THE SHORT LINE WAR.
H. K. WEBSTER AND SAMUEL MERWIN.
It is only one novel in twenty that is en-
grossing enough to insist upon a reading,
making the mood for its own enjoyment.
It is hardly one in twenty which is success-
ful in interpreting to the people of one class
or occupation the struggles and sympathies
of those without their social or business
circles. That " The Short Line War "
should do both, makes it very exceptional
indeed. Chicago Evening Post.
It is one of those tales of vigorous char-
acter and action which touch a responsive
chord in nearly every class of readers. The
story is finely written. Toledo Blade.
iGmo. Cloth. $1.50.
THE BANKER AND
The Story of a Corner in Lard
HENRY KITCHELL WEBSTER
Nefo ff orfe
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.
All rights reserved
BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.
J. 8. Gushing & Co. Berwick & Smith
Norwood Mali. U.S.A.
I. BEGINNINGS i
II. DICK HASELRIDGE 25
III. THE WILL . . .... .38
IV. A VICTORY . . . . . .59
V. OLD FRIENDS 74
VI. LARD . . . . .'." . . . 85
VII. THE SPY :-'. .103
VIII. A BATTLE '. . 118
IX. DEEPER STILL 138
X. NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH . . . . . 151
XI. COMMON HONESTY 166
XII. CONSEQUENCES 183
XIII. How THE BEAR SPENT SUNDAY . . . 200
XIV. GOOD INTENTIONS . . . t . .212
XV. THE STARTING OF AN AVALANCHE . . . 230
XVI. HARRIET . . 247
XVII. WEDNESDAY MORNING . . . . . . 267
XVIII. How THEY BROKE THE RUN '. . . 283
XIX. THE FOURTH DAY . . . . . .301
XX. ASSAULT AND BATTERY 316
XXI. A CORNER 334
THE BANKER AND THE BEAR
FOR more than forty years Bagsbury and
Company was old John Bagsbury himself ;
merely another expression of his stiff, cautious
personality. Like him it had been old from
infancy ; you could as easily imagine that he
had once been something of a dandy, had worn
a stiff collar and a well-brushed hat, as that its
dusty black-walnut furniture had ever smelled
of varnish. And, conversely, though he had a
family, a religion to whose requirements he was
punctiliously attentive, and a really fine library,
the bank represented about all there was of old
Beside a son, John, he had a daughter, born
several years earlier, whom they christened
Martha. She grew into a capricious, pretty
girl, whom her father did not try to under-
2 The Banker and the Bear
stand, particularly as he thought she never
could be of the smallest importance to Bags-
bury and Company. When, before she was
twenty, in utter disregard of her father's
forcibly expressed objection, she married Victor
Haselridge, she dropped forever out of the old
The boy, John, was too young to understand
when this happened, and as his mother died
soon after, he grew almost to forget that he
had ever had a sister. He was very different :
serious and, on the surface at least, placid. He
had the old man's lumpy head and his thin-
lidded eyes, though his mouth was, like his
mother's, generous. His father had high hopes
that he might, in course of years, grow to be
worthy of Bagsbury and Company's Savings
Bank. That was the boy's hope, too ; when he
was fifteen he asked to be taken from school
and put to work, and his father, with ill-con-
cealed delight, consented. Through the next
five years the old man's hopes ran higher than
ever, for John showed that he knew how to
work, and slowly the tenure of office was
long at Bagsbury's he climbed the first few
rounds of the ladder.
But trouble was brewing all the while, though
the father was too blind to see. It began the
day when the lad first set foot in a bank other
than his father's. The brightness, the bustle,
the alert air that characterized every one about
it, brought home to him a sharp, disappointing
surprise. Try as he might, he could not bring
back the old feeling of pride in Bagsbury and
Company, and he felt the difference the more
keenly as he grew to understand where it lay.
But he liked work, and with a boy's healthy
curiosity he pried and puzzled and sought to
comprehend everything, though his father out of
a notion of discipline, and his fellow-employees
for a less unselfish reason, discouraged his in-
quiries. In one way and another he made
several acquaintances among the fellows of
his own age who worked in the other banks,
and from finding something to smile at in his
queer, old-mannish way they came to like him.
He had his mother's adaptability, and he sur-
prised them by turning out to be really good
His deep-seated loyalty to his father and to
his father's bank made him fight down the
feeling of bitterness and contempt which,
4 The Banker and the Bear
nevertheless, grew stronger month by month.
Everybody in that gray old vault of a bank
continued to treat him as a child; there was
no change anywhere, save that the mould of
respectable conservatism lay thicker on old
John Bagsbury, and his caution was growing
into a mania.
One morning John was nearing his twen-
tieth birthday then he was sent on a small
matter of business to the Atlantic National
Bank. He had despatched it and was passing
out when Dawson, the president, surprised him
by calling to him from the door of the private
office. As John obeyed the summons and
entered the office, the president motioned to
another man who was leaning against the
desk. "This is young John Bagsbury," he
said, " Mr. Sponley."
John had no time to be puzzled, for Sponley
straightened up and shook hands with him.
Whatever you might think of Melville Spon-
ley, he compelled you to think something; he
could not be ignored. He was at this time
barely thirty, but already he bore about him
the prophecy that, in some sphere or other, he
was destined to wield an unusual influence. He
was of about middle height, though his enor-
mous girth made him look shorter, his skin
was swarthy, his thick neck bulged out above
his collar, and his eyelids were puffy. But his
glance was as swift and purposeful as a fencer's
thrust, and a great dome of a forehead towered
above his black brows.
Keenly, deliberately, he looked straight into
John Bagsbury, and in the look John felt him-
self treated as a man. They exchanged only
the commonplaces of greeting, and then, as there
seemed to be nothing further to say, John
took his leave.
" Why did you ask me to call him in here ? "
demanded the president.
" Curiosity," said Sponley. " I wanted to see
if he was going to be like his father."
" He's better stuff," said Dawson, emphati-
cally ; " a sight better stuff."
Next day, a little after noon, John met Spon-
ley on the street. Sponley nodded cordially as
they passed, then turned and spoke :
" Oh, Bagsbury, were you thinking of getting
something to eat ? If you were, you'd better
come along and have a little lunch with me."
John might have felt somewhat ill at ease
6 The Banker and the Bear
had his new acquaintance given him any oppor-
tunity ; but Sponley took on himself the whole
responsibility for the conversation, and John
forgot everything else listening to the talk,
which was principally in praise of the banking
" I suppose you are wondering why I don't
go into it myself, but I'm not cut out for it. I
was born to be a speculator. That has a strange
sound to your ears, no doubt, but I mean to get
rich at it.
" Now a banker has to be a sort of commer-
cial father confessor to all his customers. That
wouldn't be in my line at all ; but I envy the
man who has the genius and the opportunity
for it that I fancy you have."
An habitually reserved man, when once the
barrier is broken down, will reveal anything.
Before John was aware of it, he had yielded to
the charm of being completely understood, and
was telling Sponley the story of his life at the
bank. Sponley said nothing, but eyed the ash
of his cigar until he" was sure that John had told
it all. Then he spoke :
" Under an aggressive management your bank
could be one of the three greatest in the city in
two years. It's immensely rich, and it has a
tremendous credit. As you say, with things as
they are, it's hopeless ; but then, some day you'll
get control of it, I suppose."
There was a moment of silence while Sponley
relighted his cigar.
" Have you thought of making a change ?
I mean, of getting a better training by work-
ing up through some other bank ? "
" That's out of the question," said John.
" I can understand your feeling that way
about it," said the other. " I've detained you
a long time. I'd ask you to come and see us,
but my wife and I are going abroad next week,
and shan't be back till spring; but we'll surely
see you then. Good-by and good luck."
John went back to the bank and listened with
an indifference he had not known before to
the remonstrance of his immediate superior,
who spoke satirically about the length of his
lunch hour, and carped at his way of cross-
ing his t's.
Sponley and his wife lingered at the table
that evening, discussing plans for their jour-
ney. Harriet Sponley was younger than her
husband, but she had not his nerves, and there
8 The Banker and the Bear
were lines in her face which time had not yet
written in his.
" I'm glad you're to have the rest," he said,
looking intently at her ; " you need it."
" No more than you," she smilingly pro-
tested. " You didn't come home to lunch."
" N-no." A smile broke over his heavy face.
" I was engaged in agricultural pursuits. I
planted a grain of mustard seed, which will
grow into a great tree. Some time we may
be glad to roost therein."
" Riddles ! " she exclaimed. " Please give me
the key to this one. I don't feel like guessing."
" If you will have it, I've been putting a
cyclone cellar in a bank."
" Bagsbury's," he answered, smiling more
" Bagsbury's," she repeated, in an injured
tone, " I really want to know. Please tell me."
" Did you ever hear," he asked, as they left
the dining-room and entered the library, "of
young John Bagsbury ? "
" No, do you know him ? "
He dropped into an easy-chair. " Met him
" It won't do any good, " she said ; " some-
body has probably come round already and
warned him that you're a dangerous man, or a
plunger, or something like that"
" Yes, I warned him to-day myself."
She laughed and moved away toward the
piano. As she passed behind his chair, she
patted his head approvingly.
The next few months went dismally with
John. At the bank, or away from it, there was
little change in the stiff routine of his life ;
his few glimpses of the outside world, and par-
ticularly the memory of that hour with Sponley,
made it harder to endure. His discontent
steadily sank deeper and became a fact more
inevitably to be reckoned with, and before the
winter was over he made up his mind that he
could not give up his life to the course his
father had marked out for him ; but he dreaded
the idea of a change, and in the absence of
a definite opening for him elsewhere he let
events take their own course. Often he found
himself wondering whether the speculator had
forgotten all about his suggestion.
But Sponley never forgot anything, though
he often waited longer than most men are will-
ing to. He and Harriet had not been back in
town a week before they asked John to dine
with them; "Just ourselves," the note said.
An invitation to dinner was not the terrible
thing to John that it would have been a year
before, but as the hour drew near he looked
forward to it with mingled pleasure and dread.
He forgot it all the moment he was fairly inside
the Sponley big library. He had never seen
such a room ; it had a low ceiling, it was red
and warm and comfortable, and there was a
homely charm about the informal arrangement
of the furniture. John did not see it all: he
felt it, took it in with the first breath of the
tobacco-savored air, while the speculator was
introducing him to Mrs. Sponley, and then to
some one else who stood just behind her, a fair-
haired girl in a black gown.
" Miss Blair is one of the family," said Spon-
ley; "a sort of honorary little sister of Mrs.
" She's really not much of a relation," added
Harriet, " but she's the only one of any sort that
I possess, so I have to make the most of her."
The next hours were the happiest John had
ever known. It was all so new to him, this
Beginnings 1 1
easy, irresponsible way of taking the world, this
making a luxury of conversation instead of the
strict, uncomfortable necessity he had always
thought it. It was pleasant fooling; not espe-
cially clever, easy to make and to hear and to for-
get, and so skilfully did the Sponleys do it that
John never realized they were doing it at all.
When the ladies rose to leave the table,
Sponley detained John. " I want to talk a little
business with you, if you'll let me.
" I had a talk with Dawson yesterday," he
continued when they were alone. " Dawson,
you know, practically owns one or two country
banks, besides his large interest in the Atlantic
National, and it takes a lot of men to run his
business. Dawson told me that none of the
youngsters at the Atlantic was worth much.
He wants a man who's capable of handling
some of that country business. Now, I remem-
ber you said last fall that you didn't care to go
into anything like that ; but I had an idea that
you might think differently now, so I spoke of
you to Dawson and he wants you. It looks to
me like rather a good opening."
John did not speak for half a minute. Then
he said :
12 The Banker and the Bear
" I'll take it Thank you."
" I'm glad you decided that way," said Spon-
ley. " Dawson and I lunch together to-morrow
at one. You'd better join us, and then you and
he can talk over details. Come, Alice and
Harriet are waiting for us. We'll have some
When at last it occurred to John that it was
time to go home, they urged him so heartily to
stay a little longer that without another thought
he forgave himself for having forgotten to go
Just before noon next day, John left his desk
and walked into his father's office. Old Mr.
Bagsbury looked up to see who his visitor was,
then turned back to his writing. After a minute,
however, he laid down his pen and waited for
his son to speak.
And to his great surprise John found that a
difficult thing to do. When he did begin, an-
other word was on his lips than the one he
had expected to use.
"Father " he said. The old man's brows
contracted, and John knew he had made a
mistake. In his desire that John should be on
the same terms as the other clerks, the father
Beginnings 1 3
had barred that form of address in banking
" Mr. Bagsbury," John began again, and now
the words came easily, "I was offered another
position last night. It's a better one than I
hold here, and I think it will be to my advantage
to take it."
Mr. Bagsbury's hard, thin old face expressed
nothing, even of surprise. He sat quite still
for a moment, then he clasped his hands
tightly under the desk, for they were quivering.
" You wish to take this position at once ? "
" I haven't arranged that. I waited till I
could speak to you about it. I don't want to
" You can go at once if you choose. We can
arrange for your work."
"Very well, sir."
As his father bowed assent, John turned to
leave the office. But at the door he stopped
and looked back. Mr. Bagsbury had not moved,
save that his head, so stiffly erect during the in-
terview, was bowed over the desk. From where
he stood John could not see his face. Acting
on an impulse he did not understand, John re-
traced his steps and stood at the old man's side.
" Father," he said, " I may have been incon-
siderate of your feelings in this matter. If
there's anything personal about it, that is, if it's
worth any more to you to have me here than just
my my commercial value; I'll be glad to
" Not at all," returned the father ; " our rela-
tion here in the bank is a purely commercial one.
I cannot offer you a better position because you
are not worth it to me. But if some one else
has offered you a better one, you are right to
take it, quite right."
And John, much relieved, though, be it said,
feeling rather foolish over that incomprehensible
impulse of his, again turned to the door. He
went back to his desk and finished his morning's
work. Then he slipped on his overcoat, but
before going out he paused to look about the
big, dreary droning room.
" I'll come back here some day," he thought,
"and then "
Old Mr. Bagsbury never had but one child;
that was Bagsbury and Company's Savings
Bank. John was not, in his mind, the heir to it,
but the one who should be its guardian after he
was gone ; his son was no more to him than
Beginnings 1 5
that. But that was everything ; and so the old
man sat with bowed head and clasped hands,
wondering dully how the bank would live when
he was taken away from it.
John paid his dinner call promptly, though
Mark Tapley would have said there was no
great credit in that; it could hardly be termed a
call either, for it lasted from eight till eleven.
But what, after all, did the hours matter so long
as they passed quickly ? And then a few nights
later they went together to the play, and a little
after that was a long Sunday afternoon which
ended with their compelling John to stay to tea.
His time was fully occupied, for he found a
day's work at the Atlantic very different from
anything he had experienced under the stately
regime of Bagsbury and Company. Dawson
paid for every ounce there was in a man, and
he used it. " They've piled it on him pretty
thick," the cashier told the president after a
month or two ; " but he carries it without a
stagger. If he can keep up this pace, he's
a gold mine."
He did keep the pace, though it left him few
free evenings. Those he had were spent,
nearly all of them, with the Sponleys. The fair-
1 6 The Banker and the Bear
haired girl seemed to John, each time he saw
her, sweeter and more adorable than she had
ever been before, and he saw her often enough
to make the progression a rapid one. The hos-
pitality of the Sponleys never flagged. The
number of things they thought of that " it would
be larks to do," was legion; and when there
was no lark, there was always the long evening
in the big firelit room, when Harriet played the
piano, and Sponley put his feet on the fender
and smoked cigars, and there was nothing to
prohibit a boy and a girl from sitting close to-
gether on the wide sofa and looking over port-
folios of steel engravings from famous paintings
and talking of nothing in particular, or at
least not of the steel engravings.
At last one Sunday afternoon in early spring,
after months of suspense that seemed years
to John, Alice consented to marry him, and
John was so happy that he did not blush or
stammer, as they had been sure he would,
when he told the Sponleys about it. There
never was such an illumination as the street
lamps made that evening when John walked
back to his father's house ; and something in
his big dismal room, the single faint-hearted
gas-jet, perhaps, threw a rosy glow even over
When he had left Bagsbury and Company
to go to work for Dawson, there had occurred
no change in John's personal relation with his
father. That relation had never amounted to
much, but they continued to live on not un-
friendly terms. Quite unconscious that he
was misusing the word, John would have told
you that he lived at home. Once on a time,
when Martha was a baby, before the loneli-
ness of his mother's life had made her old,
before the commercial crust had grown so thick
over the spark of humanity that lurked some-
where in old John Bagsbury, the old house
may have been a home; but John had never
known it as anything but a place where one
might sleep and have his breakfast and his
dinner without paying for them. When he
and his father met, there was generally some
short-lived attempt at conversation, consisting
in a sort of set form like the responses in the
prayer-book. But one night, as soon as they
were seated, John spoke what was on his mind,
without waiting for the wonted exchange of
1 8 The Banker and the Bear
" Father," he said, " I'm planning to be mar-
ried in a few months."
" If your means are sufficient," the old man
answered, " and if you have chosen wisely, as
I make no doubt you have, why that is very
well, very well."
A little later the father asked abruptly,
" Are you planning to live here ? "
Perhaps, in the silent moments just past,
there had quickened in his mind a mouldy old
memory of a girlish face, and then of a baby's
wailing, a memory that brought a momentary
glow into the ashes of his soul, and a hope,
gone in the flicker of an eyelash, that a child
might again play round his knees. But when
John's answer came, and it came quickly, the
father was relieved to hear him say,
" Oh, no, sir, we're going to look up a place
of our own."
They were to be married next April, and
though that time seemed far away to John,
thanks to the economy of the Atlantic National,
and to the hours he had with Alice, which
merged one into the other, forming in his
memory a beatific haze, it passed quickly
enough. The only thing that troubled John
was Alice's total ignorance of banking and
her indifference to matters of business gener-
ally. One evening, in Harriet's presence, he
offered, half jestingly, to teach her how to
manage a bank; but the older woman turned
the conversation to something else, and he did
not think of it again for a long time.
When John had gone that evening, and
Alice was making ready for bed, her door
opened unceremoniously and Harriet came in.
She was so pale that Alice cried out to know
what was the matter.
"Nothing; I'm tired, that's all. It's been
a hard day for Melville, and that always leaves
me a wreck. No, I've been waiting for John
to go because I want to have a talk with you.
I feel like it to-night, and I may not again."
She walked across the room and fumbled
nervously the scattered articles on the dressing-
table. Her words, and the action which fol-
lowed them, were so unlike Harriet that Alice
stared at her wonderingly. At last Harriet
turned and faced her, leaning back against
the table, her hands clutching the ledge of it
"I'm going to give you some advice," she
2O The Banker and the Bear
said ; " I don't suppose you'll like it, either.
You didn't like my interrupting John to-night
when he was going to explain about banking.
But, Alice, dear," the voice softened as she
spoke, and her attitude relaxed a little, "you
don't want to know about such things; truly,
you don't ! If you're going to be happy with
John, you mustn't know anything about his
business about what he does in the day-
"What a way to talk for you, too, of all
people ! You're happy, aren't you ? "
" Perhaps I'm different," said Harriet, slowly ;
"but I know what I'm talking about. I
shouldn't be saying these things to you, if I
didn't. How will you like having John come
home and tell you all about some tight place
he's in that he doesn't know how he's going
to get out of, and then waiting all the next
day and wondering how it's coming out, and
not being able to do anything but worry?"
"But I thought the banking business was
perfectly safe," said Alice, vaguely alarmed,
but still more puzzled.
" Safe ! " echoed Harriet ; " any business is
safe if a man is willing to wall himself up in
Beginnings 2 1
a corner and just stay, and not want to do
anything or get anywhere. But if a man is
ambitious, like John or Melville, and means to
get up to the top, why it's just one long fight
for him whatever business he goes into."
She was not looking at Alice, nor, indeed,
speaking to her, but seemed rather to be think-
" That is the one great purpose in John's life,"
she said. " His father's bank is the only thing
that really counts. Everything else is only inci-
dental to that."
She turned about again, and her hands re-
sumed their purposeless play over the table.
" He'll succeed, too. He isn't afraid of any-
thing ; and he won't lose his nerve ; he can
stand the strain. But you can't, and if you
try, your face will get wrinkled," she was star-
ing into the mirror that hung above the table,
" and your nerves will fly to pieces, and you'll
just worry your heart out."
She was interrupted by a movement behind
her. Alice had thrown herself upon the bed,
sobbing like a frightened child.
"You're very unkind and cruel to tell
me that John's business was dangerous
22 The Banker and the Bear
and that he didn't care for anything even
me and that I'd get wrinkled "
Harriet sat down beside her on the bed.
Her manner had changed instantly when she
had seen the effect of her words. When she
spoke, her voice was very gentle.
" Forgive me, dear. I spoke very foolishly ;
because I was tired, I suppose. But you didn't
understand me exactly. John loves you very,
very much; you know that. When I said he
didn't care, I wasn't thinking of you at all, but
of other things : books, you know, and plays,
and politics. And he's perfectly sure to come
out right, just as I said he was, no matter what
he goes through. Only I think both of you will
be happier if you keep quite out of his business
world, and don't let him bring it home with him,
but try to interest him in other things when
you're with him, and make him forget all about
his business ; and the only way to do that is
not to know. Don't you see, dear ? "
She paused, and for a moment stroked the
flushed forehead. Then she went on, speak-
ing almost playfully :
" So I want you to promise me that you won't
ask John about those things, or let him explain
them, even if he wants to. It may be hard some-
times, but it's better that way. Will you ? "
Alice nodded uncomprehendingly ; Harriet
kissed her good night, and rose to leave the
" Are you quite sure he loves me better than
the bank ? " the young girl asked, smiling, albeit
"Quite sure," laughed Harriet; "whole lots
When Sponley came in, still later that even-
ing, she told him of John's offer.
" How did he come out with his explanation ?"
" I didn't let him begin. I changed the sub-
" It's just as well. He's lucky if he can ever
make her understand how to indorse a check,
let alone anything more complicated."
" I fancy that's true," Harriet said, and she
added to herself, " of course it's true. I've had
all my worries for nothing, and have frightened
Alice half to death. But then, she didn't under-
"Anyway, I'm glad that you understand,"
Sponley was saying.
24 The Banker and the Bear
" I'm glad, too," she answered, and kissed
John and Alice were married, as they had
planned, in April ; but the wedding trip was
cut short by a telegram from Dawson, direct-
ing John to go to Howard City, to assume the
management of the First National Bank there ;
and the house they had chosen and partly fur-
nished had to be given up to some one else.
Alice cried over it a good deal, and John was
sorely puzzled to understand why she should
feel badly over his promotion.
Ah, well, that was long ago ; fifteen seven-
teen years ago. They have been comfortable,
uneventful years to John and Alice; whether
or not you call them happy must depend on
what you think happiness means. They have
brought prosperity and more promotions, and
John is back in the city, vice-president of the
great Atlantic National. But his ambition has
not been satisfied, for, on the Christmas Eve
when we again pick up the thread of his life,
his father, old John Bagsbury, crustier and more
withered than ever, and more than ever distrust-
ful of his son's ability, is still president of Bags-
bury and Company's Savings Bank.
ON this Christmas Eve Dick Haselridge was
picking her way swiftly through the holiday
crowd, but her glance roved alertly over the
scene, and everything she saw seemed to please
her. The cries of the shivering toy venders on
the sidewalk, and the clashing of gongs on the
overcrowded cable cars that passed, came to
her ears with a note of merriment that must
have been assumed especially for Christmas-
tide. To walk rapidly was no easy matter, for
the motion of the crowd was irregular ; now
fast, across some gusty, ill-lighted spot, now
slowing to a mere stroll, and now ceasing alto-
gether before a particularly attractive shop
window. The wind, too, had acquired a mis-
chievous trick of pouncing upon you from an
always unexpected direction. Dick scorned
to wear a veil in any weather, and her hair
blew all about and into her eyes, and as one
26 The Banker and the Bear
of her hands was occupied with her muff and
her purse, and the other with keeping her skirts
out of the slush, she would pause and wait for
the wind to blow the refractory lock out of the
way again. Then she would laugh, for it was
all part of the lark to Dick, and start on.
In one of these pauses she saw a little imp-
faced newsboy looking up at her with a grin so
infectious that she smiled back at him. The
effect of that smile upon the boy was immediate ;
he sprang forward, collided with one passer-by,
then with another, and seemed to carrom from
him to a position directly in front of Dick.
" Did ye want a piper, miss ? " he gasped.
He was still grinning.
"Yes," laughed Dick, and heedless of the
slush she let go her skirt and drew the purse
from her muff.
" This is jolly, isn't it ? " she said, fishing a dime
from her purse and handing it to him. " Oh, I
haven't any place to carry a paper. Never
mind. I'll get it from you some other time.
Merry Christmas," and with a bright nod she
They had stood Dick and the newsboy
in the strong light from a shop window, and the
Dick Haselridge 27
little scene may have been noted by a dozen
persons in the crowd that had flowed by them.
But one man who had come up from the direc-
tion in which Dick was going, a big man, muffled
to the eye-glasses in an ulster, had seemed par-
ticularly interested. Dick's back was toward
him as he passed, she had turned to the win-
dow in order to see into her purse, but there
was something familiar about the graceful line
of her slight figure, and he looked at her closely,
as one who thinks he recognizes but cannot be
sure, and when he was a few yards by he looked
again. This time he saw her face just as she
nodded farewell to the newsboy, and in an
instant he had turned about and was off in pur-
suit ; but when he came up to where the little
urchin was still standing, he stopped, fumbled in
his outer pockets, drew out a quarter of a dollar,
and held it out to him. " Here you are, boy,"
he said, and hurried after Dick, who was now
half a square away.
When only a few steps behind he called :
" Dick ! Dick ! What a pace you've got !
Wait a bit."
She turned, recognizing his voice ; as he came
alongside, he added :
28 The Banker and the Bear
11 You never were easy to catch, but you seem
to be getting worse in that respect. Beast of a
night, isn't it ? "
It was dark, and in the additional protection
of her high fur collar Dick permitted herself to
smile ; but she commented only on the last part
of his remark. The wrestle with the gale had
put her out of breath, and she spoke in gasps.
" Oh, yes but it's a good beast. Like a big
overgrown Newfoundland puppy."
He fell in step with her, and they walked on
more slowly in silence; for they were good
enough friends for that. At length she said,
" I thought you were going home to spend
" I did expect to, but I couldn't."
Her tone was colder when she spoke. " It's
too bad that you were detained."
" Detained ! " he exclaimed. " You know what
I meant, Dick. When mother invited you to
spend the holidays with us, and I thought from
what you said that you would, why I expected
to go, too. But as long as you stay here, why I
shall, that's all : you don't play fair, Dick."
" That spoils everything," she said quietly.
Then after a moment, " No, it doesn't either.
Dick Haselridge 29
You shan't make me cross on Christmas Eve,
whatever you say. Only, sometimes you make
it rather hard to play fair."
He answered quickly: "You're quite right
about that. I suppose I do, and pretty often.
How do you put up with me at all, Dick ? "
She laughed. " Oh, I manage it rather easily.
You're nearly always good. Just now, for in-
stance, walking away out here with me. You'll
come in to dinner with us, won't you ? "
" I think I'd better not. Mr. Bagsbury and
I have had about all we can stand of each other
for one week. We're getting used to each other
by degrees. I wonder if I irritate him as much
as he does me. Do you really like him, Dick ? "
" Yes," she said reflectively, " I really like him
very much. But I don't wonder that you don't
get on together. The only thing either of you
sees in the other is the thing he particularly
hates." She laughed softly. " But rolled to-
gether you'd be simply immense."
" Call it three hundred and sixty pounds," he
said. "Yes, that's big; as big as Melville
"As big as Mr. Sponley thinks he is," she
rejoined. "And that's a very different thing.
30 The Banker and the Bear
I hate that man. I wouldn't trust him behind
a a ladder ! "
They had reached the Bagsbury's house, and
Dick held out her hand to him. " Good night,"
she said. " I wish you were coming in. Thank
you for walking home with me."
But Jack Dorlin hesitated. " I wish you
would tell me, Dick, whether you mean to set-
tle down here to live with the Bagsburys, or
whether this is just a visit. If I camp down
here near by, and get my piano and my books,
and the rest of my truck comfortably set up just
before you pack your things and flit away, it'll
leave me feeling rather silly."
She laughed, "Why, they want me to stay,
and I think I will. I think I'll try rolling you
and Uncle John together. Good night." She
let herself into the house with a latch-key and
hurried upstairs to her room ; but before she
could reach it, she was intercepted in the upper
hall by her aunt.
" Dick ! " she exclaimed, " where have you
been ? I was beginning to be dreadfully wor-
ried about you."
For reply, Dick turned so that the light from
the chandelier shone full in her face. " Look
Dick Haselridge 31
at me," she commanded. " Look at me closely,
and see if you think there is any good in
worrying over a great healthy animal
She shook her head at every pause, and the
little drops of melted snow that beaded her
tumbled hair came rolling down her face ; and
then, slowly, she smiled.
When Dick smiled, even on others of her sex,
that put an end to argument. Alice Bagsbury
laughed a little, patted her arm affectionately,
and said : " Well, you're awfully wet, anyway, so
run along and put on some dry things. And
John is home, and we're going to have dinner
right away, so you'll have to hurry."
"I'll be down," said Dick, pausing as if for
an exact calculation, "in eight minutes. Will
that do ? "
Her aunt nodded and laughed again, and
went downstairs, while Dick, laying her watch
on her dressing table, prepared to justify her
It was a sort of miracle that Dick Haselridge
was not spoiled. Her mother, John Bagsbury's
sister Martha, remembering her own dismal
childhood, had gone far in the other direction,
32 The Banker and the Bear
and Dick had never known enough repression
or discipline at home to be worth mentioning.
Dick's real name, let it be said, was her moth-
er's, Martha, but as her two first boon compan-
ions had borne the names Thomas and Henry,
her father, so Dick said, had declared that it
was too bad to spoil the combination just
because she happened to be a girl, so almost
from her babyhood she was known as Dick.
It was not wonderful that Dick's father and
mother allowed her to do about as she pleased,
for her manner made it hard to deny her any-
thing. Long before she was ten years old, she
had made the discovery that anybody, friend or
stranger, was very likely to do what she wanted
That was a dangerous bit of knowledge for a
child to have, and it might have been disastrous
to Dick had there not been strong counteracting
influences at work. Her father died when she
was but twelve years old, and thereby it came
about that for the first time in her merry little
life Dick tasted the sorrows and the joys of
responsibility. Her mother, in the few years
of life that were left her, never entirely recov-
ered, so Dick stayed at home to keep her cheer-
Dick Haselridge 33
ful, and avert the little worries that came to
Dick was just seventeen when her mother
died, and she found herself without a home and
without a single intimate friend. For a time
she was bewildered by her grief, but her cour-
age and her indomitable buoyancy asserted
themselves, and she took the tiller of her life
in hand, to steer as good a course as she could
without the advice or assistance of anybody.
Ever since the death of Victor Haselridge,
John Bagsbury had kept a sort of track of his
sister, and when she died, he wrote Dick a let-
ter, asking her to come and live with him and
Alice ; but Dick had determined, first of all,
to go to college, so she declined the invitation.
She had not been what one would call a stu-
dious child, but she was keenly interested in
things, and she learned easily, and she had
contrived in one way or another to pick up
enough information to satisfy the entrance re-
quirement of the college she had chosen. It
was a wise decision, for in college she was busy,
she was popular, and that, as it did not turn her
head, was good for her, and best of all, she
found a few intimate friends.
34 The Banker and the Bear
The first of these was Edith Dorlin : they
were fast friends before the fall term was well
begun, and as a result Dick went home with her
to spend the Thanksgiving recess. In those
few days Mrs. Dorlin fell quite in love with her,
as did also Edith's brother Jack, who was four
years older than his sister and in his junior year
at college. The Dorlins made what was almost
a home for her during her four college years,
and as the time for graduation grew near,
Edith and her mother both besought Dick to
make her home with them permanently. Jack
also asked her to come, but his invitation in-
cluded marrying him, and Dick, though she was
really very fond of him, did not love him in the
least, so in spite of their combined entreaties she
had announced her intention of going abroad
for a year or two ; whereupon Jack, averring
that he was not cut out for a lawyer, and that
he was tired of getting his essays on things in
general back from the magazines, decided that
he ought to do something with his music and
began planning to go to Berlin to study.
But the Bagsburys had not entirely lost sight
of Dick, and on her commencement day John
appeared and repeated his invitation that she
Dick Haselridge 35
come and live with them, or at least make them
a long visit. Somewhat to Dick's surprise she
accepted; partly because the idea of having
any sort of a home appealed to her, and partly
because, in spite of her prejudice against him,
she liked John, with his strong, alert way, and
his bluntness, and his cautious keeping within
the fact ; and then this was the strongest rea-
son of all his mouth and something in the in-
flection of his voice reminded her of her mother.
Jack Dorlin's disgust when he heard of
Dick's decision quite outran his power of
"Don't you think yourself that it's mildly
insane ? " he asked her.
" I'm not going there to live," said Dick ;
" at least, I don't know that I am. Not unless
they like me awfully well."
" But just try to think a minute," he went on,
trying hard to preserve an argumentative man-
ner ; " here are we who have known you all
your life "
She smiled, and he exclaimed impatiently.
" Oh, don't be so literal ! I have known you
always, and can't you "
He broke off short. Then without giving
36 The Banker and the Bear
her time to say the words that were on her lips,
he added quickly :
" I know, Dick. I know. Don't tell me
again. I didn't mean to speak that way ; it
got away from me. But I can't see the sense
of your going away off to live with some people
you've never seen. Mother and Edith and I
have known you four years, and we do like you
awfully well; there's no 'unless' about it."
" Don't try to argue any more, Jack," she
said. " I'm going to visit the Bagsburys. I
don't know how long I'll stay; it may be a
month, and it may be a year, and I may find
a home there. But I shall miss you all dread-
fully, and you must write me lots of letters.
Tell me all about your life in Berlin, and how
your music is going and everything."
" I rather doubt my getting to Berlin this
year," he said cautiously.
He would tell her nothing more definite, but
she was not really surprised when, before she
had been a week with the Bagsburys, he came
to call on her. He was as unconcerned about
it as though he had lived all his life just around
He was so jolly and companionable, so much
Dick Haselridge 37
the old comrade and so little the despairing
lover that, try as she might, Dick could not be
sorry that he was there. He would tell her
nothing about his plans save that he meant
to stay around for a while. He said he found
he could think better when he was within a
mile of where she lived, and no entreaties could
drive him away.
That was in July, and now, at Christmas, the
situation was unchanged. With any other man
it would have been intolerable, but he was dif-
ferent. Save on rare occasions, he was always
just as on that first evening, the same lazy,
amused, round-faced, good-hearted Jack. And
she was forced to admit to herself that she was
glad he had persisted in disobeying her.
He was easily the best friend she had. To
no one else could she show her thoughts just
as they came, without stopping first to look at
them and see if they held together. With no
one else did she feel beyond the possibility of
misunderstanding. He was oh, he was the
best of good comrades.
Ah, Dick! your eight minutes have slipped
away and another eight, and still you are not
dressed for dinner.
IN quite another quarter of the city from the
crowded thoroughfare where we first saw Dick,
is another street, very different, but quite as
interesting. It is narrow and dark ; it does not
celebrate the holiday time with gayly dressed
shop windows ; between the two black ranks
of buildings that front on it, it is quite empty,
save for alert policemen who patrol it, and the
storm which has became ill natured as it whips
angrily around corners. You may search as
you will about this great city, but you will
hardly find a spot more dismal, more chilling,
more to be shunned on this jolly Christmas Eve.
There is no doubt a dreariness of poverty, but
the dreariness of wealth is worse ; hidden,
guarded, vaulted wealth, like that which lies
behind these thick stone walls. For this street
is the commercial heart of a great commercial
city. And by day all about in the city and the
The Will 39
country, in the great shops and office buildings
and in the country store, men buy and sell, lend
and borrow, without money, only with a faith
in the wealth this cheerless street contains.
Should it be destroyed, should the faith in
it be shaken but for a day, unopened shutters
would bear the bills of sheriffs' sales, and
cold ashes would lie under the boilers of great
factories. At night the heart stops beat-
ing, the crowds go away, and that which has
been sent throbbing through the arteries of
trade comes back to lie safely in thick steel
chambers, where barred doors bear cunning
locks that never sleep, but tick watchfully till
Upon this street, squeezed in uncomfortably
by two of the modern towers of Babel which our
civilization seems to have made necessary, stands
a thick, squat building of an older architecture,
which might look rather imposing, did not its
sky-scraping neighbors dwarf it to a mere notch
between them. And in front of this building,
which is, as you may have guessed, the home of
Bagsbury and Company's Savings Bank, there
drew up, at about eight o'clock on this Christ-
mas Eve, a carriage. A footman clambered
40 The Banker and tlie Bear
numbly from the box, opened the door, and
helped old Mr. Bagsbury to extricate himself
from his nest of rugs and furs ; then he almost
carried the old man across the wind-swept side-
walk and up the stairs, transferring him at the
door to the care of Thomas Jones, the watch-
" Call for me in about an hour, James. I
shall have Ah, that gale is bitter ! I shall
have finished by that time."
Thomas Jones led him to the little private
office in the corner, lighted the gas, and then
went out, closing the door behind him. Left
alone, the old man dropped into a chair and
sat there shivering for several minutes ; his
coat was still buttoned tightly round him, and
his heavily gloved hands were crammed into the
pockets. The fire of life was burning very low
in old John Bagsbury, and he knew it ; an in-
stinct, which he did not even try to reason with,
often took him, even on wild nights like this, to
the badly lighted room that was his only real
Finally he rose and walked to his private safe,
and, after fumbling with stiff fingers over the
combination, opened it and took out a small
The Will 41
iron box which he carried to the desk. Then,
sitting down before it, he drew off his fur
gloves and took out the neat piles of memo-
randa and the papers which it contained. There
was nothing to be done to them, for his affairs
had, for years, been perfectly ordered ; but he
read over the carefully listed securities as
though he expected to find some mistake. The
lists were long, for he was rich ; not so im-
moderately rich, it is true, as he would have
been, had there been a generous admixture of
daring with his great shrewdness and caution,
but still rich enough to count his fortune by
After a while, he laid the other papers back
in the box, moved it a little to one side to make
room, spread a large document out flat on the
desk and bent over it, rubbing his cramped old
hands together between his knees, and smiling
faintly. Yes, there could be no doubt about it ;
it was sane, it was clear, it was inviolable ; it
would hold safe the thing he loved best, from
rash hands that would recklessly destroy it.
In a small, snug room in young John Bags-
bury's house, by courtesy a library, though one
42 The Banker and the Bear
modest case held all its books, John and Dick
Haselridge were talking, or, rather, John was
talking, while Dick listened. They were on
opposite sides of the big desk that occupied the
middle of the room, John in the easy-chair, and
Dick in the swivel chair that stood before
the desk, where she could make little pencil
sketches on the blotter. They were alone, for
Martha, John's thirteen-year-old daughter, had
gone to bed long ago, and Alice, who always
grew sleepy very soon after John began talk-
ing shop, had followed her. It was by no
means the first of the long talks John and Dick
had had together, for he had not been slow to
discover and delight in her swift comprehension
and her honest appreciation of the turns and
twists of his business. There was no affecta-
tion in her display of interest, for the active
side of life, the exercise of judgment and skill,
appealed to her very strongly.
