Agood Fellow's Wife





I



LIFE in the small towns of the older West moves slowly-almost as

slowly as in the seaport villages or little towns of the East. Towns

like Tyre and Bluff Siding have grown during the last twenty years,

but very slowly, by almost imperceptible degrees. Lying too far

away from the Mississippi to be affected by the lumber interest,

they are merely trading points for the farmers, with no perceivable

germs of boom in their quiet life.



A stranger coming into Belfast, Minnesota, excites much the same

lanquid but persistent inquiry as in Belfast, New Hampshire. Juries

of men, seated on salt barrels and nall kegs, discuss the stranger's

appearance and his probable action, just as in Kittery, Maine, but

with a lazier speech tune and with a shade less of apparent interest.



On such a rainy day as comes in May after the corn is planted-a

cold, wet rainy day-the usual crowd was gathered in Wilson's

grocery store at Bluff Siding, a small town in the "coulee country."

They were farmers, for the most part, retired from active service.

Their coats were of cheap diagonal or cassimere, much faded and

burned by the sun; their hats, flapped about by winds and soaked

with countless rains, were also of the same yellow-brown tints.

One or two wore paper collars on their hickory shirts.



Mcllvaine, farmer and wheat buyer, wore a paper collar and a

butterfly necktie, as befitted a man of his station in life. He was a

short, squarely made Scotchman, with sandy whiskers much

grayed and with a keen, in-tensely blue eye.



"Say," called McPhail, ex-sheriff of the county, in the silence that

followed some remark about the rain, "any o' you fellers had any

talk with this feller Sanford?"



"I hain't," said Vance. "You, Bill?"



"No; but somebody was sayin' he thought o' startin' in trade here."



"Don't Sam know? He generally knows what's goin' on.',



"Knows he registered from Pittsfield, Mass., an' that's all. Say,

that's a mighty smart-lookin' woman o' his."



"Vance always sees how the women look, Where'd you see her?"



"Came in here the other day to look up prices."



"Wha'd she say 'bout settlin'?"



"Hadn't decided yet."



"He's too slick to have much business in him. That waxed

mustache gives 'im away."



The discussion having reached that point where his word would

have most effect, Steve Gilbert said, while opening the hearth to

rap out the ashes of his pipe, "Sam's wife heerd that he was kind o'

thinkin' some of goin' into business here, if things suited 'im

first-rate."



They all knew the old man was aching to tell something, but they

didn't purpose to gratify him by any questions. The rain dripped

from the awning in front and fell upon the roof of the storeroom at

the back with a soft and steady roar.



"Good f'r the corn," MePhail said after a long pause.



"Purty cold, though."



Gilbert was tranquil-he had a shot in reserve. "Sam's wife said his

wife said he was thinkin' some of goin' into a bank here-"



"A bank!"



"What in thunder-"



Vance turned, with a comical look on his long, placid face, one

hand stroking his beard.



"Well, now, gents, I'll tell you what's the matter with this town. It

needs a bank. Yes, sir! I need a bank."



"You?"



"Yes, me. I didn't know just what did ail me, but I do how. It's the

need of a bank that keeps me down."



"Well, you fellers can talk an' laugh, but I tell yeb they's a boom

goin' to strike this town. It's got to come.. W'y, just look at

Lumberville!"



"Their boom is our bust," was McPhail's comment.



"I don't think so," said Sanford, who had entered in time to hear

these last two speeches. They all looked at him with deep interest.

He was a smallish man. He wore a derby hat and a neat suit. "I've

looked things over pretty close-a man don't like to invest his

capital" (here the rest looked at one another) "till he does; and I

believe there's an opening for a bank."



As he dwelt upon the scheme from day to day, the citizens,

warmed to him, and he became "Jim" Sanford. He hired a little

cottage and went to housekeeping at once; but the entire summer

went by before he made his decision to settle. In fact, it was in the

last week of August that the little paper announced it in the usual

style:



Mr. James G. Sanford, popularly known as "Jim," has decided to

open an' exchange bank for the convenienee of our citizens, who

have hitherto been forced to transact business in Lumberville. The

thanks of the town are due Mr. Sanford, who comes well

recommended from Massachusetts and from Milwaukee, and,

better still, with a bag of ducats. Mr. S. will be well patronized.

Success, Jim!



The bank was open by the time the corn crop and the hogs were

being marketed, and money was received on deposit while the

carpenters were still at work on the building. Everybody knew now

that he was as solid as oak.



He had taken into the bank, as bookkeeper, Lincoln Bingham, one

of McPhail's multitudinous nephews; and this was a capital move.

Everybody knew Link, and knew he was a McPhail, which meant

that he "could be tied to in all kinds o' weather." Of course the

McPhails, McIlvaines, and the rest of the Scotch contingency

"banked on Link." As old Andrew McPhail put it:



"Link's there, an' he knows the bank an' books, an' just how things

stand"; and so when he sold his hogs he put the whole sum-over-

fifteen hundred dollars-into the bank. The McIlvaines and the

Binghams did the same, and the bank was at once firmly

established among the farmers.



