Pursuing Gold — Cynthia L. Simmons
Today I’m excited to welcome back author Cynthia L. Simmons as she shares her writing journey for her latest release, Pursuing Gold. She has graciously included the first chapter, and if you read all the way through, you’ll find out how to win a free e-book of Pursuing Gold.
Can you imagine losing everything? That happened to many Confederates after the Civil War when banks collapsed. Here’s the story.
Whenever you think of money, you probably envision the dollar bill we are so familiar with. However, before the Civil war, most people used gold coins. (That changed for both sides in the war.) If a woman purchased a fine, light-weight wool skirt in 1860, she would pay two dollars and seventy-five cents in gold. How times have changed!
You might wonder why gold became a medium of exchange. Before cities or countries created currency, people bartered with useful materials like beads, shells, salt, silver, or gold. Over time, gold or silver became preferred forms of payment. Early governments made coins from combinations of gold, silver, and other metals. In the 1860’s no one valued paper in the same way they did gold.
So, why the change to paper bills during the Civil War? Money became tighter because war creates numerous expenses. In addition to that, the Confederacy needed income to set up their new government. So Southern banks loaned all their gold to the new country. In turn, officials promised to make regular interest payments, however, they paid in paper bills that bore more interest. In the interim, Southern banks printed paper money for exchange. When the Confederacy surrendered, banks which depended on repayment in gold went under. It’s heartbreaking to think of those families who lost their money or livelihood. What suffering!
I can’t imagine living through that, but there is hope. However, let’s consider Matthew chapter six. “…do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? When Jesus said those words, he lifted us above the everyday things of life. Our lives are bigger and more important than the daily routine that keeps us on earth. That’s transcendence! We have something huge to live for. Let’s look at more of the passage: “for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”
What a promise! God said if we seek Him, he’d provide even if the banks fail and our life crashes. Certainly difficulties in this life will seem small in heaven. I encourage you to strive for the eternal and for your heavenly father so you can rise above all of life’s heartache. Pursue God!
About Cynthia: A Chattanooga native, Cynthia L Simmons and her husband have five children and reside in Atlanta. A Bible teacher and former homeschool mother, she writes a column for Leading Hearts Magazine. She conducts writing workshops, served as past president of Christian Authors Guild and directs Atlanta Christian Writing Conference. “Cyndi” is fond of history and offers younger ladies the elegance of God’s wisdom. She hosts Heart of the Matter Radio and co-founded Homeschool Answers. Her author website is http://www.clsimmons.com.
About Pursuing Gold: With his father dead and his business partner incapacitated, Peter Chandler inherits the leadership of a bank in economic crisis. With only a newly-minted college degree and little experience, Peter joins his partner’s daughter, Mary Beth Roper, in a struggle to keep C&R Bank afloat while the Civil War rages around Chattanooga. Political pressure for unsecured loans of gold to the government stirs up trouble as tempers and prices rise. Their problems multiply when Mary Beth discovers counterfeit money with Peter’s forged signature. Can they find the forger before the bank fails? The two friends must pursue gold on behalf of their business, as they learn to pursue their heavenly Father to find hope and peace.
April 12, 1862
Office of C&R Bank
What a dilemma! Peter Chandler glared at Mr. Shaw, the burly Confederate bureaucrat lecturing him. Shaw could easily snap someone’s neck and in his role, the man posed a real danger. After Peter had seen the Confederate government sell Negroes like cattle, he had to turn them down. Somehow, he must appease Shaw and convince him to leave. More important chores demanded Peter’s time. His black leather chair groaned as he leaned forward, taking advantage of a pause in Shaw’s diatribe. “I’m sorry. C&R Bank will not loan money to the Confederacy.”
Lifting one massive eyebrow, seemingly reflecting his opinion of Peter’s idiocy, Shaw slapped a sheaf of letters on the desk, and growled, “These refusals you sent me place you in danger. We want to know where your loyalties lie. When the war is over, you will be glad you sided with us.”
Peter had to think fast. “We are a small bank fully invested in the community, so we cannot shoulder the risk of another loan.”
The man’s dark eyes flared. “You are far too hasty. I might have to speak to my Nashville friends about your bank charter.”
“Nashville? The Union holds the city now. You won’t get anywhere talking to them.”
“My friends still have the reins of power. Let me enlighten you—”
Peter tuned out the rest of the speech. If Shaw knew the right people, he could attempt to get the bank charter revoked. Assuming he succeeded, Peter would lose the bank.
“Our employees are busy helping farmers and businesses provide for our citizens.”
“Surely you can spare a few hundred dollars for your country.”