But to-night the talk had taken another turn,
and, somewhat to his own alarm, John found
himself telling her about his gloomy boyhood,
his disappointment in his father's bank, and
the ambition which had driven him out of it.
His talk revealed to Dick more than he knew ;
The Will 43
for between the words she could read how the
still unfulfilled ambition was not dead, but
stronger than ever; how the successes of all
those years meant nothing to him, except as
they hastened the time when he should have
the policy of Bagsbury and Company's Savings
Bank in his own hands.
If it was easy to talk to Dick, it was delight-
ful to watch her as she listened. She had
pushed aside the reading lamp, and with her
hands was shading her eyes from its light ; but
still he could see the quick frown which would
draw down her brows when the meaning of one
of his technicalities baffled her, and her nod of
comprehension when she understood. There
was no need for explanation now : he was tell-
ing her of his first meeting with Sponley, and
how the desire, aroused by the speculator's sug-
gestion that he leave his father's bank, had
grown until it was irresistible, and, finally, how
he had told his father of his determination to
go to work for Dawson.
At the mention of Sponley's name Dick had
dropped her eyes, and the pencil resumed its
play over the blotter; her dislike for the man
was so strong that she was afraid of showing
44 The Banker and the Bear
it to his friend. But when John told her of
his parting from his father, she looked up
" That must have been a terrible disappoint-
ment to grandfather," she said slowly.
" I never heard you call him that before."
" I don't believe I ever did ; I know I never
have thought of him that way. And I never
was truly sorry for him till just now."
" Sorry for him ! " John exclaimed.
Dick nodded. " Perhaps because it's Christ-
mas Eve," she said.
" Do you suppose," she asked a moment later,
"that he'll come over to-morrow? He always
comes on Christmas, doesn't he ? "
" Nearly always," he answered. " He gener-
ally comes two or three times a year. But he's
getting pretty old now."
" What an utterly lonely life he's led all these
years," said Dick. "Think of it! I wonder "
The sharp jangle of the telephone bell cut her
short. John sprang up to answer it.
"Yes. Who is this? Thomas Jones? Oh,
yes at the bank What do you say ?
Are you sure ? Have you a doctor there ?
Yes, I'll be over directly."
The Will 45
He turned to Dick, who had risen and was
standing close beside him.
" I've got to go out for a while," he said.
" There's a man sick over at the bank."
" Who is it ? " she asked. " Is it grandfather ? "
John answered her, " He's over at our bank
his bank. The watchman telephoned. He
thinks he's dead, but it may be only a faint.
I'm going down there right away."
As he spoke, he turned back to the telephone ;
his hand was on the bell crank when Dick
"I'm going, too. You telephone for a car-
riage, and I'll be ready as soon as it comes."
" You ! You mustn't go. There'll be nothing
you can do."
"I want to very much," she answered.
" Please take me."
With a nod of assent he rang the bell, and she
hurried from the room.
Their drive to the bank was a silent one, and
though they went rapidly, it seemed a long time
to Dick before they stopped in front of the dis-
mal building in the narrow street. When they
alighted, John led the way into the bank, picking
his way about in the dimness with the confidence
46 The Banker and the Bear
of perfect familiarity ; he knew that nothing had
been changed in all the years.
At the door of the private office John paused
an instant, uncovered, and looked about on the
well-known appointments of the little room
before he dropped his gaze on the stark figure
lying upon the worn old sofa. Then he walked
across to it, and Dick followed him into the
office. The two stood a minute looking down
in silence on the figure of the old man ; then
John turned and spoke to Thomas Jones, who
had arisen from his chair in the corner when
they came in.
"You were right," said John. "He is dead.
Hasn't the doctor come ? "
" No, sir. I sent Mr. Bagsbury's carriage
after him as directly as I found out what had
happened, before I telephoned to you. He
should be here by now."
" Did he die here, on the sofa, I mean ? " John
" In his chair, sir. I heard a noise, and when
I came in I found that he had fallen over on
the desk; his head and arms were resting on
those papers. I thought it might be just a faint,
and carried him over here."
The Will 47
At the mention of the desk, John turned to
it. There were two minutes of silence after
Thomas Jones had finished speaking, and then
they heard in the street the rumble of the car-
" It's the doctor," said John. "Go and bring
him up here."
The man went out, and still John's eyes rested
on the disordered papers upon the desk. Dick,
standing at his left, but a pace behind him, had
also turned her eyes from the dead figure of
the old banker ; she was intently watching the
son's face. Once she started to speak, but hesi-
tated; then, seeing a slight motion of John's
body, a motion that seemed preparatory to a
step toward the desk, she took a swift decision.
" They're his private papers, aren't they ? "
she said. " Hadn't we better put them away ?
They shouldn't lie here."
"Yes," said John, decisively. "Will you do
He stood watching her without volunteering
to help while she laid the papers back in the
" It has a spring lock," he said, when she had
finished. " You have only to shut it."
48 The Banker and the Bear
When he heard the lock click, he walked to
the safe and pulled open the heavy door. Dick
carried the box to the safe and put it in, and
John shut the door, shot the bolts, and spun the
combination knob around vigorously.
" They're all right now," he said. Then he
walked to the chair in the corner, though the
big office chair that stood before the desk was
nearer, and sat down, just as Thomas came in
with the doctor.
The day after the funeral John went to the
office of his father's attorney to hear the reading
of the will. Judge Hayes he had been a judge
once was a stout little man with a bald, round
head ; he had no eyebrows worth mentioning
nor lashes, and altogether his red wrinkled face
was laughably like that of a baby. His shell-
rimmed eye-glasses, by looking ridiculously out
of place, only made this effect the more striking.
He ushered John into his private office,
closed the door, motioned John to a seat, sat
down heavily in his own broad chair, and began
rummaging fussily through his littered desk to
find the will. It may seem strange that a
lawyer whom old John Bagsbury would trust
should be so careless about an important docu-
The Will 49
ment like a last will and testament, that finding
it in his desk should be a matter of difficulty ;
but it is certain that Judge Hayes had looked in
every pigeonhole in his desk, and had opened
every drawer and shut it again with a bang,
before his hand alighted upon the paper which
at this moment meant more than anything else
to the man who sat waiting. All the while the
Judge had been hailing down a shower of small
remarks upon all conceivable subjects, and John
had answered all of them in a voice that gave no
hint of impatience.
At last he unfolded the will, swung round in
his chair to get a better light on it, tilted back
at a seemingly perilous angle, cleared his throat,
and said :
"This storm makes it rather hard to see.
I wonder how many more days it will last ? "
" I guess it's about worked itself out," said
John. " It can't last forever."
Judge Hayes began reading in that rapid
drone which lawyers affect, but he knew the will
almost by heart, and he found time to cast many
swift glances at John Bagsbury.
John sat low in his chair, his chin on his
breast, his legs crossed, his thumbs hooked into
his trousers pockets. His eyes were half closed,
the lower lids being drawn to meet the drooping
upper ones ; his gaze seemed fixed on one of
the casters of the lawyer's chair; his brows
bore the slight frown of a man who listens
intently. And that was all ; though the lawyer's
glance grew more expectant and alert as he pro-
ceeded, there was no change in the lines of
John Bagsbury's face or figure to betray anger
or disappointment or annoyance not even a
movement of his suspended foot.
Not until Judge Hayes had read the will to
the last signature and tossed it back into his
desk, did John speak.
" If I have caught the gist of it," he said,
" my father has left me nearly all of his
" The greater part of it," corrected the lawyer.
" Which amounts to something less than three
million dollars "
"Somewhat less, yes; considerably less."
" But that it is all trusteed," John went on
quite evenly, " so that I can't touch a cent of it,
except part of the income."
" Not without the express consent of the
trustees," said Judge Hayes.
The Will 51
" The same conditions," said John, with a
faint smile, " which would apply to my touching
your money. As I understand it, these three
trustees are allowed the widest discretion ; they
may do with my property just what they think
The lawyer nodded.
" Even to the extent of turning it over to me
Here the lawyer smiled. " Even to that
extent," he said.
"They vote my bank stock just as though
they owned it," said John.
" Suppose they disagree ? "
"Then it can't be voted at all."
" Well," said John, rising, " I guess I under-
stand. How soon shall we be able to get the
will proved ? "
" If everything goes smoothly," said the
Judge, "that is, if there is no contest and no
irregularity of any sort, we should be able to
prove it in a week or two."
"There will be no contest, I imagine," said
John. " Good day."
As the door closed behind John, Judge Hayes
52 The Banker and the Bear
swung back to his desk, put his elbows on it,
and his chin on his hands, and for the next ten
minutes he meditated upon the attainments
and the prospects of the man who had just left
him. For the past half hour he had tried all
that long experience and a fertile mind could
suggest to tear off what he felt to be John's
mask of indifference. He knew what a blow
that will must be, and he wanted to see how the
real man, the man inside the shell, was taking
it. He felt sure that the composure was a
veneer, and he had done his best to rasp through
it. "Well," he concluded, as he reluctantly
turned to something else, "the coating is laid
on confounded thick."
As for John, he was walking swiftly up the
street with the unmistakable air of a man who
is about to attempt something, and intends to
succeed in it. And yet, to all appearances, the
situation was hopeless. His father had held a
majority of the stock in the bank ; the rest was
in the hands of investors who had been attracted
by the eminent respectability and conservatism
of the policy the old man had established, and
it was not likely they would look with favor on
anything in the way of a change. And the
The Will S3
three trustees whom old Mr. Bagsbury had
selected were men after his own heart, crusty,
obstinate, timorous. They controlled John's
stock a majority of all the stock of the bank
as absolutely as if they were the joint owners
But an ironical providence has ordained that
excessive caution shall often overreach itself,
and the old man's attempt to make safer what
was already safe, gave John his opportunity.
Had there been but one trustee, John's case
would indeed have been hopeless ; but old Mr.
Bagsbury, finding it impossible to trust any one
man utterly, had trusted three.
In a flash of intuition John had seen his
chance and had asked Judge Hayes the ques-
tion, whose significance the lawyer had failed to
grasp, even as he answered it. As John walked
along the street he smiled over a proverb which
was running in his head. Doubtless it was a
wild injustice to think of three blameless old
men as rogues, but in their falling out lay John's
hope of coming into his own. For if the trus-
tees should disagree as to the way his stock
should be voted at the annual meeting, it could
not be voted at all ; and if John and his friends
54 The Banker and the Bear
could get control of more than half the stock
now in the hands of outsiders, he could put
himself where, he knew he belonged, at the
head of Bagsbury and Company's Savings
One "if" is enough to bring most men anx-
iety and sleepless nights; two "if's," both of
them slender ones, may well drive a brave man
to despair. But there was no thought of fail-
ure in John's mind ; he meant to win.
John was one of the best bankers in the city,
which is another way of saying that he knew
men as well as he knew markets. Not men in
a general, philosophical sort of way Men, with
a big letter; he had no interest in " types." But
he knew Smith and Jones and Robinson right
down to the ground. He knew the customers
of Dawson's bank and of other banks too men
who came to him to persuade him to lend them
money; he knew their tricks and their tempers
as well as their balances. And in all the years
of waiting he had not been ignorant of the way
things were going with Bagsbury and Company.
He knew his father's customers, his friends,
such as they were, and he knew the three old
trustees, Meredith, Cartwright, and Moffat.
The Will 55
He knew that you couldn't talk to Cart-
wright ten minutes without having Meredith
quoted at you, or to Meredith without hearing
some new instance of Cartwright's phenome-
nally accurate judgment; that each thought the
other only the merest hair's breadth his inferior,
and that they could be relied on to agree and
continue to agree indefinitely.
And Moffat? John smiled when he thought
of him. The one thing in the world which
Moffat couldn't tolerate was obstinacy; and as
nearly everybody Moffat knew was disgust-
ingly wrong-headed, old Mr. Moffat found it
difficult to get on smoothly with people. Mof-
fat could not explain why men should be so
cock-sure and so perversely deaf to reason, but
certainly he found them so. It was most un-
fortunate, because though by intention one of
the most peaceable of men, he was constantly
being driven by righteous indignation into
When John left Judge Hayes, he headed
straight for Mr. Moffat's office. The old gen-
tleman welcomed him cordially, for he had
always held Mr. Bagsbury in the highest
esteem, and was prepared, if he should find in
56 The Banker and the Bear
John his father's common sense, to think well
of him, too.
John talked freely about the will, and con-
fessed his disappointment that his father had
not thought him capable of administering the
fortune himself. He added, however, that his
wish was the same as his father's, that the estate
should be kept safe, and that he had no doubt
it would be in the hands of the three trustees
his father had chosen. They chatted on for
some time, John feeling his way cautiously
about among the old man's opinions, dropping
a word now and then about Cartwright or
Meredith, until finally he drew this remark
from Mr. Moffat:
"I have only the barest acquaintance with
my fellow-trustees. Do you know them well ? "
"I've known them for a good many years,"
John answered, "though I can't say that I
know them well. They're thoroughly honora-
ble, and they have some ability, too. You'll find
they have a disagreeable habit of backing each
other up, though. In that respect, they're like
a well-trained pair of setter dogs. If one
points, the other will too, and he'll stick to it
whether he sees anything or not. But I've no
The Will 57
doubt you'll be able to get along with them well
With that he shifted the subject abruptly on
another tack, and a few minutes later took his
leave. He was well satisfied with the after-
noon's work, for he felt confident that the Bags-
bury holdings would not be voted at the next
stockholders' meeting. It was a little seed he
had sown, but it had fallen into good ground.
He went straight home after that and found
Dick curled up in the big chair in the library,
reading. She glanced up at him, and as he
spoke to her there was a vibrant quality in his
voice that made her close her book and ask him
what had happened.
" I'm just going to telephone to Sponley,"
he said. " Listen, and you'll hear part of it.
That'll save telling it twice."
Over the telephone he told Sponley all about
the terms of the will, adding that his only
chance now lay in getting control of the outside
stock. He asked Sponley to come to the house
that night after dinner to talk things over.
Then he rang off, and sitting down on the
desk he told Dick what he had not told Spon-
ley, all about his interview with M off at. And
58 The Banker and the Bear
though Dick nodded her pretty head apprecia-
tively, and seemed thoroughly to grasp the situa-
tion, yet when he finished her face still wore a
John was too busy making his plans to think
much of it, but he wondered vaguely what she
had failed to understand.
DICK was, indeed, somewhat bewildered and
disappointed. Had the events of Christmas
Eve and the few following days occurred
during the first month of her stay with the
Bagsburys, she would have made no attempt
to look beneath the surface, but would have
packed her trunks and fled out of that grimy
atmosphere with the least possible delay; and
poor Jack Dorlin would have had to pull up his
stakes and follow, who knows whither. But in
the six months she had developed an affection
for both John and Alice. She could not have
told you why. They were totally different
from her other friends. But our affections are
based on no analysis. We like or love, not at
all because we see in this person or that a
certain combination of qualities, no more than
we like beefsteak because it contains carbon
and hydrogen and other uninviting elements
60 The Banker and the Bear
in a fixed proportion. Perhaps Dick liked John
and Alice because they had become so fond
of her, because they gave her their confidences,
or because she had brought a sweeter, fresher
influence into their lives than either had known
before, like a breath of country air in a smoky
She thought a good deal in the course of the
first weeks following old Bagsbury's death and
the reading of the will. She could not forget
the scene she had witnessed, and in which she
had finally taken a part, in the dingy little
private office at the bank. She felt keenly the
pathos of the old man's death there, over the
desk which held his whole world ; his head
among the papers which had received all the
affection that his withered soul could give.
But it was not the old man's death that had
made her cry that night as she drove home
alone in the jolting carriage ; it was the look she
had seen in the son's face as he stood there, his
back to the still figure on the sofa, and his eyes
fastened greedily on those same papers. In
this sordid presence even death seemed to lose
its dignity. Yes, Dick had cried all the way
home, simply with an uncontrollable disgust.
A Victory 61
And afterward, so soon afterward, she had
seen his father's will become for John simply
a legal document, which stood in his way, which
was to be evaded, if possible, because evasion
was swifter and surer than direct attack. For
accomplishing his purpose no tool seemed too
small, no way too devious. His disappointment
over the will was not at all because it showed
that he had not gained his father's confidence,
but simply because it postponed or perhaps
made impossible his getting control of his
Dick knew how this would have affected her
six months before. She was puzzled and a little
ashamed to find herself justifying it now, and
she feared that her friendship for John was
None the less it came about that Dick entered
enthusiastically into the fight for the control of
the stock. Hers was a spectator's part, and
night after night, when around the big desk in
the library sat John and Robins and Sponley,
and sometimes old Dawson, who had retired
from business, but whom John continued to
regard as a sort of commercial godfather ; when
the cigar smoke eddied thick about the read-
62 The Banker and the Bear
ing lamp, she would sit in the easy-chair in the
darkest corner of the room, listening to the tele-
graphic sentences which were shot back and
Then there were the evenings, and these too
were frequent, when Jack Dorlin would come
over and listen with what grace he could to
Dick's account of the progress of the struggle.
It did not interest him particularly ; but as Dick
would not be induced to talk of anything else,
he had to make the best of it.
But one night his self-control gave way.
Dick had been telling him, with great gusto,
how more and more of the outside stock was
either coming under John's control or was being
promised to his support, and how old Mr. Moffat
had already quarrelled violently with Mr. Mere-
dith and Mr. Cartwright, and that he was coming
round to John's side in a most satisfactory man-
ner. She narrated it, as she did nearly every-
thing, with just the lightest possible stress on the
humorous aspect of it ; but Jack sat through it
all with unshaken solemnity.
" I don't see that it's particularly funny," he
said at last.
Dick flushed quickly, glanced at him and then
A Victory 63
back to the fire. But he was not looking at her,
and after a little pause he went on :
" It seems to me pretty small business, all
round. It's rather different from anything I've
ever known you to be interested in before. I
can't quite understand your enthusiasm over
" No," said Dick, " I don't suppose you can."
Jack was warming to his subject, and he mis-
read her words into an acknowledgment that he
" I've known you longer than John Bagsbury
has," he went on, " and I think that I've as good
a claim to your friendship ; but I'd like to know
what you'd think of me if I should do a trick
like that, go round and deliberately stir up a
row so that I could profit by it."
" I should think you were a cad," she said
calmly, " and I should ask you not to call here
in the future."
" I should like to be able to see what makes
" Why, this is the difference," Dick answered
slowly ; " John Bagsbury is the sort of man that
does things; and you're well, you'd rather watch
other people do them,"
64 The Banker and the Bear
She paused and glanced at his face ; then with
a smile she went on :
" It's like a football game. If you're stand-
ing in the side lines, you aren't allowed to punch
people's heads, or kick shins, but if you're run-
ning with the ball, why nobody minds if you
forget to be polite."
" That's a bit rough," he said musingly, " but
I'm not sure that you're not right and that
I'm not just about as useless as that."
"I didn't say that," she retorted, "and I
don't mean it. It takes both sorts of people,
of course, and I like you a great deal better
than I do John Bagsbury; but I find there's
rather more to life than I could see when I first
came here ; and when a man's strong, as he is,
and ambitious, and has a sort of courage that's
more than just the love of a fight, and when he's
honest with himself and lives up to what he
knows, why, I admire him and I can forgive him
if he has some callous spots. And I don't think
that people who've never had his ambitions or
temptations or anything can afford to look down
When she stopped she was breathing quickly,
and her eyes were unusually bright, There was
A Victory 65
a long silence, and then she added, with a little
" I never knew before that I could make a
He said nothing, and after a moment she
glanced at him almost shyly, to discover if she
had offended him. He did not look up, but
kept his eyes fixed thoughtfully on the fire, so,
secure in his preoccupation, she watched his
face intently. Their comradeship had, for years,
held itself to be above the necessity of conversa-
tion; but to-night, as the silence deepened and
endured, it brought to Dick a message it had
not borne before.
At length he spoke, "That's your ultima-
tum, is it, Dick ? "
There was something in his voice she had
never heard before, and now she knew that ever
since one evening long ago she had been wait-
ing to hear it. Her heart leaped, and a wave of
glad color came into her face, but she answered
"Yes, I suppose it is."
For a little while he sat there looking at the
fire, then he rose, and, standing beside her chair,
let his hand rest lightly on her shoulder.
66 The Banker and the Bear
" Good night, Dick," he said simply.
Next evening Robins and Bessel and Sponley
came before John had fairly finished his dinner,
and in the library the smoke was thicker and
the talk choppier than ever before, and Dick, in
her dark corner, listened more intently. The
time for preparation was growing short; the
decisive day was drawing very near. It could
easily be seen now that the voting at the stock-
holders' meeting would be close, horribly close,
provided always that the trustees of John
Bagsbury's stock could not agree as to how it
should be voted.
Leaving that out of the question, the fortunes
of the day hung upon a large block of stock,
which, according to the secretary's book, was
the property of Jervis Curtin. How he meant
to vote it, how he could be persuaded to
vote it for John's faction, was the question
which the four allies were met to discuss this
" Can't understand where he got money
enough to buy a big chunk like that," said
" Queer thing," Sponley answered. " Must
have made some strike we don't know about.
A Victory 67
Anyhow, it seems he's got it, and the Lord
only knows how he means to vote it. I've
been talking to him till I'm tired, but I can't
make him commit himself."
" Know any reason any personal reason
why he's holding back ? " asked Bessel.
Sponley shook his head. " Never met him
before this business came up," he answered.
Melville Sponley was playing badly. He
was a strong believer in the efficacy of truth,
in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, and
when forced to deviate from the truth he always
tried to make the deviation as narrow as possi-
ble. But just this once, to adopt fencer's par-
lance, he parried wide ; he told more of a lie
than was necessary, and by one of those haz-
ards which are not astonishing only because
they occur so frequently, by the veriest fluke in
the world, Dick Haselridge knew he had lied.
This is how it happened. A day or two before,
Dick had gone to a song recital, and as the pro-
gramme proved unexpectedly short, she found
when she came out that the Bagsbury carriage
had not yet come. While she was debating
whether to wait for it or to try her fortunes in
the elevated, Mrs. Jervis Curtin had offered to
68 The Banker and the Bear
take her home. Dick had met her just once
and had not liked her, but the rain was pouring,
and it was so much easier to accept than to
decline that she did the former. On the way
home Mrs. Curtin asked Dick to come home
with her first and have a cup of tea, and Dick,
who had been thinking hard about something
else, assented before she thought.
They had not been three minutes in the little
reception room before they heard footsteps and
voices in the hall. The portiere was thick, but
Dick heard first a high voice, which she did not
know, and then a gruffer one, which she seemed
to recognize. As she glanced toward the por-
tiere, Mrs. Curtin said,
" That must be Mr. Sponley with Mr. Curtin."
Mrs. Curtin had not the smallest interest
in Melville Sponley, but something must serve
for conversation until the kettle could be
got to boil, and he made the best material
at hand, so she talked about him : how a few
months ago he had come to see Mr. Curtin a
number of times ; how once he had brought Mrs.
Sponley to call on them. She told Dick what
she thought of them, and what her friends
thought of them and a great deal more, which
A Victory 69
bored Dick and herself also exceedingly, so that
both of them were very much relieved when
it was possible for Dick to take her leave.
But now !
Sponley had never thought Dick worth tak-
ing into account. He believed her apparent
interest in the fight for the bank to be nothing
more than a pose. He had met many of those
women who will affect an interest in anything
so long as it is out of what used to be consid-
ered "woman's sphere," and he took it for
granted that Dick was doing the same thing.
So though his eyes were everywhere else, they
never fell on Dick. Had he looked at her now,
he would have seen that she knew he had lied.
She began to try to think out the meaning of
it, but checked herself, for she must follow the
"He's holding out for something, that's all
there is to it," said Robins. "What do you
suppose he wants? Board of Directors?"
" He can't have that, if he does want it,"
said John. "We couldn't get him in if we
wanted to try, and he's not the right sort, any
"Wonder how something with 9. salary to it
70 The Banker and the Bear
would suit him," Sponley said thoughtfully. " I
don't believe it would have to be too near the
" Assistant cashier ? " asked John.
Sponley nodded. " Guess we could land him
with that," he said.
John smiled rather ruefully. " We've got to
have him, so I suppose we'll have to pay
the price. It'll simply mean putting in a
high-priced man for discount clerk to do his
Those were busy days, for while John was
bringing every available resource into line for
the approaching struggle, Alice and Dick
were superintending the rehabilitation of the
gloomy old house where John had spent his
boyhood, and which was now to be their home.
It would be unfair not to mention Jack Dorlin
in this connection, for his taste, his energy, when
he chose to exert it, and his unlimited leisure
made him a most valuable ally. The three
spent about half their days in the big house, con-
sulting, arguing the advisibility of this change
or that, arranging and rearranging, until even
Dick admitted she was tired.
But she found time to tell Jack all she knew
A Victory 71
about the fight for the bank, and to her surprise
she found that her enthusiasm had proved con-
tagious, for Jack was infected with as great an
eagerness over the result as she herself.
Melville Sponley had the lion's share of their
discussions, but they could not make out the
purpose of his deceit. They were agreed that
what they knew was too indefinite to speak to
John about, at least as yet.
" And any way," Jack observed, " Sponley
isn't an out-and-out villain."
"All the same," said Dick, "I wish we could
find out what his purpose was in saying he didn't
know Mr. Curtin." Then she added, laughing,
"That does sound detectivish, doesn't it? We
might set a detective to following Mr. Curtin."
" Yes," he answered ; " say we do."
The days of preparation and struggle came
to an end at last, and John won. His father's
stock was not voted, and of the Board of Direc-
tors elected by the outside stock only two were
likely to attempt to oppose his policy, while
the other four were men he could count on to
help him. He was sorry he had been forced
to pledge to Curtin the position of assistant
cashier; but he comforted himself with the
72 The Banker and the Bear
reflection that the concession had been well
worth the price.
He had arrived, not at the goal, but rather,
after years of waiting, at what he regarded as
the starting line. The situation was very dif-
ferent from what he had been looking forward
to. His hold on the presidency was so insecure
that one of a dozen accidents might dislodge
him ; but he was in no humor for complaining.
He had a chance, and that was all John Bags-
When he came home, bearing the good news,
even Alice was excited, and Dick could scarcely
contain herself. Jack came over while they
were still at dinner, and hearing his voice in
the hall, she rushed from the table to welcome
" Well, we've won," they cried simultaneously.
Then they laughed and shook hands, both hands,
and then for a second there seemed to be nothing
more to say.
Jack broke the silence. " When we get fairly
settled, you must come down to see us."
" We ! Us ! " she exclaimed. " Jack ! what do
you mean ? "
"Why," he said, " I asked Mr. Bagsbury for
A Victory 73
a job, and he has promised me one. I believe
it is in what they call the kindergarten."
She had been looking at him in doubt as to
whether or not he was making game of her ; but
now she saw that he was telling the truth, and
" Jack ! Jack ! " she cried. Then with a little
laugh she began again. " Oh, you absurd "
Again she stopped and said composedly :
" We've not finished dinner yet. Will you
come into the dining room to wait, or would you
rather go into the library where you can smoke ? "
Jack went into the library and lighted a cigar
very deliberately. Then he remarked with con-
" If she'd looked that way for another second,
I'd have kissed her."
SPONLEY drove home immediately after the re-
sult of the election became known ; but Harriet
had expected him earlier, and when she heard
the carriage drive up, she hurried into the hall
and opened the door before he reached it.
" How did you come out ? " she asked.
" We win," he answered, " and comfortably,
He closed the door behind him and then
kissed her, and while she was helping him out
of his great-coat, he asked her how her day had
"Well enough," she answered briefly, "but
never mind about that. I want to know all
about the stockholders' meeting."
From a casual glance they seem to have
changed but little since John Bagsbury's wed-
ding day. Sponley has put on another twenty
pounds of flesh ; he is so heavy now that he
Old Friends 75
walks but little and sits down whenever it is
possible. His hair is thinner and his lower eye-
lids sag somewhat, showing the red. As for
Harriet, her once black hair is really very gray,
and the lines are drawn deeper in her face ; but
her color is as fresh as ever, and her carriage is
erect. Only a close observer would note that
her eyes are too bright and are seldom still, and
that the color in her cheeks flickers at a sudden
noise or movement. When she is left alone and
is sure that no one sees, her nervous energy
seems to depart suddenly and leave her limp
and exhausted ; then her face grows haggard,
and she stares at objects without seeing them.
Twenty years ago Sponley would have ob-
served; he would have surrounded her with
doctors and nurses, or have taken her away to
some quiet place where she might rest. He
would do all that now, and more, only he does
not see. For the years have changed him too.
Melville Sponley and others like him are the
soldiers of fortune of to-day. The world has
always known these gentry in every grade in
the social scale, from the great duke, who once
led the armies of the queen of England and was
never unwilling to sell out to any one who could
76 The Banker and the Bear
afford to pay his price, to the poor devil who,
for a half crown, would drive a knife into a
man's back; whatever their ability, whatever
their weapons, daggers, or collateral securities,
they are all alike in this : that not having, but
getting, is their purpose ; it is not the stake but
the play that interests them. In all the active
years of business, Sponley has never pro-
duced any wealth, he has never fostered an
industrial enterprise or any commercial inter-
est whatever ; he has juggled with many and has
wrecked not a few. He has fought now on this
side of the market, now on that, and he has yet
to meet with his first real defeat. That is partly
due to luck, no doubt, but not so much as many
men suppose. Like any other soldier of fortune,
he wins by the difference between his nerve and
quickness of judgment and that of other men.
It is very easy to call such a man a rascal
when you are reading about him in a book ;
but if you begin doing it among the men of
your acquaintance, it will be awkward.
There is indeed a blind spot on Melville
Sponley's moral retina which gives him only a
very confused sense of the eighth command-
ment; but still Jack Dorlin was right in saying
Old Friends 77
that he is not a thorough-going villain. In the
score of years past he has done much good ; he
has, whenever possible, been loyal to his friends,
and he has never ceased to hold a genuine
affection for his wife ; but the struggle has
hardened him, has cased him in a shell, and like
an old-time man-at-arms in a helmet, he can
see only the thing immediately in front of him.
Harriet has been in the fight, too, only hers
has been the harder part. When she married
Melville Sponley, she gave up everything to
him, and through all the years she has had no
interests but his. She has followed all his
campaigns, has praised him and schemed with
him, and been ambitious as he himself for his
success. Had she borne him any children
whose care would have brought a gentler influ-
ence into her life, or even if she had been able
to find any real companionship among other
women, it might have been different. But as
it is, in spite of her courage and determination,
the strain has been unendurable, and her nerves
have been breaking, slowly at first, but more
rapidly in these last few months ; and as her
own ambition has always been that she might
help him win, the terror that has dogged her
78 The Banker and the Bear
has been that she may prove a drag upon him.
So she has told herself every day that she is
glad he does not see.
To their friends, their home life shows few
changes after the twenty years. It was still as
comfortable and quiet and unostentatious as
when John Bagsbury was first introduced into
it. They live in the same house, and to-night,
after dinner, they came out into the same big
fire-lit room where John met Alice Blair.
Sponley lighted a cigar and dropped into his
easy-chair before the fire, while Harriet sat
down at the piano. He never tired of hearing
her play, and now he listened comfortably and
blew smoke rings. But as the minutes went by
her music lost consequence and ceased to be
anything but a fitful progression of hard, disso-
nant chords. Once he glanced curiously at her,
but her eyes were on the keys, and she did not
see him. Finally she struck a grating discord,
softly, and continued it as though loath to let
it go until it throbbed away in silence.
" What the dickens are you playing ! " he
Her hands leaped from the keys ; she caught
her breath in a gasp, and there came a splash
Old Friends 79
of color into her face followed by a dead pallor.
Two or three seconds passed before she could
command her voice.
" You startled me," she said monotonously ;
" I was thinking."
" I'm sorry," he said, with real concern.
"You're so different from other women in the
matter of nerves that I never think of your
She smiled somewhat ruefully at the com-
pliment. " I was thinking," she said, " about
that Jervis Curtin affair. It puzzles me. You
haven't told me all about it."
She paused to give him a chance to reply, but
he only gazed meditatively at the thread of blue
smoke rising from his cigar, and after a moment
she went on :
" Of course I know that you helped him out
a few months ago when he mixed himself up
in some speculation or other, and I know Mrs.
Jervis Curtin, too ; so that it seems queer that
he should have been able to get hold of enough
of the Bagsbury stock to lay down the law to
you and John."
" There's nothing to make a mystery about,"
he said at length. " He hasn't any of the stock ;
8o The Banker and the Bear
not a dollar of it. I hold all that's in his name.
I had him get it for me because I thought I
might be able to use it to better advantage
if it wasn't known to belong to me."
"Why did you put him in the bank ? "
" He wanted it ; he can't afford to do nothing.
You're right in thinking that his wife spends
more than his income, and he needed the salary.
I put him in just on general principles."
" With the understanding that he's to watch
John Bagsbury," she said quickly.
" With no definite understanding at all. Of
course, in a general way, he's there in my inter-
est, and he knows it."
" What are you planning to do to John ? "
she asked. " Stick him or squeeze him or
something ? I thought you two were friends."
" We are friends," Sponley answered slowly,
patiently, as one might speak to a child. " And
I'm not laying any plot to stick him. Nobody
does that wantonly, unless he's a great fool. It's
a kind of smartness that doesn't pay. We are
friends," he repeated, "and I hope we always
may be. I honestly believe that our interests
" Then I don't see why you go to the trouble
of hiring a man to spy on him."
Old Friends 8 1
" If a man could trust absolutely to his fore-
sight, he wouldn't have to do things like that,
but he can't. I don't expect to have to fight
John Bagsbury ; but something may turn up
that I'm not looking for. If it does, I'm better
off for not laying all my cards on the table.
That's all. But I'd go a long way to avoid a
fight with him."
"Then your friendship for him is just like
your friendship for other men, only a little
more so ; it goes just as far as it pays."
He said nothing. She rose abruptly, walked
to the window, and drawing aside the curtain,
stood looking at the dusty snow on the ledge.
She had suddenly felt that she could not bear
to look at him, he sat so still. After a moment
she spoke again.
" I knew it was that way at first. We made
friends with him because we thought it would
help along. But I thought that in all these
years he had got to be something more to you
than just a good investment that you'd hate
to have to take your money out of."
Still he did not speak. He had not even
turned his head when she had walked to the
82 The Banker and the Bear
" I wonder " her voice, in spite of her
effort, was fast getting beyond her control
" I wonder if there's anything anything in
the world that's any more to you than that,
or if I'm just part of the game. Oh," she
choked, but recovered her voice and went on
rapidly, "you didn't want to tell me about the
Curtin business. Is it because "
He rose heavily from his chair ; and, coming
up behind her, laid his hands on her shoulders.
" Steady," he said ; " you're tired to-night. I
hadn't noticed before, but you must be rather
played out. I never knew you to break this way
before. What you need is a good rest. You
go to bed now, and to-morrow, when you feel
better, we'll talk about going away somewhere
where you can rest up."
" No," she said quickly, facing him, " I don't
want to go away. I'd rather see it out here."
With an effort, which he did not at all appre-
ciate, she was rapidly regaining control of her-
self. When next she spoke, her manner was
"I'm rather fagged to-night," she admitted;
"but I'll be all right in the morning. And I
had been worrying over your not telling me
Old Friends 83
about that. I've been acting in a very silly
way about it. Forget it, dear, won't you ? "
" I think we'd better call it square," he an-
swered, smiling. " I ought to have told you all
about it. I don't quite know why I didn't."
He went upstairs with her ; then, leaving her
at the door, came down to finish his cigar.
He sat there a long time, thinking. Harriet's
break, as he called it, alarmed him ; largely, it
must be confessed, on his own account. She
was the only companion he had ; she stimulated
him and rested him, and, what was most impor-
tant, she appreciated him. The delight would
be gone out of a successful campaign if she
were not at his elbow to perceive and applaud
and suggest. Yet his thoughts were not wholly
selfish. Harriet was the best part of him ; his
affection for her was perhaps induced only by
her strong devotion to him, but whatever its
cause and its limitations, it was genuine. But
he did not at all appreciate how serious her
condition really was, and he soon ceased think-
ing about her at all.
He took up the evening paper, and after
reflecting a long while over the commercial
pages, he decided that lard was going to be
84 The Banker and the Bear
a lot higher in the next few months, and that
he would buy some next day. Then he threw
aside the paper, and his mind reverted to John
Bagsbury. In telling Harriet that he did not
expect ever to be forced into a fight with John,
he had not been frank. There was, indeed, as
yet no reason for anticipating such an occur-
rence ; but Sponley was intelligent enough to
trust his intuitions, and he felt sure that sooner
or later he and John would have to settle the
question as to which was the better man.
He had no idea when the struggle would
come ; he would have been greatly surprised
had he known how imminent it really was ; and
he could form no guess as to what could precipi-
tate it. But he knew he would be ready for it
when it did come, and at the thought he smiled
in genuine artistic anticipation. John Bagsbury
was a worthy antagonist. Sponley did not wish
to fight him, he would go far to avoid fighting
him ; but if it should come to that, and he
knew in his heart it would, well, the fight
would be worth coming a long way to see.
" Is Mr. Bagsbury in ? "
The question was addressed to Jervis Curtin,
who was sitting at his desk just outside the
" I think so," he answered. " Just go right
through into the inner office. I fancy you'll
find him there."
The visitor nodded, and, walking through the
cashier's private office, entered John Bagsbury's
sanctum and closed the door behind him.
"Who is he ? " Curtin asked of a clerk who
happened to be standing near his desk.
" Don't you know him ? That's Pickering,
William George Pickering, the soap man.
You've heard of Pickering's Diamond Soap,
haven't you ? Well, he's the man. It's pretty
poor soap, I guess, but he got the scheme of
making it in diamond-shaped cakes, and it
caught right on. He's richer'n the devil."
86 The Banker and the Bear
The clerk thought Curtin looked interested,
so he was encouraged to continue his remarks.
" He takes a whirl at the market every now
and then, too. He smashed up that Smith deal
last winter: smashed it all to smithereens.
Just a joke," he added, to explain the fact that
he had giggled, "Smith smithereens. But, as
I was saying, Pickering's a corker. He just
lays low and doesn't show his hand until "
"Good Lord!" ejaculated Curtin, with a
laugh. " That's enough. I don't want to write
" All right," said the clerk, " I just came over
to ask you if I should enter that "
"You'd better take it to Mr. Jackson or Mr.
Peters," Curtin interrupted quickly. " I haven't
time to see about it now."
" But " the clerk began.
" I've got to meet a man," said Curtin, looking
at his watch, "in exactly three minutes, at a
place just five and a half squares from here, so
you'll have to excuse me," and seizing his hat,
The younger man stared after him disap-
provingly and then walked back toward his
own place, stopping for a talk with one of his
fellow-clerks, who was none other than Jack
" That man Curtin doesn't know a damn
thing," he said. " I can't see, if Bagsbury is as
good a banker as they say he is, why he doesn't
get on to it. Any man who knows anything
much about banking, can see that Curtin isn't
fit for his job."
Jack stopped his pencil, which was moving
slowly up a column of figures, just as carefully
as though he had not lost count two inches
back. " I'll tell you what, Hillsmead," he said
to the clerk, " I should think you'd go and
speak to Mr. Bagsbury about it."
" Oh, that wouldn't do at all. You see, it
wouldn't be good form, in the first place, and
then I don't believe he'd see it, anyway. But
Curtin is certainly no good. Why, he'd never
heard of W. G. Pickering ! " And Jack lis-
tened with what gravity he could command
while Hillsmead repeated the recital with which
he just favored the assistant cashier, until the
joke about Smith with the explanation
gave him excuse to laugh immoderately. Hills-
mead was to Jack the one bright spot about
88 The Banker and the Bear
Jervis Curtin was not exactly popular among
the employees of Bagsbury and Company. No
man of his invincible ignorance about banking,
and in his highly salaried position, could be
popular in any bank. But his good-humored
manner saved him from being cordially hated,
and made it possible for him to think that his
associates liked him. As for his ignorance,
that did not trouble him at all. The only thing
that he did not entirely relish was his relation
to Melville Sponley. Spying is at best not an
occupation conducive to any great degree of
self-satisfaction, and unsuccessful spying is still
less gratifying to one's pride. Months had
passed since Curtin had entered the bank, and
as yet he had been able to tell Sponley noth-
ing of importance which the speculator had not
already learned directly from John.
But something important was going on now
in the private office.
" Yes," John was saying ; " we'd be very
glad to open an account with you."
"I suppose you understand," said Pickering,
slowly, "that at one time or another I shall
want to borrow a good deal of money."
John smiled. "That's why I want your
business," he said. " Good loans are what
I'm looking for. This bank's in good shape.
We'll be able to take care of you without any
"There may be times," the soap manufac-
turer went on, " when I shall want a big chunk
of money in a hurry. Now, I believe in con-
servative banking; that's why I'm coming to
you. But I don't want anything to do with
the kind of conservatism that'll leave me in
the lurch without any warning the first time it
comes to a pinch. That was the trouble over
at the other place. They got scared and let go
of me once in a rather tight place, after they'd
told me that they'd see me through. The col-
lateral I offered them was all right, but they'd
lost their nerve. Stevenson was so scared he
told me to go to hell. I came near going, too.
I got out all right, but it was a close thing
a question of minutes."
" I wouldn't wreck the bank for the sake of
backing up any of your little amusements,"
said John. " I'd sell you out the minute I
thought it necessary to save the bank a loss;
and if I thought a loan was bad, I wouldn't
throw good money after it. But if I tell you
90 The Banker and the Bear
I'll see you through, I'll do it; and if I tell you
you can have so much money to-morrow, you'll
get it to-morrow, no matter what's happened
over night. I'll not get scared. It's a crime
for a banker to lose his nerve. I'll tell you
this, though," he added, laughing, " I wouldn't
take more than three accounts like yours for
a hundred thousand a year salary. You're
the sort of fellows that make a banker's head
white." He had thrust his hands into his
trousers pockets and slipped far down in his
chair, resting his head against the back of it.
" I guess I can take care of one of you all
right, though," he said.
Pickering looked at him thoughtfully a mo-
ment ; then he said :
" I guess you can. We'll get on together first
John straightened up in his chair and nodded.
"We'll call it settled, then. Do you want to
make a deposit to-day?"
"Yes," said Pickering; "I want it fixed up
right away. I'll deposit a hundred thousand.
I want a loan, too."
" A big one ? "
Pickering nodded. " Half a million," he said
" Yes," said John, with a dry laugh, " that is
big. It needs a little thinking over."
He leaned over his desk, scowling, picked
up a pencil and made a few figures on a bit of
scratch paper. Then he said :
"Well, I can do it. If you've the right sort
of collateral, I'll let you have it."
" Oh, the collateral's good : best kind ; it's
John glanced at him sharply. " So, that's
the story, is it ? Lard, eh ! Well, lard's good
collateral if you've got enough of it."
" I've got enough," said Pickering, laughing.
" Plenty. How much of a margin do you
want ? "
" Fifty per cent."
" You are cautious," said Pickering. " Of
course, lard's high now, but just remember that
it's scarce. The normal price of it is certainly
a good deal more than half the present market
" I suppose so but here's the point. What
are you going to do with all that stuff? You
can't make soap out of it. Normal price !
You can't talk about a normal price when
you're manipulating the market. When a cor-
92 The Banker and the Bear
ner's nearly made and then busted well, I want
to be a long way on the safe side. That's just
the time when it pays a bank to be cautious."
"You're all right, from your point of view,
at least," said the soap manufacturer, "and I
want that half million, so I'll put up enough
lard to cover it. It's worth about twenty-four
dollars a tierce to-day, and you say you lend me
twelve on it. As I figure it then," he paused
for a rough calculation, " you want about forty
"Yes," said John a moment later, "that'll
do. You can make out a note right here and
send round the collateral in the morning."
" Oh, I've got it with me. I didn't want to
waste any time," and Pickering took from his
pocket warehouse receipts for the lard, and made
them over to Bagsbury and Company. Then
he filled out the blank-note form which John
John took the warehouse receipts and looked
at them curiously. "That's an awful lot of
lard. Here's twelve million pounds right here."
" I've got more than that," said Pickering, as
he signed the note, " and I've been shipping it
out of the city for two months."
" I don't see how the devil you've managed to
do it so quietly. Of course everybody's won-
dered more or less about it, but nobody's really
known a thing. You've covered your tracks
" That suggests something I want to speak
about," Pickering spoke slowly. He seemed to
be feeling for his words. " This will all come
out before so very long, I suppose ; everybody'll
catch on to what's happening, and act accord-
ingly ; but I don't want that to happen any
sooner than I can help. Of course, I can trust
to your discretion, and I wouldn't speak of
this if it weren't that there are one or two of
your directors one in particular that I'd
much rather didn't know anything about this
" I'll not speak of it to anybody," John said
briefly. " Do you know our cashier, Mr. Jack-
son ? Come out here and I'll introduce you to
him; he'll attend to your deposit. I'll leave
you in his hands and ask you to excuse me.
I've an engagement."
John's engagement was not an important one
simply to lunch with himself. What he ate
was never a matter of interest to him, and this
94 The Banker and the Bear
noon they might have brought him anything,
for his mind was absorbed in lard.
The hog is an uninteresting beast. His way
of life is monotonous and restricted ; he has
but one ambition, which in nearly all cases is
satisfied. There is no individuality about him ;
no interesting variation from the normal to attract
our studious attention. But when, by a swift
and highly ingenious metamorphosis, he ceases
to be Hog, and becomes Provisions, he assumes
a national importance ; his fluctuations become
fascinating, romantic. Over him is fought many
a fierce battle ; he builds fortunes for some men,
and others are brought to irretrievable ruin from
yielding to his alluring seductions.
It was evident to John that Pickering was
trying to run a corner in lard ; in other words,
that he meant to buy all of that commodity that
could be delivered to him, and a great deal
more; then, being in command of the market,
he would put up the price as high as he chose,
and make enough profit from the non-existent,
and hence undeliverable, surplus to more than
defray the expense of disposing of the lard he
actually possessed, or as the vernacular inele-
gantly puts it, burying the corpse.
The morality of this sort of operation must
not be scrutinized too closely. Commercially
it is " all right." A man who only just fails to
get a corner and get out of it may even
get a little sympathy from his fellows. A man
who succeeds is sure of unbounded admiration.
The commercial sort of morality is all that
a banker has a right to expect from his cus-
tomers, and that was not the phase of the ques-
tion which interested John. He was wondering
whether Pickering would succeed. Cornering
a market is at best a desperate operation ; the
chances lie heavily on the side of failure. It is
daring, splendid, Napoleonic ; it makes capital
reading in the daily papers, and affords the
outsiders a chance to win a little and to lose
a great deal of money; but bankers regard it
However, Pickering might win. Everything
that one could foresee was in his favor. The
stock of lard was small, there had been a
short corn crop two years before, and he had
succeeded in buying a large part of what there
was of it without attracting attention. Nobody
seemed to think of a corner. Most of all in his
favor was the man himself. His skill was the
96 The Banker and the Bear
growth of years of experience, his resources were
immense, and his nerve would never fail. Yes,
he might win.
When John came back to the bank, he found
Melville Sponley talking to Curtin. Had he
entered just a second sooner, he would have
heard Curtin say,
"A fellow named Pickering "
But as it happened, when he came in earshot,
Sponley was talking,
" It's just a quiet little place, but you can sit
over your coffee and cigars as long as you like
and nobody hurries you. I generally go there
" What place is this ? " John asked, coming
" The place I want you to go to with me for
" Oh, you're too late," said John. " I've just
"You're the worst victim of the early hour
habit I know," Sponley exclaimed, with feigned
impatience. " I thought I'd come early enough
to catch you. I suppose you breakfasted to-day
at seven and will dine at six."
John laughed. "I'm getting to be an old
dog," he said. "You've got to expect me to
keep at my old tricks. Come in here and sit
down. You won't want your lunch for an hour
He followed Sponley into the office and sat
down before his desk. His eyes rested on it
a moment and he scowled.
" That old thing irritates me," he said. " It's
always dirty. The cracks and filigree stuff
on the thing would defy the best-intentioned
office boy in the world."
" It's symbolic," said Sponley, laughing.
" It's the exact type of the ancient regime of
Bagsbury and Company. All the rest of the
furniture of the bank is of the same kind."
" I don't dare change it," John continued.
" I don't suppose the majority of my father's
old customers would know whether my loans
were secured with government bonds or shares
in Suburban Improvement Companies ; but if
I should pack all this old lumber off to the
second-hand shop, they'd think I was just tak-
ing the whole bank straight to the devil. It
belonged here in father's day, but it's nothing
now but a great big bluff. I hate to be forced
to keep up false appearances. Perhaps if I
98 The Banker and the Bear
hadn't changed the policy, I would have dared
to experiment on the furniture."
He unlocked the desk and lifted the heavy
cover. The warehouse receipts which Picker-
ing had given him lay there in full view. As
he picked them up deliberately and laid them
in a drawer, it occurred to him that Melville
Sponley was the one man connected with the
bank who should be kept in ignorance of the
loan to Pickering, let alone the nature of
the collateral that secured it. He could not
be sure whether Sponley had seen the receipts
" How's Harriet these days ? "
"Pretty well," was the answer. "That is,
most of the time she seems perfectly well.
She certainly looks all right, only once in a
while she'll get all worked up over some little
thing. It never happens when anything's
going on that interests her; but when she's
home by herself all day, and there hasn't been
anything to keep her occupied, she'll be as
nervous as a cat. I think that's all the trouble :
she likes things that are exciting, and when
there isn't anything, she gets bored. Now
last night we had some people over to dinner
first time we've had anybody but you and
Alice for a long while, and she was just as
she used to be twenty years ago, not a day
There was a pause while John nodded
reflectively, then Sponley asked,
" How's everything going here at the bank ? "
"Just the same," John answered, "and that
means thundering good. Deposits keep com-
ing right up. They're nearly twice what they
were when we took hold. Next quarter we'll
pay the first dividend in the history of the
bank that anywhere near represents the work-
ing value of the capital invested."
He paused and shook his head impatiently.
" I don't suppose it will do us any good, though.
If those old fossils get a big dividend, they'll
think it means reckless banking. Lord! but
I'm sick of their mummified ideas. If I can
ever get hold of my stock "
" I think you will before the year's out,"
Sponley interrupted. " I think your trustees
will turn the whole business over to you, not
formally, perhaps, but at least will give you a
free hand, to do about what you please,"
" What makes you think so ? "
ioo The Banker and the Bear
" Why, you see, it's never been you as much
as the company you've kept, that bothered
your father and the other old fellows, and
I've had the honor to be the one they objected
to most. I never could do anything with
Moffat ; but I've put in my odd moments ever
since the first of the year in convincing Cart-
wright and Meredith that I'm all right. If
they once believe that, it'll take away their
only objection to you."
"This is the first I've heard of that move,"
"I haven't mentioned it because at first I
was so confounded unsuccessful that I hated
to own up how badly I'd been beat. They
were prickly as the very devil at first. And
then when they commenced to come round,
I thought I'd wait until I had them all done
up in a neat parcel and hand them over to
you as a sort of Christmas present. They
and their wives were the people we had to
dinner last night. I tell you, Harriet was the
trump card of the whole hand. She swung
them nearer into line in two hours than I had
done in two months. I think that we've just
about landed them. Of course, they're only
two out of the three, but still that means some-
Next to John's capacity for perfectly calm,
impersonal judgment, the most valuable thing
in his commercial equipment was a sort of
intuitive grasp of a situation, an ability instantly
to correlate scattered circumstances without
waiting for the mind's slower, logical processes.
In other words, he possessed the same sort
of creative imagination that characterizes great
generals. Before Sponley had fairly finished
speaking, he had fully comprehended the stra-
tegic possibilities of the speculator's ground.
Supposing that Sponley were working in his
own interests, John knew exactly the strength
and the limitations of Sponley's position. And
in the same instant he took the decision that
the man he had known intimately for twenty
years would bear watching. He went no
further than that. He did not jump to the
conclusion that his friend meant to betray him.
But the knowledge that Sponley might, if he
chose, take advantage of his hold on the two
old trustees, made him alert.
Sponley got slowly to his feet. " I'm ready
for my lunch," he said. " You don't happen to
want another, do you ? "
IO2 The Banker and the Bear
" No," said John, " and I've got a big after-
noon's work ahead, even if I did."
"Nothing especially new has turned up
to-day, I suppose ? "
John shook his head.
" Well, come round and see us when you can
get time. Good-by."
As Sponley left the room, he thought :
"There's something in that Pickering busi-
ness. If there hadn't been, he'd have men-
When he passed Curtin's desk, he spoke to
"Going to be home to-night? I'm coming
round to see you."
NEXT morning Bagsbury's bank had a joke,
that is, the younger and less serious employees
thought they had a joke, Curtin had come
down early. Ridiculously early, too ; not only
before his own hour, which was any time in the
middle of the morning, but before John Bags-
bury himself appeared, or Jackson, the cashier.
There was no visible press of work which
seemed to demand Curtin' s attention, for he
stood about in a lost way, apparently unable to
make up his mind to do anything. Every one
who passed Jack Dorlin's desk paused to make
jocular speculations, principally to the effect
that Curtin's alarm clock must have gone wrong.
Curtin with an alarm clock !
But Jack Dorlin found it hard to enjoy the
joke ; he could not satisfactorily convince him-
self that it was a joke at all. Neither he nor
Dick had ever told John Bagsbury that Sponley
IO4 The Banker and the Bear
had lied in saying that he did not know Jer-
vis Curtin, though now, after six months, the
lie still troubled them. Throughout the game
which they knew was being played about the
bank both of them were handicapped by a lack
of familiarity with the rules. It was like noth-
ing else in their experience. Up to within a
year they had never met any one who was an
expert at skating over the ice of the law where
it was thin. The exact knowledge which en-
ables men to avoid by the merest fraction the
breaking of this law, which must on no account
be broken, and encourages them to defy this
other law with impunity, this classified knowl-
edge was a science of whose very existence
they had never been made aware. To their
minds such things as conspiracies and spies and
betrayals were things which occurred only in a
certain sort of novel which they seldom read.
They could not think of a real detective without
a smile. They heartily distrusted Sponley, and
they suspected Curtin, but they could not specu-
late upon the possible relation between these two
without feeling rather foolish. They decided
again and again that it was nothing, but just as
often they again began wondering what it was.
The Spy 105
And the fear of making themselves ridiculous
kept them of speaking of it to John.
Jack's distrust of Curtin was not nearly as
strong as it had been when he entered the
bank. This was not so much because he
seemed a good-humored, easy-going fellow,
Jack could take that cordial manner for just
about what it was worth, but because he be-
lieved that Curtin's ignorance and utter unim-
portance in the bank reduced his capacity for
rascality to almost nothing. But Jack's suspi-
cions never more than slept, and any unusual
act of Curtin's, no matter how innocent it
might look, was enough to waken them.
Jack had been promoted to the remittance
ledgers ; his desk stood at the rear end of an
aisle which ran nearly the length of the room,
behind the rank of tellers' cages and in front of
the vaults. At the other end of the aisle was
the door which opened on the two private
offices. Just before this door stood a large
chest of drawers where was kept a large part
of the bank's collateral securities. This chest
was, of course, directly in Jack Dorlin's line of
vision, and when, a few minutes after Curtin's
arrival, he raised his eyes from his work, he saw
106 The Banker and the Bear
the assistant cashier searching busily through
one of the drawers. That was nothing, and
his eyes fell to his work again, but when he
glanced up, Curtin was still there. Fifteen
twenty minutes passed ; Curtin was going
through that chest systematically from top to
Jack flung down his pencil impatiently, for
again he had caught himself in the act of specu-
lating on the old theme, on Curtin's motives.
There was no possible reason why Curtin
shouldn't look over the collateral if he chose ;
there might be some excellent reason why he
should. But then, why had he come early ?
Why didn't he set some one else to finding
what he wanted? Why could he not wait
until Jackson came down ? Jackson knew
everything there was in that chest.
At that moment Hillsmead walked past his
desk, and Jack grinned to see him making
straight for Curtin. They talked but a mo-
ment, and Curtin walked away to his own desk,
while Hillsmead retraced is steps toward the rear
of the bank. He stopped to say to Jack :
" That man's a regular fool. He's been look-
ing in that collateral box for half an hour ; but
The Spy 107
when I asked him if I could help him find any-
thing he was looking for, he said he was just
as much obliged, but he'd found it, and then
he went away. I'd like to know what he was
" Postage-stamps, maybe," Jack suggested.
" Oh, no, he wouldn't look there for postage-
stamps. They don't keep anything but collat-
eral in that box. When he wants to mail things,
he just gives 'em to an office boy."
Jack often wished that he had enough leisure
during the day to enjoy Hillsmead properly.
He used to chuckle over him in the evening,
and quote him to Dick ; but then there were
other things to think about in the evening.
It was growing late that same afternoon, long
after closing time, and concentration on columns
of figures was becoming difficult, when Jack,
glancing up, saw the cashier come out of the
office with his street coat on, which meant that
he was going home. Then a few minutes later
he saw John Bagsbury follow him, and he wished
his own work was done so that he could go, too
just where John Bagsbury was going, and have
an hour with Dick before dinner time. He sat
there in a brown study until recalled to him-
io8 The Banker and the Bear
self by seeing Curtin go through the doorway
into the outer private office and then, turning to
the right, enter John Bagsbury's room.
" Go in there, if you like," he said to himself,
apostrophizing the assistant cashier ; " go and
stay as long as you please and steal the furni-
ture; I'm tired of watching you." But in spite
of himself, he did watch. Again and again he
forced himself back to his work, but he was
aware all the while that Jervis Curtin had not
yet come out of that door. And after half an
hour in which he did about ten minutes' work,
he gave up trying, and slipping from his high
stool he walked slowly toward the door at the
other end of the aisle.
When John Bagsbury had come in from lunch
the day before, he had interrupted Curtin before
he had told Sponley anything beyond the fact
of Pickering's visit to the bank. Acting on the
hint Sponley had given him, Curtin at once set
about to find out what was the nature of Picker-
ing's business with the bank. It was a simple
matter for an officer in his position to discover
that Pickering had made a deposit of one hun-
dred thousand dollars, and had given his note
The Spy 109
for an additional five hundred thousand. That
was complete enough information for anybody
so far as Curtin could see, and he had given it
to Sponley when the speculator came to see him
that evening, with a good deal of self -congratula-
tion upon his success. But Sponley was far from
"What collateral did he put up?" he de-
" None, I suppose. His note does not men-
tion any collateral. It isn't made out on the
sort of form we use when we take collateral."
"That doesn't mean anything except that
Bagsbury doesn't want anybody to know what
kind of security it was. That's what I want
you to find out for me."
" I don't see how I'm going to do it," Curtin
remonstrated. " If he's gone to all that trouble
to keep us from finding out, it isn't likely that
he's left it around where anybody can see it.
Probably it's not with the other collateral at
" Probably not," Sponley assented.
"It's ten to one," the other continued, "that
he's put it somewhere among his private
HO The Banker and the Bear
"Well," said Sponley, "doesn't that simplify
matters ? "
Curtin glanced at him, then smiled uneasily
" What do you mean ? "
" Only that if you know where a thing is
likely to be, you stand a fair chance of finding
it by looking there."
Curtin was frightened, and he laughed.
" On the other hand," he said, " if one can't
look there, he's not so likely to find it."
" Why can't you ? " Sponley asked quickly.
" You know where he keeps his private papers,
don't you ? "
Curtin answered coolly. Everything the man
did was something of a pose. He posed to
himself. Just now he really believed that he
" If that suggestion is made as a jest," he
said, "it seems to me rather unprofitable. If
you mean it seriously, it's an insult."
" It's neither a jest nor an insult," said Spon-
ley. " It's business. Of course, if you're squeam-
ish about looking through a file of papers marked
'private,' you can look through the other collat-
eral first. You may find what you want there ;
The Spy ill
but if you don't, I guess you'll have to see the
" That's ridiculous. It's not to be considered
for a moment. There's no good talking any
further about it."
" It won't be so difficult as it sounds," Spon-
ley continued evenly. " Bagsbury keeps all that
sort of thing in the cabinet that stands in his
office all day. It's never locked. They take it
into one of the vaults just before they lock up
at night, but you'll have nearly an hour after
he's gone home when the way will be clear.
It'll take a little management, but it won't be
" Look here," said Curtin, " I will not hear
any more. You've said rather too much as it
is. What you suggest is outrageously, infer-
nally insulting, and "
" There's no use in talking big," Sponley cut
in. " The job may be unpleasant, but you've
got to do it."
" I won't do it," Curtin almost shouted. Then
more quietly : " If your own delicate sense of
honor doesn't tell you that it's an insult to a
gentleman to ask him to sneak and spy or per-
haps crack a safe, why, you'll have to take my
112 The Banker and the Bear
word for it. But I don't want anything more
to do with you. I won't stay in a position
where I'm liable to that sort of damned inso-
lence. You'd better leave my house at once.
Do you understand me ? "
Sponley laughed. The opportunity with such
a man comes when the pendulum has swung
back, when the brave, hot wrath has burned
out of him. Sponley did not try to pacify Cur-
tin. Curtin wished to be angry, did he ? Well,
he should be-just as angry as he pleased.
" If you choose to call yourself a spy, nobody
will take the trouble to deny it," he said ; " but
you don't gain anything by it. You must un-
derstand that this is exactly what I hired you
for; not at all to be assistant cashier at the
bank. You are in my employ ; I may tell you
to crack a safe for me sometime, and when I
do, you'll do it."
" I may have been in your employ, as you
say, up to five minutes ago, but I'm not now.
Is that clear? You've made a mistake, that's
all. You've hired the wrong kind of man."
" I think not," said Sponley, smiling ; "you are
just the right kind of a man. You see, you're
not exactly independent. You've been spend-
The Spy 113
ing a good deal of money lately; Mrs. Curtin
has entertained a good deal "
"You damned impertinent "
" Ah ! there you make your mistake. That
is the only thing that is really pertinent at all.
It's just a question of money."
Curtin grinned ; he was trying to adopt Spon-
ley's tactics. " It seems to me," he said (why
would not the words come evenly ?), " it seems
to me that there I have as good a hold on you
as you have on me. Your part in this business
will hardly bear daylight."
"I'm no such blunderer as that," answered
Sponley, tolerantly. " This is what will happen.
I will tell Bagsbury that I have bought your
stock, and then, since you are really grossly
incompetent as assistant cashier, at the next
directors' meeting we will act on your resigna-
tion. And you can see what will happen after
that. You owe me alone enough money to
make a rather fine smash, and you have other
creditors besides. You can console yourself by
telling John Bagsbury any fanciful yarn you
can think of about me."
One could hardly say that Curtin listened,
though he heard. He sat gripping the arms of
114 The Banker and the Bear
his chair and stared. Sponley looked at him
keenly. He could read the thoughts, though
the blank face afforded no index.
" You see," he went on, " you're not the sort
to take poverty easily. When a fellow like me
or John Bagsbury goes broke, his case isn't
hopeless at all. We're used to making money,
and we know how to take care of ourselves.
We can do it, even if we do have to start back
at the beginning. But you're different. You've
never been able to earn any money. Your
father took care of you at first, and then he left
you his property, and your friends took care of
that for you, and you and they have got rid of
most of it. When a fellow like you has hard
luck and gets smashed, he comes down after a
while to hanging round his former friends, try-
ing to beg the price of a drink."
Curtin was trying to speak, but his shaking
lips would not obey him. He rose from his
chair and stood facing his persecutor.
"All right," he said at last. "All right.
You can do all you say you will. You can bust
me up; but I'd rather have that than the
other. I'd rather have that than sell my soul
to you. That's what you want. But, by God,
you won't get it ! "
The Spy 115
He began pacing the room, now swiftly, now
slowly; Sponley sat still and watched him in
silence for a moment. Then he asked :
" Do you mind if I smoke ? I want to think."
Curtin nodded, without pausing in his nervous
Sponley sat perfectly still. His gross body
completely filled the wide arm-chair ; there was
something uncanny about his complete repose.
You could as easily conceive of his receding
from a position he had once taken, or relenting
toward one who was in his power, as of a fat
Indian idol's answering a prayer for mercy.
He did not look at Curtin, he only smoked and
As for Curtin, he had made his brave speech.
He had resisted temptation, and the glow of
virtuous indignation and righteous resolve was
fast turning to cold ashes.
And the minutes crept away till the big hand
of the clock had made half its journey before
"Sit down a minute, Curtin, and we'll talk
this thing over. We've both got excited, and
we've both talked big, and we've both pretty
generally made fools of ourselves. That's fun
n6 The Banker and the Bear
enough while it lasts ; but when a fellow wakes
up the next morning and has to face the conse-
quences, he feels rather silly. If we don't man-
age to hang together some way, why, I'll be in
an awkward fix, and you'll be busted, and we'll
both wish we'd shown a little sense. Now I
don't ask you to do anything that I wouldn't do
myself, and I never will ask you to. I don't
ask you to meddle with John Bagsbury's private
papers. This is a matter that concerns the
bank, and you and I are as much a part of it as
he is. But we'll leave it this way : if you can
find out what collateral it was that Pickering
put up, why, it will help us both out. And if
you can't well, we'll talk about that later.
Don't say anything about it now. Take time
to think it over. Good night."
That was the reason why Curtin had puzzled
the clerks by looking so thoroughly through the
collateral box next morning. And now, for half
an hour, he had searched drawer after drawer in
the little oak cabinet in John Bagsbury's private
office. At first he listened intently for footsteps,
but soon his quest became absorbing.
Finally it was rewarded. There were the
The Spy 117
yellow warehouse certificates. Lard! Forty
thousand tierces !
And then the half-shut door behind him
creaked as some one pushed it open. It was
numbness rather than self-control that kept him
still. Jack spoke,
" I beg your pardon."
The sound of the voice, the voice which was
not John Bagsbury's, restored Curtin to himself.
He looked up.
" Ah, Mr. Dorlin ! Are you looking for Mr.
Bagsbury ? He went home about an hour ago,
I think. I want him myself. He's put a cer-
tain paper away so carefully that we can't find
There was another step behind them and
Sponley entered the office. He glanced about
before he spoke.
" So I've missed the president again, have I ?
That seems to be sort of habit with me these
days. However, it's a matter of business, this
time, that you can attend to, Mr. Curtin."
With that he turned and bowed to Jack
Dorlin. It was a polite, deliberate bow, which
turned Jack out of the office as effectively as if
it had been a whole platoon of police.
"YouR coffee must be stone cold by this
time, dear," Alice Bagsbury observed in a tone
of mild remonstrance; "shan't I pour you
another cup ? "
" What's that ? " John asked absently, from
behind his morning paper. " Oh, yes, if you
please." He took up the cup, but instead of
handing it to her, he drank off the dismal bev-
erage, and replacing the cup in its saucer
turned back to his paper, apparently under
the impression that he had followed her sug-
" Do you know," said Dick, " I think it's
dangerous to be as absent-minded as that. If
that had been kerosene, you'd have drunk it
just the same all of it."
John dropped the paper beside his chair,
stared at his plate a moment, and then turned
A Battle 119
" Did either of you say anything to me just
now ? I think I'll have some more coffee.
What are you laughing about ? "
" I said I thought there must be something
very entertaining about the front page of that
paper," said Dick.
"Entertaining isn't just the word," he an-
swered slowly. " It's what I call confoundedly
enterprising. They've told a great deal more
than they've any right to know, and the worst
of it is they've told the truth."
" I don't know why you should object to their
telling the truth," said Alice.
" Is it about something you're concerned
in ? " Dick asked.
John nodded. " I loaned a man a large sum
of money day before yesterday, and the fact of
his wanting it and the kind of security he put
up would show to any one who knew about it
that he was in a certain deal. He didn't want
that to get out, so I was very careful to conceal
the loan. And here this paper seems to know
all about it: not only about the deal, which
they might have guessed from other things,
but about the loan. It leaves me in an awk-
ward position, you see."
I2O The Banker and the Bear
"What sort of deal is it ? " Dick asked.
" Lard," said John. " Here, you can read all
about it," and he handed her the paper.
Dick glanced at the staring letters of the
scare head. " To corner lard," she read. " I
should think that would be pretty hard to do,"
she said reflectively.
Then as John looked at her, manifestly sur-
prised at the sageness of the remark and nodded
assent to it, she added, " It's so squashy, you
John laughed. "You took me in that time.
Pickering will have to fight though, sure enough.
They're likely to make it warm for him to-day."
"On the Board of Trade?" cried Dick.
"Will it be like the day you took Alice and
me ? "
" It was unusually quiet that day," said John.
" Quiet ! " exclaimed Alice. " It made my
head ache for two days."
"Will it really be worse than that?" Dick
asked. "Oh, I wish "
John glanced at his watch and hurriedly left
the table. He appeared a moment later at the
dining-room door and said,
" If you and Alice care to come to the bank
A Battle 121
to-day at twelve o'clock, we can lunch together
and then look in there for a few minutes."
They exclaimed simultaneously, but with
"All right," said John, "either or both. Be
there sharp at twelve if you want to catch me."
When John said that the publication of the
fact of the lard deal and of his loan to Pickering
put him in an awkward position, he stated only
the least of his perplexities. He did not doubt
that he should be able to clear himself with the
soap manufacturer, not only of wilful betrayal,
but of negligence. What troubled him was to
find any sort of explanation of how the secret
could have got out. All the morning the
question hung in his mind insistently demand-
ing an answer. The only answer he could give
was one which his reason rejected as absurd,
but it was reiterated as obstinately as the ques-
tion itself, the name of Melville Sponley.
The story had been given to the paper by
one who knew the facts. It was no ingenious
surmise of one who followed the markets. It
did not tell everything, not the precise amount
of the loan, nor the bank that made it, yet there
could be no doubt that the man who had told so
122 The Banker and the Bear
much knew the rest, and that he had held it
back for reasons of his own. John knew it was
impossible that Sponley could have found out
in the mere instant when Pickering's warehouse
receipts had been exposed to his view two days
before ; but he could not rid himself of the con-
viction that it was Sponley who had ferreted
out and betrayed his secret.
On the Board of Trade they had nicknamed
Sponley the "Black Bear." That had refer-
ence, of course, to the side of the market on
which he operated oftenest and most success-
fully, but it had this morning for John an added
significance. How clumsy he was to the eye,
and yet how terribly quick ! John had seen
this fat, heavy-eyed monster go into the corn pit
and simply, by main strength, sell the market
down down down. They were afraid of
him on the Board of Trade : that tells the
John Bagsbury was generally believed to be
imperturbable. This morning his thoughts were
running in a circle ; his secret was out ; Melville
Sponley could not have betrayed it ; no one else
could have done so. Round and round again,
with no way out, and yet no one could have
A Battle 123
guessed it; he worked swiftly, precisely, pa-
tiently, just as always.
But there were two other troubled heads in
the bank whose thoughts were under no such
iron control. Curiously enough, each in his
own way owed his perplexities also to the Black
If you can imagine a coward trying to escape
from prison, you can understand Curtin's state
of mind. When on the preceding afternoon he
had shown Sponley the collateral, he had felt
keenly humiliated ; he had despised himself, and
tenfold more he hated Sponley. But that feel-
ing was gone now. The Bear had been right
in saying that it was just a question of money.
His being trapped, bound fast to Sponley's will,
was also a question of money. And now Curtin
had found a way of escape, or rather Sponley
himself had unwittingly shown it to him, and
the way out was but a question of money, too.
When in John Bagsbury's office, just after
Jack Dorlin had gone out, Curtin had shown
the warehouse receipts to Sponley, the latter
had exhibited what in other men would have
been excitement, but with him was only preoc-
cupation. He had sat down at John Bagsbury's
124 The Banker and the Bear
desk and looked at the yellow slips for some
time. Then he said,
" Pickering'll have to pay for what lard he
Then realizing that he had made a slip, he
had quickly begun talking about something else,
and Curtin had cunningly feigned that he had
not understood the chance remark. But a few
minutes later he was walking home on air. For
had not his jailer thrown him the key to his
Curtin had played with the markets before ;
that was the reason he now needed a job as
assistant cashier, or as anything that would pay
him a respectable salary. But he had been an
outsider, a lamb. He had believed the news-
papers, he had followed the crowd, he had
trusted to luck. He knew now against what
certainty of eventual disaster that sort of a game
was played. But now he was an outsider no
longer. Inadvertently Sponley had told him
that lard would go up to-morrow. Sponley
knew, because he himself intended to make it
go up. And for the first time in his life Curtin
would play with a probability of winning.
When he had won (he could hardly contain
A Battle 125
himself at the thought of it), when he had won
well, he would begin by telling Sponley to
go to hell. Ah, Sponley should know after all
that he had hired the wrong sort of man, that
it was unsafe to insult a gentleman ! Then he
would confess to John Bagsbury the wrong he
had done him. No, that would hardly do ; but
he could contrive some sort of restitution to
John, and then he would live happily and opu-
lently ever after.
Thus spake the prisoner ; the coward had other
things to say. He must use the bank's money,
he had none of his own. Then what if, after all,
lard should go down. He would be an embez-
zler, would go to prison. At the thought, his
mouth became dry, and curious ripples seemed
to run the length of all his muscles. So all that
morning the two men within him tore Curtin
grievously. The way of the timorous, half-
hearted transgressor is hard indeed.
Jack Dorlin's perplexity was less serious, but
very irritating. He owed it only indirectly to
the Bear. His direct concern was with the
jackal. His bit of impromptu detective work
the afternoon before had been as unsuccessful
as possible. Had he discovered a little more or
126 The Banker and the Bear
a little less, all would have been well. But as
matters stood, he had enough ground for serious
suspicion of Curtin, and not enough to warrant
his speaking about it to John Bagsbury.
He had come to the bank this morning full of
his old determination to mind his own business.
It was vain, however, as vain as it had always
been before. Curtin was so persistently erratic
that he compelled one's attention. Yesterday it
had been the collateral box ; to-day it was the
telephone. He hung over it all the morning,
like a child with a new toy. He was spending
fifteen minutes out of every hour talking into it,
and for the rest of the time he eyed it as though
momentarily expecting to see it perform a mira-
cle. It was such an innocent occupation that
Jack was angry with himself for taking it so
seriously. The other clerks were grinning ;
well, he would grin too. But it was a very
At last he fairly got into his work, and that
brought oblivion. When Hillsmead interrupted
him, he did not know how long it had been since
last he was conscious of his surroundings.
"That was a confounded pretty girl," Hills-
mead was saying. " Did you see her ? "
A Battle 127
Jack glanced up impatiently, but worse than
that would not have stopped Hillsmead.
" I think I'll have to find out who she was.
She's all right. I wonder what she wanted
Jack grabbed his hat. "Where is she?" he
" Do you think you know her ? Say, old man,
I wouldn't mind if you'd introduce She just
went out. I think she turned east."
Jack dashed down the aisle without pausing
to think on the marvel he had wrought in check-
ing Hillsmead in mid career.
At the door he glanced swiftly up and down
the street, and by the merest luck got a glimpse
of Dick less than a square away. Her pace was
a mere stroll, a most unusual thing with Dick.
" Hello," he said, as he overtook her.
"Are you in a hurry?" she asked. It was
his manner rather than his pace that suggested it.
" No, I'm in a thundering temper."
She smiled. " That's good. You're great fun
when you're that way. What's the matter ? "
" Hillsmead," he said shortly. " Hillsmead
" Then that was Mr. Hillsmead ! " she cried.
128 The Banker and the Bear
" Oh, he's lovely ! You've never done him jus-
tice, Jack. He's so pretty and glib, and com-
placent. I envy you, seeing him every day."
" Where are we going, anyway ? " he asked.
" Growly ! " she commented teasingly. " I
don't know exactly. I think I'm going home."
He said nothing, so in a moment she added,
"You'd do well to copy Mr. Hillsmead in one
" That's rough," he said. " Rough but right-
eous. In common courtesy, he has doubtless
outstripped me to-day."
"It's not that; it's curiosity. He told me
that Mr. Bagsbury was out, but that if I would
confide my business to him, his valuable services
were at my disposal. And he was so sure that
he could do it better than Mr. Bagsbury that I
nearly told him what it was."
" If I'll profess Hillsmead's curiosity, will you
tell me ? "
" We were to lunch somewhere and then go
to the Board of Trade to see them do things
with lard." She had drawled the words out as
slowly as possible, and now she glanced at him
in mock distress. "John's gone off, you see,
and forgotten all about me."
A Battle 129
He stopped and gazed at her seriously. " I
wish to propose," he said, "three cheers for
John Bagsbury. For future delivery," he
added, noting her look of alarm. " I'm getting
to like him better right along."
"It's a strange thing," Jack remarked a
few minutes later, as he looked at her across
the little round table ; " it's a strange thing, but
when I've been with you a few minutes my
troubles, even the big ones, begin to look like
jokes. I really think they are jokes until I
get off by myself again."
"Tell me about Mr. Curtin," said Dick,
quickly. " I can guess what Mr. Hillsmead did
to make you wild, but," the dimple which
had cautiously appeared at one corner of her
mouth vanished again, " but how has Mr.
Curtin been bothering you ? "
She grew very serious as he told her of the
assistant cashier's performances of the day be-
fore ; and when he had finished, she told him how
John was worried over the betrayal of his secret.
" Do you suppose," she asked anxiously,
" that there's any connection ; that Mr. Curtin
had anything to do with it ? "
He shook his head. " I give it up. But \
130 The Banker and the Bear
know this : we've been pretty foolish not to tell
Mr. Bagsbury. We've been so afraid of mak-
ing ourselves ridiculous that we haven't thought
of anything else."
" We're such perfect babes in the wood at all
this sort of thing," said Dick. "Now I sup-
pose that any person of average business intel-
ligence would see through it all in two minutes.
But I believe we ought to tell him, anyway.
Let's do it to-night."
"Both of us?"
"Of course, I wouldn't do it alone for any-
thing. Come, let's look at the lard corner."
Just as they were entering the big Board of
Trade building an old man walked briskly past
them and turned into the office of Ball, Snyder,
and Jones, Brokers. Even at that place, where
the money value of mere seconds is impressive,
there were a dozen people who paused to glance
curiously after him. Dick and Jack Dorlin did
not know who he was, and if any one had taken
the trouble to tell them that it was William G.
