STANLEY J. WEYMAN
THOUGH the thought of appealing to the Squire for advice was repugnant to him, so great was his uneasiness that Sir Charles finally made up his mind to that course and at eleven he took my lady’s landau and postillions and started on his sixteen mile drive to Garth. He avoided, the town, though it lay only a little out of his way, but he saw enough of the unusual concourse on the road to add to his alarm. Once, nervous and fidgetty, he was on the point of giving the order to turn the horses’ heads for Aldersbury—he would go direct to the Bank and see Ovington! But before he spoke he changed his mind, and half-past twelve saw him wheeling off the main road and speeding with some pomp and much cracking of whips up the rough ascent that led to Garth.
He was so far in luck that he found the Squire not only at home, but standing before the door, a gaunt, stooping figure, leaning on his stick, with Calamy at his elbow. “Who is it?” the old man asked, as be caught the sound of galloping hoofs and the roll of the wheels. He turned his sightless eyes in the direction of the approaching carriage.
“I think it’s Sir Charles, sir,” Calamy answered.
“It’s his jackets.”
“Ay! Well, I won't go in, unless need be. Go you to the stables and bid ’em wait.”
Sir Charles alighted, and bidding the postillions draw off, greeted his host. “I want your advice, Squire,” he said, putting his arm through the old man’s; and after a few commonplace words he drew him a few paces from the door. It was a clear mild day, and the sun was shining pleasantly. “I’m in a position of difficulty, Griffin,” he said. "You’ll tell me, I know, that I’ve only myself to thank for it, and perhaps that is so. But that does not mend matters. The position, you see, is this.’’
And with many apologies and some shamefaced-
ness, he explained the situation as best he could.
The Squire listened with gloomy looks and beyond grunting from time to time, in a manner far from cheer-
HAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR.—It
one of the earliest steam railroads. He faces two problems, his son Clement, who dislikes the bank, and Squire Griffin, who is antagonistic to the railroad project, and is using every influence to prevent it going over his land. Later Ovington gives Bourdillon, the nephew of the squire, a partnership in the bank. Clement meets the squire’s daughter and a mutual interest develops.
Meanwhile Ovington’s Bank stands on the brink of a financial crisis, that threatens its existence. In getting certain papers from the squire’s wail safe, Bourdillon abstracts certain stock sufficient to safeguard the bank s interests and secures the blind squire’s signature to their transfer. The squire the next day has occasion to go to the safe to get certain documents and discovers the loss of stock. Clement intercepts Bourdillon in London and after much trouble demands and secures the missing papers. Bourdillon feigns friendship and endeavors to recover them and there is a fight in which Clement wins. Meanwhile there is an excited run on the bank but Clement returns in time to avoid a crisis.
ing, he did not interrupt his visitor. "Of course I ought not to have touched the matter,” the baronet confessed, when he had finished his story. “I know what you think about that, Griffin.”
“Of course you ought not!” the Squire responded, and he struck his stick on the gravel. “I warned you, man, and you wouldn’t take the warning. You wouldn’t listen to me. Why, damme, Woosenham, if we do these things, if we once begin to go on ‘Change’ and sell and buy, where’ll you draw the line? Where’ll you draw the line? How are you going to shut out the tinkers and tailors and r Brummagem and Manchester men when you make yourselves no better than them! How? By Jove, you may as well give ’em all votes at once, and in ten years time we shall have bagmen on the Bench and Jews in the House! Aldshire—we’ve kept up the fence pretty well in Aldshire, and kept our hands pretty clean, too, and it’s been my pride and my fathers’ to belong to this County. We’re pure blood here. We’ve kept ourselves to ourselves, begad! But once begin this kind of thing—”
“I know, Griffin, I know,” Woosenham admit ted meekly. “You were right and I was wrong, Squire. But the thing is done and what am I to do now? If I stand by and this money is lost—”
“Ay! You’ll have dropped us all into a pretty scalding pot then!”
“Just so, just so.” The baronet pleaded guilty, but all the same he was growing restive under the accusation, and he plucked up spirit. Granted, but after all, your nephew’s in the concern, Griffin, he’s in it, too, you know, and -
He stopped, shocked by the effect of his words The old man had withdrawn his arm and had stepped back, trembling in all his limbs. “Not with my good will!” he cried, and he struck his stick with violence on the ground. “Never! Never!” he
repeated passionately, ‘‘But you are right,” bitterly, “you are right, Woosenham. The taint is in the air, the taint of the City and the 'Change,’ and we cannot escape it even here. Even here in this house! In the concern? Ay, he is! And I tell you 1 wish to heaven that he had been in his grave first!”
THE other, a kindly man, was seriously concerned.
* “Oh, come. Squire,” he said; and he took the old man affectionately by the arm again. “It's no such matter as all that. You make too much of it. He’s young, and the younger generation look at these things differently. After all, there’s more to be said for him than for
The Squire groaned.
“And anyway, my old friend,” Woosenham continued gently, “advise me. Time presses.” He looked at his watch. What shall I do? What had I better do? I know I am safe in your hands.”
The Squire sighed, but the other’s confidence was soothing, and with the sigh he put off his own trouble. He reflected, his face turned to the ground at his feet. “Do you think him honest?” he asked after a pause.
