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- Main-Travelled Roads - 50/56 -


"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.

SANFORD

Two or three others came in after a little money, but he put them off easily. "Just been cashing some paper, and took all the ready cash I can spare. Can't you wait till tomorrow? Link's gone down to St. Paul to collect on some paper. Be back on the five o'clock. Nine o'clock, sure."

An old Norwegian woman came in to deposit ten dollars, and he counted it in briskly, and put the amount down on her little book for her. Barney Mace came in to deposit a hundred dollars, the proceeds of a horse sale, and this helped him through the day. Those who wanted small sums he paid.

"Glad this ain't a big demand. Rather close on cash today," he said, smiling, as Lincoln's wife's sister came in.

She laughed, "I guess it won't bust yeh. If I thought it would, I'd leave it in."

"Busted!" he said, when Vance wanted him to cash a draft. "Can't do it. Sorry, Van. Do it in the morning all right. Can you wait?"

"Oh, I guess so. Haf to, won't I?"

"Curious," said Sanford, in a confidential way. "I don't know that I ever saw things get in just such shape. Paper enough-but exchange, ye know, and readjustment of accounts."

"I don't know much about banking, myself," said Vance, good naturedly; "but I s'pose it's a good 'eal same as with a man. Git short o' cash, first they know -ain't got a cent to spare."

"That's the idea exactly. Credit all right, plenty o' property, but-" and he smiled and went at his books. The smile died out of his eyes as Vance went out, and he pulled a little morocco book from his pocket and began studying the beautiful columns of figures with which it seemed to be filled. Those he compared with the books with great care, thrusting the book out of sight when anyone entered.

He closed the bank as usual at five. Lincoln had not come couldn't come now till the nine-o'clock accommodation. For an hour after the shades were drawn he sat there in the semidarkness, silently pondering on his situation. This attitude and deep quiet were unusual to him. He heard the feet of friends and neighbors passing the door as he sat there by the smoldering coal fire, in the growing darkness. There was something impressive in his attitude.

He started up at last and tried to see what the hour was by turning the face of his watch to the dull glow from the cannon stoye's open door.

"Suppertime," he said and threw the whole matter off, as if he had decided it or had put off the decision till another time.

As he went by the post office Vance said to Mcllvaine in a smiling way, as if it were a good joke on Sanford:

"Little short o' cash down at the bank."

"He's a good fellow," Mcllvaine said.

"So's his wife," added Vance with a chuckle.

III

That night, after supper, Sanford sat in his snug little skting room with a baby on each knee, looking as cheerful and happy as any man in the village. The children crowed and shouted as he "trotted them to Boston," or rode them on the toe of his boot. They made a noisy, merry group.

Mrs. Sanford "did her own work," and her swift feet could be heard moving to and fro out in the kitchen. It was pleasant there; the woodwork, the furniture, the stove, the curtains-all had that look of newness just growing into coziness. The coal stove was lighted and the curtains were drawn.

After the work in the kitchen was done, Mrs. Sanford came in and sat awhile by the fire with the children, looking very wifely in her dark dress and white apron, her round, smiling face glowing with love and pride-the gloating look of a mother seeing her children in the arms of her husband.

"How is Mrs. Peterson's baby, Jim?" she said suddenly, her face sobering.

"Pretty bad, I guess. La, la, la-deedle-dee! The doctor seemed to think it was a tight squeak if it lived. Guess it's done for-oop 'e goes!"

She made a little leap at the youngest child and clasped it convulsively to her bosom. Her swift maternal imagination had made another's loss very near and terrible.

"Oh, say, Nell," he broke out, on seeing her sober, "I had the confoundedest time today with old lady Bingham-"

"'Sh! Baby's gone to sleep."

After the children had been put to bed in the little alcove off the sitting room, Mrs. Sanford came back, to find Jim absorbed over a little book of accounts.

"What are you studying, Jim?"

Someone knocked on the door before he had time to reply.

"Come in!" he said.

'Sh! Don't yell so," his wife whispered.

"Telegram, Jim," said a voice in the obscurity.

"Oh! That you, Sam? Come in.

Sam, a lathy fellow with a quid in his cheek, stepped in. "How d' 'e do, Mis' Sanford?"

"Set down-se' down."

"Can't stop; 'most train time."

Sanford tore the envelope open, read the telegram rapidly, the smile fading out of his face. He read it again, word for word, then sat looking at it.

"Any answer?" asked Sam.

"All right. Good night."

"Good night."

After the door slammed, Sanford took the sheet from the envelope and reread it. At length he dropped into his chair. "That settles it," he said aloud.

"Settles what? What's the news?" His wife came up and looked over his shoulder.

"Settles I've got to go on that nine-thirty train."

"Be back on the morning train?"

"Yes; I guess so-I mean, of course-I'll have to be-to open the bank."

Mrs. Sanford looked at him for a few seconds in silence. There was something in his look, and especially in his tone, that troubled her.

"What do you mean? Jim, you don't intend to come back!" She took his arm. "What's the matter? Now tell me! What are you going away for?"

He knew he could not deceive his wife's ears and eyes just then, so he remained silent. "We've got to leave, Nell," he admitted at last.

"Why? What for?"

"Because I'm busted-broke-gone up the spout-and all the rest!" he said desperately, with an attempt at fun. "Mrs. Bingham and Mrs. McIlvaine have busted me-dead."

"Why-why-what has become of the money-all the money the people have put in there?"

"Gone up with the rest."

"What 've you done with it? I don't-"

"Well, I've invested it-and lost it."


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