Pickering, they would have thought nothing of
it. And yet the fact, that at just that moment
that one man should enter that particular office,
A Battle 131
But the attention of these two was absorbed
by the distant clamor of the battle which
attacked their ears the moment they entered
the building. It was an angry roar, inarticulate,
meaningless, but with its savage crescendo and
its fitful diminuendo it was vaguely exciting.
They hurried up the stairs into the visitors'
gallery and wormed their way through the
crowd to a position from which they could see
the floor. Their first glance was disappointing.
It added nothing to the sensation they had felt
at the first sound of the shouting. The only
impression they could get was of a vast clamor-
" Are they really doing anything but yell ? "
All through her life she had believed that
real power exerted itself quietly ; that noise was
the manifestation of impotence, and it was hard
for her to take this mob seriously.
Before Jack could speak the man who stood
at her other hand had answered her. He was
a well-dressed young fellow, who seemed vastly
excited over the battle.
" Anything but yell ! " he quoted. " They're
making a price that will rule in all the markets
in the world."
132 The Banker and the Bear
With a pressure of her hand she signalled
Jack not to interfere, and then asked the
" Will you please tell me what is happening
down there ? "
The explanation came, swift and hot, but to
Dick's chagrin it was in a foreign language.
She caught a familiar word now and then, but
the rest was as meaningless as the tumult on
" I see," she said at last. Then to forestall
any further explanation she asked, " Can you
tell me who that little man is in the white
flannel coat ? "
" Keyes," he spoke without looking, " of
Keyes and Sievert. They're buying for Picker-
ing. Keyes is Ah ! there it goes up again ! "
He glanced at his watch. " They've got
twenty minutes yet before closing time. They'll
get it to ten cents. See ! there again ! "
"How can you tell that it's gone up?" she
"See those fellows on the edge there,
facing this way. They signal the changes of
price with their hands to people who stay near
the telephones. There ! see that ! "
A Battle 133
Dick's eyes had wandered back to Keyes.
He was standing there composedly, his memo-
randum card in his hand, jotting down his
purchases. He seemed quite unmoved by the
excitement around him. A clerk who had come
running the length of the room, dodging like a
football player, dashed up to this quiet little
man in the white flannel coat and handed him
a slip of paper. Keyes read it at a glance,
tucked it in his pocket, and turned back to
look at the crowd. Dick fancied she saw him
Her eyes left him to fall on a very tall man
who was forcing his way with much haste and
little ceremony toward the centre of the pit.
" That's Jones," said the young fellow beside
her, "of Ball, Snyder, and Jones. Wonder
what's coming now?"
There was a momentary lull as Jones raised
his arm and thrust his hand forward with all
fingers extended. He shouted something that
was unintelligible to Jack and Dick, but which
raised a storm in the pit. Again and again
he repeated the gesture, and from all about
the pit men struggled toward him, as though
they wished to tear him to pieces,
134 The Banker and the Bear
Another messenger boy was running across
the floor, and Dick watched him seek out Keyes
again. Keyes read the second message and
turned back to the pit. His arm shot forward,
the hand erect, palm out, and said something.
He did not have to shout. The pit had stopped
to gasp. When the yell broke out again, it was
a different sort of yell. It drew the traders
scattered about the floor and in other pits as
a magnet draws iron filings. Dick heard the
young fellow at her side choke.
" What is it ? " she demanded. " What has
happened ? "
" Keyes is selling."
He spoke in a daze, his eyes on the men sig-
nalling from the edge of the pit.
" Do you know why he's selling ? " asked
Jack. It was the first time he had spoken.
"They've busted Pickering that's why
and a lot of small fry with him that don't count,
me for one."
So the three stood there watching one of the
sharpest turns that most irregular market has
ever made. In the fifteen minutes before clos-
ing time lard dropped nearly three cents a
pound. The one who understood held his open
A Battle 135
watch in his hand and monotonously reported
the swiftly dropping price as it was signalled
over to the telephones. The other two listened,
bewildered between a pity for him and a convic-
tion that the fifteen minutes would never end.
Suddenly he slipped his watch into his pocket
and turned away.
" That puts me out," he said.
And then it seems an hour afterward to
Jack and Dick the great bell rang, and it was
Without speaking, they made their way back
to the ground floor and drifted along with the
crowd that was pouring into the street.
Just before they reached the door Jack ex-
" Look ! there's Curtin. No, don't look either.
Turn this way."
It was too late to escape him. He made his
unsteady way toward them and stood barring
" I suppose you think I've been drinking," he
He was flushed; his eyes rolled about aim-
lessly. He was shaking like one palsied.
Jack Dorlin turned to Dick. "Walk right
136 The Banker and the Bear
along without me, please," he said. " I'll over-
take you in a minute."
Then he caught Curtin by the arm, and, lead-
ing him to the sidewalk, hailed a cab.
" I'm not drunk," Curtin protested ; " I've
not been drinking. Oh, my God ! I'm going to
prison! I'm going to prison ! "
He tried to say something more, but simply
choked. Jack thrust him into the cab and tell-
ing the driver Curtin's address, he pushed his
way through the little crowd that had gathered,
and hurried after Dick.
Then they walked on slowly for more than
a block without speaking, and in spite of the
crowd on the sidewalk he continued to stay
close at her side.
"Hasn't it made you blue?" he asked. She
" But I'm not sorry we went," she said a
moment later. " I'm glad John forgot about
me. I shouldn't like to have seen it with him ;
but it's different with you. I mean "
She could not say just what she meant, and
with heightened color she added quickly, " But
I don't want to see anything like that again,
A Battle 137
"I've had enough myself. I'm afraid I'm
getting disgusted with the whole business, Dick.
I feel that it would be a pleasant change to set-
tle down and live on a farm somewhere, for a
while, anyway. Don't you ? "
" I was thinking of something like that
myself," she answered thoughtfully. " We
could " she turned away suddenly and
glanced up the street. " I mustn't keep you
any longer. I've dragged you miles out of your
way already. No, I'm going to take the ele-
vated right here."
She had not meant to do it ; but as he was
leaving her, she said,
"You'll you're coming down to dinner to-
night, aren't you ? "
HARRIET SPONLEY dressed for dinner that
evening with more than usual care. She liked to
dress well, partly for her own sake, and partly
because her husband appreciated it. But to-
night she seemed able to find little satisfaction
in the result of her efforts.
" Your gown is very beautiful," the maid ven-
Harriet nodded indifferently ; then, as with a
gesture of impatience, she turned away from the
long mirror, her eyes fell upon the neat figure
and the fresh face of her girlish attendant. She
looked at her so long and so hard that the girl
flushed and averted her eyes uneasily. Harriet
smiled and patted her shoulder.
" I'm very glad you like it," she said kindly.
" Now run along, I shan't want you any more."
She liked her maid. She petted her, and
so Sponley said indulged her most outra-
Deeper Still 139
geously. It was an old weakness of Harriet's
this fondness for a pretty face. It had been
the source of her affection for Alice Blair.
As the girl left the room, Harriet dropped
upon the little round chair which stood before
her dressing table, and resting her elbows on
the table, she leaned forward and stared disap-
provingly into the small glass which hung above
it. The strong, unpitying light which the two
incandescent lamps threw upon her face re-
vealed many things she did not wish to see
there. What a jaded face it was ! And the
lines were deeper than they had ever been
before. She rubbed her forehead nervously,
almost roughly, with her finger tips, as though
that would erase them.
The day had been peculiarly trying for Har-
riet. In these later years, every flurry on the
Board of Trade, every sudden turn in the stock
market, had given her two or three almost intol-
erable hours ; but to-night the slump in lard was
not in her thoughts at all. When she had called
Sponley's attention to the story in the morning
paper of Pickering's prospective corner, he had
disposed of the matter with a glance and a nod.
Then on her suggesting that he had known all
140 The Banker and the Bear
about it before, he had replied in the negative.
He was holding quite a line of lard himself, he
said ; but with this rumor of a deal of Picker-
ing's he had no concern.
Five years ago one year ago the smallest
doubt of his truthfulness could not have occurred
to her ; she knew he would have lied to himself
as soon as to her. She remembered how he
used to come home brimming over with the
day's experiences, how eagerly he had related
and explained it all, and how confidently they
had planned out their to-morrows. He used to
tell her then that she was the mind of the firm ;
that what she didn't think of herself she made
him think of ; that she was the one, big reason
for his remarkable success. And he had meant
it, too ; she was sure of that. But as time had
gone by, his confidences had been growing less
spontaneous. The change had been slow, so slow
that she could see it only by looking back, but it
was unmistakable. He never told her anything
now unless she asked for it. And to-day he had
lied to her ! She had only herself to blame for
it. When she had ceased to be able to help him,
he no longer looked to her for help. She was an
outsider now ; that was why he had lied to her.
Deeper Still 141
She looked intently at the face in the glass.
" He will see to-night he will surely see what
a miserable wreck this old woman is," and with
that she rose and went down to the library where
he was awaiting her.
The afterglow from splendid masses of cloud
high up the sky made a soft twilight in the
room ; but to Harriet's eyes, blinded by the
glare to which they had been subjected, it was
quite dark. She did not at first see Sponley,
who was standing in the shadow.
"You almost startle me sometimes," he said,
" by taking me back twenty years or so. I have
to think of myself to realize that we aren't
" It must be the gown," she answered. " I'm
glad you like it."
She walked to the window and stood looking
out. The diffused light hung in her heavy hair
and in the folds of her dress, and her husband
watched her for a moment in silence. The
illusion was strong upon him.
" The gown ! " he said at last. " I can't see
the gown. But you walk like a girl, only more
gracefully, and your hair you are getting
142 The Banker and the Bear
" Only more skilled in trickery." She spoke
lightly ; then, with a glance at the sky, she said
in an altered voice,
" How fast it fades."
"The sunset? It's clouding up fast. We'll
have a shower pretty soon."
" Come," she said, " let us go to dinner.
I've kept you waiting."
Harriet was quite herself now. All through
the dinner she entertained him, talking lightly
about the little amusing incidents of the day,
and though her gayety ran false on her own
ears, she knew from his face that he thought
" Your day has gone all right, I suppose ? "
It was the question she had promised herself
not to ask again. She had held it back as long as
she could, but it had escaped in spite of her, and
she realized how vain such a promise had been.
He nodded. " Nothing much one way or the
"You didn't do any trading in lard, then.
That must have been rather exciting when it
He smiled. " You didn't think I'd got caught
in that, did you ? "
Deeper Still 143
" The other way about," she said with a laugh.
" I hoped you might have made something on
it. You knew it was coming, didn't you ? "
" No, I'm leaving lard alone just now." (She
wondered how real the indifference in his voice
might be.) " That's Pickering's deal. I haven't
mixed into it yet What's that?"
His exclamation was caused by the sound of
voices raised in altercation. It was followed by
the thud of heavy footsteps approaching the
dining room. Sponley had half risen from his
chair when the portiere was roughly brushed
aside and Curtin entered the room.
" I've found you," he said. " The maid told
me you were at dinner. She didn't want to let
me in, but I came. She thought I was drunk ;
everybody thinks I'm drunk, but I'm not. I
had to see you on a matter of importance."
He spoke clumsily, with a labored distinctness.
Sponley looked at him from head to foot, at his
flushed face and disordered clothes.
"Take off your hat, Mr. Curtin," he said
"I I forgot," stammered Curtin. " You
probably think "
" One moment," Sponley interrupted. " Mrs.
144 The Banker and the Bear
Sponley, if you will leave us for a few moments,
I'll attend to Mr. Curtin's business."
When they were alone Sponley forestalled
Curtin's attempt to speak.
" Don't tell me again you aren't drunk. I
know you aren't. I know what's the matter
with you. You've been buying lard to-day and
you've got squeezed. That's the case, isn't it ? "
Curtin stared at him dully, but Sponley did
not return the look. He eyed his half-empty
coffee cup and tapped it lightly with a spoon.
" I supposed you would do that," he said
thoughtfully, " and I suppose you have taken
some of the bank's money to buy it with. You
haven't any of your own."
Curtin's apathy forsook him suddenly. " You
suppose ! " he cried. His shaking voice gained
intensity as he went on. " You knew I would.
You told me to. You told me lard would go up,
and you lied to me. You damned old devil,"
he shouted, "you tricked me. You did it to
send me to prison. You "
" Be quiet ! " Sponley thundered. It had
been years since he had so far lost control of
himself ; but Curtin had chanced to strike the
joint in his armor. The thought that Harriet
Deeper Still 145
had overheard the words put him for an instant
into a rage. But he recovered quickly.
"If you raise your voice like that again in
this house, I shall certainly have you sent to
prison. I'll have you snug in jail within half
an hour. I promise you that."
In declaring that he had not been drinking,
Curtin had told the truth ; yet his mental pro-
cesses were those of a drunkard. Of all this
man's many weaknesses, the greatest was a
lack of poise ; in his soberest moments he was
badly ballasted. The experiences of that after-
noon, the rapid alternation between rage and
terror, had shaken him to the foundation, and
had left his mind in a state of unstable equi-
librium precisely like that of an inebriate. It
careened far to this side or to that at the small-
est suggestive impulse. Sponley's threat of
sending him to prison had recalled the night-
mare of the afternoon, and his anger gave way
to the numbness of fear.
" If you were in condition to think," said
Sponley, meditatively, " I could convince you
that I didn't try to lead you into a trap, as you
say. I don't want you in prison on a charge of
forgery or embezzlement or whatever it would
146 The Banker and the Bear
be. I need you outside. You'll see that when
you get quieted down. How much will it cost
to get you out of the hole ? "
"A little over ten thousand." The words
Sponley kept his eyes on the coffee cup.
" Well," he said at last, " it's worth the price.
I'll pull you out."
Curtin looked at him in a daze. Then bury-
ing his face in his hands he began to sob. Even
to Sponley's tough sensibilities the sight was
" Get up ! " he commanded. " Don't be a dis-
" I can't thank you," the other began brokenly.
" I want no thanks." Sponley's voice was
almost a snarl. " It's not a favor to you ; it's
business. It's worth ten thousand dollars to
me just now to have you in Bagsbury's bank.
You're in no shape for anything now. Go home
and go to sleep and come back here before
banking hours, and I'll talk business with you
and arrange to square you with the bank.
Come, get up ! "
Curtin struggled to his feet and started toward
the library door.
Deeper Still 147
" Not that way," said Sponley, sharply.
"This is the way out."
" I wanted to apologize to Mrs. Sponley for "
Sponley caught him by the arm. " I don't
want to have to kick you out of the house," he
said savagely. " Come with me."
A moment later he spoke to Harriet from the
" I've got to see John Bagsbury for a while
" Please don't go just yet. I want to speak
Entering the room he saw her sitting bolt
upright in the middle of the big sofa, her hands
clasped tight in her lap, her face colorless to
" What's the matter ? " he cried in quick
alarm. " Are you sick ? "
" Please tell me," she said, ignoring his ques-
tion, "please tell me all about it about Mr.
" He'd been misled by something I said about
lard's going up into buying a lot of it to-day. Of
course, he got caught. He'd taken the bank's
money to trade with. He got a fool notion into
his head that I'd meant to soak him."
148 The Banker and the Bear
" Did you manage to convince him to the
contrary ? " she asked unsteadily.
" I promised to meet his losses out of my own
pocket and square him with the bank. That
seemed to convince him."
She leaned back among the pillows, breathing
deeply and tremulously, and he watched her
" What did you think ? " he asked.
"Oh, I didn't think at all I couldn't. I
heard what he shouted at you just as I went out
and it made me sick. I didn't dare to think."
He sat down beside her on the sofa and
stroked her hand.
"I've been silly again," she went on presently.
" You see, you haven't told me about any of
your plans lately, and I'm so used to knowing
that when you don't tell me I get to imagining
things all sorts of things."
" What would you have done if I had if I
had run it into Curtin that way ? What would
you think of me ? "
" Don't," she said quickly, " don't try to tease
me about it. I didn't really think so for a min-
"The fact is," said Sponley, thoughtfully,
Deeper Still 149
"that this sort of life is too much for you.
Yes, it is," he repeated in answer to the dissent-
ing movement of her head, " and I believe it's too
much for me, too ; at any rate, I'm getting a lot
less enthusiastic about it; I'm beginning to like
to get away from it and that's something new
for me. I suppose that's the reason I've had so
little to say about it to you. When I get home
I like to think about other things, just as we did
to-night at dinner. We'll have to shut up shop
permanently, pretty soon, and get off where
it's quiet ; buy a farm somewhere, and we'll go
into politics and run for supervisor or something.
Won't that be a good thing to do ? "
Her only answer was a low, contented laugh,
and then they both were silent.
Melville Sponley was at that moment just at
the beginning of one of the biggest and most
daring campaigns he ever planned. For months
he had been ready for it ; in the past few days
certain facts had transpired which had enabled
him to fix his plans definitely. The preliminary
moves were already made. The next move was
a certain proposition he meant to make to John
Bagsbury that evening. The object of it all was
to break Pickering's corner in lard. The cam-
150 The Banker and the Bear
paign would be difficult, but in point of strategy
it was the neatest he had ever planned. All the
foresight he had shown in dealing with John
during the past few months would come to his
But right on the threshold he was hesitating.
He had told Harriet the truth in saying that he
was beginning to wish to quit. He had been
promising himself right along that this campaign
should be his last. He was rich enough to stop
now, as far as that went. And after all, why
not ? Indecision was a state of mind quite for-
eign to him, but to-night his mind swung from
one side to the other. When Harriet finally
broke the long silence, she almost startled him.
"You've made me happier to-night than I've
been for a long time. But I don't want to be
left alone. I'm afraid I'd get to thinking about
Mr. Curtin. You get the carriage and take me
with you to the Bagsburys'. I shan't mind the
" All right," he said.
NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH
" HAVE you any idea what it is that's keeping
Mr. Bagsbury?" Alice asked of Jack. She had
been expecting him every moment while they
were at dinner, and the tone of her question
" No," said Jack, abstractedly, then, rousing
himself: "no, he just told me I'd better come
out here to dinner and tell you not to wait for
him as he would be late. He said it might be
eight o'clock before he could get home."
" Then you had two invitations," said Dick.
" That's why I ate two dinners."
Alice rose. " I promised Martha to help her
with her lessons. I'll leave you to entertain
each other until John comes back."
" You must be blue," Dick remarked when
she was gone. " You never make jokes like
that except when you're blue. Oh, I know,
you want to smoke. Let's go into the library."
152 The Banker and the Bear
She led the way thither ; and, after turning on
the electric lights, seated herself at the end of
the sofa. Jack lighted a cigar and stood look-
ing about with a frown.
" Not satisfied yet ? " she asked.
He shook his head. " This room's all right,"
he said, "but we see it too plainly." He turned
off all the light, and groping his way to one
of the windows drew wide the curtain. For a
moment he stood looking out ; then he raised
the window, and they heard the summer shower
which was beating straight down through the
still air upon the pavement. The big arc lamp
from the street threw a patch of white light
upon the floor.
"For purposes of romance," he said, as he
seated himself near her on the sofa, "that
doesn't quite come up to the moon ; but it does
its best, and it has sense enough not to go out
just because it rains."
During the next two minutes, as Dick watched
the rim of fire which glowed now bright, now
dull, between Jack Dorlin's cigar and its ash,
she thought of many things to say, but none of
them seemed to fit. Jack, apparently, had no
idea of saying anything, and the silence seemed
Never did run Smooth 153
to her to be acquiring a discomforting signifi-
cance. It was most absurd to feel that way
about it ; she and Jack were certainly old
" Luckily, we don't need it for purposes of
That wasn't just what she meant, either,
and she added hastily, "You know this is to
be a business conversation. We've got to
decide what we'll tell John when he comes
" That's so," said Jack, vaguely. Evidently
he had nothing more to contribute to the
"Don't you suppose," Dick began again,
" that perhaps the bank was hurt by Mr. Pick-
ering's failure ? John had just lent him a great
deal of money, you know."
" He's got the lard."
" Yes ; but the lard isn't worth nearly as
much as it was."
"That's so," said Jack, more abstractedly
" Are you trying to be stupid ? " she asked
" I don't think I'm stupid at all. I'm just
154 The Banker and the Bear
enjoying things. That patch of electric light,
and this rain, and this "
She interrupted him: "And I've been dis-
turbing your peaceful soul. Just let me turn
on a light for a minute to find a book, and then
I'll leave you to the contemplation of your street
She spoke laughingly, but he saw that she
" Don't go, Dick. I want to talk to you. I
was just getting myself together."
Dick dropped back upon the sofa from which
she had half arisen. The situation was going
from bad to worse.
" I must own up at last to something that
I've known for months and haven't been willing
to admit to myself. I've been trying to con-
vince myself that it wasn't so; but it's no use
for me to pretend any longer. I'm making
myself ridiculous by plugging away down there
at the bank."
Dick gasped. She was glad the room was
dark, for she could feel her face burning.
" Please don't think," Jack went on, quite
innocently, " that it's the work I don't like ; I
really enjoy the drudgery. It's the doing it so
Never did run Smooth 155
badly that's discouraging. I'm just a regular
fool down there. Why, I come up here even-
ings and laugh over Hillsmead, but I'll wager
it isn't a circumstance to the way Hillsmead
laughs over me. It isn't as though I shirked
my work and didn't care. I've been doing the
best I know, and worrying myself gray-headed
over it; I'm kept back by sheer mental inca-
" That's nonsense."
"Oh, I thought so myself at first," he an-
swered, with a laugh, " and I went on telling
myself so, long after I knew it wasn't."
There was a short pause, and then he went on :
" I went into the bank partly because it was
an amusing novelty, and partly with the insane
idea that I was rather more intelligent than the
average born-and-bred bank clerk, and that I
could do his work unusually well. But the main
reason why I did it was that I wanted to con-
vince you that I was really some good after all.
It was a sort of gallery play when you come to
look at it."
" I think that's about the unfairest thing you
ever said : unfair to both of us."
" I don't mean it just as it sounds. It wasn't
156 The Banker and the Bear
your fault that you never took me seriously.
You couldn't, because I didn't myself. I was
contented with amusing myself at the expense
of people who took things seriously.
" I've learned other things in the last six
months besides the fact that I'll never be worth
more than fifteen dollars a week in a bank."
His words halted there. They had been com-
ing easily enough until now, for they had put off a
little the declaration that he knew he must make.
They had meant nothing, but this next sentence
yes, it must be the next might sweep away
the hope that had grown to be the dearest thing
The words were there, but he could not force
them from his lips. If he had but known it, there
was small need of them. Her hand was resting
on the sofa right beside him. He knew, because
his own had touched it a moment ago ; she had
not taken it away. Yes, he could have told her
the story without words. But at last he went on
again, speaking very slowly :
" Do you remember I fancy you've not for-
gotten long ago it was the second summer
vacation you spent with us, the summer after I
graduated one August evening I told you "
Never did run Smooth 157
"Yes, I remember."
" And you told me I was mistaken ; that you
were perfectly sure that I didn't have the least
idea of what it meant that I had told you. You
remember it, don't you, Dick ? "
She nodded. He was not looking at her, but
he took her silence for assent.
" I've learned these last few months that you
were right ; that I was mistaken "
It was not at all remarkable that neither of
them heard John Bagsbury's steps as he neared
the library door, nor that when he opened it they
both started violently. John peered about in
the dark, groped his way to the switch, and
turned on the light. Then he saw who were
sitting on the sofa.
" Excuse me," he said. "I Alice told me
you were here " He looked at them doubt-
fully'for a moment, and then repeating, " Excuse
me," he turned to leave the room.
" Oh, don't go ! " Dick exclaimed, somewhat
breathlessly, " we were waiting for you to come
home. We wanted to talk with you we turned
out the light because "
Here the words seemed to stick. She turned
sharply away, toward the window, as it hap-
158 The Banker and the Bear
pened, and started to rise. John followed the
glance. " Don't get up," he said quickly.
"I'll draw the curtain."
As John turned his back, Dick looked
squarely at Jack Dorlin as though challenging
him to read whatever he could in her flushed
" Talk," she commanded under her breath.
" I've been telling Miss Haselridge," he said
when John had returned and seated himself near
them, " that I thought I'd quit the bank."
" I'm glad of that," said the Banker.
Jack had never learned how not to be discon-
certed by John Bagsbury's brief, unequivocal
way of putting things. He had no wish to con-
tinue this conversation ; but feeling that he owed
it to Dick to keep things going somehow, he
managed to give reasons for his decision.
" Understand," said John, " it's largely on
your account that I'm glad you have decided to
try something else. Your work, so far as I
know, has been satisfactory. The trouble is
you started out too late to do much at this sort
of business, and you aren't naturally cut out for
it, anyway. I think you're right, that you can
do better at something else. But you've done
Never did run Smooth 159
a hundred per cent better than I thought you
could; and if you'll let me say so, you've in-
creased my respect for you in about the same
ratio. I'll be glad of the change on my own
account, too, because I'd rather know you as
a friend from the outside than as one of my
John could hardly have given them a better
opportunity to tell him what they had been
planning to tell him of their suspicions regard-
ing Sponley and Curtin; but perhaps because
each was waiting for the other, or because
neither could think of the right words to intro-
duce so delicate a subject, it was John, very red
and uncomfortable over the compliment he had
just paid Jack, who broke the silence.
" Do you want to leave the bank at once ? "
" N no," said Jack. " If you're willing to
keep me, I'd like to stay until I can decide
what to do next."
" Will Mr. Pickering's failure hurt the bank ? "
Dick asked the question rather nervously. It
was an approach to what she wished to say
" Pickering hasn't failed," said John, in sur-
prise ; " what made you think he had ? "
160 The Banker and the Bear
Between them they told him what they had
seen on the Board of Trade ; but they said noth-
ing it seemed impossible to say anything
of their encounter with Curtin.
" Pickering didn't tell me what he meant to
do," said John, thoughtfully, " but I understood
what the object of his move was. He's in bet-
ter shape than he was this morning. He busted
the market himself, turned right around and
sold to himself through other brokers."
"What did he want to do that for?" she asked.
"Don't you see?" said John; "he wants to
buy all the lard there is. That puts the price
up. Well, as soon as it was known that he was
buying heavily, a lot of other fellows some of
them regular traders on the board, but more
outsiders, who thought they saw a chance to
get rich in ten minutes came around and began
to buy, too. Of course, as long as they're buy-
ing, Pickering can't get it all ; so he busted the
market, knocked the bottom right out of it, so
as to shake out the little fellows who were get-
ting in his way. He did it uncommon well, too.
I don't think I ever saw anything in provisions
take a quicker tumble than lard did this after-
noon. He must have caught a lot of small
Never did run Smooth 161
traders. He's got more lard than ever, and he's
got the price hammered down, too, though
that'll get right back in a day or two. He may
have to do the trick two or three times before
they learn to leave him alone."
" I suppose, from his point of view, that's all
right," said Jack. "To me, who've never got
the idea of it, it seems very much like run-
ning a knife into another fellow's back. The
business disgusted me this afternoon, when I
couldn't understand it; and now that I do, it
" I wonder how the little ones who were
caught feel about it?" said Dick.
" Oh, it's all business," answered the Banker,
slowly. " They know, or at least they ought to
know, just what chance they run. What Pick-
ering did was what they might have expected
him to do ; there wasn't anything irregular
about it. Though I admit," he went on,
" that, personally, I don't like the idea of it.
I'm glad it isn't my business."
" But do you think it's honest ? " she asked.
" Commercially honest," he answered. " In
any sort of business a man finds out before long
that that's a pretty complicated question. To
1 62 The Banker and the Bear
people who live as you do, honesty must come
pretty easily. But it takes a lot more than
good intentions to make an honest banker,
" That's the first time I thought of honesty as
an accomplishment," laughed Dick.
" Well," said John Bagsbury, with a smile,
" I mean all right ; but if it came to a pinch, I
don't know how far I could bet on my own."
The door-bell had rung while they were talk-
ing, and John glanced into the hall to see who
the visitors were.
" Hello ! " he exclaimed, " there are the Spon-
leys. Come in ! " He hurried from the room to
"Well, we haven't told him," said Jack.
"Come on, let's escape somewhere."
Alice Bagsbury had heard the voices and was
coming down the stairs, so that there was a
momentary delay in the hall.
" If you don't hurry, we'll surely get cut off,"
Jack continued eagerly. " Where shall we go ?
Into the dining room ? "
But instead of answering him, Dick bowed,
smiling to some one behind him, and he heard a
voice saying, " Good evening, Miss Haselridge."
Never did run Smooth 163
He turned around and bowed to Mrs. Spon-
ley with what appearance of cordiality he could
muster. He was puzzled rather than annoyed.
He had never known Dick to be slow before.
Yet certainly they should have been able to
" I came to talk over a little business with
John," said Sponley. " I don't know why
" And I came to to hear Mr. Dorlin play ;
I had an intuition that he'd be here." Harriet
laughed as she spoke and turned to Jack.
"Will you?" she asked. "Come, let's go into
Musically, Jack was something of a classicist;
but to-night, after he had dug his fingers into
one or two vicious arpeggios, he began playing
some very modern Russian music music which
suggests to the untutored ear the frightful pos-
sibility that the pianist is playing in the wrong
key with his left hand. Jack enjoyed it; it
served admirably as a vent to his irritation.
What an evening he had had of it ! Interrupted
by John Bagsbury just as he was telling Dick
well, the most important thing one could
tell a girl, and then interrupted by the Sponleys,
164 The Banker and the Bear
just as he thought he had it on the tip of his
tongue to tell John about Curtin. Mrs. Spon-
ley was the worst offender : by her unseemly
haste into the library she had cut off his re-
treat with Dick ; then she had stranded him at
the piano ; and now, instead of talking to Mrs.
Bagsbury, she was monopolizing Dick at the far
side of the room. As he thought of his griev-
ances, his interpretation of the very modern
Russian music grew more and more enthusi-
astic, until it seemed fairly inspired. When he
finished, there was a request for more ; but it
He looked helplessly about the room for an
instant; no, there was nothing else for it. " I'm
sorry," he said, "but I must be going." He
shook hands with Alice, bowed to Mrs. Spon-
ley, and then looked hard at Dick. But she
returned his unspoken message with only a
nod of farewell. " Come again, as soon as you
can," she said.
Jack strode down the front steps, for once
in his life thoroughly angry. Whatever Dick
might think of him, however tired she might be
of having him tell her that he loved her, he at
least deserved a hearing. He knew that she
Never did run Smooth 165
could have escaped from the library; that just
now she might easily have excused herself and
followed him into the hall, as she had done a
dozen times before. She had chosen that way
of telling him that she did not wish him to
finish what he had begun to tell her ; what he
had kept himself from telling her all these last
So through the still pouring rain, up this
street and down that, without rain-coat or um-
brella, splashed Jack Dorlin, angry, miserable,
promising himself a vengeance, and calling
himself a cad for thinking of such a thing ;
making new resolves, good and bad, at every
street corner, and rejoicing only in the water
which drained from the brim of his straw hat
and drenched his thin-clad shoulders.
Truly it is a madness, though not confined to
IN the library the two men watched the door
until it clicked shut behind those who were
going into the drawing-room to hear Jack Dor-
lin play. Then, after adjusting his easy-chair
so that the light would not fall on his face, John
Bagsbury seated himself.
" I'm tired to-night. This has been a big
day. You say you have some business to talk
over. It's against your rule, isn't it, to talk
business after dinner ? "
Sponley nodded. " This is rather important ;
and I couldn't be sure of catching you the
first thing in the morning, so I broke over, for
" I came around," he continued, " to ask you
what you mean to do with Pickering ? "
If John had any movement at all, it was like
that of a man who had just lighted a good
cigar, a relaxing of the muscles, a sinking
Common Honesty 167
somewhat deeper into the big arm-chair. Spon-
ley glanced at him, expecting a reply, but it
was near a minute before John spoke.
"Why do you want to know? I mean, in
what capacity do you ask me ? "
" Why as a director in Bagsbury and Com-
pany's Savings Bank, I suppose," said Sponley,
" I have said nothing to my directors about
any business dealings with Pickering." The
words were not said brusquely; they were the
simple statement of a fact.
" Exactly, and therefore one of your directors
is compelled to come and ask you about it in
order to find out."
" And as I have said nothing," John con-
tinued more slowly, "it is a fair inference that
I have nothing to say."
Sponley laughed. " That's a bit radical ; in
fact, it's irregular. A director is generally sup-
posed to have a right to know about a thing like
that. But then I can understand that there are
times when a banker doesn't want his directors
to bother him till afterward. But I don't
insist on my status as a director. I repeat the
question as Melville Sponley."
1 68 The Banker and the Bear
"That's somewhat different"
Sponley eyed him alertly, expecting that he
would go on. But John showed no sign of any
such intention. He was sitting quite still in his
chair lazily is perhaps a better word and
his eyes were shut.
" Don't you think," the Bear asked evenly,
" that this fencing is a waste of time ? I have
asked you what you mean to do about Pickering.
I'd like to have you tell me."
After another moment of silence John replied,
but with a question:
" What do you know about Pickering ? Or,
rather, how do you know that there is anything
for me to tell you ? "
Not until that moment did Sponley realize
that here was a man who could match him at
his own game. He discovered the fact when
he found himself sitting bolt upright, his
muscles drawn taut, a sharp reply, on the end
of his tongue. He dropped back into his chair
and said patiently,
" I did just what every other man in the city
who has the smallest interest in commercial
matters did before ten o'clock this morning, I
read the story in the Herald"
Common Honesty 169
"You accused me a minute ago of fencing
with you," John spoke quickly ; " I was not
fencing. I was a little in doubt as to just
where we stood, and I asked questions to find
out. But when you tell me that all you know
about the Pickering deal is what you read in
the Herald, you are evading. The story
mentioned neither me nor my bank."
" For the last twenty years, or thereabouts,
we've called each other friends," said Sponley,
thoughtfully. " Neither of us take much stock
in gush, and I shan't begin at it now. But
we've found we can help each other, and that
it has paid to hang together. How much more
it means than that there's no good discussing.
I think the mere question of self-interest ought
to make it clear to you where we stand.
"Regarding what I know about Pickering,"
he went on, " I tell you frankly that I know
more than was in the paper. I know that you
loaned him half a million dollars, and that you
took his lard as security. I'm not at liberty to
tell how I found that out."
" There was a time to-day," said John, quietly,
" when if I could have got hold of the man who
had sold that information, I think I would have
I/O The Banker and the Bear
strangled him. I don't feel that way now,
" It wouldn't help you if I were to tell you
the name of my informant. You couldn't trace
it through him. Have you thought, I don't
like to say anything of this kind on just a
guess, but this matter's serious enough to war-
rant it, have you thought of young Dorlin in
that connection ? "
John smiled. "No," he said dryly; "it wasn't
" He seems," Sponley went on slowly, " to
be pretty thoroughly in your niece's confi-
"We'd better leave Miss Haselridge out of
the discussion entirely," said John.
At that moment Sponley began to wonder
whether he had not made a mistake in leaving
Dick so completely out of his accounting. He
had hardly so much as looked at her. He had
thought himself familiar with every influence
which had a bearing on John Bagsbury ; but
certainly he had never considered her in such a
connection this pretty girl, just out of college,
who liked to pretend that she was interested
in the banking business.
Common Honesty 171
"All right," said Sponley, "that was just a
chance idea of mine; take it for what it's worth.
But that isn't what I've come to talk about. I
want to advise you to let go of Pickering."
"You mean not to let him have any more
money ? "
" No, I mean to get back what you've already
loaned him, and get it back quick to-morrow,
He paused. " Well, go on," said the Banker ;
" let's have the rest of it."
" I say to-morrow, because to-morrow will
be your last chance. Pickering's as good as
" We're on the wrong tack altogether," said
John. " Don't you see we can't get anywhere
without straight talk ? You know perfectly
well that it was Pickering himself who knocked
the bottom out of September lard, and you
know why he did it."
" I wasn't referring to that, and I am giving
you straight talk, as you say. We know each
other too well to try any sort of bluff. The
market's going to take another tumble to-mor-
row, and it won't be any of Pickering's doing,
then. Lard's as sure to drop to-morrow as the
172 The Banker and the Bear
sun is to rise, and we, the bank, that is, want
to stand from under."
There was no response from the Banker, and
Sponley looked at him. The face in the shadow
told him nothing, nor the attitude, but at last
John spoke :
"You puzzle me," he said. "I still don't
know where you stand. You come, you say,
in the interest of the bank, with information
that is vital, and yet you don't give it to me.
I loaned Pickering money on what I considered
good security. You want me to try to get the
money back on the strength of what may be
just a guess of yours. I can't put my judgment
into another man's hands."
" It's not a guess," Sponley spoke almost
eagerly. " I know it."
"Then," said John Bagsbury, "if your warn-
ing is in good faith, tell me how you know it."
" I know it, because I'm going to bust him
" Can you do it ? "
"Without the help you want me to give
you ? "
Common Honesty 173
" Can you do it if I back up Pickering just
as I would any other customer ? "
Again the unqualified affirmative.
And again the Banker was silent. Had he
expressed doubt or even positive conviction that
Sponley was wrong, had he shown righteous
indignation and spoken of treachery, the Bear's
part would have been easier. He showed noth-
ing ; whether he was determined, or afraid, or
in doubt, Sponley could only guess.
Direct argument, threat, entreaty, explana-
tion, were to Sponley unwonted weapons. His
strategy did not favor the frontal attack. He
was a master at the art of making his opponent
do the fighting, of giving him plenty of rope,
and allowing him to entangle himself in it. But
here with John Bagsbury it seemed to be the
other way about. There was about John the
strict economy of effort which one sees in a
skilled fencer : never a word that was not neces-
sary ; never a flourish of high-sounding senti-
ment; simply alertness and repose and the
patience of the everlasting hills.
So, though Sponley waited, he knew it was
in vain, and at last began doing what he had so
often compelled other men to do.
1/4 The Banker and the Bear
"This is the situation. I'm making this
proposition in your interest and in my own, too.
I ought to have told you that at the start. I'm
fighting Pickering in this deal. I've got a big
job on my hands, but I can do it. There are
a few fellows who'll be with me, but not to any
great extent. If I don't make a lot of money,
I'll be busted; but I'm going to make it. I'm
not going it blind. It's natural that in a big
fight like this I don't like to see you helping out
the other fellow. I don't ask you to help me ;
all I want is that you shall be neutral. It's bad
enough to be up against Pickering without hav-
ing to fight you, too."
It had a plausible sound not unsatisfactory to
Sponley ; but John's next question cut right to
the root of it.
" How long ago did you go into this deal ? "
Little more than twenty-four hours had passed
since the Bear had seen and seized this oppor-
tunity. He answered easily :
" Oh, a couple of months. I began selling
September lard in May."
But he could not guess from the unexpres-
sive face whether or not the Banker knew
he had lied. John's silence had in it a sting
Common Honesty 175
which urged Sponley's faculties to their best
"This is no whining for mercy, you under-
stand. It's no figure of speech when I say that
your interest lies the same way."
He paused as though to marshal his
thoughts ; then continued :
" Pickering's a good man, but an old-timer.
Even in his day lard was never so easy to cor-
ner as it looked ; but now when they can make
it without hogs, it's impossible for a man to
hold up the market. Right in this city there
are tanks of lard, not tierced, that Pickering
has never heard of ; he will hear of 'em before
he gets through. I have fifteen thousand
tierces myself in the warehouses that he'll
never know exists until it hits him.