Only two people held out against Sanford, old Freeme Cole and

Mrs. Bingham, Lincoln's mother; but they didn't count, for Freeme

hadn't a cent, and Mrs. Bingham was too unreasoning in her

opposition. She could only say:



"I don't like him, that's all. I knowed a man back in New York that

curled his mustaches just that way, an' he wa'n't no earthiy good."



It might have been said by a cynic that Banker Sanford had all the

virtues of a defaulting bank cashier. He had no bad habits beyond

smoking. He was genial, companionable, and especially ready to

help when sickness came. When old Freeme Cole got down with

delirium tremens that winter, Sanford was one of the most heroic

of nurses, and the service was so clearly disinterested and

maguanimous that everyone spoke of it.



His wife and he were included in every dance or picnic; for Mrs.

Sanford was as great a favorite as the banker himself, she was so

sincere, and her gray eyes were so charmingly frank, and then she

said "such funny things."



"I wish I had something to do besides housework. It's a kind of a

putterin' job, best ye can do," she'd say merrily, just to see the

others stare. "There's too much moppin' an' dustin'. Seems 's if a

woman used up half her life on things that don't amount to

anything, don't it?"



"I tell yeh that feller's a scallywag. I know it buh the way 'e walks

'long the sidewalk," Mrs. Bingham insisted to her son, who wished

her to put her savings into the bank.



The youngest of a large family, Link had been accustomed all his

life to Mrs. Biugham's many whimsicalities.



"I s'pose you can smell he's a thief, just as you can tell when it's

goin' to rain, or the butter's comin', by the smell."



"Well, you needn't laugh, Lincoln. I can," maintained the old lady

stoutly. "An' I ain't goin' to put a red cent o my money mto his

pocket-f'r there's where it 'ud go to."



She yielded at last, and received a little bankbook in return for her

money. "Jest about all I'll ever get," she said privately; and

thereafter out of her' brass-bowed spectacles with an eagle's gaze

she watched the banker go by. But the banker, seeing the dear old

soul at the window looking out at him, always smiled and bowed,

unaware of her suspicion.



At the end of the year he bought the lot next to his rented house

and began building one of his own, a modest little affair, shaped

like a pork pie with a cupola, or a Tamo'-Shanter cap-a style of

architecture which became fashionable at once.



He worked heroically to get the location of the plow factory at

Bluff Siding, and all but succeeded; but Tyre, once their ally,

turned against them, and refused to consider the fact of the Siding's

position at the center of the county. However, for some reason or

other, the town woke up to something of a boom during the next

two years. Several large farmers decided to retire and live off the

sweat of some other fellow's brow, and so built some houses of the

pork-pie order and moved into town.



This inflow of moneyed men from the country resulted in the

establishment of a "seminary of learning" on the hillside, where

the Soldiers' Home was to be located. This called in more farmers

from the country, and a new hotel was built, a sash-and-door

factory followed, and Burt McPhail set up a feed mill.



An this improvement unquestionably dated, from the opening of

the bank, and the most unreasonmg partisans of the banker held

him to be the chief cause of the resulting development of the town,

though he himself modestly disclaimed any hand in the affair.



Had Bluff Siding been a city, the highest civic honors would have

been open to Banker Sanford; indeed, his name was repeatedly

mentioned in connection with the county offices.



"No, gentlemen," he explained firmly, but courteously, in Wilson's

store one night; "I'm a banker, not a politician. I can't ride two

horses."



In the second year of the bank's history he went up to the north part

of the state on business, visiting West Superior, Duluth, Ashland,

and other booming towns, and came back full of the wonders of

what he saw.



"There's big money up there, Nell," he said to his wife.



But she had the woman's tendency to hold fast to what she had,

and would not listen to any plans about moving.



"Build up your business here, Jim, and don't worry about what

good chances there are somewhere else."



He said no more about it, but he took great interest in all the news

the "boys" brought back from their annual deer hunts "up North."

They were all enthusiastic over West Superior and Duluth, and

their wonderful development was the never-ending theme of

discussion in Wilson's store.



II



The first two years of the bank's history were solidly successful,

and "Jim" and "Nellie" were the head and front of all good works

and the provoking cause of most of the fun. No one seemed more

carefree.



"We consider ourselves just as young as anybody," Mrs. Sanford

would say, when joked about going out with the young people so

much; but sometirnes at home, after the children were asleep, she

sighed a little.



"Jim, I wish you was in some kind of a business so I could help. I

don't have enough to do. I s'pose I could mop an' dust, an' dust an'

mop; but it seems sinful to Waste time that way. Can't I do

anything, Jim?"



"Why, no. If you 'tend to the children and keep house, that's all

anybody asks of you."



