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A Canadian Bankclerk
by J. P. Buschlen
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Thoroughly thrilled, when the singing was done Evan arose to speak. There was a demonstration of a few minutes, then the speaker's voice rang out vibrantly:

"Dear friends, I thank you for such a welcome. I am going to make a short speech, but not because I want to: the occasion demands it. There are many people here, who want to know what this is all about. I shall tell them and then we will get down to business.

"Perhaps if I had not been fired from one of the banks in this city, about four years ago, I should not be here now trying to organize a bank union. But I don't want any of you to think it is revenge I am after; I am really here to make it impossible for any clerk to be discharged and disgraced as I was, without a trial. You all know my story, how I was denied the right to plead my own cause, and all the rest of it. It is hard for me to forgive—I never can forgive them; but let us forget them. Those days of tyranny are over—dating from to-day."

Nelson was smothered in cheers and clapping of hands.

"The great necessity for clerk union," he resumed, "is based on a condition of affairs, still prevalent in the business, which made it easy for the bank to fire and blackball myself. I represented the clerk who had no protection; the insignificant individual. He is—rather I should say, dating from to-day—he has been clay in the potter's hands; but the potter has got to go out of business, and we're here now to see that he does." (Here, the bankclerks expressed their endorsement of the idea in clapping and laughter.) "Heretofore, my friends, we have been the mere tools of a combination of rich institutions; they have hired and fired us how and when they pleased. We are sick of it; it's bad business."

"You bet it is," cried someone in the crowd; and the galleries enjoyed the show.

"I see a great many girls here to-day," continued the speaker, "and they look like the friends of bankclerks. Now what is going to become of them unless we can make enough money to support them? An engagement never made any girl happy, after it was more than two or three years of age. How many of us have been engaged for five and ten years, and can't even yet afford to make good our promise? I'm glad you take it as a joke, instead of growing angry with me; but, my bank friends, it is not a joke, particularly to the girl who is waiting for you and me."

The seriousness of Nelson's tone had its effect on the audience, and the silence that followed his last sentence was tense.

"There are many other crows," he went on, "to pick with head office, the majority of which will have to be plucked in committee meetings of the A.B.C.'s." (Applause.) "We are here to get the organization of that association under way, rather than to entertain our friends. So with your permission I will conclude my introduction and begin business by asking you to form a pro tem. organization. Who will you have for temporary chairman?"

Before Evan had sat down several bankmen were on their feet nominating him for chairman. Henty tried to elicit some other nomination but failed: they shouted and whistled for Nelson. He thanked them and took the chair. A. P. was chosen secretary, a committee to draft resolutions and by-laws was selected, and a full temporary organization effected.

To relieve the monotony of business the orchestra was asked for an overture, and while it was playing Evan was called behind the scenes. A gentleman, whom he took for a bank official, was waiting to speak to him.

"My name is Jacob Doro," said the gentleman; "I am a friend of your movement. Let me congratulate you on this splendid success. I want to make a suggestion, Mr. Nelson, and hope you will not misunderstand me. Will you accept an endowment for the establishment of a sort of club here in Toronto, where bankclerks can congregate, have a library, a gymnasium, and recreation of every kind? I am president of a loan company, and if you will not accept a donation, you will at least accept a loan on a long note."

Evan was, of course, surprised.

"That is a good scheme of yours, Mr. Doro," he said, "but why should you want to throw away money on us bank-fellows?"

"It won't be thrown away, Mr. Nelson," replied the stranger; "I was not always rich, but now I am, and it would give me great pleasure to endow this bankclerks' association. In the days when I was struggling I had a son enter the banking business, and they killed him with work. Now perhaps you understand?"

No one could have doubted the sincerity of a man who spoke with the feeling Doro evinced. Evan held out his hand.

"We will be needing friends," he said; "may I use your name, Mr. Doro?"

Mr. Doro thought a moment before replying.

"I'm not afraid of the banks," he said, finally; "and, besides, by telling my name and why I give the money, you will attract other contributions. I know you will. Tell the boys I donate $25,000, and that I know others who have several thousands to spare."

Feeling a bit unsteady, Evan offered Doro a seat on one of the wings of the stage, then went back to the platform. When the overture was finished he stood before the assembly again.

"I have great news for you," he said, and related the newly-found philanthropist's offer. There was perfect order while he spoke, but it was evident the clerks were restraining themselves.