" Now if I bust Pickering, and I give you
my promise that I will, just think where you'll
be. You've got the lard, forty thousand of it,
and you'll be lucky if you don't have to take
forty thousand more before the end, and you
won't be able to get rid of it. The market'll be
swamped, buried under it. Of course, in the
end, the bank'll get its money back, but for a
while you'll be in the hole. In fact, when the
176 The Banker and the Bear
next stockholders' meeting comes round, you'll
be in a hole, and it won't be pleasant to have to
tell those old fossils how you lost it.
"You know the make-up of the Board of
Directors," Sponley said slowly, pushing the
words home hard. " There's a majority that in
general back up your policy ; but I don't believe
many of them would take kindly to this sort of
business : I'm opposed to it myself, for what-
ever motives you please, and I count one.
You know how disagreeable a strong opposition
in your board would be. By letting go right
away, you can please everybody ; it'll strengthen
you immensely with the old crowd, and I
think, " there was just an instant's pause, and
then the words were shot precisely into the
centre of the target, "I think that Cartwright
and Meredith will look at the matter much as I
do, and that that kind of conservatism will go
a long way toward convincing them that you
ought to have full control of your father's
estate. You've got old Moffat well in hand
yourself; so there you are. You can run the
bank as you please by next January, if you only
play it right now."
"There's a practical detail to consider," said
Common Honesty 177
John. "You say I should drop Pickering to-
morrow. What excuse have I for calling his
loan ? "
"That's not difficult. Ask him for some
security other than lard. The tumble the stuff
took yesterday is excuse enough for that, though
it was his own doing. He won't be able to put
up any other collateral to-morrow morning. Then
sell his lard. There'll be market enough for it
The whole thing'll go like clockwork."
Sponley lighted a cigar and walked to the
bookcase. He had said all that was necessary,
and he was too wise to say more; so he stood
looking at the books, his back to John. Occa-
sionally he would take out a volume which had
attracted his eye, and glance through its pages.
He was in no hurry. John should have plenty
of time to think.
John was not thinking at all. There was
coming before his mind's eye a succession of
pictures, without consequence, and quite irrele-
vant to the situation he ought to be facing. They
were just haphazard memories, some recent,
some very old, nearly all of them trivial. He
saw Sponley lighting his cigar when they had
just lunched together for the first time how
178 The Banker and the Bear
long ago ? He saw himself slamming the car-
riage door on Harriet's skirt when they were
coming from a play one night. He saw and
this took him far back into his boyhood his
father taking books out of that very shelf where
Sponley stood, and handing them to Martha,
who dusted them rebelliously. As he looked
at this half-forgotten sister of his, the childish
figure grew older, and he saw that she was Dick
Haselridge, smiling whimsically, just as a little
earlier that evening she had smiled over the
notion that honesty was a matter of more than
" This is your proposition, as I understand it,"
said John. " I sell out Pickering, on a pretext,
to-morrow morning. When he's weakened by
that attack, you'll throw your lard in, and that'll
break him. And afterward you will turn Cart-
wright and Meredith over to me, and support me
as before on the Board of Directors."
" That's about it," said Sponley, without turn-
" You want my answer to-night ? "
" If you please."
"You won't get it," said the Banker, "to-
night, or any other time."
Common Honesty 179
Sponley whirled around. "What do you
mean ? "
John had risen and thrust his hands into his
pockets. His voice, when he spoke, was a little
louder and it had a nasal resonance peculiar to
his moments of excitement.
" I mean that I do not see that anything you
have proposed requires an answer."
The two men looked full into each other's
eyes. There was no regret there over the break-
ing up of the ties of a score of years ; that would
come later, probably to both of them. Now, there
was nothing but the old primal lust of fighting :
a challenge flatly given and swiftly accepted.
" Steady, there ! Steady ! " said Sponley,
softly. " I'm going to smash Pickering ; and if
you don't stand from under, I swear to God I'll
smash you, too."
Once more John Bagsbury's answer was si-
lence. As he turned away, there was no gesture
even of dissent, and his face told nothing. He
stood looking at the picture cover of a magazine
which chanced to lie on the centre table ; his
hands were still in his trousers pockets, every
line of his long, supple, loose-jointed figure
showed him to be at ease.
180 The Banker and the Bear
Sponley looked at him, then he replaced the
books he was holding on the shelf, and with a
swift decision he made his first move.
" Bagsbury," he said, " I'm a fool. I've lost
my temper. Haven't got it back yet. I'm dis-
appointed that you can't help me out. But I
can see how the business looks to you, or, rather,
I know I'll be able to see to-morrow morning.
I don't feel like talking about it yet, and I'm
going home. But the thing' 11 come out right,
somehow. We aren't children. Come, the oth-
ers'll wonder what's become of us."
It was not fear that induced the sensation of
nausea which John Bagsbury experienced at that
moment, though Sponley's conciliatory words
were far more formidable than his previous
declaration of war, for they meant that the war
was already begun. For a flash this uncontrol-
lable disgust showed in his face. Sponley saw
it and understood.
"Come," he repeated, "let's find the others."
An hour later Dick, entering the library, found
John sitting there alone.
" Come in," he called, " come in, Dick, you're
just the one I wanted to see."
But though she came and stood near his
Common Honesty 181
chair, he seemed again to have lost himself in
a brown study.
"Has anything serious happened?" she
asked at length.
" I think I want to thank you, Dick," he
said, disregarding her question. " I think
you've pulled me out of the hole.
"A man loses something, living as I have,"
he went on presently. " He loses the power
of seeing things clearly. I suppose you never
have any doubt as to whether a thing's straight
or crooked. I have an idea that having you
around well that you've brushed up my
windows a little," he smiled apologetically
over the figure, "and and I want to thank
Dick's eyes were full, and she was not sure
of her voice, but even if she had been ready,
John would not have given her time to speak.
He was filled with a mixture of embarrassment
and alarm over the words he had just said, and
he hurriedly changed the subject.
" I'm afraid you won't forgive me readily
for coming in here as I did when you and
" What do you mean ? forgive you ? "
1 82 The Banker and the Bear
"Why, yes; I interrupted "
"You didn't interrupt at all. We were just
we were waiting for you. And anyway, when
people are as good friends as we three are,
there isn't any such thing as an interruption."
" Friends ? " he said. " You and "
"That's just what Jack and I are, if that's
what you mean. I was afraid you might not
John was still smiling somewhat sceptically.
" He was speaking of that himself, to-night
of our being friends, I mean. He told me "
(Dick ! Dick ! what are you doing ?) She
hesitated a moment ; then it came with a rush.
" He told me that he had thought once
that that but he knew now he had been
Her face was averted. Her voice was un-
even, but with what kind of emotion John
could not be sure. He was not expert in the
matter of inflections.
" Are you laughing or crying, Dick ? "
"Neither," she answered, turning upon him;
" I'm going to bed."
OFTEN it is not the first step that costs, but
the waiting for the second. Last night, at a
crisis, John Bagsbury had found it easy to make
what was really the most important decision of
his life. However carefully he had balanced
upon the pros and cons of the proposition
Sponley had made, when it came to the ex-
treme instant of choice, the question had been
referred not to his judgment, but to a senti-
ment. His words had said themselves. But
this morning it was the Banker, a very different
person from the picture-seeing John Bagsbury,
who sat at his desk trying to think through
the situation, and to guess what would happen
The sentiment which gets a man into a diffi-
culty rarely stays around to help him out of it,
and what the Banker saw was enveloped in no
luminous atmosphere of optimism. Sponley had
184 The Banker and the Bear
not overstated the case last night. In support-
ing Pickering, John knew that he must en-
counter determined hostility in his Board of
Directors; that if he had not won clear by
next January, his chance of reelection was
nothing ; and, worst of all, he seemed to have
thrown away the possibility of getting absolute
control of his property from the trustees.
The Banker had to reckon with a formidable
antagonist, but he had this advantage, in his
long association with Melville Sponley he had not
walked blindly. He knew his man thoroughly.
This knowledge had saved him from being
deceived by the Bear's last conciliatory words.
Sponley did not make a fool of himself, Spon-
ley did not lose his temper. The man to whom
he confessed such things would do well to be
very alert. When he had said, "and I swear
to God I'll smash you, too, if you don't stand
from under," he had meant it. He would do
nothing in anger or from spite, nothing that
was not directly in line toward his end ; but once
convinced that it was necessary, not for a breath
would he hesitate.
John thought long and carefully over the
probable nature of Sponley's next move. The
most obvious thing for the Bear to do would
be to work among the other directors and en-
deavor to stir up a storm of such violence that
John would be forced either to let go of Pick-
ering or to resign from the presidency. If
that were all, if it were to be simply a question
of brute strength and patience, there was no
doubt in John's mind as to the outcome. They
could not force him bodily out of the bank, at
least, not till the fight was over ; and he knew
they could not frighten him into yielding.
There were moments when he ceased to be
a banker, when he was simply John Bagsbury ;
and then into his memory would come vivid
patches of the old time, and he would realize
how much he had counted on the friendship
he had just broken. Those were unpleasant
moments; they brought him even a sensation
of physical discomfort, but they were infrequent
and brief. In a moment he was again a mere
strategist, studying his enemy's positK i. With
Sponley to fight, it was unlikely to be a ques-
tion merely of strength. The Bear was sure to
practise some wily deviltry or other, but there
was no foreseeing what it would be; so John
did his other work, and waited for the disagree-
1 86 The Banker and the Bear
able scenes he felt sure were coming with the
He waited all day it was Thursday and
all through two that followed ; but no one came
to remonstrate, or advise, or threaten ; no one
who came seemed to have any knowledge of
the loan to Pickering. It was Sunday morning
before anything of that sort happened.
But if, on Friday afternoon, he had gone to
the golf links, and there could have sat unob-
served within earshot of a conversation which
took place about dinner-time in a corner of the
club-house veranda, he would have heard some
interesting facts and would, perhaps, have been
able to deduce some others.
Mr. Cartwright and Mr. Meredith played golf
together once a week. Mr. Cartwright played
because he felt it to be his duty, and Mr. Mere-
dith because Mr. Cartwright did. They played
with much formality, and with proper regard
for the conventions of dress and deportment;
but, unhappily, with no great skill, and for this
reason they chose Friday afternoon for their
game. They would come out to the club-house
at the hour when there were likely to be the
fewest people about, sheepishly put on their
golf clothes, they were still as self-conscious
in those absurd red coats and checked knicker-
bockers as youngsters who have just been pro-
moted to long trousers, and steal away to the
most remote holes, where they would play vig-
orously for an hour or so. Then hastily they
would get back into their wonted attire. They
really enjoyed the rest of the afternoon. Finally,
after dining on the veranda, they would go home
together, as proud and boastful over their golf
playing as they had been ashamed of it while
in the act.
The Friday of the week in which Pickering's
lard deal sprung into public notice was a hot
day, especially for golf, and the two old men
were unable to hide from each other the fact
that they were glad when it was over. But the
veranda, about sunset time, was pleasant enough
to compensate, and they were dining there with
the greatest satisfaction, when a man they knew
invaded their privacy. He bowed to them from
the doorway, and then, after hesitating a mo-
ment, came toward them and, drawing up a
chair, seated himself at their table. His name
was Myers, and he was a stockbroker.
"This is a double fault of mine," he said
1 88 The Banker and tJte Bear
with a deprecatory smile ; " I've intruded myself
upon you, and now I'm going to intrude a mat-
ter of business."
Mr. Cartwright frowned, whereupon Mr.
Meredith cleared his throat impatiently. " Well,
sir," said Mr. Cartwright.
For an instant a smile that was not in the
least deprecatory quivered in the corners of
the stockbroker's mouth. "You gentlemen
are trustees of the Bagsbury estate, are you
not ? "
The two old men nodded, and their faces grew
a shade redder ; for they were thinking of Mr.
M off at, the disaffected, the revolutionary, the
schismatic, the bane of their hitherto peaceful
existence. It was not necessary, however, to
speak of Mr. Moffat, so they merely nodded.
" I thought of that the moment I saw you
together," Myers went on, " and it occurred to
me that you were precisely the men I wanted
to see. A large block of the stock in Bagsbury
and Company's Savings Bank was placed in my
hands this morning for sale. The owner gave
me no further instructions, and I suppose his
idea was that I sell it on the stock exchange, in
the open market. There would be no difficulty
about that, for everybody knows that the stock's
a gilt-edged investment."
He paused to give them plenty of time to
think, and then went on:
" Bank affairs are like family affairs ; if you
can settle them without an appeal to the gen-
eral public, it's somewhat better. This is a large
block of stock, and offering it in the open market
would attract attention. I don't know that it
would do any harm. This bank's too solid to
be hurt that way. But it seemed to me that if
I could sell it privately, it would be better. In
any case, it wants to be settled up by to-morrow
morning. I was very fortunate in finding you
here together. It occurred to me that you
trustees might want to buy it for the Bagsbury
Again the two old gentlemen frowned, and
again the stockbroker smiled almost impercep-
tibly. For the estate, indeed ! That would
mean, no doubt, another snub from the intoler-
able M off at.
" Or, of course, for any other party. I shall be
very glad, indeed, if you gentlemen can relieve
me of the matter."
" It was most praiseworthy of you to make
The Banker and the Bear
this attempt to dispose of the stock quietly,"
said Cartwright, with ponderous condescension.
" I cannot applaud your delicacy too highly. A
public sale would undoubtedly arouse imperti-
nent curiosity and set idle tongues to wagging.
We shall be glad to consider your proposition.
Er who is the present holder of the stock?"
" There is nothing to make a mystery about.
I know of no reason in the world why I should
not tell you it, except (he was something of
a practical humorist, this stockbroker) except
that I have no explicit instructions giving me
the right to tell you."
" You decline to tell me "
" In the absence of express permission from
my customer to tell you, I think it would be
rather unbusinesslike to do so. That is all.
You are familiar with the way the stock is held,
and doubtless if you buy it, the certificates will
inform you who it is who has sold them."
For some time the trustees, or rather Mr.
Cartwright, toyed with the bait, trying to find
out who was holding the other end of the line.
Through the conversation you must imagine
Mr. Meredith as Echo, sending back, with pro-
found conviction, the last phrase of each of Mr.
Cartwright's sentences. There was some hag-
gling over the price, some discussion of ways
and means, and at last the two old gentlemen
agreed to take the matter under serious advise-
ment, and the stockbroker left them.
" They promised to let me know in the morn-
ing," Myers telephoned his customer a little
later. " I think we've landed them all right."
Next morning he was able to verify his predic-
tion. "I've got the check. They tried hard
to make me tell them who you were, and they're
trying to guess now, from the names of the
original holders on the certificates. They're
pleased clear through over the deal, though.
They think it gives them a sort of a grind on
John Bagsbury always began the celebration
of the Sabbath day by a somewhat unsuccessful
attempt to shave himself, and it was quite in
the nature of things that when he came down
stairs he should find the rest of the family wait-
ing for him in the dining room. He glanced at
the index column of the thick Sunday news-
paper, which lay beside his plate, and then,
instead of making his usual remark that he
didn't like to have the thing in the house and
192 The Banker and the Bear
meant to discontinue his subscription, he turned
quickly to the front page of the supplements.
There in big letters across the sheet he read,
" Pickering's Lard Deal." The article which
followed was treated after the most approved prin-
ciples of Sunday journalism. There was a mis-
erable " half-tone," which bore no resemblance
to William G. Pickering, and there were spirited
illustrations of the scenes on the Board of Trade
when the bottom had mysteriously fallen out of
the market. The subject was treated exhaust-
ively. Other famous deals in lard were brought
up for comparison with this one, and there was
a detailed account of Pickering's earlier exploits.
And then at the bottom of a half column of
seemingly learned comment upon the probable
outcome was the statement that Bagsbury and
Company was said to be in the deal with Picker-
ing, and would no doubt see him through if pos-
sible, as they had already let him have a great
deal of money.
John glanced over the whole article. He
should have taken warning from the other and
contrived to head this off; but there was no
time for regretting the mistake, and he turned
from that to the present aspect of the situation.
Sponley had made his second move, and John
felt it a relief that the period of inaction was
over. The Bear must have had some good rea-
son for waiting till now for giving out the infor-
mation he had possessed as early as Tuesday
night It remained for the Banker to discover
what that reason was.
He tossed the paper aside, told two funny
stories to Mrs. Bagsbury, ran a verbal tilt with
Dick, who, taken by surprise, had rather the
worst of it, and then began asking Martha
absurd questions about her Sunday-school les-
son. When they rose from the table, he an.
nounced his intention of going to church.
"I can think so well there," he explained.
" I can see through more things while the ser-
mon is going on than I can all the rest of the
"There's a gentleman to see you, sir," said
the maid. " He's in the library."
When John opened the door he found Mr.
Cartwright striding hurriedly about the room,
much in the manner of a caged polar bear.
The old gentleman had driven to the house, but
he could not have looked warmer had he run all
IQ4 The Banker and the Bear
" Sit down, Mr. Cartwright," said the Banker.
" Make yourself as comfortable as possible this
hot morning." N
But Mr. Cartwright had no intention of being
comfortable. He wheeled upon John, drew from
an inner pocket the Morning Herald Supplement,
and thrust it out at arm's length, as though it
were a deadly weapon. " Have you read that?"
John glanced at it carelessly, then handed it
back. " Yes," he said, " I have read it. That
kind of thing is extremely irritating."
" Irritating ! " thundered Mr. Cartwright. He
walked suddenly to the window and peered
anxiously down the street. " I telephoned to
Mr. Meredith to meet me here," he said, in an
uneasy parenthesis. Then turning again upon
John he wrathfully repeated, " Irritating ! "
"That is my great objection to the Sun-
day papers," the Banker went on politely.
" They drag a man back to school when he's
entitled to a holiday. A man should be
spared annoyances of this sort one day in the
" I do not take the Sunday papers ; I dis-
approve of them as strongly, no doubt, as you
yourself. This infamous article was shown me
by a friend of mine, a very good friend of
" I should be inclined to doubt the friendship
of a man who did me such a favor," said the
" Upon my word, you take this very lightly,
Mr. Bagsbury ! " The old gentleman spoke
fiercely, but he was not himself ; he missed his
echo. He checked another movement toward
the window. " I wish Mr. Meredith would
come. In a grave matter like this, his judg-
ment would be invaluable."
"If you will allow me," said John, "it seems
to me that you are taking it rather more seri-
ously than is necessary."
"Is it not serious ? " demanded the other.
"You don't mean to tell me, sir, that it is not
true ! "
" It's not true. It has a groundwork of fact,
if you will; but in so far as it insinuates that
the bank is involved, and that the safety of
the bank depends on Pickering's succeeding
in running a corner in lard, it is an unqualified
" I was otherwise informed by my friend "
196 The Banker and the Bear
"Your friend is one who can speak with
authority in the matter ? "
"Yes, sir," said Mr. Cartwright. "He told
me that for several days he had feared that
this would happen. He thinks that the publi-
cation of these facts puts the bank in a very
" Did he did Mr. Sponley, I mean suggest
that you come to me ? " John asked quietly.
" I do not see the pertinency of that question,
Mr. Bagsbury." Mr. Cartwright glanced ner-
vously toward the door. He longed for the
unwavering support of Mr. Meredith's valuable
"You are right," said John. "That has
nothing to do with the matter. But I can
assure you that Mr. Sponley is mistaken. I
know more of the bank's condition than it is
possible for Mr. Sponley to know, and I am not
at all alarmed. We may feel the effect of this
attack for a few months, or even longer; I
fancy that we shall. But I cannot, really, see
any ground for your concern in the matter.
Your position as one of the trustees of my
property is not affected. Of course, if the
bank should fail, you might have to bear part
of the stigma that a bank failure almost always
brings. But the bank is not going to fail. A
falling off in our deposits, or a depression of the
market value of our stock, or even the passing
of a dividend, need occasion you no distress.
Those things may trouble our stockholders,
though I don't imagine that any of the larger
ones will feel any great alarm. But you and
Mr. Meredith and Mr. Moffat need have
"Mr. Moffat may be uneasy or not, just as
he pleases ; but Mr. Meredith and I are stock-
holders, sir; large stockholders."
" Indeed ? " said John. " Have you held the
stock very long ? "
" There again, sir, you are asking an imper-
The next moment poor Mr. Cartwright, his
temper all gone to shreds, drew a breath of
relief, for the maid had opened the door and
ushered Mr. Meredith into the library.
" Mr. Cartwright and I have been discussing
this most unfortunate article in the Herald"
" Unfortunate is too mild a word for my feel-
ings," said Mr. Meredith. Then in his great
The Banker and the Bear
excitement he made a perfectly original re-
" If we had only waited another day "
He stopped there, transfixed by a blasting
look from his fellow-trustee, but he had said
So that was Sponley's reason for waiting.
As John thought of the beautiful shrewdness of
the move, he smiled.
"You are amused, eh!" roared Mr. Cart-
wright. " I understand you. You sold us that
stock yourself, and when you have run the bank
through a few more scandals, you mean to buy it
back cheap. You are a swindler ! "
"That brings our discussion to an end, Mr.
Cartwright," said John Bagsbury. " Good
morning, gentlemen," he added, holding open
the door into the hall.
As the carriage drove away he walked back
to his desk and wrote the following note :
" DEAR SPONLEY : I have just learned of the
sale of your stock in our bank to Messrs. Cart-
wright and Meredith. As you have no further
interest in Bagsbury and Company, and as you
are opposed to its present policy, I suggest that
you hand me your resignation from the Board of
Directors. We shall be glad to act upon it at
" JOHN BAGSBURY."
"Are you going to church with us, dear?"
asked Alice, from the doorway.
" Yes," he said. " I'm afraid I'll have to go
twice. Just wait a minute and I'll be ready."
HOW THE BEAR SPENT SUNDAY
SPONLEY was well satisfied with the course
events so far had taken. He had got rid of his
bank stock quietly and at a good price, with
the double advantage to himself of an increased
freedom of movement, and a greater supply of
ammunition for his operations against Picker-
ing. But what pleased him far more was this :
he had taken Harriet almost without reserve
into his confidence, and she was, as she had been
in so many earlier campaigns, his partner. He
remembered how she had felt when she had
learned of his understanding with Curtin, and
he had entertained strong misgivings as to the
effect which a revelation of his present schemes
would have upon her. But reflecting that, how-
ever carefully he might conceal his doings, she
was sure to guess at a great deal, he had braced
himself for a somewhat disagreeable scene and
had told her nearly everything.
How the Bear spent Sunday 201
It was his last big fight, he had said, and
quite sincerely. When this lard corner of Pick-
ering's was fairly broken, they would go out of
business and find some less exacting game to
play for the rest of their lives. To his surprise,
and to his infinite relief, she had entered into
his plans with all her old-time enthusiasm, accept-
ing with very good grace even the enforced hos-
tility with John.
" It doesn't really make so much difference,"
she said ; " neither of you can help it. He's
right from his point of view ; but when it's all
over he'll see your side of it, and we can be as
good friends as we were before. I hope, though,
that your beating Pickering won't hurt the bank
"I hope so, too," he assented, and again he
told the truth.
Early in the afternoon a messenger boy
brought John's note. Harriet read it over her
"John is quick, isn't he ?" she said.
" Yes ; but it won't do him any good. Wait
a minute, boy, and I'll give you an answer."
He scrawled something on a sheet of note
paper and handed it to her. It read :
2O2 The Banker and the Bear
" DEAR BAGSBURY : I shall seriously consider
doing as you suggest.
" MELVILLE SPONLEY."
" That doesn't tell him too much, does it ? "
he asked, smiling.
Nevertheless he settled himself to some
serious thinking. Though it did not at all
disconcert him, John's note showed him that
he must alter his plans. Up to this time his
sole idea had been, as John had foreseen, to
rouse the directors and the large stockholders in
an opposition sufficiently determined to compel
the Banker to drop Pickering. That had been
his motive for the attack on the bank in this
morning's Herald. But between the lines of
the note John had told him plainly that he had
fathomed his plans, and that fully realizing the
pressure which would be put upon him he was
not to be frightened nor coerced. Yet somehow
the bulldog must be made to let go.
" That's the whole trick," said Sponley, aloud.
" The minute Bagsbury is put out of the fight,
I can handle Pickering. John's the only one
I've got to give my time to."
How the Bear spent Sunday 203
" Is he in as deeply as that ? " she asked.
"Why the half million that Pickering got
from him is a comparatively small part of the
deal, of course; but he'll give him the other
half of it before the week's out if I know John
Bagsbury. He'll see him through now, if he
can. You see, the moral effect of having a big
bank behind you is immense. It counts with
the outside trading. Do you remember the
time I first met John took him out to lunch
I told you I was building a cyclone cellar in a
bank ? I built it all right, but the wrong man
" Yes," he went on after a moment of silence ;
"it's John Bagsbury who's holding up that
market. When he gets out from under, it'll
come down. You don't have to knock out all
the props, you know; one'll do the business."
" But won't he have to if all the directors "
" Oh, most anybody else would, but John's
different. I sized him up right the first time I
saw him. He knows what he's in for, and he's
decided he'll stay. I'm afraid it'll take more
than that Board of Directors to shake him out.
The depositors "
He paused, and for a while sat thinking.
2O4 The Banker and the Bear
" If something should scare the depositors
into making a run on the bank you see only
about half its business is commercial business ;
the rest is savings. The big depositors wouldn't
scare. They're stockholders mostly, and they
know the old bank's as solid as a fort. But if
the little fellows who've got their savings in
there once get the idea that it's shaky, they'll
come, every man, woman, and child of "em, and
get their money out inside of twenty-four hours.
He'd have to shut up for a while if they did
that They won't scare, though," he said, rising ;
"and I don't know that I'd want them to. I
hope the directors'll do the trick; but if they
can't, we'll find some other way."
He walked over to the telephone and called
up Jervis Curtin.
" You saw this morning's Herald, I suppose,"
he said. "Yes I'm coming over to see you
this afternoon. I had a small dispute with
Mr. Bagsbury the other day, and I've sold out
my stock. I think we'd better come to an
understanding, for his benefit, as to what our
relations have been All right I'll be over
in about an hour.
" I'm going to make another little call on
How the Bear spent Sunday 205
Cartwright first," he explained to Harriet. " I
won't be long at either place. I'll be back for
Mr. Cartwright had taken his echo home with
him after their disastrous interview that morn-
ing, ostensibly for the purpose of consultation,
but in reality to help him fulminate against
John. They were still doing it when Sponley
arrived, and between them they had worked up
a fine rage. They were unaffectedly glad to see
Sponley, and they showed it by redoubling the
din and clamor of their outcry against the un-
speakable rascality of the Banker.
Though Sponley had on the tip of his tongue
the word that would correct their error, it looked
for a while as though he would never have a
chance to say it, for Mr. Meredith's coda in-
variably gave Mr. Cartwright breath enough
to begin again. But at last there was a
" You're mistaken in thinking that Bagsbury
swindled you. Bagsbury is a perfectly honest
" Honest ! " they ejaculated.
"Though he does make a fool of himself
sometimes. He did not sell you that stock."
206 The Banker and the Bear
"He admitted it practically," said Cart-
" He could not deny it," said Meredith.
" Whatever he said or did not say," the Bear
went on, " he did not sell you that stock. I
have come here this afternoon because I have
just discovered that I sold it to you myself."
Sponley might take as much time as he
pleased now without fear of interruption. Two
disconnected electric bells lying in a box in the
hardware shop are not more incapable of sound
than were at that moment the two old trustees.
" I need hardly tell you," said Sponley, " that
I had no such intention. I put my stock in
Myers's hands with no other instructions than
that he sell at once. I did not inquire who had
bought the stock, and it was only by chance that
I learned to-day that I had been so unfortunate
as to sell it to you. I think I owe it to you to
be quite frank with you as to my reason for
selling out. I did it because I no longer re-
gard Bagsbury and Company's Bank as a good
He gave the words time to sink in deep before
he went on. " I don't mean to say that it's
extremely dangerous, but it is not wholly safe.
How the Bear spent Sunday 207
If anybody is going to speculate with my money,
I want it to be myself, not the president of a
bank that I hold stock in.
" Bagsbury's bank is running a great big
speculation; they may win or they may lose;
that has nothing to do with it. I get out of a
bank just as soon as it goes out of the banking
business, and I'm glad I'm well out of Bags-
bury's. But I regret that my profit should have
been at your expense."
Mr. Cartwright was trying to say something,
and Sponley added quickly :
" If I were in a position to take the stock back
but there's no use in discussing that. I've
already put the money I got for it where I can't
get it back."
Gradually the two scared old gentlemen
recovered their power of speech, and Sponley
answered their questions, alternately quieting
their fears by the assurance that they would
find no difficulty in selling their stock, and
waking their alarm again by impressing upon
them the urgent need of being all sold out by
As he rose to take his leave, he said, " I have
talked with you very frankly, because, as I said,
2O8 The Banker and the Bear
I have felt that I owed you no less than that,
and I am sure you realize the immense impor-
tance of guarding these facts most carefully.
Of course, if anything should escape concern-
ing the condition of the bank, the consequences
would be serious. I know that you will agree
with me on that point. I wish you the greatest
success in disposing of the stock."
Sponley had one more matter to attend to
that day, and then he would be prepared for
anything. It was likely, he thought, that John
might become suspicious of Curtin, the man
Sponley had put in the bank, and it was impera-
tive that Curtin be provided with some plausible
story which should prevent John's taking sum-
mary action and turning him out of the bank.
They discussed the matter for nearly an hour
before Sponley was satisfied. " I guess that'll
do," he said at last. "It doesn't fit together
too well, and it doesn't explain everything;
those are its best points. If you take it to him
before he comes to you and asks you for it, he'll
believe you. You'd better tell him the first
thing in the morning. And the other thing
you've to do is to watch for a crowd. If you
see anything that looks like a run on the bank,
let me know instantly. I'll be right in my
office; Stewart and Ray will do all my trad-
ing on the floor, and you can get me in a
" I'll want to be pretty careful not to let any-
body know that I'm in communication with you.
After what I shall tell Bagsbury to-morrow
morning, it'd look pretty black if I were caught
" Don't delay for anything, not if John Bags-
bury's standing within arm's length of the 'phone.
I've got to know of the run on the bank within
two minutes of the time it starts."
" All right," said Curtin ; " Bagsbury's pretty
strong in his hands, but I guess I could take my
chances with him."
Sponley nodded. "That's the idea. Well,
I'm going home to take things easy. I've done
a good day's work and there's a big rush com-
ing. Next Sunday I mean to start off on a long
The Bear drove home in a most cheerful frame
of mind. Never before had he entered on a
campaign that promised so well. It would be
short, furious, and, he felt sure, brilliantly
2IO The Banker and the Bear
As soon as Bagsbury's bank should open to-
morrow, he would draw all of his money out of
it. Then he would begin hammering away at
Pickering, selling him both cash and September
lard in enormous quantities. Just as the great
bull trader was weakening, there would come the
rumor and in a moment the news of the run
on the bank. When that happened, it would all
be over but the shouting and the paying up.
Pickering would pay. He would arrange with
his creditors, and go back to the soap business,
and after a few years, if he lived so long, he
would try this same fool trick again.
And John, there was no doubt that Bagsbury
and Company's Bank would have to suspend pay-
ment. When they begin to run a savings bank,
it is very unlikely that they will stop ; and unless
they stop, the closing of the doors is simply a
matter of time.
We speak of a bank's credit as being solid,
but that is only a comparative term. There is
nothing else which so light a touch will set flut-
tering. A whispered question will do it ; an
assertion is unnecessary. Just, " Do you know
if it's true that they are in trouble ?" A con-
founding of two similar names in some stupid
How the Bear spent Sunday 211
mind will do it. An office boy's mistake in
leaving the " Bank Closed " sign hanging a
half an hour too long in the door will do it.
Some one takes alarm, then there are three
then twenty enough to form a line, to attract
attention from the street, and, except for quick-
ness, and nerve, and resource, and luck, on the
part of those in command, there is no stopping
until the money is gone.
Sponley had told Cartwright and Meredith
enough to start a run on any bank ; indeed, as
he thought it over, he felt somewhat uneasy
lest he had done more than was necessary. It
would be rough on John. Sponley wondered if
it would break his nerve.
As Jack Dorlin drew near Bagsbury's house
that same Sunday afternoon, he felt a growing
misgiving as to the wisdom of going in. He
had not seen Dick since Wednesday night,
when John Bagsbury and Mrs. Sponley and
Dick herself had combined to bring about his
utter defeat. Since then he had set out a
dozen times with the determination to see her
at once and come to some sort of understanding
with her, and he had as often turned back, con-
vinced that some other time would suit his pur-
pose better. But Sunday afternoon itself came
not more regularly to the Bagsburys than did
Jack Dorlin, and having told himself that what-
ever else Dick thought of him she must not
have a chance to think that he was sulky, he
was now turning the Bagsburys' corner just at
his accustomed time. He could see clearly that
he should have come when he would have had
Good Intentions 213
more chance of seeing Dick alone, people
were sure to be dropping in to-day, and when
he came opposite the steps he felt a boyish
impulse to walk straight by. He hesitated a
moment, in a pitiable state of indecision, then
walked resolutely up the steps.
Simultaneously with his ringing the bell,
Dick opened the door.
" I saw you coming," she explained, and there
was something so impossibly innocent in her
smile that Jack wondered if she had not also
seen him trying to make up his mind whether
he would come or not.
" Come into the library," she went on. " I'm
all alone just now. The others will be back
soon, though, I think."
The library was cool and dim, a grateful re-
lief after the burning glare of the street, and
Dick dropped lazily on the big sofa where they
had sat last Wednesday evening; there was
also the same expectation of an interruption
from John Bagsbury. Altogether no circum-
stances could have been more favorable to the
immediate carrying out of Jack's intention than
" I've come round, Dick, to say what I tried
214 The Banker and the Bear
to say the other night. I fancy you have already
answered me ; but I want to tell you all there
is to tell, and I want to be sure that we both
understand. I think we owe each other that."
Jack had composed that introduction on the
way over, and had decided that it would do. It
was clear and dignified, and there was an under-
current of pathos which modified its admirable
reserve. But now that the time had come, he
did not say it. Sitting close beside Dick on the
sofa, he wondered how he could have thought
seriously of speaking such idiocy as that. What
he really said was :
" How do you keep this room so cool ? It's
been witheringly hot outside for the last three
Then he asked himself why he would be such
an ass; Dick could see right through him, he
knew, and she was laughing at him. He looked
at her. Except for the tell-tale corner of her
mouth, her face was intensely solemn ; but that
lurking dimple completely disconcerted Jack.
He might be a great fool, but she ought not
to make fun of him like this.
" How has it been going down at the bank ? "
Good Intentions 215
" Badly. They've been losing money." This
was going from bad to worse. Nothing was
further from his intention than to say something
facetious, but he went on : " They think that
I'm worth fifteen dollars a week, and as I figure
it, they've lost about six dollars and a quarter
since Thursday morning by that arrangement."
" I'm glad you came," said Dick. "I wanted
to talk with you about the bank. Poor John's
having a hard time. Mr. Cartwright and Mr.
Meredith have just bought a lot of stock, and
they were scared by the story in the paper this
morning. John's afraid they'll make a great
disturbance, and try to sell their stock. That
would give people a rather unfavorable im-
pression of the condition the bank was in,
So it seemed that, though the bodily presence
of John Bagsbury could not interrupt him, the
alert spirit of John Bagsbury was able to inter-
fere quite as successfully. Dick went on to tell
him what she knew, and all she had guessed,
of John's difficulties. At first Jack listened
patiently, and waited for her to finish so that
he could take the conversation back to where
he wanted it ; but never for long could he resist
216 The Banker and the Bear
the spell of her enthusiasm, he would take to
mathematics to-morrow, if she should develop a
sudden liking for cubic curves, and soon he
was asking eager questions, and hazarding wild
speculations upon the probable course of events
for the next two or three days.
While they were talking, there came to Jack
an idea that almost amounted to inspiration.
It struck him so suddenly as to suspend his
speech right in the middle of a sentence, and
he gloated over it in silence, wondering why he
had not thought sooner of a thing so obvious,
so easy, and so entirely satisfactory. He would
carry it out before trying again to tell Dick the
rest of his interrupted love story.
In the old days, when he had fancied that he
loved her, the telling had been comparatively
easy ; but now that she had become a part of
every breath he drew, he found the thought of
telling her most formidable. He had hoped in
these past few months that she was beginning
to care in a way very different from her old
friendly affection for him ; but her behavior since
Wednesday night had well-nigh swept that hope
away. He must tell her, even though he was
inviting certain defeat, and hazarding her friend-
Good Intentions 217
ship into the bargain. Yet, with the idea which
had come to him a moment ago, there had arisen
the hope that it might be, if he were to do some-
thing to prove himself of material assistance
to John Bagsbury in his fight, that this might
make a difference with Dick. It was worth a
His sudden preoccupation caused Dick to
glance at him curiously once or twice ; but for
a little while she did not break in upon it.
Then she asked :
"Are your plans taking shape at all? I
mean, have you any idea what you'll go into
after you leave the bank?"
He roused himself sharply and said, with a
laugh : " No, I think I'll stay at the bank a
while longer and collect material for a book.
I mean to write a biography of Hillsmead, call
it 'Wit and Wisdom,' or 'The Hillsmead Joke
"How immensely funny that will be," she
Her tone was not encouraging to any further
jocularity; but Jack had determined upon his
course, and he held to it manfully ; and, as best
she could, Dick concealed her irritation. It
218 The Banker and the Bear
was a relief to both of them when the Bags-
burys came home.
John Bagsbury was excited, but he had done
all that he could do, and he was going forward
into the critical week with the same elation that
some soldiers feel on the eve of battle. He
insisted that Jack stay to tea, and afterward he
talked for two solid hours, so that Alice fairly
forgot to be sleepy, and Dick and Jack Dorlin
laughed and then wondered, feeling that never
before had they seen John Bagsbury fully
" Can you allow me a holiday to-morrow ?
asked Jack, as he rose to go. " I have some
personal business that I feel I must attend to."
Dick followed him into the hall, and, stand-
ing before the door, barred the way out. " What
is it you're going to do to-morrow ? " she
" Just a little matter of business "
" It isn't curiosity. I really want to know."
"Why, it's nothing " stammered Jack
" that is well I can't tell you."
She turned abruptly away from him and then
he heard a low chuckle. " I know, I know,"
she said triumphantly. " If it had been anything
Good Intentions 219
else, you would have told me, and then how
cheap you'd have made me feel ! But I knew
it was that. I want to be in it, too. Come
around here to-morrow morning before you do
After he had gone, as she turned from the
door, she met John Bagsbury coming into the
" I'm going up to bed," he said. " I've got
some big days coming, and to-morrow'll be one
of them. Wish me luck, Dick."
" I do," she said. " I know you'll come out
She held out her hand and he took it with a
grip that fairly hurt her.
" I mean to," he answered. " Good night."
" Did John say he was going to bed ? "
asked Alice, as Dick entered the library. " I
thought from the way people have been flying
around to-day that there might be something
the matter with the bank ; but John seemed to
feel so cheerful to-night that I guess every-
thing's all right."