She was silent, but not convinced. She had a desire to do

something outside the walls of her house-a desire transmitted to

her from her father, for a woman inherits these things.



In the spring of the second year a number of the depositors drew

out money to invest in Duluth and Superior lots, and the whole

town was excited over the matter.



The summer passed, Link and Sanford spending their tirne in the

bank-that is, when not out swimming or fishing with the boys. But

July and August were terribly hot and dry, and oats and corn were

only half-crop; and the farmers were grumbling. Some of them

were forced to draw on the bank instead of depositing.



McPhail came in, one day in November, to draw a thousand

dollars to pay for a house and lot he had recently bought.



Sanford was alone. He whistled. "Phew! You're comin' at me hard.

Come in tomorrow. Link's gone down to the city to get some

money."



"All right," said MePhail; "any time."



"Goin' t' snow?"



"Looks like it. I'll haf to load a lot o' ca'tridges ready fr biz."



About an hour later old lady Bingham burst upon the banker, wild

and breathless. "I want my money," she announced.



"Good morning, Mrs. Bingham. Pleasant-"



"I want my money. Where's Lincoln?"



She had read that morning of two bank failure-one in Nova Scotia

and one in Massachusetts-and they seemed providential warnings

to her. Lincoln's absence confirmed them.



"He's gone to St. Paul-won't be back till the five-o'clock train. Do

you need some money this morning? How much?"



"All of it, sir. Every cent."



Sanford saw something was out of gear. He tried to explain. "I've

sent your son to St. Paul after some money-"



"Where's my money? What have you done with that?" In her

excitement she thought of her money just as she hand handed it

in-silver and little rolls and wads of bills.



"If you'll let me explain-"



"I don't want you to explain nawthin'. Jest hand me out my

money."



Two or three loafers, seeing her gesticulate, stopped on the walk

outside and looked in at the door. Sanford was annoyed, but he

remained calm and persuasive. He saw that something had caused

a panic in the good, simple old woman. He wished for Lincoln as

one wishes for a policeman sometimes.



"Now, Mrs. Bingham, if you'll only wait till Lincoln-"



"I don't want 'o wait. I want my money, right now."



"Will fifty dollars do?"



"No, sir; I want it all-every cent of it-jest as it was."



"But I can't do that. Your money is gone-"



"Gone? Where is it gone? What have you done with it? You thief-"



"'Sh!" He tried to quiet her. "I mean I can't give you your money-"



"Why can't you?" she stormed, trotting nervously on her feet as she

stood there.



"Because-if you'd let me explain-we don't keep the money just as it

comes to us. We pay it out and take in other-"



Mrs. Bingham was getting more and more bewildered. She now

had only one clear idea-she couldn't get her money. Her voice grew

tearful like an angry child's.



"I want my money-I knew you'd steal it-that I worked for. Give me

my money."



Sanford hastily handed her some money. "Here's fifty dollars. You

can have the rest when-"



The old lady clutched the money, and literally ran out of the door,

and went off up the sidewalk, talking incoherently. To everyone

she met she told her story; but the men smiled and passed on. They

had heard her predictions of calamity before.



But Mrs. Mcllvaine was made a triffe uneasy by it "He wouldn't

give you y'r money? Or did he say he couldn't?" she inquired in her

moderate way.



"He couldn't, an' he wouldn't!" she said. "If you've got any money

there, you'd better get it out quick. It ain't safe a minute. When

Lincoln comes home I'm goin' to see if I can't-"



"Well, I was calc'latin' to go to Lumberville this week, anyway, to

buy a carpet and a chamber set. I guess I might 's well get the

money today."



When she came in and demanded the money, Sanford was scared.

Were these two old women the beginning of the deluge? Would

McPhail insist on being paid also? There was just one hundred

dollars left in the bank, together with a little silver. With rare

strategy he smiled.



"Certainly, Mrs. McIlvaine. How much will you need?" She had

intended to demand the whole of her deposit-one hundred and

seventeen dollars-but his readiness mollified her a little. "I did 'low

I'd take the hull, but I guess seventy-five dollars 'll do."



He paid the money briskly out over the little glass shelf. "How is

your children, Mrs. McIlvaine?"



"Purty well, thanky," replied Mrs. Mcllvaine, laboriously counting

the bills.



"Is it all right?"



"I guess so," she replied dubiously. "I'll count it after I get home."



She went up the street with the feeling that the bank was all right,

and she stepped in and told Mrs. Bingham that she had no trouble

in getting her money.



Alter she had gone Sanford sat down and wrote a telegram which

he sent to St. Paul. This telegram, according to the duplicate at the

station, read in this puzzling way:



E. O., Exchange Block, No.96. All out of paper. Send five hundred

noteheads and envelopes to match. Business brisk. Press of

correspondence just now. Get them out quick. Wire.





Against The Bars Ain't She The Gamest Little Thoroughbred? facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback