Ten Thousand Dollars
Thomas L. Masson
WHIPPLETON had been expecting the settlement of his uncle’s estate for so long, that it had become an old story. He had almost forgotten to think about it.
Suddenly, one morning, shortly after he had entered his office, he received a telephone message from his uncle’s lawyers. He dropped everything and went down to see them.
Fifteen minutes later he was on his way back, in his pocket a certified cheque for one hundred thousand dollars-. Such is the celerity with which, in these days, business affairs are conducted.
When Whippleton arrived at his office, almost bursting with joy over his good fortune, he found his old friend Salter waiting for him. Salter looked worried.
“Dropped in to see you this morning,” he said, “on a matter of great importance to me. Don’t suppose it’s any use, but I am really in a bad way. ' “What’s the mater?” asked Whippleton, his voice full of sympathy. At that moment he was feeling kindly toward all the world. He hadn't had time to readjust himself to the new conditions. Besides, he had known Salter for years, and had every confidence in him.
Salter explained that, owing to an unexpected turn in his business affairs, due to the failure of a mill, he was temporarily embarrassed. He could pull through, he said, if he had ten thousand dollars.
“Of course I know,” he concluded, “that you probably can’t do anything for me, but I thought perhaps you could suggest some place where I could get the money.”
Whippleton smiled. It pleased him intensely to be a good fairy.
“My dear boy,” he said, with a wave of his hand, “Í think I can help you out. I’ll give you a check.”
“You don’t mean it!”
Whippleton was writing it out. “Yes I do. Here it is. You can deposit it to-day, but don’t try to cash it until to-morrow, as I must make a deposit first.
“I don’t know how to thank you.” “Nonsense! Delighted!”
“Let’s see. How long—” Whippleton waved his hand again. “Oh, that’s all right,” he said carelessly. It was really a pleasure to help his friend, in addition to the fact that it tickled Whippleton’s vanity immensely.
“No hurry,” he excalimed. “You can send me a demand note if you like, as a matter of record.”
“I’ll do it! Old fellow, you have saved my business. I can’t thank you enough.”
“Don’t mention it,” said Whippleton, in an off-hand manner, as if he were in the habit of dealing out tenthousand-dollar checks to his friends.
Brimming with gratitude, Salter went out, and Whippleton hurried
over to his bank to make the deposit.
He was acquainted with the cashier, a man who enjoyed the confidence of the community.
Whippleton told of his good fortune, and inquired about investments.
“Here is a bond selling at ninetyeight,” said the cashier, “that I can thoroughly recommend. It is a first mortgage, and a lien on all the property--”
He gave a short description of the bond and its possibilities, and explained about the condition of the market. Whippleton listened attentively, and said :
“Very well. I am satisfied. You may buy ninety thousand dollars’ worth of these bonds at the market price.”
“That will be around ninety. Very well. I will notify you when they are delivered.”
When Whippleton got home that night, he wore a quiet smile, which was not utterly lost on his wife.
“You seem pleased with yourself.'"
WHiippleton explained, losing nothing in the telling.
“Yes,” he said; “I had the pleasure of buying ninety thousand dollars’ worth of bonds to-day, and-"
“I thought you said the check was for a hundred thousand,” said Mrs. Whippleton sharply.
He hadn’t intended to mention the Salter transaction, but his joy had made him rather careless.
“What did you CÍO with the other ten thousand?” she pressed him.
“I lent it to Salter,” said Whippleton, with an assumption of indifference which he did not feel.
“Lent it to Salter!”
“Yes. Wasn’t it lucky I could help him out? Needed it badly to tide over his business. Mill failed. I knew' you’d be tickled to death to think I could help him.”
Mrs. Whippleton w7as not so easily fooled by this statement. She knew7 it proceeded from weakness—and fear of herself.
“Urn!” she exclaimed. “You ought to have a guardian. You’ll never see that ten thousand again.”
“What do you mean? Salter is as honest as the day is long.”
“Of course,” replied Mrs. Salter sarcastically; “he means to pay it back, but you wait. Just think,” she w?ent on : “you had one hundred thousand, and now you haven't but ninety.”
Somehow, during the next week, that cutting phrase sank into Whippleton’s consciousness more and more.
“You had one hundred thousand, and now7 you haven’t but ninety.”
By return mail, he had received from Salter a note which stated formally that the sum of ten thousand dollars w7as payable on demand.
That was temporary consolation. But the feeling of security proceeding from it soon lost itself.
Whippleton found himself inquiring in various quarters about Salter; and the more he inquired, the more uneasy he became.