“Ay,” gloomily. “Ovington. The banker, there.”
“Well, I do think he is. Yes, I do think so. I’ve no reason to think otherwise.”
“He’s a director, ain’t he?”
"Of the Railroad? Yes.”
“Responsible as you are?”
“Yes, I suppose he is!”
“A kind of trustee, then, ain’t he? For the shareholders.”
Sir Charles had not seen it in that light before. He looked at his adviser with growing , respect. “Well, I take it he is—now you mention it, Griffin,” he said.
“Then—,” this it was plain was the verdict, and the other listened with all his ears—“if he is honest, he’ll not have mixed the money with his own. He’ll not have put it to an ordinary account. But to a Trust account—so that it will remain the property of the Company, and not be liable to calls on him. That’s what he should have done, anyway. Whether he has done it, or not is another matter. He’s pressed, hard pressed, I hear, and I don’t know that we can expect the last spit of honesty from such as him. It’s not what I’ve been brought up to expect. But,” with a return of his former bitterness, “we may be changing places with ’em even in that! God knows! And I do know something that gives me to believe that he will behave as he should.”
“You do?” Sir Charles exclaimed, his spirits rising. “You think so?”
“Well, I do, ” reluctantly. “I’ll speak as I know. But if I were you I should go to him now and tell him, as one man to another, that that’s what you expect; and if he hangs back, tell him plain that if that money’s not put aside, he’ll have to answer to the law for it. Whether that will frighten him or not,” the Squire concluded, “I’m not lawyer enough to say. But you’ll learn his mind.”
“I’ll go in at once,” Sir Charles replied thankfully.
“I’m going in myself. If you’ll take me in—you’ve four horses a’nt you?—it will save time, and my people shall fetch me out in an hour or so.”
SIR CHARLES assented with gratitude, thankful for his support; and Calamy was summoned. Two minutes later they got away from the door in a splutter of flying gravel and dead beech leaves. They clattered down the stony avenue, over the bridge and into the high road.
Probably of all those—and they were many—who travelled that day with their faces set towards the bank, they were the last to start. If Tuesday had been the town’s day, this was certainly the country’s day. For one thing there was a market; for another, the news of something amiss, of something that threatened the little hoard of each, the slowly-garnered deposit or the hardly-won note, had journeyed by this time far and wide. It had reached alike the remote flannel-mill lapped in the folds of the border-hills, and the secluded hamlet buried amid orchards, and traceable on the landscape only by the grey tower of its church. On foot and on horse-back, riding and tying, in gigs and ass-carts, in market vans and carriers’ carts, the countryside came in—all who had anything to lose, and many who had nothing at stake but were moved by a vague alarm. Even before daybreak the roads had begun to echo the sound of their marching. They came by the East Bridge, labouring up the steep winding cop, by the West Bridge under the gabled fronts of Maerdol, along the River Bank before the house of the old sea-dog whose name was a household word and whose portrait hung behind the Mayor’s chair, and so up the
Foregate—from every quarter they came. Before ten, the streets were teeming with country-folk, whose fears were not allayed by the news that all through the previous day the townsfolk had been drawing their money.
Not all who gathered there, had anything to lose. Many were mere onlookers. But here and there were to be seen compressed lips, pale faces, anxious eyes. Here and there women gripped books with feverish fingers or squeezed handkerchiefs into tight balls. And now and again a man broke into bad words, and muttered what he would do if they robbed him. There were country shopkeepers who had lodged the money to meet the traveller’s account, and trembled for its safety. There were girls who saw their hard-earned portions at stake,
LADY OF VENTURES, the striking
J novelette by Ann Gay which will appear in the September 1st issue of MacLean s Magazine, will continue the practice already begun of publishing a long story complete in one issue. It is a story full of surprises, full of mystery and adventure. Not the adventure that one can only read about. Indeed the charm of the story lies in the fact that it is a romance that could so readily happen to anyone. It is a story written by a Canadian and has its setting in Montreal. It is a story in which romance and adventure, and a little touch of the occult, blend in a very happy love story.
and parsons whose hearts ached as they thought of the invalid wife or the boy’s school-bill; and there were at least a score wrho knew that if the blow fell, the bailiff, never far from the threshold, would be in the house. Before the eyes of not a few rose the spectres of the poorhouse and a pauper funeral.
Standing in groups, or dotted amid the crowd, were bigger men, wool-brokers and cattle-dealers, men loud in bar-parlours and great among their fellows, whose rubicund faces showed flabby and whose fleshy lips moved in endless calculations. How was this bill to be met, and who would renew that one? Too often the end of their
calculations spelled ruin—if the bank failed. Ruin— and many were they who depended on these big men—■ wage-earners, clerks, creditors, poor relations! One man walking up and down under the arcade of the Market House, was the centre for many eyes. He was an auctioneer from a neighbouring town, a man of wide dealings, who it was whispered had lodged with Ovington’s the proceeds of his last great sale—a sum running into thousands and due every penny to the vendor.