"Yes," said Dick. "I don't believe you
As John had prophesied, they were big days
220 The Banker and the Bear
that followed days that will be talked about
down town for another five years. Lard had
been a mystery ever since early in May ; the
wise ones had guessed about it, and those who
wished to appear wise had repeated their
guesses to others still less expert; but no one
had really known anything. But by Monday
morning everybody, even to the remotest office
boy, understood that this operation was practi-
cally a duel between Pickering, the Bull, and
Sponley, the Bear. The two men were about
equally known ; they were supposed to be nearly
equal in resources and also in skill, and so it
befell that all about the city, and in other cities,
men fingered the ribbons of paper that rattled
painfully out of the tickers, and wondered what
John Bagsbury spent the greater part of
Monday in his office. On Sunday afternoon
he had been to see Dawson, the former presi-
dent of the Atlantic National. John trusted
him thoroughly, so he had laid before him the
whole situation ; had told him that he thought
a large block of the Bagsbury stock would be
offered for sale next day, and that he wished to
be in a position to buy it ; and Dawson promptly
Good Intentions 221
told him that he might have all the money he
needed to make the purchase. So John's first
move on Monday morning was to send a stock-
broker around to Cartwright and Meredith to
buy their stock before it should be offered in
" Buy it as cheap as you can," he said. Then,
mentioning a figure, " I think you can get it for
Half an hour later the broker telephoned that
Cartwright was claiming that they had a much
better offer, and asked John if he cared to go
any higher. John did not for a moment believe
that any one was bidding against him for the
stock. He reflected that probably the old trus-
tees were not so badly frightened as he had
thought, and were holding out for a good price.
He told the broker how much higher he might
go, but cautioned him to do all he could to get
the stock for less.
Curtin came into the private office a little
later and stayed about half an hour, telling
some rather damaging things about Sponley,
and making explanations which John half lis-
tened to and but half believed that was about
the proportion which Sponley had expected him
to believe and which he finally cut short.
The episode irritated him more than did the
visits from directors and stockholders, who kept
steadily dropping in all day to offer him advice
He had expected that, however; more of it,
in fact, than he was forced to take, and he ex-
plained and answered questions with a patience
that did him credit. To everybody he said that
the bank was in excellent shape, that all the
loans were amply secured, and that the success
or failure of the Pickering deal would not make
the slightest difference in the dividends. Upon
the whole, his visitors accepted the situation
with fairly good grace. There was this about
John Bagsbury : when he told you anything, you
knew he was telling you the truth.
Early in the afternoon the broker telephoned
to him again. " I can't get that stock, Mr.
Bagsbury, even at your highest figure. There's
some one else after it. Do you want to offer
any more ? "
John told the broker to let it go and quit, and
in his leisure moments during the rest of the
afternoon he wondered a good deal over what
this sharp competition could mean. He could
Good Intentions 223
in no way attribute it to Sponley ; but he was
equally at a loss to find any other explanation.
When the Bagsburys' door-bell rang early
that evening, John and Alice were surprised to
see Dick move to answer it herself. They saw
her walk through the library, and then heard
her run the length of the hall.
"They've made up," said Alice.
" Who ? "
" Why Dick and Mr. Dorlin, of course."
" I didn't know they'd quarrelled," said John.
" Dick has seemed pretty cheerful, and she
hasn't said anything "
" Said anything ! She didn't need to say
anything. They quarrelled Wednesday even-
ing, and he didn't come around all the rest of
the week. And yesterday they were still at it.
I could tell, because they were both so glad to
see us when we came in."
" They've certainly made up all right now "
He stopped as the two young people entered
the library. The instant of silence told them
that they had been the subjects of the conver-
sation they had interrupted, and Dick blushed,
first in embarrassment and then in vexation
over having blushed. Jack returned the Bags-
224 The Banker and the Bear
burys' greeting nervously. He was asking him-
self why he would be such an ass as to try to
do things theatrically. He ought to have told
John down at the office, or written him a note.
Well, there was nothing to do now but see the
Then suddenly he read in Alice's expectant
look and in John's quizzical smile, and last of
all in Dick's flushed face, the interpretation
that the Banker and his wife were putting upon
this little scene. That fairly scattered him.
"I came around to tell you " he began
wildly " to say that we that is, Dick and
I have "
"We bought the stock in the bank to-day
what Mr. Cartwright and Mr. Meredith bought
of Mr. Sponley."
Dick spoke quickly, but not an instant too
soon; another second and John would have
been giving them his blessing.
At her words, however, he dropped back into
his chair and looked blankly from her to Jack
and back to her again.
" You did ! " he exclaimed ; then after a
moment, "you did!" and then in spite of his
best attempt to keep a straight face he began
Good Intentions 225
to laugh. " I beg your pardon," he said, when
he had his voice under control again. " I was
surprised. Tell me about it, please. How
did you happen to do it ? "
Without the smallest misgiving for he at-
tributed John's laughter to the ridiculous mis-
take he had so nearly made Jack told his
tale. He said nothing about the motive which
had led him and Dick to buy the stock, but he
dwelt with a good deal of humor on the per-
plexities into which his ignorance of business
had led him in the course of the negotiations.
He could afford to laugh at them because he
and Dick had succeeded, in spite of all, in
effecting a sale of a large part of their own
securities and, in the teeth of opposition, in
buying the Cartwright-Meredith stock. They
had spent the day profitably and had thoroughly
enjoyed it. The encounter with the broker was
what pleased Jack particularly.
" I all but had it fixed," he said, " when this
other fellow came around and began to bid up
the price. But after that they gave me rather
an exciting time. I'd make them an offer, and
then they'd have a consultation with the mys-
terious stranger, and I'd have to raise it We
226 The Banker and the Bear
kept it going until the middle of the afternoon,
and then he quit. I'd have been there yet if
he hadn't. The business roused my sporting
blood somehow ; I haven't enjoyed anything so
much in a long while."
Dick had helped tell the first part of the tale,
eagerly snatching the thread away from Jack,
and then handing it back to him with, "Oh, I
don't understand it, you tell him." But toward
the end she became silent, watching with puz-
zled curiosity the quick changes of expression
in John Bagsbury's face. When Jack finished,
" Have we done something awfully, absurdly
stupid ? "
" You have done one of the most thoughtful,
generous things I ever heard of," said John,
" and it was a good move, too. Only we've all
made a mistake in not telling each other just
what we meant to do. You see, I was the man
who sent around that broker."
" Good Lord ! " said Jack.
Dick began to laugh, and John Bagsbury's
smile gradually expanded into an indubitable
grin ; but Jack's face remained as solemn as an
Good Intentions 227
" Laugh ! " Dick commanded. " The mistake
doesn't matter. The stock is all in the fam "
She colored, and, correcting herself, proceeded
to punish Jack for her slip.
"The stock I bought is all in the family.
Jack, of course, will vote his as he pleases."
" I've put in quite a day of it myself," said
John, quickly, in the interest of peace. " I
would have been as busy as I care to be
without any visitors, and there was a regular
procession of them. And Curtin came in
for a long talk, too. He had a story to tell,
mostly about Sponley. Said he had known
Sponley a long time, and that he had got him
his job in the bank. Then, according to him,
Sponley tried to make him pay for his place by
giving away information about the bank. He
bought Curtin's stock, it seems, and then threat-
ened to get him put out of the bank unless he
did as he was told. Curtin says he told him
of the loan to Pickering, thinking it was all
right to do it ; but he denies having known any-
thing about the collateral. I suppose Sponley
guessed at that."
Dick gave her fellow-amateur detective a
look which said, " We're saved from doing any-
228 The Banker and the Bear
thing foolish about that," but Jack was still
thinking about the outrageous injustice of her
last remark, and he affected not to see.
" Do you think he was telling the truth ? "
she asked of John. " What are you going to
do with him ? "
" Oh, it was probably somewhere near
true. I shall let him stay till the year's out.
I have all I want on my hands just now, with-
out trying to get rid of my officers. If he had a
little more spunk, he might make a pretty good
rascal; but as he is, he can't do much harm."
" Do you know," the Banker went on after a
long pause, " you did a good thing for the bank
by bidding up that stock and paying a big price
for it? It got Cartwright and Meredith over
their fright a lot better than if you'd bought
it cheap. If they had got badly scared and
talked around, there's no telling where they'd
have landed us. But I guess there's no danger
of that now."
" No," said Jack. " They were as pleased as
possible, when the thing was finally fixed up.
They seemed to be mighty glad to be well out
"I wonder " began John. He rested his
Good Intentions 229
chin on his hands and stared intently at noth-
ing for a minute, then he looked at his watch.
" I'm going to see them," .he said, rising.
" Now ? " asked Dick.
" Yes, I'm going to suggest that they turn
the whole estate over to me."
Not a word was spoken in the library until
they heard the door close behind John Bags-
"I suppose I'd better go," said Jack, without
stirring in his big chair.
" Perhaps so," said Dick ; " we've knocked
about together all day "
That brought him to his feet like a flash.
" You're right," he said. " Good night."
He shook hands with admirable nonchalance,
and marched he could not help marching
into the hall.
" Stupid ! " said Dick, just after he closed
the door. A little later she said "Stupid"
again, but with an entirely different inflection,
and with something a little like a laugh on the
end of it.
But by that time poor Jack was halfway
down the block, walking at the rate of at least
five miles an hour.
THE STARTING OF AN AVALANCHE
HOWEVER important a campaign may be, how-
ever long it may have been in the making, the
hours which prove really to be decisive are likely
to be few. The dramatic situation in the lard
market was the outcome of months of thorough
planning, of ingenious preparation, of well-con-
cealed manipulation ; but once the actual fight-
ing began, and the whole commercial world
gathered around to see, it lasted but three days
and a little way into the fourth, that is, from
Monday morning to an hour before noon on
Measured by the volume of trading done,
Monday was the heaviest day of the four.
Sponley's operators on the floor, Stewart and
Ray, began selling when the big bell gave the
signal at half-past nine, and until it rang again,
at half-past one, there was no cessation. The
Bear was explicit in his instructions, and acting
The Starting of an Avalanche 231
on these, Stewart and Ray took a furious pace.
They sold actual lard, wholly imaginary lard,
grotesque prophecies of lard, which by no pos-
sibility could be realized ; and little Mr. Keyes,
of Keyes and Seivert, and tall Mr. Jones, of
Ball, Snyder, and Jones, bought it all, while the
Old Man, as they called Pickering, strolled about
their offices with an utterly irresponsible air, and
smoked Wheeling stogies.
It was a great round they fought that day ; but
it is not so well remembered as those that suc-
ceeded it, because at half-past one the relative
position of the combatants was just what it had
been four hours earlier. With all the tremen-
dous pounding given and taken that morning,
nothing happened. Neither had faltered for an
instant, and there was not the slightest founda-
tion for a guess as to where the advantage lay.
But to one who could know what was in the
minds of the two men, it would be evident that
Pickering had rather the better of the situation,
for at closing time he was just where he ex-
pected to be he was not disappointed. But
Melville Sponley had not counted on an incon-
clusive day. The reinforcements he had looked
for so confidently had failed to come up.
232 The Banker and the Bear
Sponley spent the morning in his office, but
he had lieutenants wherever they could possibly
be of service, and he knew that the first unfavor-
able rumor that should be set afloat regarding
Bagsbury's bank would reach him instantly.
But all the reports he received were negative.
The clerk he had posted at the stock exchange
called him up two or three times, but only to say
that no Bagsbury stock had been offered for
sale, and from Curtin at the bank there came
not a word. When he had given Curtin his in-
structions the day before, he had been aware
that it was hardly likely that the rumor of the
bank's difficulties would spread fast enough to
develop a run on the bank before closing time
on Monday ; but he had counted confidently on
its reaching the provision pit in time to have a
decisive effect. The run, he calculated, would
begin on Tuesday morning. But all Monday
afternoon he heard never a whisper, and by
evening he began to wonder if he had not made
a serious mistake.
Immediately after dinner he decided to learn
what he could from Mr. Cartwright ; but he hes-
itated whether he should call on him or tele-
phone him. Mr. Cartwright, he knew, was as
The Starting of an Avalanche 233
yet unreconciled to the telephone, and regarded
a message over it much as many people regard
a postal card, and yet the other course seemed
still more inadvisable. If Sponley had called in
person, he would, you remember, have found
John Bagsbury there; but as it happened the
telephone bell in Mr. Cartwright's library rang
only about six feet from the place where John
was sitting. Mr. Cartwright answered it im-
" Oh, good evening, Mr. Sponley," John
heard him say. "Yes, we sold all our stock
this afternoon Yes, a very fair price
He was a young man whose name escapes
me at this moment Yes, thank you very
much Good evening."
And John, with some difficulty, kept a per-
fectly straight face. At the other end of the
'phone Sponley turned away with an exclama-
tion of disgust.
" What is it ?" Harriet asked.
" I'd rather deal with three rascals than with
one fool," he said shortly, " and that Cartwright's
an infernal fool."
The first notable event at the bank Tuesday
morning was the early arrival of Pickering. He
234 The Banker and the Bear
walked without ceremony into John's office,
seated himself near an open window, and at once
proceeded to light a fresh black stogy from the
stump of the one he had been smoking.
" I have to smoke these as soon as things be-
gin to get interesting," he explained. " I find
cigars too tame. I hope the smell doesn't
" Not a bit," said John. " It would take more
than that. I don't bother easily."
"I don't believe you do," Pickering's voice
came from a cloud of pungent smoke. " You
don't look worried to-day; but unless I've missed
my guess, you've had to take a lot in these last
days that would have worried most men."
" Is that a guess ? " John asked quickly.
" Nothing else," said Pickering. " I haven't
heard any talk. Only I know that the story in
the Sunday paper of your having made me that
loan must have thrown some of your directors
into fits, and I thought they might have tried to
pass 'em on to you."
John could not help smiling over his recollec-
tion of the spectacle Cartwright and Meredith
had presented Sunday morning, but he said :
" They've taken it very well, upon the whole.
The Starting of an Avalanche 235
Whatever they may think of the wisdom of
making the loan, they seem perfectly willing to
let me run the thing through, now that I'm in it."
"That's not to be wondered at," said Picker-
ing. " You have a way about you that would
convince most men that you can mind your own
business better than they can mind it for you.
" I came around this morning," he went on,
without waiting for the Banker's meagre word
of thanks, " because I need some more money."
" Three hundred thousand."
No man can spend his life working toward
and in the high offices of a bank, as John had
done, without losing a good deal of his original
righting instinct, or if he can, he is a danger-
ous banker ; the lifelong responsibility for other
people's money makes caution a sort of second
nature. But not even a banker, until he is
totally unfit for the business, loses all his red
corpuscles. John Bagsbury had been betrayed,
had been challenged to fight, had been threatened
with certain defeat if he would dare to fight ;
and being a man, and a profoundly angry man,
he was eager for Sponley's complete overthrow.
He would have liked to say to Pickering,
236 The Banker and the Bear
"Go ahead and smash him, and I'll see you
But if Pickering had guessed the existence of
this feeling, and had counted it a circumstance
in his favor, he had a mistaken notion of his
man. John Bagsbury might feel the impulse,
but the Banker would make or deny the loan.
" I want to know just what property you've
got," said John.
Pickering took a slip of paper from his
pocket. "I thought you would," he said.
" Here's a schedule of it."
John laid the paper on his desk, and for some
time pored over it in silence. " I don't want
any more lard," he said at length ; " I've got
enough now to last quite a while. And I don't
want to go into the soap business, either; yet
I don't see that I have much choice if I make
the loan. All your convertible securities are
Still he studied the schedule earnestly, and
Pickering was silent. At last the Banker
" If you will give me a judgment note for it,
I'll let you have the money."
Pickering reddened. " I'm not bankrupt,"
The Starting of an Avalanche 237
he said, "nor going to be. I'd rather give a
man a check signed in blank than a judgment
note. It's as bad as a death-warrant, with every-
thing filled in but the date."
"Of course," said John, "it puts you entirely
in my hands. If you're afraid of me, you'd
better not take the loan. That's the only
security I'll take."
Pickering relighted his stogy and gazed
meditatively out of the window. " All right,"
he said at length, with a dry laugh, "give me
the blank and I'll sign it. I guess I'm about as
safe in your hands as I am in my own."
While he was making out the note there
came a knock at the door. " Mr. Dawson is
here to see you, Mr. Bagsbury," said the
" Come in, Mr. Dawson," said John, rising.
"You know Mr. Pickering?"
Under his heavy white brows Dawson's eyes
twinkled. " You are giving us plenty to think
about these days, Mr. Pickering."
He seated himself heavily, mopped his red
face with a redder handkerchief, and ran his
hand through his thick white hair. Dawson
had accumulated plenty of treasure on earth;
238 The Banker and the Bear
but I think that all unconsciously he had been
laying up a greater treasure in heaven, if a life
of courage and honesty and the wisest optimism
counts for anything, and the long file of men
his kindly help saved from financial ruin and
worse are to be permitted to testify. There
was no sentimentality about him : he was hard-
handed as an old sailor; but many a practical
man of business to-day can hardly speak of him
" You are making a great fight," he went on,
still addressing Pickering, "and I half believe
you stand a chance to win."
The other men laughed. " I'm more hope-
ful," said Pickering. " I fully expect to win.
The Bear took his pounding badly yesterday,
and to-day I'm making him sweat to protect his
" I'm not trying to discourage you," Dawson
answered; "but until Sponley is actually busted,
and his accounts are closed out, the chances
are always in his favor. He makes an effort
to play square; but he plays to win, and I
don't believe he ever went into a game of
this kind without an extra ace about him
The Starting of an Avalanche 239
" He'd better get it out of his sleeve pretty
quick, then," said the soap-maker.
" He will," retorted Dawson. " He'll bear
watching by both of you.
"You've been making Mr. Pickering another
loan, I take it," he went on, addressing John
Both men nodded.
" In a way, you're playing right into his hand.
He's making a deliberate attack on the bank.
He'll stop at nothing, and the knowledge of this
second loan makes his case stronger. The
moral effect on the depositors will be bad. You
can bet they'll know about it before night."
Pickering rose, "Are you still willing to let
me have it, Mr. Bagsbury ? "
" Yes," said John, curtly. " I told you you
could have it. The loan's good and the
security's good. I'll chance it on the effect."
" I guess I'd have done the same thing my-
self," said Dawson, after the speculator had left
the office ; " still I can't be sure it isn't a mis-
take. I must go on just dropped in to see if
you were in any trouble. Good-by."
A little later Curtin telephoned over to
Sponley the news of the second loan to Pick-
240 The Banker and the Bear
ering and of Dawson's visit to the bank. There
had been, he added, no unusual drain on the
bank, nothing in the least resembling the begin-
ning of a run.
As he left the telephone box, he saw that
John Bagsbury's eye was on him ; he avoided it,
then with a poor affectation of coolness sought
it again and, being unsuccessful, walked hastily
to his desk. He knew John thought him a cur ;
but he wondered whether the president sus
pected anything else.
The blow was a heavy one to Sponley, heavier
than all the hammering Pickering was giving
him, and he took it hard. The reenforcement
of his enemy was bad enough, but it was not the
worst. He could measure it. Dawson's visit
was a mystery. How much or how little it
might mean he could not even guess, but the
thought that this tremendous old fighter might
take a hand troubled him seriously. And his
ingenious plotting to start a run on the bank
had evidently failed. Somewhere or other, he
had made a bad miscalculation.
For the last hour or two of the trading that
day Sponley's plight was desperate. Pickering
was indeed making him sweat; but the Bear's
The Starting of an Avalanche 241
nerve was not shaken, and he fought furiously.
Twice he was within two minutes of being sold
out ; but both times he was able, though barely,
to put up his margins. When the closing bell
rang, and he was safe for another twenty hours,
he went to the nearest cafe and drank enough
whiskey to make his attendant stare at him ; and
then with steady hands and lips, and the old
purposeful look in his eye, he went out and
drove straight home.
" Shall you want the carriage again this after-
noon, sir ? " asked the coachman, when they
reached the house.
" I think in about an hour."
Still the man hesitated, holding the impatient
horses which had started to move off toward the
stable. He had worked for Sponley for fifteen
years, and he felt a profound admiration for
him. He knew that something troubled his
employer, and he was halting on the brink of
taking a liberty.
" Well," said Sponley, " what is it ? "
" I beg your pardon, sir ; I hope nothing has
" Nothing," Sponley spoke shortly. It
annoyed him to think that he was showing
242 The Banker and the Bear
the effect of the pounding he had taken that
day. He turned to go into the house, then
stopped and called after the man:
"Wait a minute. Haven't you got what
money you've saved in Bagsbury's bank ? "
" Yes, sir."
" I guess you'll do well to take it out first
thing to-morrow morning. I don't know that
they're going to fail, but you'd better be on the
He dismissed the man with a nod and went
in to the telephone. He called up the Herald
building and asked for Mr. Hauxton. " Can
you come out to my house at once, on a matter
of some importance ? " he asked. " It's not the
sort of thing I want to discuss over the 'phone."
The financial man on the Herald is an im-
portant person, unused to being telephoned
for in that summary way; but to this request
of Sponley's he replied with alacrity.
The Bear greeted him with impressive
" Have you heard anything to-day, Mr.
Hauxton ? " he asked when they were seated,
"anything that leads you to think that Bags-
bury's bank is in trouble ? "
The Starting of an Avalanche 243
The financial reporter mopped his bald spot,
and then taking off his spectacles he wiped
" Have you heard anything of that sort, Mr.
Sponley ? "
A man may attain to certain great eminences,
may be a constitutional lawyer, or an arch-
bishop, and still an easy prey to cozenage and
false speaking, but he can never be the finan-
cial man on a great newspaper. Hauxton,
peering wistfully through his powerful spec-
tacle lenses, could see through the skin of the
fair-seeming apple of truth, even to the very
worm at the core. You would gain nothing
by telling an ordinary cock-and-bull story to
him ; it would never go beyond his ears.
Yet, knowing all this, Sponley settled con-
fidently to his task. He did not try to con-
vince the reporter that the bank was really in
a dangerous condition; he did not want him
to believe that. And there was no question
of Hauxton's actually printing anything in the
paper. Hauxton held his highly salaried posi-
tion because he held the confidence of the big
financial men about the city, and he held their
confidence because they knew he could hold
244 The Banker and the Bear
his tongue. Discretion was his stock in trade.
But if Sponley could excite his curiosity suffi-
ciently to set him to making inquiries here
and there as to the truth or the bare existence
of a rumor that the bank was in trouble, that
was enough for the Bear. The rumor would
exist by the time Hauxton had asked three
men if there were a rumor; and inside of
twenty-four hours it would prove itself true.
Sponley made very light of what little in-
formation he had, professed to discredit it
utterly, and said finally that he should have
paid no attention to it, or should have referred
it straight to headquarters, except that his
present operations in lard put him in an atti-
tude of apparent hostility to the bank, and that
he didn't care to go there on such an errand.
He could see that he was impressing Hauxton ;
by the time he finished, the tip of the reporter's
long pointed nose seemed fairly to twitch and
to twinkle with excited curiosity.
"You'd better be very careful whom you
ask about it," said the Bear. " It's easy enough
to start people talking just that way. I'd go
right to one of the officers of the bank first,
if I were you."
The Starting of an Avalanche 245
Hauxton laughed. " I don't exactly relish
the idea of asking Bagsbury if it's true that
his bank is likely to have to suspend. They
say, you know, that he's never lost his temper
but twice, and that he didn't quite kill his man
either time. Once was when Drake went to
him to get a loan for that skate Suburban
Rapid Transit. He offered Bagsbury a com-
mission, and at that Bagsbury got up, took him
by the arm, marched him to the head of the
stairs, and said he didn't know whether to kick
him down or not. Drake thought he meant
to, though, and jumped halfway and rolled
the rest. He was black and blue for two weeks.
And the other time was when Smith tried to
blackmail him. Bagsbury bent him backward
over a table and nearly brained him. He got
off alive, too ; but I might not be so lucky."
Sponley knew that Hauxton was speaking
in jest, but he answered seriously :
" Oh, Bagsbury can't afford to lose his tem-
per these days, and he'd treat you all right,
anyway ; but I think you'd get more out of one
of the other officers. I think Curtin's your
man. He may refuse to talk, or he may lie to
you, but he's no good at concealing the facts."
246 The Banker and the Bear
As soon as Hauxton took his leave, Sponley
called up Curtin on the telephone. Just as
Curtin answered the call, Harriet, who had
heard Hauxton go out, entered the room, and
Sponley was forced to give his instructions to
the assistant cashier in her hearing.
" I just sent Hauxton of the Herald over to
see you. He'll ask you if it's true that the
bank's in trouble. You'll deny it, of course.
Deny it vigorously as you can. Do you under-
Then after a word of greeting to Harriet, he
telephoned to Mr. Meredith.
" I was afraid you might be alarmed over
the rumors that have been going about this
afternoon concerning Bagsbury's bank. I don't
think there's anything to be afraid of. They
may have some temporary difficulty, but they're
sure to come out all right. If any one speaks
to you about it, you'll be quite safe in denying
that there's any serious difficulty, and you'll
be doing Bagsbury a good turn. When people
get to talking, it sometimes plays the very
devil with a bank Not at all. Good-by."
You can see that Dawson was right about
the extra ace.
SPONLEY talked to Mr. Meredith somewhat
longer than was strictly necessary; and when
there was nothing more to say, he still delayed
a little in hanging up the receiver. He could
not decide just what he had best say to Harriet
when he turned away from the telephone. To
some ears his messages would have sounded
innocent enough, but Harriet was different;
still he could not be sure that she had listened
As he rang the bell for disconnection, he
fancied he heard a movement in the room, and
when he turned to speak to her, Harriet was
gone. He called her name, but there was no
answer, and while he listened for it, he thought
he heard her step on the stairs. Considerably
surprised, though somewhat relieved at having
his awkward explanation deferred for a moment,
he went out into the hall and again called to
248 The Banker and the Bear
her, but still there was nothing to show him
that she had heard, though there had been
hardly time for her to get quite out of ear-shot.
He walked part way up the stairs, hesitated,
and finally turned back ; then, after ringing for
his carriage, he went out.
He had enough on his mind during the
next few hours without thinking of Harriet or
trying to explain her apparently unaccountable
Harriet would not have listened to the mes-
sages he had sent over the telephone if the first
word he said as she entered the room had not
been the name of Curtin. Harriet hated Curtin
exactly as she hated a rat, and equally strongly
she loathed the thought of Melville Sponley's
association with him. In all the months since
it had begun she had never been able to con-
quer that feeling or even to conceal it from her
husband. So she listened to the enigmatical
instructions, and was so fully occupied in won-
dering what they might mean that she did not
catch the import of Sponley's message to Mr.
Meredith until just as he was at the end of it.
Then it suddenly came over her that her hus-
band, who always knew so well the effect his
words would have, must be aware that what he
was saying to poor, timorous Mr. Meredith was
anything but reassuring. The full meaning of
the move was not then apparent to her; but
with the first dim perception of it came the
feeling that she must be alone, and without
trying to resist it or to account for it, she had
literally fled upstairs. Before she reached her
room she regretted having yielded to the impulse,
and after standing a moment irresolute, she
turned to go back. When he called to her the
second time, she tried to answer, but could not
command her voice, so taking from a drawer a
fresh handkerchief which should serve as the
excuse for her flight, she walked back to the
head of the stairs; just as she reached it, she
heard her husband go out. With a feeling
of relief at being left alone, she threw her-
self upon her bed, and for a long time she lay
there, staring at the ceiling and trying not to
As Dawson had suggested, Melville Sponley
had a strong preference for truth and fair deal-
ing whenever they were practicable ; but it will
not be imagined that in the course of a quarter
century of commercial privateering he had not
250 The Banker and the Bear
many times committed acts as irregular and as
immoral I am not speaking of commercial
morality as this attempt to wreck Bagsbury's
bank. He had concealed none of these things
from her, and she had heard of them and taken
her part in them with such entire equanimity
that he had quite naturally been surprised at
her outburst when she had first learned of his
putting Curtin in the bank as a spy upon John.
Harriet looked upon life from a thoroughly
unmoral point of view. Of abstract right and
wrong she had little conception. So long as
Sponley's operations were directed against men
she did not know, except as her husband's
opponents, she never applied the criterion of
fair play. But all that was changed as soon as
John Bagsbury was concerned in the fighting.
She regarded him almost as a brother, her loy-
alty to him was only less than her loyalty to her
husband, and the mere suspicion of what Sponley
had been doing that afternoon, of the meaning
of his talk with Hauxton and of his two tele-
phone messages, was intolerable.
About an hour after Sponley went out, the
butler knocked at her door. " Mr. Curtin is
here," he said, "to see Mr. Sponley. He says
it is important and wishes to know when Mr.
Sponley will be back."
Harriet said that she knew nothing about it,
but presently the man returned, saying that Mr.
Curtin wished to see her. She asked to be
excused, but Curtin was persistent, and once
more the butler came back, this time with a
" He says, will you please tell Mr. Sponley
when he comes in that Mr. Curtin has seen Mr.
Hauxton and is sure he has started him off on
the right track."
" I will take no message," said Harriet, impa-
tiently. "If Mr. Curtin wishes to leave any
word for Mr. Sponley, he may write a note.
Don't come back again, whatever Mr. Curtin
But though the servant obeyed her, Harriet
could not banish Curtin from her thoughts.
She had always hated him, even before he had
given her cause. His covert admiration was
almost nauseating, and his miserable makeshift
excuses for seeking her company "when he knew
that she could barely tolerate him exasperated
her. She recalled with disgust the evening
when he had forced himself into their dining
252 The Banker and the Bear
room, and she wondered that his accusation of
her husband had affected her as it did; she
wished now that Sponley had sent him to
His message, though she had declined to re-
ceive it, and though she tried not to think of it,
went over and over in her thoughts, and in spite
of herself she wondered what it meant. What
could "the right track "mean except the sus-
picion that the bank was in trouble ? Why
should her husband wish Hauxton to entertain
that suspicion unless he was deliberately plan-
ning to ruin John Bagsbury? If he were
But this guessing, she told herself, was non-
sense, useless nonsense. When her husband
came home, she would tell him just what she
suspected and ask him to show her everything.
He would surely set her mind at rest. Then
with a sharp sensation of pain she realized that
she would not be able to believe his word.
While he talked to her, while he was with her,
she would be convinced that his course was
not dishonorable, and it was that conviction
rather than the truth that she wanted, but
with the next morning, when she was alone,
waiting to learn what was happening, to-day's
fears and to-day's distrust would come back
again stronger than ever. No, she could not
look to him for help. She must fight out this
battle, this last battle alone.
Going to her desk she pencilled a little
" Will you please excuse me if I don't come
down to dinner? Don't bother about it, it's
nothing serious. I'm tired that's all and
I'm trying to get a long rest."
Then she called her maid. " I'm not going
down to dinner. I wish you'd give this to Mr.
Sponley when he comes in." As she gave the
note to the maid, their fingers touched. " How
cool your hands are ! " she exclaimed. " Don't go
just yet. I want them on my forehead. Why
are your hands so cold, child ? "
"Your head is very hot," the maid answered.
" I think that is the reason."
"They feel cool, anyway," said Harriet.
" There, that will do. I'm a great deal better
" Shall I bring you anything anything to eat
or a cup of tea ? "
" I think I should like some coffee," Harriet
answered, after a moment's reflection. " Oh,
254 The Banker and the Bear
and anything to eat that you please; I don't
want to think about it."
Harriet regretted her decision the moment
the maid was fairly out of the room; she
needed company, not something to eat. At the
end of ten minutes she was wondering impa-
tiently why the maid did not come back, and
her uneasiness grew steadily greater during the
half hour that elapsed before she heard the
familiar step outside her door. But the repri-
mand that was on Harriet's lips was checked
by the look of misery in her attendant's face.
Neither spoke, and there was silence until, as
the girl spilled some of the coffee she was try-
ing to pour, and then dropped the cup, she
burst out crying.
" Oh, don't cry, don't cry ! " said Harriet,
easily ; " that doesn't matter. But you shouldn't
have stopped to quarrel with James. That
always makes you unhappy afterward, you
" I didn't, I haven't quarrelled with him
since yesterday morning."
Harriet smiled. "You aren't going to tell
me that James has at last got up heart enough
to scold you. You ought to be glad if he has.
It's very good for people to be scolded when
they are young ; but I've never been able to do
But the girl refused to be comforted, and
Harriet saw that here was something more
serious than the almost daily lovers' quarrels
which had been affording her so much enter-
tainment in the past few months.
"Stop crying," she commanded quietly, "and
try to tell me just what the trouble is."
With an effort the girl controlled herself.
"James is going to lose all his money, the
money he saved up so we could get married.
It's in the bank, and he says the bank is going
" What bank is it in ? "
"Mr. Bagsbury's." Her voice failed, and
with a sob she buried her face in her hands.
" Stop it," Harriet commanded, almost
roughly. She laid her hand on the girl's arm.
"You are very foolish to be frightened. The
bank isn't going to fail. Do you understand ?
I tell you it isn't going to fail. Who " and
now it was her voice that halted in the throat
" who told James that it would ? "
"The coachman told James, and he said "
256 The Banker and the Bear
But Harriet knew who had told the coach-
man before the bewildered maid had time to
speak the name.
For a little, though Harriet's words had quite
reassured her, the mere impetus of her emotion
kept the girl whimpering, her face still buried
in her hands; but when she looked up the
change that had come over her mistress startled
her out of the very recollection of it.
" What is it ? " she cried, " what is the matter ? "
" Nothing at all. Only go away ; I want to
be by myself."
" But you are sick," the maid persisted ;
" can't I get you something ? Shall I call
"Certainly not," Harriet spoke slowly and
evenly; "there is nothing the matter;" but
her affected composure vanished as the girl
still hesitated at the door. " Oh, why won't
you leave me alone ! Go, I tell you ! Go ! "
The frightened maid ran out of the room, and
Harriet closed the door behind her.
So now she knew. Oh, why was it all so
hopelessly evident! She had been trying to
comprehend; but now she clasped her hands
over her dry eyes as if to blot out the clear,
cruel understanding that had come to her of
her husband's devious strategy. It was bad
enough that the temptation of a promising
campaign should have led him to turn upon
his friend ; but why why should it not have
been fair open fighting ; why need it come to a
piece of loathsome treachery like this blow from
behind ? She must stand by and see it struck ;
and then for always, she told herself, she must
despise the author of it
In that hour Harriet felt the very foundation
of her world trembling under her. She had
no children, no friends, no interests but his,
nothing but her absolute devotion to Melville
Sponley. And stanch as that was, the stroke
he was aiming at John Bagsbury would cut to
the root of it.
She recalled that evening when first she had
heard of his understanding with Curtin, and
when she had asked him if there was anything
that counted with him beside his one great
ambition ; whether his friendship for John and
his affection for her were anything more than
good investments. She had her answer now.
Her first comfort came with the thought that
it had not always been so. There had been a
258 The Banker and the Bear
time when he cared, and as she was thinking of
the time gone by she found his defence.
It would not have weighed heavily with a
jury of his peers; to an impartial mind it
would hardly have been a defence at all, but
in her eyes it saved him.
Her very knowledge of the game he had
played this score of years, the knowledge that
had enabled her to discover his contemplated
treachery, was what now furnished his justi-
fication. Being a mere spectator and under-
standing his moves had hardened her, she
knew, and had already made an old woman
of her. And, she argued, it was small wonder
that he who had played the game, had fought
the battles, should have become hard, and that
the long straining of his eyes toward one object
should have blinded him to every other con-
sideration. He was not himself, for in this last
campaign the fever was in his blood, and his
going to any length to win was as inevitable as
his regret afterward would be unavailing.
Mercifully blind to the pathetic weakness of
the plea, and unconscious of the confession of
its weakness that lay in her much protesting,
she told herself that it was not his fault.
He was making his last fight ; this temptation
that beguiled him would be the last. If only she
could save him from its consequences !
For a moment she entertained the notion of
going to him, but she saw that even if she
could turn him it would be too late. Not even
his wonderful ingenuity could avert the ruin it
had been exercised to provoke. But perhaps
there was yet time to warn John and to save
Then in a second her resolve was taken.
She had on a thin house dress, and with the
idea of putting on something better suited for
street wear in this summer evening, she tugged
impatiently at its fastenings, but her shaking
fingers would not obey her will. She dared not
call her maid, for after what had happened an
hour before, the girl would be certain to protest
against her going out, and might tell her hus-
band. She must go as she was. With a quick
motion she partly rearranged her disordered
hair, and pinning on a hat, any hat, and seizing
her purse, she sped softly down the stairs, and
without being observed she reached the street.
She hesitated for an instant, then set out reso-
lutely for the nearest elevated station.
260 The Banker and the Bear
For months a fear had been following her
which she had never dared to look at squarely,
to which she had even been afraid to give a
name. Sometimes it had been almost upon her,
and sometimes so far behind that she had
thought it could never overtake her again.
When it was at her heels, she stayed within
doors; for the very thought of a crowd, or
of revolving wheels, was terrifying. At such
times she told herself that she dared not look
over the banister rail in her own upper hall,
and fancied that her familiar servants eyed her
curiously and whispered. A physician would
have given her morbid fancies a name common
enough in medical practice nowadays, and
would have told her that she was as safe on a
high place or in a crowd or beside the railroad
tracks as anybody else. But to Harriet, her
disease was simply a nameless, indeterminate
horror, which brought with it the melancholy
foreboding that in some season of stress it was
certain to conquer her.
In her new excitement this old dread had
been forgotten, save in her momentary nervous-
ness when she found herself alone in the street.
She reached the station without experiencing
even the fear that she would be afraid. But
the platform was crowded, and she grew a
shade paler as she was pushed and jostled close
to the edge, and the reflection of the lights from
the gleaming steel rails wakened a terror which
was all the sharper because she knew it was
perfectly irrational. When she saw the head-
light of the train growing bigger and brighter
out of the distance, she tried to step back, and
failing that, her fear mastered her completely,
and she clutched for support at the person who
stood beside her. When the train came jolting
to a stop, the screaming of the brakes sounded
to her ears like an articulate human cry, and in
fancy she saw a woman's body mangled under
the trucks. She did not know that she had
stood hesitating, blocking the way for all the
impatient passengers behind her, until the
exasperated guard had taken her arm and
fairly thrust her into the car; but when the
horrible vision left her eyes, and she again
became conscious of her present surroundings,
she knew that she must have done something
out of the ordinary, for everybody in the car
who could see was staring at her.
It was nearly nine o'clock before, Sponley
262 The Banker and the Bear
came home after an arduous and only partially
successful quest. It is one of the perversities
of finance that when a man has plenty of
money, people will crowd around him, beseech-
ing him to use theirs also ; but when he needs it,
when he really must have it, they look at him
from the corners of their eyes and sidle away.
After one or two flat failures, however, the
Bear had succeeded in misleading some people
into coming to his help. He had not got as
much as he wanted ; but enough, with luck and
with the reinforcement the run at Bagsbury's
would give him, to last him through another
He had already dined, so, after reading Har-
riet's note, he settled himself in the library to
the enjoyment of a cigar. It was a point of
pride with him, that once his day's work was
done, he could completely banish its cares from
his thoughts ; and he had a hearty contempt for
all the amusements in which weaker spirits are
wont to seek that diversion, which with him
was simply a matter of will. But to-night, after
an uneasy ten minutes, he took up " The Count
of Monte Cristo," and tried to read.