Peter shoved his chair back and rose. “Those dollars have been invested in blockade runners. We all know our dependence on those valiant men who slip goods past the Union barriers.”
“I recommend austerity measures—after providing for your country.”
Peter had poured over his law books for hours. Every decision he made would be legal and fair. No government official had the right to dictate how he handled the bank’s money. “As I said, we are invested in local businesses and local citizens.”
“I shall tell you what I suspect.” Shaw’s face reddened. “You are not brave enough to stand up to the Union sympathizers in Chattanooga. But the people in power after the war might make sure you don’t have a bank or any other job.”
Peter itched to get his loaded rifle out of the cabinet behind him, but his father had taught him to be a gentleman, even under pressure. “The government does not require this loan you request.”
Shaw stood and pounded Peter’s desk. “They should. I could throw you in jail where you belong. I can’t respect someone who refuses to support his country.”
No one would abuse bank property. Peter slid open the drawer and pulled out his father’s ancient pistol to tuck under his belt. “It’s time for you to go, sir.”
Shaw spread his legs and folded his arms. “If you shoot me, the sheriff will incarcerate you.”
Peter pointed the man toward the exit. “This way out.”
Opening the door, Peter swallowed the fiery words on his tongue. “Mr. Riddle, will you help Mr. Shaw outside?”
“I shall return in a few weeks to collect your loan.”
“Don’t waste your time.”
Once Shaw was gone, Peter threw a sharp right punch, smacking his left palm. The clock proclaimed the time as seven—past closing—yet he still had unfinished paperwork. He was, however, too riled to work now.
“Sir?” Mr. Riddle opened the door. “There’re a couple of things you need to know.”
Peter braced himself for more. Real men accepted such burdens. “Go on.”
“Today I heard rumors … Northern spies approach us.”
He’d grown weary of the gossip, but sometimes small talk rang true. “Did you have confirmation from city officials?”
“No, sir. But two families withdrew their funds so they could leave.”
Peter maintained outward calm while gritting his teeth. Notwithstanding inflation and the Confederate policies, clients who moved away could ruin his bank. “Thanks for the update.”
“You also received this missive from Miss Roper.”
An image of Mary Beth flashed in his mind. He pushed down the pang of longing and tenderness so he could focus. His fingers eagerly broke the seal.
“I hope the news is good.”
“Indeed. Roper is improved.” Talking to his partner outranked all his other work. “I shall stop by the Roper home tonight.”
He stalked across the room to retrieve his leather portfolio and stuffed in a pile of prospectuses from potential clients. Briefcase in hand, he paused at the painting of his late father. Papa’s eyes exuded a confidence Peter lacked, yet longed for.
You abandoned me, Papa. God help me.
Peter stepped outside and locked the door, the weight of C&R Bank, indeed, the future of the Confederacy, burdening his shoulders.
# # #
Mary Beth Roper arched her back to relieve muscles stiff from nursing and paced across the woolen rug. The sitting room, all the mahogany furniture gleaming with a new coat of wax, was ready for visitors. But none had arrived.
Maud entered holding folded papers. “You must be mightily important, miss. These here jus’ came for ya.”
“Thanks.” How she longed for companionship tonight. She broke the first seal and read silently:
Have you heard the rumor about spies approaching the city? My mother is beside herself and has decided to leave for my grandparent’s home. Since my father is gone to fight, I may not return until the war ends.
With a groan, Mary Beth opened the next one:
Dearest Mary Beth,
I hate to cause you distress right now, but I must beg your forgiveness tonight as I will not attend your tea party. My father was at the telegraph office when news of the stolen train reached the city. He believes the spies are coming here. Further, he convinced Ida’s father of the danger so she will be absent also.
I offer my deepest apology. You and your father remain in my prayers.
Maud turned to leave. “I be getting that tea.”
“There’s no need. I shall have no guests. Papa is so much improved I felt I could spend a few hours with friends, but this horrid war interfered.”
“There be no fightin’ here abouts, ma’am.”
Mary Beth held up the pages she’d just read to herself. “These came from my friends. Rumors of approaching spies frightened everyone No one wants to be on the streets for fear they’ll be in danger.”
“I wished I’m a never. I be hearing nothing today, not even a word of such.”
“I should be thinking of marriage and children at my age instead of all this worry. Once Papa gets well, I want to marry and have a houseful of children. But this war frightens me.”
“You be gettin’ upset. I can see that. I’d best be getting that tea. Nothin’ like a warm drink ta calm ya nerves.” Maud darted out.
Mary Beth jumped as something brushed her leg. Mr. King! Her cat rubbed against her skirt with a loud purr.
Her heart pounded hard as she glared at him. “I prefer someone who talks, Mr. K.”