His case and other hard cases were whispered by one to another, and bruited about they roused the passions even of those who were not involved. Yet when the bank at length opened—on the stroke of ten—an odd thing happened. A sigh, swelling to a murmur, rose from the dense crowd, but no one moved. The expected came as the unexpected, there was a moment of suspense, of waitting. No one advanced. Then some one raised a shout, and there was a rush for the entrance, men struggled and women were thrust aside, smaller men were borne in on the arms of their fellows. A wail rose from the unsuccessful, but no man heeded it, or waited for his neighbour, or looked aside to see who it was who strove and thrust and struggled at his elbow. They pushed in tumultuously, their country boots drumming on the boards. Their entrance was like the inrush of an invading army.
THE clerks, the cashier, Ovington himself, stood at the 1 counter waiting motionless to receive them, confronting them with what courage they might. But the strain of the preceding day had told. The clerks could not conceal their misgivings, and even Rodd failed to bear himself with the chilling air which had yesterday abashed the modest. He shot vindictive glances across
the counter, his will was still good to wither, but the crowd was to-day made up of rougher material, was more brusque and less subservient. They cared nothing for him, and he looked in spite of his efforts, weary and dispirited. There was no longer any pretence that things were normal or that the bank was not face to face with a crisis. The gloves were off. They were no longer banker and customers. They were enemies.
It was the banker himself who this morning stood forward and in a few cold words informed his friends that they would all be paid; requesting them at the same time to be good enough to keep order and await their turns— otherwise it would be impossible to proceed with despatch. He added a single sentence, in which he expressed his regret that those who had known him so long should doubt, as he could only suppose that they did doubt, his ability to meet his engagements.
It was well done, with calmness and dignity, but as he ceased to speak—his appearance had for the moment imposed silence—^disturbance broke out near the door. A man thrust himself in. Ovington, already in the act of turning, recognised the new comer, and a keen observer might have noted that his face, grave before, turned a shade paler. But he met the blow. “Is that Mr. Yapp?” he asked.
It was the auctioneer from Iron Ferry. “Ay, Mr. Ovington, it is,” he said, the perspiration on his face, “and you know my position.” Ovington nodded. Yapp was one of five depositors, big men, whose claims had been, for the last twenty-four hours, a nightmare to him. But he let nothing be seen, and “kindly let Mr. Yapp pass,” he said. “I will deal with him myself.” Then, as a murmur of protest arose, “Gentlemen,” he said sternly, “you must let me conduct my business in my own way, or I close my doors. Let Mr. Yapp pass, if you please.”
They let him through then, some grumbling, others patting him on the back. “Good luck to you, Jimmy!” cried one well-wisher, the counter was raised, and re-settling his clothes about him, the auctioneer followed Mr. Ovington into the parlour. The banker closed the door upon them.
“How much is it, Mr. Yapp?” he asked.
'T'HE man’s hands shook as he drew out the receipt. “Two thousand, seven hundred and forty,” he said. “I hope to God it’s all right, sir?” His voice shook. “It’s not my money, and to lose it would three parts ruin me.”
“You need not fear.” the banker assured him. “The money is here.” But for a moment he did not continue. He stood, his eyes on the man’s face, lost in thought. Then, “The money is here and you can have it, Yapp,” he said, “but I am going to be plain with you. You will do me the greatest possible favour if you will leave it for a few days. The bank is solvent—I give you my honour it is. No one will lose a penny by it, in the end. But if this and other large sums are drawn to-day I may have to close for a time, and the injury to me will be very great. If you wish to make a friend who may be able to return the favour ten-fold—”
“But I daren’t do it!” the man declared desperately, the sweat springing out anew on his face. “It isn’t my money and I can’t leave it! I daren’t do it, sir!”
Ovington saw that it was of no use to plead farther, and he changed his tone. “Very good,” he said, and he forced himself to speak equably. “I quite understand. You shall have the money.” Sitting down at the table he wrote the amount on a slip, and struck the bell that stood beside his desk. The younger clerk came in. He handed him the slip.
Yapp did not waver, but he remembered that good turns had been done to him in that room, and he was troubled. “If it was my money,” he said awkwardly, “or if there was anything else I could do, Mr Ovington?” “You can,” Ovington replied. He had got himself in hand and he spoke cheerfully.
“You can hold your tongue, Yapp,” smiling.
“It’s done, sir. I won’t have a tongue except to say that the money’s paid. You may depend upon me.” “Thank you. I shall not forget it.” The clerk brought in the money, and stayed until it was counted and checked and the receipt given. Then, “That’s right, Mr. Yapp,” the banker said, and sat back in his chair. “Show Mr. Yapp out, Williams.” •
Yapp followed the clerk. His appearance in the bank was greeted by half a dozen voices. “Ha’ you got it?”' they cried.
He was a man of his word, and he slapped his pocket briskly. “Every penny!” he said; and something like a cheer went up. “I’d not have worried, but it wasn’t my money.”
Ovington’s appeal to him had been a forlorn hope, and very much, now that it had failed, did the banker regret.
thing. He had had no experience of poverty, he was young, and to begin the world again at the bottom had no terrors for him. But with his father it was different, and he knew that it was different. His father had built up from nothing the edifice that nowT cracked and crumbled about them. He had planned it, he had seen it rise and grow, he had rejoiced in it, and been proud of it. On it he had spent the force and the energy of the best twenty years of his life, and he had not now, he had no longer, the vigour or the strength to set about rebuilding.