Half an hour later the library door was flung
open without ceremony, and Harriet's maid
spoke his name.
" What is it ? " he asked.
" Mrs. Sponley " the girl began, but there
her excitement and fright choked her.
" What is it ? " he repeated. " Here, stop
that nonsense and tell me."
" She's gone," at length she managed to say.
" She isn't in her room, and she isn't anywhere.
What a mask that thick, swarthy face could
be ! Now it changed not at all, save that the
eyes grew narrower and he frowned impatiently.
" What you say would be very interesting if
I did not know it already. Mrs. Sponley is
at Mrs. Bagsbury's. She left me a note saying
that she meant to spend the evening there.
Don't be so hasty in your conclusions another
He nodded in the direction of the door and
turned back to his book. Before the maid was
fairly out of the room it occurred to him that the
explanation he had given her was probably true,
after all. He went quickly to the telephone.
Then, suddenly changing his mind, he rang for
264 The Banker and the Bear
" Drive to the elevated as fast as you can,"
he ordered shortly. " I'm in a hurry."
For all his efforts it seemed to the Bear an
interminable while before he reached John
Bagsbury's house, and in that time his thoughts
were grim indeed ; but just as he was about to
go up the steps he paused suddenly and smiled,
as though just possessed of an idea that pleased
him. He glanced at his watch and nodded with
a satisfied air, then he rang the bell.
He found Alice in the library, and the per-
fectly easy way in which she greeted him con-
vinced him that she knew as little of the lard
deal and its collateral incidents as though it
were taking place in some cannibal island.
" You know Harriet is here, of course," she
said. " She's all right now, I imagine ; but she
gave us a most terrible scare a couple of hours
ago. I didn't see her when she came in ; but
Dick did, and she saw that something was the
matter with her, so she took her right up to
what she calls her den. Dick says she thinks
that something must have happened something
to frighten her on her way down here. Anyway,
before she had been here ten minutes she had sort
of well, the doctor said it was a hysterical seiz-
ure. It wasn't like any hysterics I'd ever heard
of, though. But whatever it was she's all over
it now, and the doctor's given her something to
put her to sleep. I think she will be all right
by morning ; but you'll leave her here till then.
We'll take good care of her. I wanted to tele-
phone to you, but John and Dick seemed to think
it wasn't necessary."
John came into the room in time to hear the
concluding words of Alice's explanation.
" I'm glad it's no worse," Sponley said. " I
was a little afraid she might break down. The
excitement of the last few days has been hard
Then he turned to John.
" I came around on a business matter. It'll
take but a moment," he hesitated, "if Alice
will excuse us."
He led the way to a remote corner of the room.
" I've been hearing rumors all the afternoon about
your bank; I'm afraid you're likely to have some
trouble to-morrow. I wanted to warn you."
" Thank you," John answered drily. " I've
heard something of it myself. Harriet told
Dick that you asked her to tell me that I was
going to have a run on my hands."
266 The Banker and the Bear
" I fancy that Miss Haselridge did not under-
stand precisely, or it may be that in her excite-
ment Harriet misunderstood me. I told her
that I meant to let you know."
"I must be going on," he added, again
addressing Alice. " I'll call up in the morn-
ing and find out how Harriet is."
Then, to John, " Well, good night. I wish
John smiled, "I wish you the same thing,"
IT was, however, a most unpleasant smile
that accompanied John's words. It brought
to Sponley's mind the story Hauxton had
recalled to him that afternoon, of John Bags-
bury's moment of indecision whether or not to
kick Drake downstairs. He was himself no
weakling, even when measured by a merely
physical test ; but he had no wish to try con-
clusions of that sort with the Banker, and he
took his leave promptly.
Then Alice went upstairs to assure herself
that Harriet was being well cared for, and a few
moments later Dick came down to the library.
" Mrs. Sponley is sleeping heavily," she said
in answer to John's inquiry. " There's nothing
we can do, I suppose, but leave her alone and
keep everything quiet."
Then she hesitated, " Wasn't he down
here ? " she asked. " I thought I heard him."
" You did. He came to warn me, too."
" To warn you ! "
"Don't you see? If there's going to be a
run to-morrow, there's absolutely nothing I can
do at ten o'clock in the evening to stop it. He
knows that ; and he knows I know he knows it.
He did it for amusement, I suppose, though
that's not like him. Perhaps it was to give me
time to get scared over night."
He paused and meditatively brought his
clenched fist down on the arm of his chair
twice, very softly.
"I'm getting mad," he said, rising. "It's
time I went to bed."
Left alone in the library, Dick tried to read;
but every little while the book would drop idly
to her knee, and grave-faced, with all the light
gone out of her eyes, she would fall to wonder-
ing what would come of it all, and just what
was the value of the stake that should compen-
sate for this tragic shipwreck she had seen this
evening. No one but Dick, not even Jack Dor-
lin, was ever to know how complete that wreck
had been ; for she could never tell what had
happened after she had shut the door of her
den behind Harriet Sponley.
When she turned away from it to thinking
Wednesday Morning 269
of John Bagsbury, she smiled. Perhaps because
any sort of gesture was so unusual with him,
that gentle little movement of his clenched fist
had caused her a shiver of rather pleasant
excitement. In its very mildness, its total
inadequacy, lay its significance. It seemed to
Dick a sort of ironical prophecy. She did not
exactly hope to see him in a magnificent rage
before this struggle was well over ; but she could
not help imagining with an exultant thrill what
a hammer that big, lean fist would be if ever it
should be driven in grim earnest.
But if she expected him to show any sign of
excitement when he came down to breakfast
next morning, she was disappointed. John
drank his coffee, glanced over the paper, and
read aloud, with some appearance of satisfac-
tion, the weather prediction to the effect that
it would be fair, followed by showers in the
afternoon ; and then, as always in any tolerable
weather, he set out to walk down to the bank.
Ordinarily his pace did not vary one hundred
yards either way from the easy swing of four
miles an hour, but to-day something seemed to
be driving him. Faster and faster he would go,
glancing enviously at the cars roaring and rock-
270 The Banker and the Bear
ing by on their way down town. Then he
would check himself with the impatient admoni-
tion that there was no hurry. The miles were
interminable that morning, and he was tired
when he reached the end of the last one.
But they were behind him now, and with a
long breath of relief he turned the corner that
commanded a view of the bank, and saw
Try to imagine just what the bank meant to
John Bagsbury. He was more of a man than
his father before him had been, he had more
humanity in him ; but like the withered old miser
who had died over his desk, John had put well-
nigh all he had into this creature whose birth
had been the signing of a bit of parchment by a
state official. His fortune was in it, his ambi-
tion was in it, his credit with the world of trade,
his commercial honor, if you will allow me, was
His common honesty he had put above it,
before it. He would have been the last man on
earth to think of repeating
" loved I not honor more,"
in that connection, and I fancy I see you smil-
ing over the notion, yet, allowing for the trans-
Wednesday Morning 271
lation into the unromantic, sordid life of the
" street," that had been precisely the significance
of his flat refusal to sell out Pickering, and of
his grimly accepting Sponley's challenge. But
his was not the sort of mind to find any conso-
lation in the nobility of a sentiment ; his honor
was not self-conscious.
So if you remember how he had passed his
boyhood in that squat old building half a square
away, and can guess at what had been his feel-
ing toward it during the third of his lifetime he
had spent elsewhere in preparation for his return
to it, you can understand why the sight he saw
halted his heart as it halted his feet, and then
sent it hammering on, almost to bursting.
It was nothing but a little group of people,
fifteen men, perhaps, and five or six women,
standing on the steps, some of them peering
through the glass doors in the futile attempt to
see around the shades which hung behind. The
crowd grew half again as large while John was
walking the half square from the corner. In
the glance he cast about as he walked through
he recognized Sponley's coachman. As he was
going up the stairs, he heard some one say in an
272 The Banker and the Bear
"That's Bagsbury ; I thought you told me he'd
run off with all the money."
"That's what a fellow told me," returned an-
other voice. " Is that Bagsbury, sure enough ? "
John closed the door behind him quickly,
walked the length of the short passage, and once
in a big dingy room looked about with a heavy
scowl. You could have told from the faces, from
the very attitudes of the clerks as they were set-
tling to their day's work, that there was a crowd
in the street.
" Mr. Peters," John called. Peters was the
man who did the work for which Curtin received
his salary. " Mr. Peters, I think you had better
bring those people in and pay them their money
at once. I wish you'd done it before now."
" They can't be paid yet, Mr. Bagsbury. The
time-lock on the vaults is set for nine o'clock.
It's only quarter of."
John looked at his watch. " I'd no idea it
was so early," he said. He walked away half
a dozen paces and then returned. " Don't begin
then till flat ten o'clock. It seems we're in for
a crowd, any way, and there's no use telling them
that we're afraid of one."
A run on a bank is like a slit in a man's vein ;
Wednesday Morning 273
it does no particular harm if it can be stopped
in time, but the stopping of it is imperative, and
it will not stop itself. No bank could pay its
depositors the money they have put in if they
should all come and ask for it at once. The
bank which, at a day's notice, could pay half of
them would be esteemed cautious far too cau-
tious ; that is why it is necessary to stop a run.
The very human predilection for being of the
sheep who get their money, instead of finding
oneself with the goats who do not, is the reason
why the run will not stop itself.
And just as a man may bleed externally where
it is easy to estimate the extent of the damage,
or internally, where it is not, so a bank may
suffer a run in two different ways. There is the
kind of a run which interests the general public,
and which is therefore described in the news-
papers, with great detail and circumstance and
spirited little pen-and-ink sketches, three to the
column. It occurs when those who have small
amounts of money, generally savings, in a bank,
fear it is going to fail, and come to carry this treas-
ure home, where they hide it in stockings or old
teapots or feather beds, until reassured that the
bank, or some other, is safe after all. That sort
274 The Banker and the Bear
of run has all the picturesque accessories, the
file of frightened men and women, the police to
keep order; and if it is occurring in a work of
fiction, it is likely to be concluded by the entrance
of some philanthropist who flings down upon
the counter bags of gold, at the reassuring clink
of which the depositors depart with cheers.
The other kind of a run, to return to our old
figure, is likely not to be discovered until the
patient is dead. It has no external manifesta-
tions whatever. It occurs when the larger de-
positors write checks for the amount of their
accounts and deposit them in other banks. The
banker can know nothing about it until he learns
of the staggering adverse balance he must meet
at the clearing house. The drain may be swift
and brief, or it may continue slowly for a month ;
in either case, it is far harder to break, far more
likely to persist, until it lands the bank in the
examiner's hands : that is the sort of run whose
progress you may watch from across the street.
It was evident to John that his savings depos-
itors had been thoroughly frightened the wild
lie he had overheard as he entered the bank was
probably but one of a score that were in circula-
tion among them and that they would run him
Wednesday Morning 275
in grim earnest. And he rightly suspected that
Melville Sponley had thoughtfully provided a
rumor or two which might stampede his com-
mercial depositors also.
When Dawson came around at half -past ten, he
found a file of waiting depositors that extended
clear to the corner. He walked into John's pri-
vate office and sat down near the window.
"This is hell, isn't it?" he remarked cheer-
John nodded, and Dawson looked out at the
crowd in the street.
" It doesn't take but a minute to get a pack
of fools together at any given point," the older
man went on.
" All the fools aren't standing in line out there,
though," said John.
Dawson turned from the window and looked
over the Banker from head to foot, but made no
comment on the remark.
" I've been talking with them out there," he
said, "trying to find out what scared them.
There are the wildest lot of yarns you ever
heard going up and down that line. I don't sup-
pose the man who started it told anything very
big, either. Those things grow like thistles."
276 The Banker and the Bear
Still the Banker made no reply, but stared
moodily at the blotter on his desk.
" You're not demanding thirty days' notice, are
you ? " Dawson asked. " You seem to be pay-
ing everybody who asks for his money."
" Yes, we might as well suspend entirely as to
demand notice at a time like this. The moral
effect would be as bad. They'd just keep com-
ing to get their money until they fairly ran us
out of business. We can keep this up until the
cows come home," and he nodded toward the
" This isn't the worst you'll get, though," said
Dawson. " Of course nobody but a fool'd be
scared by those stories ; but there is a story that
I've heard from three or four sources, that your
loans to Pickering are entirely unsecured, and
that if he goes down, he's sure to pull you
with him. You wouldn't think men'd believe
a damned lie like that ; but they do, and you're
likely to have an awful balance against you at
the clearing house."
" I've been selling exchange as fast as I could
without breaking the market for it. That'll
help square me there." John rose and walked
nervously to the window. "I'd like to take the
Wednesday Morning 277
whole bunch of lies those people have heard
and stuff them down the throat they first came
out of by God, I should ! "
" So would I," said Dawson, quietly. " But
look here, John," it was the first time in years
that Dawson had called him by his Christian
name, " you can't afford to get mad yet. Don't
let your bearings get hot until the run's over.
Don't think about it."
" I remember Sponley said once," John's mind
had run back, and for an instant he thought of
his old friend rather than his new enemy, " he
said that to a man who lives as we do, an
emotion was a more expensive luxury than a
steam yacht. But by "
He checked himself abruptly. " Thank you.
Do you suppose the Atlantic can let me have
some small currency about closing time ? These
little accounts are taking all I've got."
The old man nodded. " You're all right.
Only keep cool and well oiled. You can't
waste anything on friction to-day. Good-by."
Toward noon the crowd grew larger and its
temper worse, as the more distant part of it
began to fear it would not reach the window
by closing time. That sort of gathering, where
278 The Banker and the Bear
all have come with the same single purpose,
acquires a distinct individuality. This giant is
far lower in intelligence than the average of its
component parts; more subject to swift, unrea-
soning enthusiasm or anger, easily led or directed
by anything that glitters. It is a person, not a
number of persons. You must reckon with it
in the singular. In his office John was per-
fectly conscious of this new sullenness that had
come over the crowd, and he soon discovered
the cause of it in a newspaper the small boys
were hawking about the street. It was a sensa-
tional " Extra," with the words " Bulls break for
Cover " in letters three inches high across the
front page, followed by the information that
Pickering's gang was badly squeezed by a drop
of four dollars a tierce in the price of lard, and
that the cause was the serious run that was in
progress at Bagsbury's bank.
At quarter after twelve there came to John's
ears a sound he had never heard before the
noise that this dangerous animal, called a crowd,
makes when it is angry. It began with a mut-
ter so far down the scale that it seemed to come
from anywhere, or nowhere, swelled slowly at
first, and then with a sudden stringendo to a
Wednesday Morning 279
yell, and snapped off so short he could feel the
air quivering in the silence behind it.
It fairly jerked the Banker out of his chair,
and drew the half-dozen policemen who were
standing about the big room, and who knew
what it meant, to the door on the run. John
reached the window just in time to see Picker-
ing walking slowly up the steps.
When he entered the private office he was
slightly pale, but laughing, and he moved with
an air of bravado toward the window.
" Stand back from there," said John. " You
shouldn't have come here to-day, Mr. Picker-
" I didn't come on a pleasure trip. I need
The excitement that wild yell had wrought in
him was oozing out now. His face twitched and
he glanced uneasily toward the window. " Damn
them," he said. Then he repeated, "I want
" You can't have it," said the Banker.
They heard the storm rising again, and both
men waited for it to break. It wiped the color
out of Pickering's face, and he was no coward,
280 The Banker and the Bear
" Isn't it a little late to let go ? " he asked.
" If it's one of us now, it's both."
" That may be," said the Banker ; " but you
can't have it. I can't give you my depositors'
money when they're lined up here to get it. It
may be that when I find out where I stand with
the clearing house, I'll be able to help you. But
I can do nothing now. And it seems to me
that your staying here any longer," there it
came again, "isn't going to improve the tem-
per of that crowd," he went on evenly. " Do
you want a couple of policemen to go with you ?
Those fellows may be rough."
" No, they're harmless. They're chained.
They wouldn't lose their place in line even for
John Bagsbury likes to tell the story of that
day, and of the next ; but he says nothing of the
half hour that followed Pickering's visit : he has
almost forgotten it himself.
Only by his utmost effort had he controlled
himself while Pickering was in his office, for the
cries from the street maddened him. He knew
that Dawson was right, that to lose control of
himself was to lose the fight, and he struggled
desperately to keep himself in hand. But when
Wednesday Morning 281
the door was shut, and he was alone, and when,
a moment later, he heard the derisive cheer
which greeted the reappearance of Pickering
on the front steps, his anger mastered him.
He tried to make himself think. He must
discover some way of reassuring those people
in the street, of stopping this run before it
drained him dry, of meeting the balance
there would be against him at the clearing
house ; but his rage befogged his mind, his
faculties were numb, and all he knew was the
longing to have Melville Sponley under his
hands for for just one minute.
He would not admit it now, if you were to
ask him ; yet it is true that when he turned his
back on the old desk and bowed his head, he
told himself that there was no more use fight-
ing ; he confessed that he was beaten.
Then there came a knock at the door and
some one said,
" Mr. Cartwright and Mr. Meredith would
like to see you, Mr. Bagsbury."
When the two old trustees entered the office,
they saw the only John Bagsbury that they or
anybody else had ever seen in his office, the
courteous, patient, quick-witted, even-minded
282 The Banker and the Bear
John Bagsbury whom everybody but these
same trustees knew to be the best banker in
" This is outrageous," said Mr. Cartwright,
and his voice shook. Poor Mr. Meredith's
would not come at all, though his lips moved in
tremulous imitation of his principal's.
" Mr. Dawson said something to the same ef-
fect when he was here a couple of hours ago,"
said John. " I agree with both of you."
" I suppose you wish to see me on a matter
of personal business, gentlemen," he added, and
closed the door.
Half an hour later he opened it and spoke
to the telephone boy. He did not speak very
loudly, but his voice carried to the farthest cor-
ner of the big noisy room.
"Will you call up Mr. Moffat, I wish to speak
HOW THEY BROKE THE RUN
THERE was nothing really surprising about
it, though John had not expected that the two
dissenting trustees would reach that turning in
the lane so soon. On Sunday morning, when
he had said to Mr. Cartwright that of course he
and Mr. Meredith would not be able to escape
all the scandal that would certainly attend the
failure of the bank, it was no new fear that he
put in the old man's mind. Mr. Cartwright
and his echo had discussed that possibility in
awed whispers a dozen times since John had
been made president. When he went to Cart-
wright's house Monday evening, John referred
frankly, though with a good deal of tact, to that
very point ; but he said nothing of the obvious
way they had out of their difficulty. He left
them to think of that for themselves. It was
inevitable that they should think of it, and that
they should decide that such a course, should
284 The Banker and the Bear
it become necessary, would involve no betrayal
of old John Bagsbury's trust. Thanks to the
other stockholders in the bank, and to the
unspeakable Moffat, they had no real control
of the larger part of the estate; and if their
nominal authority were going to bring disgrace
upon their eminently respectable old heads, why
should they not discard it ?
When they heard that there was a run in prog-
ress at the bank, they set out thither merely
because they were frightened. They had no
idea of doing anything so radical as turning the
estate over, then and there, into the mad hands
of John Bagsbury. With all their perturbation,
they would probably not have been able to
make up their minds to such an act until the
danger was over, had it not been for the crowd
in the street. That crowd had frightened Picker-
ing, had benumbed John, and it is not wonder-
ful that at sight of it Mr. Cartwright and Mr.
Meredith should feel the panic strike in to their
very marrow. They were very old, they wanted
no occupation more exciting than playing golf
and telling old stories and sipping irreproach-
able sherry. But here was a mob, and here
were policemen, here was riot and disaster,
How they Broke the Run 285
and, worse yet, a certain scandal. They fairly
gasped with relief when they were safe in the
little room, and the door was shut. Even John
Bagsbury's office seemed a haven after that
So it was natural enough that when John
Bagsbury said, divining the rapidly forming pur-
pose which underlay their querulous complaints
and remonstrances, "Well, gentlemen, shall I
telephone for Mr. Moffat?" that they should
have assented, though their red faces grew redder
as they did it, and that after the third trustee
arrived, badly out of breath with hurry and with
chuckling over the situation, the first steps to
make John master of his own property should
have been taken as promptly as possible.
It remained for Jack Dorlin, when months
afterward he turned a reminiscent and contem-
plative eye upon the episode, to discover the
curious perversity of it all. John's first oppor-
tunity to get control of the bank had arisen in
the excessive precaution his father had taken to
prevent it, and now the same timorous conserva-
tism of his trustees, on which the old man had
counted so much, was turned to panic, and the
move deliberately calculated by Sponley to ruin
286 The Banker and the Bear
John served only to make the temporary control
John heard from the clearing house and from
Pickering almost simultaneously. The news
from the former was no worse than the Banker
had expected, and from the latter much better;
for the closing bell had rung, and Pickering was
safe till to-morrow morning. But the tide of
battle was turned already. With the arrival of
Cartwright and Meredith at the bank, and John's
quick guess at their errand, his confidence had
come back. The morning with its confession of
defeat was forgotten. He was no longer angry ;
his mind was occupied by a confident determi-
nation to win.
He left the telephone after receiving Picker-
ing's message and approached a little group of
his officers, who were discussing the situation,
and who apparently entertained serious mis-
giving as to what the outcome would be.
" I don't think you need to feel alarmed about
it," he said. "We're coming out all right.
We'll have that run broken now in short notice."
"We don't seem to be making much head-
way," said Jackson. "That line's longer than
ever and more scared. The people down there
How they Broke the Run 287
by the corner think they aren't going to get this
" Thank God it's getting somewhere near three
o'clock," said Peters.
" We ought to be able to last out to-day, it
seems to me," hazarded Curtin.
"Yes, it's to-morrow that scares me," Peters
"We shan't close at three," said John Bags-
bury. " We're going to keep open till every
depositor who's waiting out there in line gets
his money. We'll keep it up as long as they do,
if that's till midnight."
" I don't see how we can do that, Mr. Bags-
bury," Jackson remonstrated. " I should think
we ought to stop for breath when we have the
" I don't want another day like this. We'll
be able to pay every man who wants his money
before we close to-night, and we're going to do
it. I think you'd better put out a notice to that
effect, Mr. Peters. I'm going out to lunch. I'll
be at that little place on the corner, so that if
you want me, you can get at me. Please put
that notice in a conspicuous place, Mr. Peters."
John was hardly out of the bank before Curtin
288 The Banker and the Bear
had called up Sponley and begun an account of
the way matters had been going since noon ; but
the Bear cut short his narrative.
" Don't say anything more over the 'phone ;
it isn't safe. Anyway, I want to talk with you.
You say Bagsbury's gone out to lunch ? Do
you know where ? Well, you come right off,
as quick as you can, to the Eagle Cafe, in the
Arcadia building. Yes, I'll be there in one of
the private rooms."
Sponley heard or guessed enough from what
Curtin told him to make him think that the bank
was in no such desperate condition as he had
hoped. He had been winning all day ; he was
almost sure that he would be able to finish Pick-
ering within the first hour next morning, but he
was unwilling to take any chances. If John
should so thoroughly break up the run this after-
noon that it would not be resumed to-morrow
morning, the Bull might recover his lost ground
and compel him to do the work all over again.
It would be risky, riskier than it had been before,
to get people to talking once more and create
another run on the bank. And so he decided
to play his last card.
It was an old notion of his which Curtin had
How they Broke the Run 289
recalled to his mind just a week ago, when he
said he had not been hired to crack safes. It
seemed to him then too theatrical to be worth
considering seriously ; but as the days went by,
and the fight grew hotter, and one plan after an-
other failed to dislodge John Bagsbury from his
position supporting Pickering, the idea came back
to him and he asked himself, Why not, as a last
resort. Well, it was now or not at all. Curtin,
he reflected, would probably not relish the job,
but that was not an important consideration.
The assistant cashier, however, surprised his
employer by entering into the scheme with a
good deal of gusto. Had Sponley known his
man less thoroughly, he would have suspected
the genuineness of this enthusiasm, and would
have conceived the idea that Curtin meant to
play him false. But the Bear had no misgiv-
ings. Curtin might plan a dozen treacheries in
an hour, but when the moment of action came,
he would obey orders.
Sponley cut short his guessing as to just
what the effect of the trick would be.
"You'd better get right back to the bank,
and don't telephone to me, whatever happens.
Don't try to communicate with me in any way
290 The Banker and the Bear
either to-night or to-morrow morning. It isn't
safe. If I want to find out anything, I'll con-
trive to get word to you."
Curtin nodded and left the room. Just out-
side the door he hesitated a moment, then
walked nervously over to the bar and ordered
a drink of whiskey. He watched the man pour-
ing it into the glass, and did not see who had
come up beside him until Sponley laid his hand
upon his arm.
" You don't want that, do you ? Don't you
think you've had enough this afternoon ? "
Curtin laughed weakly. " It won't hurt me.
I want something to brace me up."
"That won't brace you up. You're excited
" There's no harm in this one. I won't take
The barkeeper had pushed the glass toward
him, and he raised it toward his lips.
" Put that down ! "
The glass halted.
" This seems to be my business rather than
The glass moved upward again, but now it
How they Broke the Run 291
The next instant it was shivered on the tile
floor, and both Curtin's wrists were fettered in
" Damn you," Curtin said.
" I told you not to," said Sponley, quietly.
"Now go back to the bank." He let go of
" Do you do you think I'll take your orders
after an insult like that ? "
" I think you will. You've found it paid
pretty well before now. But that was not an
insult ; it was business. You'll get us both into
trouble if you're drunk this afternoon. You'll
see that that's so when you're cooled down."
Sponley paid for the glass, and without
another word to Curtin, or even a look at him,
left the cafe and entered his carriage, which was
waiting for him at the corner. It was three or
four minutes later when Curtin came out, but
in that time he had not been able to force him-
self to order another glass of whiskey.
At three o'clock John Bagsbury sent word
to Jack Dorlin to come into the private office.
Jack found him standing back a couple of
paces from his window, looking down with
what appeared to be a merely impersonal or
292 The Banker and the Bear
speculative interest upon the undiminished
crowd in the street.
"Mr. Dorlin," he said, "you've shown a dis-
position to help me out of difficulties before,"
Jack looked at him closely, but there was not
even the faint trace of a smile, "and I want
you to come to my assistance again. I want you
to help me scatter that crowd in the street."
" By violence, Mr. Bagsbury, or by guile ? "
Still John's face was serious. "By guile,"
he answered. " It would take a squadron of
cavalry to do it the other way. I'm going to
try a bluff, or rather I've thought of a bluff
that I want you to try. I don't like that sort
of thing, but nothing else will have any weight
with those people out there. If we could give
them a mathematical demonstration that their
money was safe, they'd stay around to get it
just the same. They're like small children;
they want an object lesson.
" When I met Dawson at lunch I arranged to
get one hundred thousand from the Atlantic in
currency. I want you to go and get it now and
here's where the bluff comes in bring it
back as impressively as possible. That's the
whole trick ; we don't need the money, but we
How they Broke the Run 293
do need the effect. I haven't time to arrange
the details, so I leave that in your hands.
You have a pretty healthy imagination, and you
ought to be able to get up something effective.
You may find Dawson over at the Atlantic. If
you do, he'll have some ideas on the subject;
but the whole business is in your hands. You
get the idea, don't you ? "
" I think so. Is there any danger of over-
doing it of being too spectacular?"
" No," said John ; " you can pile it on as thick
as you like."
"All right. I'll work it up as well as I can.
It's getting pretty black overhead ; if I and the
rain strike here at the same time, we ought to
do the trick."
The rain set in before Jack was a block away
from the bank. According to the morning
paper it was only a shower ; but John Bagsbury
noted with pleasure that it had a downright,
businesslike way about it, and a promise of
plenty of endurance. By itself it had no evi-
dent effect, but it was doubtless preparing the
mind of the crowd in the street for the more
enthusiastic reception of the object lesson that
was soon to arrive.
294 The Banker and the Bear
John stepped to the door of his office and
called to Mr. Peters.
" I wish you'd have all the silver there is in
the vaults brought out and piled in the tellers'
cages," he said thoughtfully, " and have the men
bring it out one bag at a time and carry it as
though it was heavy. It won't be necessary to
open any of the bags, but I think it will look
While John stood at the door watching to see
that his order was being carried out according
to the spirit as well as the letter, his eyes fell
repeatedly on Curtin. The assistant cashier
was moving uneasily about, doing nothing in
particular, and seeming to find that difficult to
do. He would halt before a window and gaze
sullenly out at the rain, and then hurry impa-
tiently back to his desk. Once he walked the
whole length of the narrow passage between
the cages and the vaults, with no other apparent
purpose than being in the way ; for at the end
of it he turned around and walked back. As
he passed the door of the private office, John
spoke to him.
"Mr. Curtin, there's no need of your staying
How they Broke the Run 295
He turned a shade paler. "What do you
mean? " he asked.
" Nothing to get excited about," said John,
looking at him curiously. " I thought from
your manner that you were uneasy and anxious
to get away, and I said that nothing need detain
you. Mr. Peters will see to locking up the
" I'd rather stay," said Curtin, as steadily as
he could. " I didn't understand you at first.
I am uneasy I want to see the thing through
to see something stop this run " John
nodded brusquely and turned away. He had
no particular reason for thinking that Curtin
was lying, but the air of essential untruthful-
ness of the man made it difficult to believe him,
even in a matter of no moment. Everything
he did and the way he did it irritated John
There was nothing else to do, so the Banker
sat down at his desk to await the arrival of the
object lesson. Everything was ready. The
rain was holding well, and the stacks of angular
canvas bags behind the gratings seemed to be
making an excellent impression on the file of
depositors who were within the doors. But
296 The Banker and the Bear
still the line was unbroken. All depended now
on Jack Dorlin. It took him long enough, the
Banker thought impatiently.
But there ! The object lesson was coming at
last. John could see nothing as yet, but the
noise from the street told him. It was a very
different noise from any other that had come
through the window. The crowd, that big
animal which had yelled a few hours back, was
purring. The object lesson was slow to appear,
but when it did
" Come in here, Jackson," John called. " Come
here and look."
" By the jumping Julius Caesar ! " the cashier
exclaimed, when he caught sight of it. " He's
organized a street parade ! I wonder why he
didn't bring a brass band."
There was Jack Dorlin in front, marching
with a gravity befitting the situation, bearing
under his arm a bulky package secured by yards
of heavy cord and splendid with red sealing-wax.
And in single file behind him were nine other
young men of assorted sizes, every one of them
carrying a similar burden. As convoy, two to
the man, guarding both flanks of the file with
most impressive zeal, were twenty blue-coated
How they Broke the Run 297
policemen. There was some sort of lettering
on each of the ten packages which the crowd
seemed to be reading with great satisfaction.
Straight through the crowd and up the steps
came the procession, never once breaking its
imposing formation till safe behind the rail in
the bank. Then John read what was printed
on the packages, " Atlantic National Bank,
$50,000." Taking Jack by the arm, he marched
him into his private office.
" You did that brown, Dorlin."
" It was partly Mr. Dawson's idea," said Jack.
" Those packages were already sealed up. He
painted the extra ciphers on them himself. I
was afraid it would be a little stiff, besides being
not quite accurate, but he said it would go down
"Then you've only got fifty thousand there
" Yes, you see this is only the direct attack.
The rest is with the flank movement," said Jack ;
" it ought to be here by now. Oh, there it is ! "
Jack reached the window just as a big, red,
iron-grated American Express Company wagon
pulled up before the bank and backed round to
the sidewalk. Then he saw a wave of excite-
298 The Banker and the Bear
ment go over the crowd when two men armed
with Winchesters sprang down and ran to the
rear end of the wagon.
" Hurrah for the other million ! " came a voice
from somewhere, and a crashing cheer from the
crowd was the answer.
It had been raining before in a plodding,
commonplace fashion, but now the water began
coming down in continuous streams instead of
detached drops, and the crowd huddled a little
closer to watch the men who splashed back and
forth across the sidewalk carrying lumpy canvas
bags into the bank.
" Ten thousand of it is in gold," said Jack,
"the rest is just about a ton of silver dollars.
I thought you might want to open some of the
They did open some of the bags, and poured
streams of shining double-eagles over the count-
"You'd better pay in gold for a while," John
ordered the paying tellers. Then he went
around and spoke to the men behind the receiv-
The next few people to reach the windows
had very small amounts of money in the bank,
How they Broke the Run 299
and they departed, clinking their two or three
pieces of yellow metal with great satisfaction.
But presently there came a man whose account
was more than a thousand dollars. Fifty double-
eagles are not only heavy, their bulk, compared
with the capacity of the average pocket, is con-
siderable. The man gathered them up in a
helpless sort of a way and tried with no great
success to stow them inconspicuously about his
person, while the crowd of depositors waiting
their turn made derisive comments upon his
plight. Finally, with the air of a man who has
just made a momentous decision, he walked to
the receiving teller's window.
"I believe I'll put it back after all," he said,
" I guess the bank's safe enough."
"You can't put it back to-night," the teller
answered politely. " It's too late, after three
o'clock. The bank's closed." He had to say
it twice before the man understood, and to save
future explanations, perhaps, he said it loudly
enough for all around to hear.
" But what am I going to do ? " the man
" I don't know," said the teller. " Get your-
self arrested," called somebody in the crowd.
For by that time it was a crowd, the line had
melted away. They had not waited all those
hours for their money with any intention of
putting it back in the bank that night ; but
to discover that they could not put it back, that
the bank could not be induced to take it back
that night, gave the matter a different color. A
few of the more independent ones stepped boldly
out of the line; then, after an irresolute half
minute of staring at the great piles of coin and
paper, the others followed, and men and women
streamed sheepishly out through the wide open
doors into the already empty street.
"I'm going, too," said John Bagsbury. "The
show's over. I've had enough."
Curtin looked as though he had had enough,
too ; but he waited till all the money was safely
put away, and he could lock up the vaults.
THE FOURTH DAY
THE time lock is not an old device, but it is
already a necessity. Just as the invention of
new and impenetrable armor for battle-ships
has only produced new cannon or new projec-
tiles which make necessary a still harder pro-
tective shell about the ship, so has the increasing
ingenuity with which banks guard their treasure
been met by a corresponding advance in audac-
ity and skill by those whose trade it is to rob
the banks. An old-fashioned safe would be to a
bank as useless a toy as one of Gustavus Adol-
phus's wooden cannon in a modern fort ; and a
safe cracker of the past generation would be as
helpless as John Bagsbury's daughter Martha in
the presence of a great Harvey ized-steel sphere
with its electric apron burglar alarm, its half-
dozen separate combinations, and its time-lock
ticking away inside. The time-lock differs from
other devices of the sort in this, that it is no
302 The Banker and the Bear
respecter of persons ; it makes no discrimination
between Trojan and Tyrian, friend and enemy.
It resides in a glass-covered box on the inner
face of the door. You unlock the cover, turn
the knob until the hand upon a dial points to
a certain number, and push the door to, and it
will not open again until that number of hours
It had occurred to Melville Sponley that vaults
which could not be unlocked would be as disas-
trous to a bank as vaults which were empty ;
and Curtin, carrying out his employer's instruc-
tions that afternoon, after John had gone away,
had merely given the little knob in the glass
box an extra twist.
That was no very difficult thing to do, nor,
being done, to make a man afraid. Of course,
they would know he had done it. He alone in
the bank had the key to the box, save on occa-
sions when he handed it over to Peters. And
it was altogether likely that John Bagsbury
would suspect him of having done it mali-
ciously. But it would be impossible to prove
such a suspicion as that ; the excuse was en-
tirely plausible. The bank, on account of the
run that day, had closed nearly three hours
The Fourth Day 303
later than usual, and the assistant cashier, for-
getting to take that into account, wound up the
spring just as he was in the habit of doing, so
that instead of opening at nine, the bolt would
not fall out of place until twelve. They could
never prove that he meant to do it.
When Sponley had told him about it in the
little room in the Eagle Caf6, the prospect of
being able, with so small an act, to work John
Bagsbury an injury, had pleased him. And even
in doing it he enjoyed the feeling of guilty excite-
ment that had come over him. He hated John,
partly because of the various rascalities he had
been practising upon the Banker in the past
six months, partly because he did not dare hate
Melville Sponley. His resentment of the insult
the Bear had paid him at the Eagle bar was
simply fuel to his eagerness to pass on the
injury to John. The cream of the stratagem,
what he licked his lips over as he rode home
from the bank, was that there could be no
proof, not a grain, that he had not merely made
a very natural mistake.
But for all that he was afraid. For no assign-
able reason, at first, save that he was a coward;
but soon his cowardice began suggesting reasons.
304 The Banker and the Bear
He thought of a good many disquieting possibili-
ties during the evening, and, later, in the restless
hours while he slept or dozed, his dreams spun
about them a tangle of frightful grotesques.
Awake or asleep the Banker troubled him,
pursuing him through his dreams in a hundred
horrible shapes, and at his elbow when he waked
out of them and lay, with the rigor of nightmare
still in his muscles and the perspiration of fear
on his skin, trying to console himself with the
thought that there was nothing they could prove.
There would be one unpleasant moment when
the Banker would look at him, perhaps speak to
him, but that would soon be over. If he could
only brazen it out through that, all would go
Much as he dreaded the day that was com-
ing, he welcomed the light that announced it.
At a, for him, ridiculously early hour, he dressed
and ordered his breakfast. He stormed because
it was not ready ; but when it was brought to him,
he did not eat it, for in the interval he had got a
morning paper, and had found there additional
ground for his uneasiness.
There was, as he had expected, a detailed
account of the run, and it made rather good
The Fourth Day 305
reading, ending, as it did, with a highly colored
description of the coming of reinforcements.
But he found more than he had bargained for
in another column, whose head-lines made him
cold and sick and hollow at the stomach, a re-
port of an interview with John Bagsbury, which
began with these words :
" The run on our bank to-day was not an acci-
dent. It was deliberately provoked in order to
bear the lard market. That is not a guess. I
am speaking from knowledge."
John never took the trouble to be plausible.
He did not arrange the truth to give it a lifelike
appearance. When he made that statement,
boldly, without argument or corroborative detail,
to the half-dozen reporters who had gathered in
his library, they believed him, and ninety per
cent of the men who read the words in news-
paper type next morning also believed.
Curtin read the first sentence, then his eye
glanced swiftly down the column, looking for
his own name ; but there was small relief in the
fact that he did not find it there. He was cer-
tain that John Bagsbury's words were not a
bluff. So, wondering how much the Banker
knew, more than he had told the reporters,
306 The Banker and the Bear
Curtin allowed his breakfast to grow cold and to
be taken away untasted. It was too early to go
to the bank, but there was nothing else to do, and
he could not keep still, so he set out down town.
What followed is not pleasant, but it was
inevitable. He could not get a seat in the ele-
vated train, and the long jolting ride left him
sick and giddy. He went directly to the bank,
though it was far too early to go in, and after
hesitating a while on the steps, he went away
and wandered aimlessly about the streets. The
people he passed stared at him, and he knew
that his white face and uncertain walk gave
them excuse enough. It would never do for
John Bagsbury to see him looking like that.
He needed something to stiffen him up for that
morning's work, so he turned into the nearest bar.
A man with an empty stomach and a weak
head must exercise great discretion in drinking
Scotch whiskey, and Curtin knew it. He would
only take a very little. It would have been for-
tunate for him and for Melville Sponley if after
he once started he had drunk himself to sleep,
or to the police station. But he kept his prom-
ise to himself, he took only a little.