His w7ife did not spare him.
And he might have had that hundred thousand intact!
It was a distressing thought. It gathered impetus. It came to possess him utterly. He determined to get that money back. He cursed himself imvardly to think he had been so weak as to give it up so easily. And then he experienced a revengeful feeling towards Salter to think that that innocent gentleman should have taken advantage of him by appearing on the scene at such a critical moment. Twenty-four hours more and he wrould have regained his balance—gotten back, as they say in books, to his normal self.
He determined to get that money. He would vindicate himself with his wife.
At the end of a week he dropped in to see Salter. That gentleman greeted him effusively.
“You did a great thing for me,” he said. “Can’t tell you how7 I feel about it.”
“Oh, that’s all right,” said Whippleton feebly. He had come along with the intention of being firm, but his
friend’s manner unmanned him. He resorted to prevarication.
“The fact is,” he whispered, “when I let you have that money the other day I was feeling flush. Since then things have gone rather against me.” Salter’s eyes almost filled with tears. He was teeming with gratitude and affection for his friend.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he exclaimed. “I suppose you would like to get that money back.”
His face grew solemn.
“I don’t know just exactly—” he began.
Whippleton stopped him.
“Oh, it isn’t quite as bad as that,” he said. “I wouldn’t put you to any inconvenience. Only—•”
He began to grow confidential again.
“You see, I am looking ahead a little, and am going to make certain arrangements in the future, and I thought if we could arrange on a date, it would be easier for both of us.” What Whippleton really meant was that he wanted to pin Salter down, but didn’t want him to know the real reason.
“How would three months from now do?” Whippleton asked with an appearance of vagueness.
“I think I can manage it then. Why, I must manage it then, of course,” said Salter. “After what you have done, old man, I certainly wouldn’t put you out. All right.” And he wrote out another note, making it three months from date.
“You can destroy the other one.” Whippleton went away somewhat relieved. He wished, now, that he had made it two months. Every moment until he got back that ten thousand seemed precious. Still, three months was better than no time set. He tried to be philosophical about it, even though his wife continued to rally him on his incompetence.
“Like to see you let me have ten thousand to lend to any friend of mine,” she said tauntingly. “Why, you’d laugh in my face.”
As the day of settlement approached, Whippleton grew more and more nervous—-especially as there had been an ominous silence from Salter.
Promptly at ten o’clock on the morning when the note was due, however, Salter appeared in the office. It had been a great effort on Whippleton’s part to restrain his anxiety, and he had been tempted to call up his friend a number of times. Now he was glad that he hadn’t.
Salter’s face was worn and haggard. He looked like a ghost.
“Old man,” he said. “I wouldn’t have disappointed you for anything, and I have that money; only—”
He gazed at Whippleton despairingly.
“Must you have it now?” he whispered.
Whippleton was now almost as abnormal as he had been on the morning he had loaned the money—only it was in the opposite direction. ■ It seemed to. him he couldn’t wait to get his hands on that ten thousand dollars.
“I really don’t see how I can get along without it,” he replied. “Of course”—taking refuge in a cowardly misstatement—“if you had let me know a week or so ago, I might—”
“I thought I might pull through, but the last day or so some complications have risen. Oh, well, I won’t bother you with my troubles. Here is the check. Deposit it at once, will you? And I can’t tell you”—Salter’s voice quivered—“how much obliged to you I am.”
Whippleton hated to take the money but he thought of his wife.
“I certainly wish,” he said, “that I could let you have it longer. Maybe by and by—”
“Oh, that’s all right,” said Salter. “It was a bargain. Besides,” he exclaimed, “don’t you suppose I know you would do it if you could? Didn’t you let me have it on the instant before? Oh, I know you’ve got to have it, or you would insist on my keeping it!”
He wrung his friend’s hand.
“I shall always remember it,” he said. “Now, don’t you worry about me. It's all right.”
Alter he went, and Whippleton saw the check lying on his desk, he experienced a feeling of remorse. He would hurry after him and give it back. But no! He really had done Salter a favor. And then, if he wailed, there was no knowing whether or not he would ever get his money back. Salter might be deeply involved. It might be a kindness to him not to let him have the money.
Thus Whippleton quieted his conscience, as he went around to the bank to make the deposit.
“I suppose you’ve noticed the way those bonds have gone up,” said the cashier, his hand on Whippleton’« shoulder. “Always glad when a customer makes money on our advice.”
To be candid, Whippleton had not thought much about the bonds. He had been so concerned about his ten thousand that he had thought of little else.