IT WAS a tragedy and Clement saw that it was a tragedy. And all for the lack—pity rose strong within him—all for the lack of—four thousand pounds! To him, conversant with the bank’s transactions, it seemed a small sum. It was a small sum.
“Ay, four thousand!” his father repeated. His eyes • returning mechanically to the money at his feet, returned and fixed themselves upon it. “Though in a month we may be able to raise twice as much again! And here—here!” touching it with his foot, “is the money! All and more than all that we need, Clement.”
Then at last Clement perceived the direction of his father’s gaze, he understood, and he took the alarm. He put aside his reserve, he laid his hand gently on the elder man’s shoulder and by the pressure of his silent caress he strove to recall him to himself, to reassure him, to prove to him that whatever happened, whatever befel they were one—father and son, united inseparably by
fortune. But aloud, “No!” he said firmly, “Not .tl^ttt,.----t.
sir! I have given my word. And besides—” /w' Jill
“He would be no loser.” /* / Q
“No, we should be the losers.” U-l . _
“But—but it was not we—it was Bourdillon, laoT’ V ' J 2 2
“Ay, it was Bourdillon. And we are not Bouroifwg----
Not yet! Nor ever, sir!” Ns>-^ P
Ovington turned away. His hand shook, the papers that he affected to put together on his desk rustled in his grasp. He knew—knew well that his son was right. But how great was the temptation! There lay the money, at his feet, and he was sure that he could not be called to account for it. There lay the money that would gain the necessary time, that would meet all claims, that would save the bank.
Fortunately the habit of business integrity came to the rescue, and reinforced and supported the son s argument —and the battle was won. “You are right,” the banker said huskily, his face still averted, his hands trembling among the papers. “But take it away! For God s sake, boy, take it away! Take it out of my sight, or I do not know what I may do!”
“You’ll do the right thing, sir, never fear!” the son asnwered confidently. And with an effort he lifted the two heavy bags and moved towards the door. But on the threshold and as the door closed behind him, “Thank God!” 'And to Betty, who met him in the hall and flung her arms about his neck—the girl was in tears, for the shadow of anxiety hung over the whole house, and even the panic-stricken maids were listening on the stairs, or peering from the windows—“Take care of him, Betty, he said, his eyes shining. “Take care of him, Sdrl.
I shall be back by one o’clock. If I could stay with him now I would, but I cannot. I cannot! And don’t fret.
It will come right yet!”
“Oh, poor father!” she cried. “Is there no hope?
“Very little. But worse things have happened. And we may be proud of him, Betty. We’ve good cause to be proud of him. I say it that know! Cheer up!”
Betty, lingering in the darker part of the hall where the servants could not spy on her, listened and longed to go in to him, and comfort him. But all the rules forbade this, she might not distract him at such a time. Yet, had she known how deep was his depression as he sat sunk in his chair, had she known how the past mocked him, and the long chain of his successes rose and derided him, how the mirage of long-cherished hopes melted and left all cold before him had she guessed the full bitterness of his spirit, she had broken through every rule and gone in to him.
T h e self-made m a n! Proudly,disdainfully he had flung the taunt back in men’s faces. Could they make, could they have made
themselves, as he had? And
THE banker looked at the money lying at his feet. Clement looked at his father. He noted the elder man’s despondent attitude, he read the lines which anxiety had deepened on his brow, and his assumed gaiety fell from him. He longed to do or to say something that might comfort the other, but mauvaise hónte and the reserve of years were too much for him, and instead he rapidly and succinctly told his tale, running over what had happened in London and on the road. He accounted for whát he had brought and explained why he had
it. But he had calculated that that twenty-seven hundred pounds might just make the difference, and he had been tempted. Left to himself he sat, turning it over, and wondering if the auctioneer would be silent; and his face, now that the mask was off, was haggard and careworn. He had slept little the night before, and things were working out as he had feared that they would.
Presently he heard a disturbance in the outer room. Something had occurred to break the orderly course of paying out. He rose and went out, a frown on his face. He was prepared for trouble, but he found to his relief that the interruption was caused by nothing worse than his son’s return.
Having given his word to Arthur to carry the money through the bank, Clement had sunk whatever scruples he felt and had made up his mind to do it well. He had driven up to the door with a flourish, had taken the gold from the chaise, and now with all the parade he could, he was bringing it into the bank. His brisk entrance, and cheery presence, and the careless words he flung on this side and that as he pushed through the crowd seemed in a trice to clear the air and lift the depression. Not even Arthur could have carried the thing through more easily or more flamboyantly. And that was saying much.
“Make way! Make way, if you please, gentlemen!” he cried, his face ruddy with the sharp wintry air. “Let me in, please! Now, if you want to be paid, you must let the money come through! Plenty of money! Plenty for all of you, gentlemen, and more from where this comes from! But you must let me get by! Hallo, Rawlins, is that you? You’re good at dead weights. Here, lift it! What do you make of it?” And he thrust the bag he carried into a stout farmer’s hands.
“Well, it be pretty near fifty pund, I’d say,” Rawlins replied. “Though, by gum, it don’t look within a third of it, Mr. Clement.”