He tossed her a superior look and jumped onto the brocade sofa.
“I see you are more concerned about your comfort than the rumors. Maybe you are wise.” She edged onto the plush cushions beside her cat. “Perhaps we all must take comfort where we may.”
Mr. King closed his eyes as she caressed his soft fur. “You are so elegantly clothed. My dresses are threadbare—I cannot find even a small bolt of new fabric.”
“Miss Mary Beth?” Elsie, her former nanny, stepped into the room. Her plump form filled the doorway. “Mr. Peter is comin’ up the sidewalk. I thought you be wanting to know.”
“I appreciate the warning.” Peter. Like his father, an air of confidence surrounded him.
Elsie stepped out. Mary Beth’s pulse tapped a happier rhythm. She’d hoped her message would bring Peter right away. One could depend on him.
She stood and turned to the gilded mirror over the sofa and arranged her blonde curls. At least, she hadn’t pinned up her hair. Peter preferred the waves about her shoulders.
Elsie opened the door and gave her a covert nod. “Mr. Chandler is here.”
Peter crossed the room toward her offering a smile. “Good afternoon.”
She’d always thought him as handsome as his late father. Right now, she’d welcome a gentle hug like her father gave her when she was young. But she shouldn’t think such.
“It’s so good to see you.”
“You look so tired. I’ve been concerned about you.”
“I despise this war, but father’s illness truly wears on my soul. Should something happen, I would be alone.”
“Not quite.” He took her hand and squeezed. “You have me. If the worst happens, we would be business partners. But I understand your father improved.”
Did she see wistfulness in his eyes? She hoped so. What a mistake she’d made with Eddie.
She sighed deeply as she searched Peter’s face. “He is not out of danger, but much improved. I vowed to do anything and everything for him. Dr. Smith recommended several herbal preparations. I now grow the herbs and mix them myself.”
Peter’s face brightened. “I admire your persistence, and I know the strong ties you have with your father.”
She nodded, and then waved him to a chair before sitting on the couch. “Have you heard the rumors today?”
He sat in the wing chair beside the sofa. “Mr. Riddle said something about spies.”
“A band of Union soldiers stole a train somewhere north of Atlanta, and everyone says they are coming—here.”
“Where did you hear of this?” The skin around his eyes and mouth tensed.
“Jane said her father believed the news and convinced Ida’s father.”
“Ah, Jane’s father is quite reliable. However, I should have heard from the local militia.” He leaned back as he drew down his brows. “Did you talk with either of them in person?”
She shook her head. “Each sent a written message. Jane said the news came from the telegraph office and set the city abuzz. Spies stole a train called The General.”
“The news sounds authentic.”
“Northern spies have been burning bridges nearby, but these men are supposed to be coming toward us. Do you think it safe to stay here?”
He rubbed his chin. “At this point, I cannot say for sure. This story could be another wild rumor like the ones we heard when Nashville fell. But maybe not. We need more information.”
“I long to feel safe—like the days when we played together as children. First, they draft all the young men in the city, and then we experience shortages. I’m so weary of baseless rumors about an attack.”
He gestured toward the window. “Sooner or later Union forces will target Chattanooga.”
She shut her eyes and moaned silently. War could not come here. Must not come here, ever. “But when the war began, the newspaper said the mountains around Chattanooga would protect us from advancing armies.”
“Whoever wrote that did not consider the steam engine. The railroad will bring the battle right to our doorstep. I feel sure the Union wants our city.”
She covered her mouth as she pictured soldiers marching into Chattanooga. “How dreadful. Papa will not be able to travel for quite some time, and I cannot leave him alone.”
The muscles in his face tensed, but he offered no resolution.
She inhaled, trying to keep her dinner in place. Peter always told the truth, and sometimes he dumped it by the bucketful.
“I fear I alarmed you. That was not my intention, I assure you. In light of the war, we must keep praying for your father’s recovery.”
She turned away, trying to focus on her father’s improved health. Breathe. In and out, in and out.
“The war unsettles everything,”
“Sometimes, especially at night when I sit with my father, I wonder if we truly have a God who is good. Why wouldn’t he stop such suffering?”
“He’s our only hope.” Peter’s voice was soft.
“You have no idea how sick my father has been. Several nights, I feared I would lose him. I watched each tortured breath and hoped it wasn’t his last.”
“I’m sorry you must suffer like this.”
She no longer had the energy to continue this topic. If only she had kept her uneasiness to herself, but her fears slipped out. “I believe you came to see my father.”
“Yes, I did.” He eased toward the door. With his hand on the doorknob, he turned. “But I should like to talk with you again before I leave.”
As he slipped out, she bowed her head, putting her hands to her face. What will become of me?
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