. A a cargo of cotton bales were being loaded onto a vessel. He reached his hand inside one of the wired bales and pulled out a fist full of white cotton. "This is pima, sea island cotton. Tis a perennial plant grown in the islands where frost is not a threat.  It produces yellow flowers on a small, bushy tree and yields cotton with unusually long, silky fibers."
     Roderick squeezed a cotton ball in his fist.  "Yes, it feels pleasant to the touch. Would it grow well in Charleston?"
     "Yes, I think so. It is being planted along the southern coasts where there is full sun, high humidity and rainfall.  The plant is not susceptible to much insect or fungal damage and its black seeds should grow well in your brackish soil.  Although the plant does produce some briars, your darkies could easily pick it and remove the seed.  I am told that southern women are spinning it into thread and fashioning a popular cloth. Also, that the sea island variety is fetching premium prices."
     "How many acres do you suggest that I plant?"
     "My boy, I would plant everything in cotton.  500 acres should wet your appetite for this commodity and deliver you a crop by August or September!  Once you get a taste of its easy profits, you will think of nothing else."
     "But what about my father's rice.  Can you also acquire rice plants?"
     "Forget about redigging those paddies!  All that is required for cotton is a plowed field! Cotton is king!" Biggers said excitedly, thinking of the lucrative commissions he would net from Ashley Loche.
     "There is one last thing, sir.  This is the last deposit that I should deliver for Mr. Mans."
     "Yes, well according to his letter, you are appointed full access to his account and that fact guarantees your future in cotton!" Roderick stared at him, absorbing the words.  "That means that you shall be rich, my boy!"
     "There is one more thing.  Mr. Mans will soon be taking passage to my plantation."
       An amused smile smirked from the corners of Mr. Biggers' mouth.  He was still convinced that George Mans was the same person as Lord Neville and was anxious to confirm this to himself.  Alas! He would see the Earl of Abergenny.  "Before you take leave of London, I wish to sit down and make a list of necessary items, a cargo to accompany you. I realize that you hath not seen the hurricane damage yet nor accessed the crop failure and can assure you that nothing is repaired."
     "Crop failure?"
     "Like so many other planters, your mother corresponded with me throughout the war wanting my opinion. From her description of the situation, you will need structural changes made to the fields and barns.  That is why I suggested that you not waste time re-planting the paddies, rather push through a fast cotton crop.   You need silos to store cotton and a machine to gin it."
     That afternoon Mr. Biggers made his list and Roderick took notes of all of his comments. Only afterwards did he realize the monumental responsibility ahead of it.  Several weeks passed before Biggers arranged his passage to Charleston.

No comments:

Post a Comment