What wonderful stuff that liquid amber was !
The Fourth Day 307
As he sipped it, he felt his sluggish blood stir-
ring ; it was making a man of him. The fears
of the night were gone far back into his mem-
ory now; he could think of them and laugh.
He was ready for whatever might happen at
the bank. The moment of discovery would
not disconcert him in the least. He took one
more little drink, and then, with almost a swag-
ger, he walked back to the bank. John Bags-
bury might look at him now and be damned !
Melville Sponley read the report of the inter-
view with John Bagsbury and accorded it un-
grudging admiration. That direct way of
saying things was characteristic of John, and
when he did it, it was immensely effective.
That was the reward, the Bear reflected, which
sometimes comes to a man who never drives a
hard bargain with the truth. This blurting out
of the whole story was a good move. It was
worthy of the very pretty fight the Banker had
been making this past week.
The Bear could afford to look with ironical
indulgence on John's last desperate efforts to
save himself, because he knew how futile they
were. The Bear was in high feather. There
308 The Banker and the Bear
was some credit in beating a combination like
Pickering and Bagsbury. Bagsbury was, bar
one, the best man in the city.
His eye fell upon the vacant place across the
table, and he came back sharply to present
realities. He had not seen Harriet since Tues-
day afternoon, had heard nothing from her
since the little note asking him to excuse her
for not coming down to dinner. He had gone
to the Bagsburys' house twice on Wednesday,
but neither time had she been able to see him.
He missed her, even in busy times like these.
He wanted to talk over this last action with her
before he went into it; not that he needed any
help, but simply for the stimulating effect of
her interest. He had thought a good many
times in the last year that she was not her old
self ; that she had been losing her sure grasp of
a situation and her quick eye for an opportu-
nity ; but he saw now how badly he had mis-
judged her. Her foresight in warning John
when it was too late to do any harm, but so
that it might help to straighten out the tangle
afterward, delighted him, and assured him that
she was still the Harriet of ten years ago. And
how plucky she was ! She had been too tired
The Fourth Day 309
to come down to dinner, but she had nerved
herself for that long ride down to the Bags-
burys' house to carry out the stratagem that had
occurred to her. She must have been horribly
fagged to have broken down that way, though.
Perhaps it was just as. well that she was spared
the exciting days that were following her col-
lapse. They could talk it all over afterward,
anyway. And he was glad that it was his last
He had meant to stop on his way to the
office and find out what her condition was this
morning ; now he decided to telephone instead ;
but, just before he went out, he changed his
mind once more. He would do neither. She
might want to see him and ask a lot of ques-
tions, and it was better that he should keep
entirely out of the way for a little longer. It
would all be over by noon.
When Sponley reached his office at nine
o'clock, he found Stewart and Ray waiting for
him. He nodded to them cordially.
" We're going to have great times this morn-
ing. This is going to be the last day of it.
You'll find cigars in my desk there. Help
yourselves, will you?"
3io The Banker and the Bear
"We haven't much time for a smoke before
the fun begins, have we ? " one of them asked.
Sponley had disappeared in a little closet,
where he seemed to be rumaging about in
search of something, and it was a minute or
two before he answered. When he came out,
he brought a shiny old alpaca coat and a crum-
pled felt hat.
" Yes, you will," he answered ; " all the time
you want. I'm going to attend to the fun to-
One would not have called his face heavy at
that moment, and his laugh had an almost boy-
ish ring. He slipped on the coat, and thrust
his hands luxuriously into the sagging pockets.
" This old rig has been through many a fight,
but never a one better than there'll be to-day.
By the Lord Harry, gentlemen, I wouldn't miss
it for fifty thousand dollars."
He stowed away a little package of memo-
randum cards and a couple of hard pencils, and
moved to leave the office. " I'm going up to the
floor now," he said.
" You're wanted at the telephone, Mr. Spon-
ley," said his clerk, coming out of the cabinet.
It was Curtin who had called him up, and
The Fourth Day 311
the moment the Bear recognized his voice he
" Where are you ? "
" At the bank," the assistant cashier answered.
" Ring off right away then," said Sponley. " I
told you not to run that risk."
"It's all safe enough," he could hear Cur-
tin laugh, "they aren't watching the 'phone
just now. They're all over by the vaults."
" Have they found out anything ? "
" No, they think it'll come open in a minute."
"All right," said the Bear; "but don't call
me up again in any case. You wound it up till
twelve, didn't you ? "
There was a moment's pause, then came the
short rattle of the ring for disconnection. Cur-
tin must have seen some one coming and rung
off. Sponley was glad the assistant cashier had
so much discretion.
At twenty minutes after nine, when the Bear,
with a word of greeting to the guard at the
entrance, came out on the floor, it was, to the
unaccustomed eyes and ears in the crowded
gallery, already a bedlam. Traders and clerks
were grouped about that big room, talking in
every key of excitement, and little messenger
312 The Banker and the Bear
boys, to whom nothing mattered until the bell
rang, larked about, pelting one another with
handfuls of sample grain, and making a gratui-
tous addition to the uproar. All the while,
monotonous and incessant, the metallic chatter
of scores of telegraph instruments made a long
organ-point against the varying pitch of the
voice of the crowd.
Sponley breathed a long sigh of complete
contentment as the old air and the familiar
noises greeted him. The pervasive, inarticulate
sound was as perfectly intelligible to him as
is the song of the locomotive to an old railroad
engineer. He knew every cadence of it. He
walked slowly across toward the provision pit,
and before he had taken twenty paces he felt
that every man in the great room knew of his
presence and was wondering what it portended.
His half-shut eyes that were everywhere, saw
Keyes scribble a note and despatch a messenger
boy with it on the run, and he smiled. That
note did not contain pleasant news for Pickering.
This was his last day, the last of a multitude
of days, and safe, as this one was, or precari-
ous, he had enjoyed them all. He wished there
were to be more of them. But he had promised
The Fourth Day 313
Harriet and himself, and he was particular about
such promises. He would enjoy the little that
was left, however.
Then there ^ame to him a notion, an ironical,
whimsical notion that pleased him, and he stood
still, smiling over it. He would set a period to
this delectable experience. His opponent should
have an hour and a half. He would begin now
in three two and three-quarters minutes, and
at eleven o'clock his bear's hug should squeeze
the last gasp out of Pickering. It was anything
but hard business sense, but for this once he
could afford the luxury of following a fancy, as
pretty a fancy as that.
Then the big bell rang out half-past nine, and
the trading began. It had been long since
Sponley had taken the field in person, but not
so long that men had forgotten that he was the
best operator on the board. That he was, was
due partly to his impassivity, partly to his
quickness ; but more than either, apparently, to
his mere bulk, or at least to a certain oppres-
sion which seemed to emanate from it. Keyes
was a good man, an old hand at the business,
he knew every trick of it, but he felt as if
Pickering's defeat were already accomplished
314 The Banker and the Bear
when he looked at Sponley standing there, at
the other side of the pit.
None the less he held his ground gallantly ;
for the first three-quarters of an hour he never
gave an inch. But it was a game of follow
the leader by that time. It seemed that every
trader on the floor was coming to the provision
pit, to make a short sale and take a little share
in Sponley's certain victory. No one could
stand for long against such a pressure as that,
and the price began dropping, a notch at a time,
at first, but faster afterwards and down, down,
down it went, sliding.
At a quarter before eleven there came a
check and then a smart rally of a point or two.
Sponley glanced up at the big clock, and he
smiled. He was going to hit it almost exactly.
He had expected this turn, he knew just what
it meant. Pickering was of the sort who die
hard, and now, as he came so desperately near
the extreme edge, he was gathering every ounce
of fight into this last plunge. Without hurry
and without discomposure, Sponley hammered
the price back again, and the narrow margin
was almost nothing.
Outside, in the street, a carriage with three
The Fourth Day 315
men in it was driving up furiously, reckless of
the shouts from the policeman at the corner.
When it stopped before the Board of Trade
building, Pickering was still righting, but already
half over the edge.
That was six minutes of eleven.
ASSAULT AND BATTERY
DICK has never been able satisfactorily to
explain why, as soon as she had finished her
breakfast that morning, she went to the bank.
Just before starting she told Alice that John
had run off without his eye-glasses, and that she
was going to take them down to him, which was
true, but not entirely adequate. She told her-
self that since Mrs. Sponley's fever had abated,
she was sure to want to know all about the hap-
penings of the day before, and that telling her
might have serious consequences. Alice would
not be able to give her any information about
it, and the morning paper containing the inter-
view that had so badly frightened Curtin had
been stuffed, as soon as Dick had read it, into
John's pocket, and was now on its way down town.
So that if Dick herself was well out of the way,
Mrs. Sponley might have whatever poor hap-
piness ignorance affords, for a while longer.
Assault and Battery 317
That was an excellent reason. A year later
Jack Dorlin told her that she came to the bank
on Thursday morning simply because he had
not come to see her Wednesday evening, which
was a piece of impudence Dick could well
afford to answer merely with an infinitely
They met at the corner, half a square away
from the bank.
"What on earth has brought you down
here ? " he exclaimed, as he came up with her.
"Has anything gone wrong ? "
She waived the question. " Hello, Jack,"
was all she said. There was small matter in
the words to blush over ; but the color sprang
into her face, for something in the inflection of
them had been almost a caress, and the fact
that she had not offered him her hand and that
she had barely glanced at him lent an emphasis
to it that he would be sure to understand.
They walked a score of paces in silence.
The mere sense of nearness that came to them
in the crowd was good enough without seeking
to better it by talking. But the words that
hung in Jack's throat had to come out at last.
" There's something I must tell you "
318 The Banker and the Bear
Not there on that crowded sidewalk, with
bank clerks and messenger boys, lawyers and
merchants, rich men, poor men, beggar men,
all hurrying and jostling past, to slip be-
tween them, and make an interruption at every
three words. No, certainly not there, if Dick
could help it. So Jack, who for all he knew
of his surroundings at that moment might have
been walking down a grassy lane, between haw-
thorn hedges that breathed softly into the moon-
light ; Jack, who knew only that it was Dick's
hand that brushed lightly by his own; poor,
stupid Jack must needs again be interrupted.
"There are a lot of things you must tell me,"
she said. "All I know about what happened
yesterday is what I saw in this morning's paper.
John was so thoroughly tired out when he came
home that, as soon as he could get rid of the
reporters, he went to bed, and "
She was talking aimlessly, for she saw how he
was misunderstanding her, how her words must
be hurting him, and she could think of nothing
but that. Why, oh, why had he made her do it !
Though he mistook the reason, he saw that
the situation was painful to her, and he came
quickly to the rescue.
Assault and Battery 319
" You haven't told me why you've come down
here at this time in the morning," he said easily.
"There's nothing wrong with Mr. Bagsbury, I
His consideration for her, even at such a
moment, touched her. The tremulous bright-
ness of her eyes would have told him something
if he had looked up at them. She herself had
forgotten by that time where they were stand-
"It's nothing I mean nothing important.
I want to see John for a minute."
" It's pretty early for him yet, isn't it ? " asked
Jack. Still he would not look at her. They
were standing just before the entrance to the
bank, but she did not move to go in. Hills-
mead came bustling up, and, as he passed them,
lifted his hat in his latest and most impressive
manner ; but they looked at him with unseeing
eyes. He would have had the same sort of
reception had he been a six-gun field battery,
or a circus parade with caged animals.
"Is it?" she asked listlessly. "He started
before I did oh, of course ; he walks. I for-
Then her tone changed quickly. "I think
320 The Banker and the Bear
I'll go in and wait for him. It'll be all right
for me to stay in his office till he comes, won't
He nodded assent, and led the way into the
bank. They passed Hillsmead as they turned
in behind the rail, and Jack wondered why he
wore that peculiar expression. But he did not
think of Hillsmead for more than a fraction of
He ushered Dick into the private office, raised
a window, and placed a chair for her near by
where she could feel the breeze. " I don't be-
lieve it will be very long before he comes," he
Then with an effort he added : " I can't stay
here. I I have my work, you see "
He turned toward the door, but before he
reached it she spoke his name.
"Don't go away, Jack. I want tell me
what you started to tell me out there."
She had not taken the chair he had placed
for her, but was standing close by the window.
He could not see her face.
" I shouldn't have done that," he said. " You
had answered me already. It was wrong in me
to try to compel you to do it more directly. I
Assault and Battery 321
presumed on your liking me, and wanting to be
kind to me."
He dropped down in John's big desk chair,
and, bending forward, pressed his clasped hands
together between his knees.
" It is just what I tried to tell you a week ago
last night in the Bagsburys' library," he went
on, speaking slowly and precisely ; " nothing but
just this : that I know what it really means now
to love you, Dick. I didn't know those other
times when I told you. You were right about
that. Now that I really understand, I can see
how little I understood before. And until that
night, I hoped that you knew I really under-
stood, and that you "
If he had looked at her, he would have
stopped there, but his eyes were still averted,
and he labored painfully on through a bog of
words, until at last, mercifully, she interrupted
"That wasn't what you told me the other
night. You only told me that you had found
out that I was right when I said you didn't
you didn't know. John came in then, and
But then the words she had meant to say sud-
322 The Banker and the Bear
denly refused to be said. For the first time
she realized that they were not true. He
did not change his position, but she heard his
breath coming quicker. He was holding him-
" I suppose I did commit such a piece of
idiocy as that. It's just what I'd be likely to do.
I'm getting tired of being such an utterly
It was her hand, laid lightly on his lips, that
checked him there. "You mustn't say such
things about yourself any more," she said. She
took her hand away, but remained standing
close beside him.
Still he did not raise his eyes.
" You are stupid this morning, though," she
said, and her voice was quivering. "Jack
Jack, are you going to make me "
Then, at last, he rose swiftly to his feet; and
he looked at her as though to make up in that
first moment for a six months' blindness. He
caught her hands timidly, as though he expected
that they would resist ; but they lay quite con-
tentedly in his and he gripped them tighter.
" Do they mean what they're telling me ? "
he asked breathlessly. " Do you know what
Assault and Battery 323
they're telling me?" But he needed no other
answer than what he saw in her face, and though
he let go her hands, it was that he might hold
her close in the circle of his arms.
"You didn't believe what I said that night,
did you, Dick ? You knew what I was trying
A tremulous little sigh of complete happiness
was all her answer at first, but afterward she
" Yes, I knew, of course, all the time. I told
myself that you meant that you had found out
you didn't care, and I tried to make myself
believe it. But if I'd been afraid that I really
should believe it "
He interrupted her, but not by speaking.
There are occasions when arbitrary divisions
of time, such as minutes, cease to have any
particular significance, and we can but guess
from collateral evidence how much later it was
when Dick, after a glance into the street below,
said with a laugh,
"There comes John, now."
" Let him come. He's a malevolent sort of
wretch. He laid his plans, you see, to come
down and interrupt us again, just at a a
324 The Banker and the Bear
critical moment; but for once he's too late.
We foiled him."
" We ? " she questioned demurely. " He'd
have been here in plenty of time if "
But she should not have expected to be
allowed to finish a sentence like that.
" Jack ! Let me go. Please let me go. Oh,
he's coming ! "
" It will be such a fine surprise for Mr. Bags-
bury," he answered placidly.
But John was not to have his surprise just
then. Before he reached the outer office he
was stopped by Mr. Peters.
"There's a good one on us, Mr. Bagsbury.
We can't get into either of the big vaults. The
time-locks are still going. They ought to have
come open a quarter of an hour ago. Curtin
says he set them just as usual, but I suppose he
must have wound them a little too far. That
would be easy enough to do. They're likely
to come open any minute now."
" Where is Curtin ? " John asked.
" He's somewhere about. Oh, I guess he's
in the telephone box."
There was, after all, a fundamental error in
Melville Sponley's calculations which would
Assault and Battery 325
probably have beaten him even if luck had
turned things differently; if, for instance,
Curtin had not chosen that particular moment
for his telephoning. The Bear had never in the
course of the fight, and particularly not in this
last turn of it, reckoned upon the quickness of
John's intuitions. Most men would have taken
the obvious explanation instead of the far more
remote one, and until it was too late would have
waited for the vaults to open themselves. John
would have been too late had he been obliged
to wait for the laborious processes of reason to
guide him ; but thanks to insight, or imagina-
tion, or genius, or whatever you may be pleased
to call it, he moved swiftly. Before Peters had
finished speaking, John understood the whole
trick, and, what is more to the purpose, he had
no doubt of his understanding.
He looked about thoughtfully for a moment.
Then he said to Peters :
" Don't interfere in what's going to happen.
I know exactly what I'm going to do."
With that he walked rapidly toward the open
door of the telephone box.
He had no intention of stealing up and taking
Curtin unawares, but chance brought it about.
326 The Banker and the Bear
The rubber matting deadened his footfalls, and
as he drew nearer, a movement by one of the
clerks attracted Curtin's attention in the other
direction. Even at that, had it not been for the
intoxication induced by the whiskey and by the
excitement of the moment, Curtin must have
perceived John's presence before the Banker
had come within a single pace of him. But as
it happened, John was not an arm's length away
when Curtin said, " They think it'll come open
in a minute."
It was not, as Sponley thought, discretion
that stopped him then, but a big, lean forearm
which came under his chin, bending his head
back suddenly so that every muscle in his body
turned limp as rags and the terrible grip of the
inner crook of an elbow which throttled him.
As his hands involuntarily flew to release his
throat, John caught the receiver away from him
and clapped it to his own ear. He heard Spon-
" Locked it up till twelve, didn't you ? "
Then he rang off, and tightening his grip on
Curtin, backed out of the cabinet. Every
man in the bank, save the one who remained
deep in oblivion in the inner private office,
Assault and Battery 327
came running to the spot, but they did not need
John's quick admonition not to interfere.
Curtin had ceased even to appear to struggle.
He simply hung, so much dead weight, from
John Bagsbury's rigid elbow.
" I don't know whether I've broken your neck
or not. I hope not. Come into my office. There
are some things I'd like to have you tell me."
He let his arm relax, and Curtin tumbled in a
heap on the floor.
With an exclamation of impatience John
lifted him, and half dragged, half led him down
the aisle. The door of the outer office was open.
When he reached the inner one, he kicked it
open and thrust Curtin forward. The man
went staggering across the room, until he stum-
bled and fell upon the cracked old leather sofa
which groaned under his sudden impact.
Jack Dorlin had taken Dick by the shoulders
and gently pulled her out of Curtin's zigzag
course ; then they stood quite still watching him
as he lay there, with one hand fumbling at his
Dick knew that John Bagsbury was standing
in the doorway. She could hear his loud, slow
breathing, but she did not turn to look at him,
328 The Banker and the Bear
for she guessed that the expression in his face
was one that she would rather not be able to
remember. He was looking at her and at Jack
in a puzzled way, as though he suspected them
of being merely a hallucination. Dick was the
first to speak :
" I think he is fainting. Will you get some
water, Jack ? "
The sound of her voice brought John Bags-
bury to himself again. " I did not know you
were in here," he said simply. Then, as Jack
Dorlin left the room, he added : "I'm glad you
were. I was pretty mad. I was I was all
right until I felt him in my hands, but that was
too much for me."
Without reply she moved toward the sofa.
" What are you going to do ? " he asked.
" To loosen his collar," she replied laconically.
" Somebody's got to do it."
" I will," he said, and with shaking hands he
Curtin revived quickly when Jack Dorlin
dashed the water in his face, and he sat up
feebly and looked about the room. Dick turned
away to the window, and in a moment Jack
stepped to her side.
Assault and Battery 329
"Why are all those people waiting out
there ? " she asked in an undertone.
He glanced down into the street. There
was, as on yesterday, a little knot of people
standing about the door.
" Come here and look, Mr. Bagsbury," said
It was not the angry man of five minutes
ago, nor the John Bagsbury who had just been
talking to Dick, nothing but the Banker who
spoke to Jack Dorlin, after a glance out of the
" I have some business to talk over with Mr.
Curtin," he said swiftly ; " but I've no time for
that just now. Will you look after him, Dorlin,
until I'm at liberty again ? "
Without waiting for Jack to reply, he strode
out of the office and shut the door behind him.
" I suppose I'd better go," said Dick.
Jack was very close to her, standing between
her and Curtin, and he spoke almost in a
whisper : " I suppose so. I wish you were my
prisoner instead of "
There is your chance, Curtin. You know
it is less than a ten-foot drop from that open
window to the sidewalk. Once out there, you
330 The Banker and the Bear
are safe enough. It will hardly be worth while
trying to prove anything against you in a court
of law ; all you are afraid of is John Bagsbury.
If you will be quick, he will not be able to get
his hands on you again.
He thought of all that. If he could have had
one good drink of whiskey, he would have tried
it ; but as it was, he only took a hesitating step
toward the window, and Dick saw.
" Be careful, Jack ! " she said.
He turned quickly about and understood.
" Do you feel that breeze too much, Mr. Cur-
tin ? Don't move. I'll close the window."
When he had closed and locked it, Dick was
" Thank you," said Curtin.
The narrowness of his escape from such a
blunder made Jack uncomfortable, but exceed-
ingly alert. He sat in John's chair, and for
what seemed to him half the morning his eyes
at least never wandered from the man on the
It was really a little less than half an hour
before John Bagsbury came back into the
room. He was still only the Banker, quick of
speech and placid of mind.
Assault and Battery 331
" Now, I'm ready to talk with you, Mr.
Curtin. No don't go, Dorlin. We have
arranged for what currency we need for the
present, and there'll be some experts here in a
few minutes now, to see if they can do any-
thing with the vaults."
" Are they going to run us again to-day ? "
" I don't think so," said the Banker, smiling.
"Those people we saw were bringing their
money back. They didn't want it for more
than one night."
He turned to Curtin. " Mr. Sponley is doing
a good morning's work," he said. " He's on
the floor himself, and from the way it looks
now he will beat Pickering inside of two hours.
If he does that, of course they may run us
The Banker looked thoughtfully out of the
window for a moment, then he continued :
" You have done a good many questionable
things, Mr. Curtin, since you came here six
months ago, and you have done one or two things
in the last day or two that are unquestion-
able. I am inclined to think that I can have
you committed to prison for a considerable term
332 The Banker and the Bear
of years. I think there is enough in what you
told Hauxton Tuesday afternoon, and in your
manipulating the time-locks yesterday, to ac-
complish that. But I'm not sure that I want
to. I should gain nothing, not even the per-
sonal satisfaction for an injury. You've been
acting on instructions, I suppose. I have still
another hand to play with the man who gave
you those instructions."
" He'll beat you," said Curtin, sullenly.
" And I want you to act in my interest while
I play it," John went on evenly. " That course
can't be less to your advantage than the one
you've been following. I want you now to
answer some questions. When will those
vaults come open?"
"I don't "
" The truth ! " thundered John, moving for-
ward, and Curtin went white. "Tell me the
truth, Mr. Curtin."
"At twelve o'clock."
" That is true," said John, " I know. Now
please tell me just how you came to do it."
" Oh, damn you ! " said Curtin, brokenly.
" Damn both of you ! You'll tear me to pieces
between you. He made me do it."
Assault and Battery 333
" I know he did. I want you to tell me
Sullenly, brazenly, fearfully, shiftily, and with
many intervals of feeble blasphemous ravings
against the two strong men who had ground
him between them, Curtin told the long story,
and John listened with half his mind, while the
other half was making plans. But at last some-
thing caught his whole attention.
" Say that again," he commanded. " You
tell me that Sponley laid violent hands on you,
yesterday afternoon, in the bar-room of the
Eagle Caf ? Was there a witness present ? "
" The barkeeper."
John sprang to his feet. "That's what I
want," he said exultantly, and his jaws came
together with a snap. " Dorlin, will you order a
carriage, quick ? We'll have to cut it fine."
Then his strong lips bent in an ironical smile.
"You'll come with me, Mr. Curtin, to the
nearest justice and swear out a warrant for
Sponley's arrest on a charge of assault and
THE withered, leering, old Goddess of Luck
must have grinned wide that morning. To
smile knowingly over men's hopes is her de-
light; but to smile behind the back of a man
who is smiling, is the double distillation of
pleasure. Melville Sponley had never enjoyed
living before as in those minutes, one or two
less than ninety, while he played cautiously
and allowed Pickering some small hope of win-
ning, and postponed planting the last thrust in
him until the hour he himself had set should
have fully come. He had had fancies of this
kind before, but never had he indulged one of
them, and so this had the added delight of
But while he waited, John Bagsbury, whom
he thought to be no longer in the game, was
taking a hand in this last dealing of the cards.
When Sponley smiled over Pickering's last des-
A Corner 335
perate rally, Jervis Curtin had already sworn out
a warrant that was to confound him. And
when, after an amused glance at the big clock,
the Bear began to deliver the final attack, it
was too late, for the carriage that had driven
through the streets in such reckless hurry had
already pulled up before the Board of Trade
The men inside came tumbling out before it
had fairly stopped; they crossed the sidewalk
and the wide vestibule at a run and dashed
upstairs, three steps at a stride, to the entrance
to the floor.
There they stopped and peered frowning into
the crowd. One of them, it was John Bags-
bury, began giving swift instructions to the
other two, and they followed with their eyes
the direction of his pointing finger. In a
moment they nodded comprehendingly, and as
John turned away, they moved out on the
The old policeman who guards the entrance
a landmark he is in that place where men
come and go so quickly stepped in front of
them, saying that visitors were not allowed on
the floor. But they jerked their coats open
336 The Banker and the Bear
impatiently so that he could see the stars that
were pinned inside them, and then walked
briskly over to the provision pit. They climbed
the pair of steps outside the circle, and one
waited on the rim, while the other wriggled his
way through the dense press of men down
toward the centre. He laid his hand on the
Bear's wide shoulder.
" You're Melville Sponley, aren't you ? "
The Bear was making an entry on his card,
and he paid no heed.
The hand gripped his shoulder more tightly.
" Isn't your name Melville Sponley ? "
"That's it," he answered shortly, and he
raised his hand to make another sale.
Then, in a flash, for even John Bagsbury
was a very little slower than he, the Bear knew
what it meant. He wheeled suddenly upon
his interrogator, and he did not need the
glimpse he caught of the point of a star be-
neath the coat to convince him that he had
comprehended aright. He spoke directly into
the man's ear and so rapidly that the words
blurred together. But the man understood.
" Do you want to earn a thousand dollars
in the next five minutes ? Stand where you
A Corner 337
are and don't speak to me or interfere with
me till then. That's all you'll have to do."
He turned back toward Keyes and started
to raise his arm, but again the detaining hand
came down upon his shoulder.
" Do you want five ? " he snapped.
It might have saved him. If John Bagsbury
had not been waiting for them over across the
hall, it would in all probability have saved him.
The detectives had known John less than half
an hour, but in that time one can sometimes
learn something of a man's essential charac-
The detective turned away uneasily and
called to his fellow, " Come down here, Ryan."
Until that moment the pit had been a scene
of tumult ; in other words, its yelling, frenzied,
chaotic self. But at that call the tempest died
away into a mere buzzing curiosity. The men
who a moment before had been oblivious to
all save the price of lard, were now wondering
what the man called Ryan was going to do,
and they stood aside to make way for him.
They would only have had to crowd a bit
close and perhaps indulge in a little harmless
rushing to give Sppnley the three or four
338 The Banker and the Bear
minutes he needed to win his fight, but no one
began it. Friends and enemies simply stood
by and watched Ryan join his fellow close
"You'll have to come along with us," said
the one who had first accosted him. " You're
wanted for assault and battery."
" Assault and battery ! " echoed the Bear,
looking at the two men in genuine surprise.
" You've got the wrong man."
He shook himself free and turned again
upon Keyes, but in a second the detectives
had his elbows pinned at his sides and were
forcing him backward toward the rim of the
" Show me your warrant."
" When we get out of this crowd," said
Sponley made no further attempt to resist.
He turned and walked quietly out of the pit.
" Show me your warrant," he repeated.
He smiled as he read it, a dog's smile that
bared every tooth in his upper jaw.
" Curtin, by God ! " he said softly. Then
he turned briskly to the detectives. " All right,
I'll go with you ; only be quick. I'm in a
A Corner 339
hurry." But he stopped involuntarily as the
sudden roar that went up from the pit told
him that trading had begun again. He knew
that hurry would avail him nothing. For the
first time in his life, the Bear tasted the bitter-
ness of defeat.
He was beaten ; not, after all, by luck, and
only secondarily by John Bagsbury. It was
Nemesis that had overtaken him ; or, to phrase
it more modernly, the reflex action of the very
force that had contributed so largely to his
former successes. Had it been the other way
about, they might have arrested Keyes with-
out materially affecting the outcome of the
struggle, for Keyes was, from half-past nine
to half-past one, simply a machine for buying
or for selling, as the case might be. But
Melville Sponley had always been a visible
incarnation of success. The men who had
faced him all these years in the pit knew that
he had never been beaten, and they had cher-
ished the superstition, which he held himself,
that he could not be beaten. During years on
the Board of Trade that place among all
others where nothing should count but hard
sense and telegraphic advices no rumor had
340 The Banker and the Bear
been so potent in bearing down the market as
the report that Sponley was selling short.
In this duel he fought with Pickering, reason
was on the Bull side ; the lard market was really
narrow. Nearly all the traders who dabbled at
all in provisions had sided with Sponley simply
because he was Sponley. The small, visible
supply of lard was an insignificant fact com-
pared with that. So when the Bear, after read-
ing the warrant, walked quietly away between
the two detectives, there was blank dismay
among his followers.
Keyes was not the man to lose a golden
moment like that one. He thrust his hands
high in the air, his palms toward him, and every
finger extended. His voice, as he shouted the
new price, rang with defiant challenge for the
men who had been giving his principal so ter-
rible a drubbing. For a moment they made a
show of resistance, and then their opposition
melted away like a child's fort of sand before
the first rush of the tide.
When the news came downstairs to Pickering,
he was sitting on the table in Sievert's private
office. He said nothing to the head clerk, who
congratulated him. He simply sat there open-
A Corner 341
mouthed, breathing fast, like a man who has
just made a hundred-yard dash. He did not
even wipe away the perspiration that gathered
on his forehead and ran down into his eyes.
He had not moved when John Bagsbury came
into the room a few minutes later.
" Here you are," said the Banker. " Well, I
guess this lets you out. It was cut pretty close,
"It was cut close," Pickering answered. "I
hope it may never be cut so damned close again.
Are you going to wait, too ? "
John nodded. There was no need of their
discussing what they were waiting for, and
neither man spoke again until it happened,
which was about half an hour later.
Everybody had expected it, though not so
soon ; but none the less it seemed unreal,
incredible, when from the gallery the secre-
tary of the Board of Trade read the formal
"All parties having accounts with Melville
Sponley are instructed to close out the same
The formula is as familiar as the alphabet,
but containing that name, it came strangely,
342 The Banker and the Bear
unpleasantly to the older men on the floor.
They acted upon it, however.
In Sievert's office again it was John who
broke the silence. " That's all," he said, when
the clerk told them. "We really didn't have
him till now, but I guess this settles it."
Pickering slipped down from the table and
moved toward the door. " Yes, this settles it.
I've had enough for to-day."
He paused and came back to where John
was standing. " I haven't thanked you yet,
but I will sometime. You pulled me out of
"I don't need to be thanked," said John,
brusquely. " I was going on my own hook
this morning. It was my innings."
He accompanied Pickering to the street,
parted from him with a nod, and walked
slowly back to the bank. He felt tired now
that it was all over, but he was glad that he
had a day's work before him. He did not
yet fully realize that the man he had fought
so furiously was Melville Sponley, his friend,
and he was half conscious of a wish to put
off that realization for a while longer. Time
would readjust things on some sort of basis,
A Corner 343
though there was an enemy where there had
seemed to be a friend before. Anyway, the
fight was over and well over. It had been a
good fight. With that reflection the Banker
turned into his office and attacked the pile of
letters that lay on his desk; but even this
habitual work which he did so swiftly and so
easily could not prevent the sudden recur-
rence every little while of an uneasy feel-
ing that something in the scheme of things
was fundamentally wrong. If he had been
any one but John Bagsbury, he would have
discovered that he had the blues.
Our story is almost done, for with Pickering's
subsequent and highly succcessful manipulation
of the lard market, we have no concern. What
was once the great fact in John Bagsbury's life,
his friendship with Melville Sponley, is now
nothing but a memory, and the test to show
which of the two is the better man, the test
that the Bear so long ago foresaw, is fully ac-
Yet there is a little more to tell.
From very early that Thursday morning,
before any one at the Bagsburys' house was
stirring, Harriet Sponley had lain in the white
344 The Banker and the Bear
bed in Dick's little white room, waiting. The
delirium, which, all through the day before, had
mercifully protected her, had gone away with
the fever, and she remembered everything that
had happened before she had started for the
Bagsburys' on Tuesday evening with perfect
distinctness. But the interval of unconscious-
ness gave her a curious feeling of detachment
from the Harriet she remembered. She looked
back to those days as one might look at a pic-
ture : the excitement, the terror, the bitterness
of those hours after she had learned what
were her husband's plans, she saw as clearly as
possible ; but the memory brought no revival of
those emotions in her now. They had belonged
to somebody else. She would begin to be that
somebody again by and by, perhaps, but that
did not matter now. So she lay quietly, some-
times dozing, sometimes broad awake, waiting
for something. She did not try to guess what
it would be.
The room pleased her. It was bright and
dainty, there was no unrestful decoration about
it. It reminded her somehow of Dick. She
asked for Miss Haselridge a number of times
that morning, and was disappointed each time
A Corner 345
that they said she had not yet come home.
She would have liked to have Dick about.
When Alice Bagsbury tiptoed into the room, she
generally pretended to be asleep, for Alice's well-
meant ministrations and inquiries were irritating.
A little after four o'clock, she heard a step
approaching her door, along the hall. It was
a quiet tread, but the boards of the old floor
creaked under it. For years she had known
it better than any other, and in all those years
it had never been unwelcome. But now it
brought her back instantly to herself ; she was
again the broken, quivering Harriet she had
looked at so impersonally a little while ago.
With a sudden impulse of fear she turned her
face to the wall and closed her eyes. She knew
now what she had been waiting for.
The door opened almost silently ; then after a
moment's pause Melville Sponley walked softly
across the room and sat down upon the bed
close beside her. But not until she felt his hand
upon her forehead did she dare open her eyes
and look at him.
" How is it going ? " she asked, preventing
the question that was on his lips. " I've waited
all day to find out."
346 The Banker and the Bear
" Pretty well."
"No, tell me everything. I'm not afraid
" I don't believe you are. I don't believe
you're afraid of anything. But it isn't easy to
tell. They've beaten us, Harriet. They closed
me out just before noon. We're broke."
She turned quickly away and buried her face
in the pillow.
"I thought I should never have to tell you
anything like that," he went on, speaking slowly,
for the words came hard. " I didn't think any-
body could beat me."
He paused and looked at her anxiously ; the
effect of his words alarmed him a little. " I
know I ought not to be talking to you about it
now, but "
" It isn't that," she interrupted quickly.
"Please don't think it's that. It's something
I've got to tell you that frightens me."
His face told her that her words had puzzled
him, but he only waited for her to go on. For
a long time she did not speak. Courageous as
she was, she could hardly force the words to her
lips, for all her happiness hung on the way he
should receive them.
A Corner 347
" This is it," she said monotonously : " I came
here that night to tell John that there was going
to be a run on his bank. So you see it was I
who beat you. I did it because "
"So that is what worried you ! " he exclaimed,
catching both her hands in his. " Why, that
didn't beat me. I knew you'd told him ; he said
so. I've been proud of you ever since for that.
It didn't occur to me to do it till later ; but when
it did, I came around and warned him myself.
Then he said you'd already told him."
The tears brimmed from her eyes and mois-
tened her hot cheeks. " Don't tell me any more.
It doesn't matter. I'm happier than I thought
I ever could be again."
" So you were frightened because "
" Don't," she pleaded ; " let's not talk about
it at all. Let's agree never to speak at all about
these days. It's all over, and this was the last."
" Yes," he said slowly ; " we agreed that this
was to be the last."
She gazed into his face, eagerly at first, but
soon the brightness died out of her eyes ; then
she looked away, out through the dainty white
curtain that hung before the window, at a patch
of blue sky.
348 The Banker and the Bear
" I wasn't thinking of that," she said, with a
smile on her lips. " Of course you can't stop
after a defeat. I'd forgotten that it was a defeat.
But you want to win again."
" That makes me feel better. I hoped you'd
feel that way about it. I know I can win, and
I'd like to. And it'll only be one more."
" Only one more," she echoed softly. Then
she roused herself and said energetically : " I
wish you'd get the carriage and take me home.
I'm strong enough to go, really, and I want to
get back there."
Jack Dorlin has always accounted it a miracle
of self-control that he stayed at the bank that
day until he had finished up his day's work.
But in spite of Dick's face, with its lurking
dimple, that kept coming between him and his
remittance ledgers, and her voice that was
always in his ears, he did it. It will go without
saying that when the last of the work was
done, a little before five in the afternoon, that
he made record-breaking speed straight to John
Bagsbury's house. When he came near it, he
was struck with a sudden incredulity concerning
the astounding events of that morning. It was
A Corner 349
absurd to think that they had really happened.
With true lover's insanity he took council with
himself that he would assume nothing at all un-
less Dick's behavior should give him the warrant.
But when he came up the steps, and she
opened the door for him
There is nothing at all original about it,
though they would dispute that statement vigor-
ously, nothing that does not happen too many
times to be worth telling, nothing that some
persons do not know already, and others could
not understand if it were told, about what they
said and what they left unsaid as they lingered
in that dark old hall.
But when he started to open the door into the
library, she checked him, saying in a whisper
that John was there.
"Well," said this lion-hearted lover, "let's go
in and tell him."
She protested for a little, but finally yielded,
and together they entered the library. They
thought that after what he had seen that morn-
ing, he would understand, and certainly their
faces as John looked at them should have told
the story to any average intelligence. But John
had once before narrowly escaped a disastrous
3 SO The Banker and the Bear
blunder through too confidently judging from
appearances, and experience had made him
So he did nothing to meet them halfway, and
Jack, whose valor seemed to have remained out
in the dark hall, had to stammer out the news a
word at a time until the last.
When John fairly understood, his confusion
exceeded that of Jack Dorlin. He glanced
furtively at the hall door as though meditating
flight. When he saw, however, that nothing
happened, he never could be induced to tell
what he had expected that they would do,
he sat down again. But as soon as possible he
changed the subject of conversation, evidently
still regarding it as dangerous.
"We've had quite a day of it," he said, and
they both assented cordially.
" It seems to me that a literary fellow like
you, Dorlin, might write up that time-lock busi-
ness into a pretty good story."
Jack said yes again, but this time more
vaguely. " Of course," the Banker hastened to
add, "you'd have to fix it up a little. You
could have them blow the vault open with
dynamite and kill the villain."
A Corner 351
Dick's hand stole into a larger one that had
hidden itself under the fold of her skirt.
" Come and play for me, Jack, until dinner-
time," she said; then turning to the Banker,
she added, " Don't you feel like some music,
But he understood. "No no run along,"
he said, and laughing they slipped away and
left him alone in the library.
AT YOU-ALL'S HOUSE
By JAMES NEWTON BASKETT
Introduction by Hamilton Wright Mabie
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By JAMES NEWTON BASKETT
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