Clement laughed. “Well done!” he said. “You’re just about right. And you can say after this, Rawlins, that you’ve lifted fifty pound weight of gold! Now, make way, gentlemen, make way, if you please. There’s more to come in! Plenty more.”
HE BUSTLED through with the bag, greeted his father gaily, and placed his burden on the floor beside him. Then he went back for the other bag. He made a second countryman weigh this, grinned at his face of astonishment, then taking up the two bags he went through with his father to the parlour.
His arrival had done good. The clerks perked up, smiled at one another, went to and fro more briskly. Rodd braced himself, and though he knew the truth, began to put on airs, bandied words with a client, and called contemptuously for order. And the customers looked sheepish. Gold! gold coming in like that in bags as if ’twere common stuff! It made them think twice. A few, balancing in their minds a small possible loss against the banker’s certain favour, hesitated and hung back. Two or three even went out without cashing their notes and shrugged their shoulde s in the street, declaring the whole thing was nonsense. They had been bamboozled. They had been hoaxed. The bank was sound enough.
But behind the parlour door things wore a different aspect.
brought it and at whose request. Then, as the banker, lost in troubled thought, his eyes on the money, did not speak, “It goes badly then, sir, does it?” he said, “I see that the place is full.”
• Ovington’s eyes were still on the bags, and though he forced himself to answer, his tone was dull and mechanical. “Yes,” he said, “we paid out eleven thousand two hundred yesterday. I have just settled with Yapp—two thousand seven hundred. Mills and Blakeway have drawn at the counter—three thousand and fifty between
them. Jenkins sent his cheque for twelve hundred by his son, but he omitted tö fill in the date.”
“And you didn’t pay it?”
“No, I didn’t pay it. Why should I? But he will be in himself by the two o’clock coach. The only other account —large account outstanding—is Owen’s for eighteen hundred. Probably he will come in by the same coach. In the meantime,—” he took a slip of paper from the table, “we have notes for rather more than two thousand still out—half of these may not for one reason or another be presented. And on current account we still owe something like two thousand
“You may be called upon for another six thousand
“Six at best, seven thousand or a little more at worst. And we had in the till to meet it, a quarter of an hour ago, about three thousand. We should not have had as much if Rodd had not paid in four hundred and fifty.”
“Rodd?” Clement’s eyes sparkled. “God bless him. He’s a Trojan, and I shan’t forget it, Bravo, Rodd!”
The banker nodded, but in a perfunctory way. “That’s the position,” he said. “If Owen and Jenkins hold off— but there’s no hope of that—we may go on till four o’clock. But if either comes in we must close. Close,” bitterly, “for the lack of three thousand or four thousand pounds!”
Clement sighed. Young as he was he was beginning to feel the effect of his exertions, of his double journey, and his two sleepless nights. At last, “No one will lose, sir?” he said.
“No, no one, ultimately and directly, by us. And if we were an old bank, if we were Dean’s even—” there was venom in the tone in which he uttered his rival’s name— “we might resume in a week or a fortnight. We might reopen and go on. But,” shrugging his shoulders, “we are not Dean’s, and no one would trust us after this. It would be useless to resume. And of course, the sacrifices that we have made have been very costly. We have had to rediscount bills at 20 per cent, and sell a long line of securities at a loss, and what is left on our hands may be worth money some day, but it is worthless at present.”
“Ay, and other things. Other things.”
Clement looked at the’floor and again the longing to say something or do something that might comfort his father, presséd upon him. To himself, the catastrophe, save so far as it separated him from Josina, was a small
Continued from page 35
now the self-ruined man! He sat thinking of it, and the minutes went by. Twice one of the clerks came in and silently placed a slip beside him and went softly out. He looked at the slip, but mechanically and without taking in its meaning. What did it matter whether a few more or a few less pounds had been drawn out, whether the drain had waxed or waned in the last quarter of an hour? The end was certain, and it would come when the two men arrived on the Chester coach. Then he would have to bestir himself. Then he would have to resume the lead, and play the man, give back hardness for hardness and scorn for scorn and bear himself so in defeat that no man should pity him. And he knew that he could do it. He knew that when the time came his voice would be firm and his face would be granite and that he would pronounce his own sentence and declare the bank closed with a high head. He knew that even in defeat he could so clothe himself with power that no man should brow-beat him.
BUT in the meantime he paid his debt to weakness, and sat brooding on the past rather than preparing for the future; and time passed, the relentless hand moved round the clock. Twice, the clerk came in with his doom-bearing slips, and presently Rodd appeared. But the cashier had nothing to say that the banker did not know. Ovington took the paper and looked at the figures, and at the total but all he said was, “Let me know when Owen and Jenkins come.”
“Very good, Sir,” Rodd lingered a moment as if he would fain have added something, -would have ventured perhaps some word of sympathy. But his courage failed him and he went out.
Nor when Clement returned from Garth half an hour after this, did he give any sign. Clement laid his hand on his shoulder and said a cheery word, but getting no answer or as good as none, he went through to his desk. A moment
later his voice could be heard rallying a too conscious customer, greeting another with contemptuous good-humour, bringing into the close, heated atmosphere of the bank, where men breathed heavily, snapped at one another, and shuffled their feet, a gust of freer brisker air.