“Why, I saw the other day they were three or four points higher,” he said.
“Well, they have gone up six points in three days. Something extraordinary ! But, then, the conditions are rght. Why not sell out and take your profit, and then reinvest in something else a little later?”
Whippleton figured on the back of an envelope.
“Why, it’s over ten thousand profit,” he said. “They’ve gone up twelve points. All right. Sell ’em out.”
In ten minutes the transaction was completed.
Whippleton hurried home, his exultation rising with each step.
At last his revenge on his wife had come. For months she had had the laugh on him.
Ha! And so he needed a guardian, eh? Well, well!
When they were alone over their coffee at the dinner table, he said smil-
“So you think I don’t know anything, do you?”
‘T sometimes think you make a fool of yourself. There was that money you lent to that man. And, by the way, isn’t it time for him to pay it back? Of course, you’ll never get it Not now!”
“Oh, of course not,” replied Whippleton, with a slight touch of satire in his voice. “Oh, of course not ! And yet, strange to say, he not only paid me—by a genuine certified check— but 1 have also made a little extra money. That sum left to me, my dear girl, has swelled to one hundred and ten thousand dollars. Of course, I’m not a business man, and I may make a fool of myself lending money to a man whose word is as good as his bond; still, I do know a little something.”
“Is that really true?”
“Here are the figures. I have just sold out, and cleared over ten thousand from some bonds. You see, my dear, you don’t know it all.”
“How could you !”
“What do you mean?”
“He paid you, did he?”
“Certainly ; this morning—as he promised.”
“How could you take it?”
“How could I take it ! Why, haven’t you been making all manner of fun of me for months because I lent him the money? And now you talk this way !” Ignoring his remark, Mrs. Whippleton arose and picked up the evening paper lying on the table.
“How could you,” she repeated, “especially when you knew he was going to fail !”
Whippleton jumped as if he had been shot.
“Fail !” he cried. “What do you mean? I haven’t seen it.”
“Well, I happened to. The name attracted my attention.”
She pointed to a small paragraph which said that Salter & Company had assigned for the benefit of their creditors.
“I suppose you think,” continued Mrs. Whippleton, “that you were lucky to get your money back; and yet—you were his friend.”
“But I didn’t know he was going to fail. He didn’t say anything about it. He merely asked if I had to have the money.”
“And”—scornfully—“you told him you had to, when you had just made a profit equal to the whole amount, from your old bonds. What despicable creatures you men are!” Whippleton turned white in his pain. “Why, hang it all !” he cried, “if I had been allowed to obey my own instincts, I should have let him have twice that amount. But you made fun of me, and sneered at me, and told me I was a fool.”
“Well, I wouldn’t go back on a friend,” she said. “Dear me, you never will understand a woman, if you live to be a thousand years old. I—’’ Whippleton waited to hear no more. He ran from the house, and in half an hour he was at Salter’s.
“My dear fellow,” he exclaimed, “why in the 'world didn’t you tell me. I had no idea it was so bad.”
He grabbed him by both shoulders, with manly affection.
“I didn't want to trouble you,” said Salter. “I knew, of course, you would have helped me further if you could. I just got that check up to you before I assigned, so you wouldn’t lose anything.”
“And it finished you up, didn’t it?” “It was your money.”
“But look here, I can help you out. Why, my dear friend, I can let you have twenty thousand to-morrow, if you say so. You must get on your feet again. Don’t you worry. I’ll stand by you even if—•” Whippleton was reckless. He didn’t care now. “Even if it’s thirty thousand!” Salter’s eyes glistened with new hope.
“You don’t mean it!” he said. “But how can you do it? That’s what I don’t understand,”
And Whippleton leaned over and whispered in reply:
“I didn’t think I could this morning. But since then I've confided in my wife, and she says she can help me out.”
Oh, little people from the hills of Dawn,
What set a-straying hitherward your feet,
Still rosy from your wanderings on her peaks,
Still dewy from her vales of asphodel,
And all the lucence of God’s unvexed morn Still shining in your confident, clear eyes?
Was it some new-spied flower farther down The western slope, whose gaudy tints allured? Some nodding, dusty daisy whose frank glance Outvied the breathless, stirless purity Of asphodels that, like unmated stars,
Slow whiten on the windless fields elysian?
So soon the dust upon the tender feet That slow and slower trudge, the straining eyes, The reaching hands, grown tired of plucking now. Yet clasping to the end some wayside weed.
Charles T. Roberts.