Another half hour passed. A clerk brought in a slip. The banker looked at it. No more than seven hundred pounds remained in the till. “Very good,” he said, “Let me know when Mr. Owen and Mr. Jenkins come.” And as the door closed behind the lad he fell back into jjjg' old posture of depression. There was nothing to be done. , ,
But five minutes later Clement loOK.ea in, his face concerned. “Sir Chares Woosenham is here,” he said in a low voice, “He is asking for you.”
The banker roused himself. The ca** was not unexpected, nor quite unwelcome. “Show him in,” he said, and he took up a pen and drew a sheet of paper towards him, that he might appear to be employing himself.
SIR CHARLES came in, tall, stooping a little, his curly wide-brimmed hat in his hand; but the dignified bearing with which he usually fenced himself against the roughness of the outer world, was less noticeable than usual. He was a gentleman, and he did not like his errand.
Ovington rose. “Good morning, Sir Charles,” he said, “you wanted to see me? I am unfortunately busy this morning, but I can give you ten minutes. What is it, may I ask?” He pushed a chair toward his visitor.
But Woosenham would not sit down. If the man was down, he hated to—but there he had come to do it. “I am sure it is all right, Mr. Ovington!” he said awkwardly, “but I am concerned about the—about the Railway money in fact. Thesumislarge.and—and—’’stammering a little—“but I think you will understand my position.”
The banker smiled. “You wish to know if it’s safe?” he said.
“Well, yes—precisely,” with relief. “You’ll forgive me, I am sure. But people are talking.”
"They are doing more,” Ovington answered austerely—he no longer smiled. “They are doing their best to ruin me, Sir Charles, and to plunge themselves into loss. But I need not go into that. You are anxious about the Railroad money? Very good.” He rang the bell and the clerk came in. "Go to the strong-room,” the banker said, taking some keys from the table, “with Mr. Clement, and bring me the box with the Railway Trust.”
“I am sorry,” Sir Charles said, when they were alone, “to trouble you at this time, but—”
The banker stopped him. “You are perfectly in order,” he said. “Indeed,'I am glad you have come. The box will be here in a minute.”
Clement brought it in, and Ovington took another key and unlocked it. “It is all here,” he explained, “except the small sum already expended in preliminary costs—'he sum passed as you will remember at the last meeting of the Board. Here it is.” He took a paper which lay on the top of the contents of the box. “Except four hundred and ten pounds, ten shillings. The rest is invested in Treasury Bills until required. The bills are here and Clement will check them with you, Sir Charles, while I finish this letter. We have, of course, treated this as a Trust Fund and I think that the better course will be for you to affix your seal to the box when you have verified the contents.”
HE TURNED to his letter, though it may be doubted whether he knew what he was writing; while, Sir Charles and Clement went through the box, verified the securities, and finally sealed the box. That done, Woosenham would have offered fresh apologies, but the banker waved them aside, and bowed him out, directing Clement to see him to the door.
That over, and left alone once more, he sat thinking. The incident had roused him and he felt better for it. He had been able to assert himself, and he had confirmed in good will a man who might yet be of use to him. But he was not left alone very long. Sir Charles had not been gone five minutes before Rodd thrust a pale face in at the door, and in an agitated whisper informed him that Owen and Jenkins were coming down the High Street. A scout whom the cashier had sent out had seen them and run ahead with the news. “They’ll be here in two minutes, sir,” Rodd added in a tone which betrayed his dismay. “What am I to do? Will you see them, sir?”
"Certainly,” Ovington answered. “Show them in as soon as they arrive.”
He spoke firmly, and made a brave show in Rodd’s eyes. But he knew that up to this moment he had retained a grain of hope, a feeling vague and baseless that something might yet happen, something might yet occur at the last moment to save the bank. Well, it had had not, and he must steel himself to face the worst. The crisis had come and he must meet it like a man. He rose from his chair and stood waiting, a little paler than usual but composed and master of himself.
He heard the disturbance that the arrival of the two men caused in the bank. Some one spoke in a harsh and peremptory tone, and something like an altercation followed. Raised voices reached him and Rodd’s answer, civil and propitiatory, came, though imperfectly to his ear. The peremptory voice arose anew louder than before, and the banker’s face grew hard as he listened. Did they think to brow-beat him? Did they think to bully him? If so, he would soon —but they were coming. He caught the sound of the counter as Rodd raised it for the visitor to pass, and the advance of feet, slowly moving across the floor. He fixed his eyes on the door, all the manhood in him called up to meet the ocea-
The door was thrown open, widely open, but for a moment the banker could not see who stood in "the shadow of the doorway. Two men, certainly, and Rodd at their elbow, hovering behind them; and they must be Owen and Jenkins, though Rodd, to be sure, should have had the sense to send in one at a time. Then it. broke upon the banker that they were
one Owen and Jenkns. They were bigger men, diffirently dressed, of another class; and he stared. For the taller of the two, advancing slowly on the other’s arm, and feeling his way with his stick, was Squire Griffin, and his companion was no other than Sir Charles, mysteriously come back again.
PREPARED for that which he had expected, Ovington was unprepared for this: and the old man, still feeling on his unguarded side with his stick, was the first to speak. “Give me a chair,” he grunted. “Is he here?”
“Yes,” Sir Charles said, “Mr. Ovington is here.”
“Then let me sit down.” And as Woosenham, with care, let him down into the chair which the astonished banker hastened to push forward, “Umph!” he muttered, as he settled himself and uncovered his head. “Tell my man,” this to Rodd, “to bring in that stuff when I send for it. Do you hear? You there? Tell him to bring it in when I bid him.” Then he turned himself to the banker, who all this time had not found a word to say, and indeed had not a notion what was coming. He could only suppose that the Squire had somehow revived Woosenham’s fears, in which case he should certainly, Squire or no Squire, hear some home truths. “You’re surprised to see me?” The old man said.
“Well, I am, Mr. Griffin. Yes.”
“Ay,” drily. “Well, I am surprised myself, if it comes to that. I didn’t think to be ever in this room again. But here I am, none the less. And come on business.” The banker’s eyes grew hard. “If it is about the Railroad moneys,” he said, “and Sir Charles is not satisfied?”
“It’s none of his business. Naught to do with the Railroad,” the Squire answered. Then sharply, “Where’s my nephew? Is he here?”
“No, he is not at the bank to-day.” “No? Well, he -never should ha’ been, d—n him! And so I told him and told you. But you would both have your own way and you know what’s come of it. Hello!” breaking off suddenly, and turning his head, for his hearing was still good. “What’s that? Ain’t we alone?” “One moment,” Ovington said. Rodd had^tapped at the door and put in his
The cashier looked at the banker, over the visitors’ heads. “Mr. Owen and Mr. Jenkins are here,” he said in a low tone. “They wish to see you. I said you were engaged, sir, but—” his face made the rest of the sentence clear.
Ovington reddened but retained his presence of mind. “They can see me in ten minutes,” he said coldly. “Tell them
But Rodd only came a little farther into the room. “I am afraid,” he said, dropping his voice, “they won’t wait, sir. They are—”
“Wait?” The word came from the Squire. He shot it out so suddenly that the cashier started. “Wait? Why, d—n their infernal impudence,” wrathfully, “do they think their business must come before everybody’s? Jenkins? Is that little Jenkins—Tom Jenkins of the Hollies?”
“Then G—d d—n his impudence!” the old man burst forth again in a voice that must have well-nigh reached the street. “Little Tom Jenkins whose grandfather was my foot-boy! Coming and interrupting my business! God bless my soul and body, the world is turned upsidedown now-a-days! Fine times we live in! Little—but, hark you, sirrah, d’you go and tell him to go to the devil! And shut the door, man! Shut the door!”
“Tell them I will see them in ten minutes,” said the banker.
BUT the old man was still unappeased.
“That’s what we’re coming to, is it?” he fumed. “Confound their impudence,” wiping his brow, “and they’ve put me out too! I dunno where I was. Is the door closed? Oh, ’bout my nephew! I didn’t wish it, I’ve said that and I’ve said it often, but he’s in. He’s in with you, banker, and he’s lugged me in! For, loth as I am to see him in it, I’m still lotherthat any one o’ my name or my blood should be pointed at as the man that’s lost the country-side their money! Trade’s bad, out of its place. But trade that fails at other folks’ cost and ruins a sight of people who, true or false, will say they’ve heen swindled—”
"Stop!” the banker could bear it no longer, and he stepped forward, his face pa!e. “No one has swindled here! No one
has been robbed of his money. No one_
if it will relieve your feelings to know it Mr. Griffin, will lose by thebankintheend' I shall pay all demands within a few weeks at most.”
“Can you pay ’em all to-day?” asked the Squire at his driest.
“It may be that I cannot. But every man to whom the Bank owesa penny will receive twenty shillings in the pound and interest, within a few weeks—or months ” “And who will be the loser, then if the Bank closes? Who’ll lose, man?” ’ “The bank. No one else.” er“But You can’t pay ’em to-day, bank-
“That may be.”
“How much will clear you? To pay ’em all down on the nail!” truculently.
And tell em all to go and be damned* Eh? How much do you need for that’” Ovington opened his mouth, but for a moment, overpowered by the emotions that set his temples throbbing, he could not speak. He stared at the gaunt stooplug figure in the chair—the stooping figure in the shabby old riding-coat, with the huge plated buttons that had weathered a dozen winters,—and though hope sprang up in him, he doubted. The man might be playing with him? Or he might not mean what he seemed to mean. There might be some mistake. At last, “Five thousand pounds would pull us through ” he said, in a voice that sounded strange to himself. “As it turns out.”
“You’d better take ten,” the Squire answered. “There,” fumbling in his inner pocket and extracting with effort a thick packet, ^Count five out of that And there’s five in gold that my man wili bring in D’you give me a note for ten thousand at six months—five per cent.” “Mr. Griffin—”
“There, no words!” testily. “It ain’t for you I’m doing it, man. Understand that! It ain’t for you. It’s for my name and my nephew, d—d little as he deserves it! Count it out, count it out, and give me back the balance, and let’s ha’ done with it.”
/^VINGTON hesitated, his heart full, Vv his hands trembling. He was not himself. He looked at Woosenham. “Perhaps Sir Charles,” he said, unsteadily, “will be good enough to check the amount with me.
“Pshaw, man, if I didn’t think you honest I shouldn’t be here, whether or no. No such fool! I satisfied myself of that, you may be sure, before I came in. Count it, yourself. And there! Bid ’em bring in the gold.”
The banker rang the bell and gave the order. He counted the notes and by the time he had finished the bags had been brought in. “You’ll ha’ to take that uncounted,” the Squire said, as he heard them set down on the floor, “as I took ’em myself.”
“My son will have seen to that,” Ovington replied. He was a little more like himself now. He sat down and wrote out the note, though his hand shook.
• “£y’” .^e squire agreed. “I’m thinking he will have.” And turning his head towards Woosenham, “He’s a rum chap that,” he continued with a chuckle and speaking as if the banker were not present. “He gave me a talking to—me! D’you know that he got to London in fifteen hours, in the night time?”
“Did he, by Jove! Our friend at Halston could hardly have beaten that.” “And nothing staged either! Railroads!” scornfully. “D’you think there’s any need o’ railroads when a man can do that? Or that any railroad that’s ever made will beat that? Fifteen hours, by G-d, a hundred and fifty-one miles in the night time!”
SIR CHARLES, who had been an astonished spectator of the scene, gave a qualified assent, and by that time Ovington was ready with his note. The Squire pouched it with care, but cut short his thanks. “I’ve told you why I do it,” he said gruffly. “And now I’m tired and I’ll be getting home. Give me your arm, Woosenham. But as we pass I’ve a word to say to that little joker in the bank.”
He had his word, and a strange scene it was. The two great men stood within the counter, the old man bending his hawklike face and sightless eyes on the quailing group beyond it, while the clerks looked on. half in awe and half in amusement.
“Fools!” said the squire in his harshest tone. “Fools, all of ye! Cutting your own throats and tearing the bottom out of your own money-bags! That’s what ye be doing! And you Tom Jenkins, and you Owen, that should know better, first among ’em! You haven’t the sense to see a yard before you, but elbow one another into the ditch like a pair of blind horses! You deserve to be ruined, every man of you, and it’s no fault of your’ n that you’re not! Businessmen? You call yourselves business men, and run on a bank as if all the money was kept in a box under the counter leady to pay you! Go home! Go home!” poking at them with his stick. “And thank God the banker has more sense than you and a sight more money than your tuppenny ha'penny accounts run to! Damme, if I were master here, if one single one o’ you should cross my door again! But there, take me out, Woosenham. Take me out! Pack o’ fools! Pack o’ d—d fools they are!”
THE two marched out, but the Squire’s words ran up and down the town like wild-fire. What he had said and how he had said it and the figure little Tom Jenkins of the Hollies had cut was known as far as the Castle Foregate, before the old man had well set his foot on the step of his carriage. The crowd standing about Sir Charles’s four bays in the Market Place and respectfully gazing on the postillions’ yellow jackets had it within two minutes. Within four it was known at the Gullett that the old Squire was supporting the bank, and had given Welsh Owen such a talkingto as never was. Within ten, the news was being bandied up and down the long yard at the Lion, where they stabled a hundred horses, and was known even to the charwomen who on their knees were scrubbing the floors of the Assembly Rooms that looked down on the yard. Dean’s, at which a mild but provoking run had been prosecuted since morning, got it among the first; and Mr. Dean, testy and snappish enough before, became for the rest of the day a terror and a thunder-cloud to the junior clerks. Nay, the news soon passed beyond Aldersbury, for the three o’clock up-coach swept it away and dropped it with various parcels and hampers at every stage between the Falcon at Heygate and Wolverhampton Not a turn-pike man but heard it and spread it, and at the Cock at Wellingington they gave it to the down-coach which carried it back to Aldersbury.
Owen, it was known, had drawn his money. But Jenkins had thought better of it. He had gone out of the bank with his cheque in his hand, and had torn it up coram publico in the roadway; and from that moment the run, its force already exhausted, had ceased. Half an hour later he would have been held a fool who looked twice at an Ovington note, or distrusted a bank into which, rumour had it, gold had been carried by the sackful. Had not the Bank of England sent down a special messenger bearing unstinted credit? And had not the old Squire of Garth, the closest, stingiest, shrewdest man in the County paid in thirty, forty, fifty thousand pounds and declared that he would sell every acre before the bank should fail? Before night a dozen men were considering ruefully the thing they had done and pondering how they might, with the least loss of dignity, undo it. Before morning twice as many wives had told their husbands what they thought of them and reminded them that they had always said how it would be—only they were never listened to!
At the Gullet in the Shut off the Market Place, where the tap never ceased running that evening, where half of the trade of the town pressed in to eat liverand-bacon, there was no longer any talk of Boulogne. All the talk ran the other way. The drawers of the day were the butts of the evening, and were bantered and teased unmercifully. Their friends would not be in their shoes for a trifle— not they! They had cooked their goose with a vengeance—no more golden eggs for them! And very noticeable was it that whenever the banker’s name came up, voices dropped and heads came together. His luck, his power, his resources, were discussed with awe and in whispers. There were not a few thoughtful faces at the board, and here and there were appetites that failed; though the suppers served in the dingy low-ceiled room at the Gullet, dark even at noon-day, were famous for their savouriness.
To be Concluded