"Let us see Mr. Doro," one fellow shouted. Everyone clapped the suggestion.

"He will appear at our meeting to-night," said Evan, answering for Doro, "when we convene to elect permanent officers."

They were satisfied with that. Mr. Doro's suggestion was talked to informally by different men from Montreal, London and other cities, all of whom were in favor of some such institution as the one proposed. The general opinion was that it would be a fine thing for the boys; would serve as a rendezvous for transient clerks, make a good club for city men, and promulgate the spirit of sociability. Toronto was thought to be the most convenient city in the Dominion to have as headquarters for the A.B.C.'s: there Hague conferences with head office would take place.

At a signal from the chairman the orchestra began to play a song entitled "Bankerdom." It was sung by a quartette of clerks, and afterwards by the Assembly, who were provided with printed copies. The refrain went:

"O Bankerdom, dear Bankerdom, We sing to thee a freedom-song; The years have gone that knew us dumb,— The years we found so hard and long; And here to-day is taken from Our aching wrists the silver thong That bound us to a monied wrong, Our Bankerdom, free Bankerdom!"

About five o'clock the afternoon session was adjourned.

A. P.'s father, who was quite a plunger when he came to town, persuaded the Nelsons to dine with him at a first-class hotel. Evan could not go along; he had accepted an invitation to dine at Mrs. Greig's.

Sam Robb was ill—that accounted for his absence from the mass meeting in the afternoon. Evan had been to see him a few days before, but Robb was too sick to talk. Now he was downstairs in carpet slippers, and looked pretty well.

"How did it come off?" was his salutation.

Evan described the whole affair, to the ex-manager's extreme satisfaction. Before they had been conversing long he asked frankly,

"Are you still slaving away?"

"Yes," sighed Robb; "but the union will help us boys."

"Why do you smile, Mrs. Greig?" asked Nelson, himself smiling. She looked at Robb before answering.

"To hear an old married man call himself a boy."

"Married!"

The ex-manager laughed and blushed.

"Yes," he admitted, "our landlady's name is Mrs. Robb; I hadn't the nerve to tell you before."

Although the same landlady objected to "Sammy's going out in the night air," Sam accompanied Evan to Massey Hall after dinner. As they walked down University Avenue Evan could scarcely realize that his position had altered so greatly in four years. He thought of the day after he had been dismissed and how dejectedly he had sat, with a swelled head, on one of those avenue benches.

"Do you know," said his old friend, replying to a reminiscent observation of Evan's, "that spree of yours cured me; that and Ede."

At Massey Hall, Robb was introduced to Mr. Henty's party, and took a seat in their box.

The hall was filled again. At the front of the balcony a bevy of suffragists were seated, ready to approve of a movement that appealed to their adventurous spirits. Evan noticed their colors and gave them a public welcome. He said he was proud of their support, and hoped they would win in their fight against Man as satisfactorily as the bankclerks were winning against Money.

After a few general remarks the chairman exhibited a record book in which he said there were written and pasted about one thousand two hundred names of applicants for membership in the association. Not more than two hundred of those present, of whom there were one thousand, were enrolled; so that, to start with, the A.B.C.'s would have a membership of two thousand. He held up an armful of mail which had been forwarded from Hometon, to illustrate the enthusiasm with which bankclerks everywhere were responding to the call.

"Now let us proceed with permanent organization," he said, using a bank ruler for a gavel; "we must first have a resolution to form an association; after that decide on a name; then elect officers and appoint committees."

A man arose in the audience. "Mr. Chairman," he said, "might I speak a word?"

Evan recognized the speaker. "Come on up to the platform," he invited; "I was forgetting about you, Mr. Doro."

The audience shouted "Platform!" and Doro reluctantly obeyed.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "and you boys in the banking business, I hope you will understand that I am not looking for notoriety here to-night. I merely want to boost a good thing along. Now I don't want to force a donation on this society, but if you will accept it you are welcome to it; if you cannot see your way clear to accept it, I beg of you to borrow from my trust company as freely as you wish. I will accept the signatures of your executive without security."

There was a terrific demonstration. After it had quieted, Evan whispered to Mr. Doro that they were not yet organized, but as soon as they were they would entertain his offer. In the meantime he was given a seat on the platform.

Motions began to circulate. In a few minutes it had been decided to organize a union; a name was chosen; a brief constitution was adopted; and the election of officers began.

The name of president came up first. The bankclerks would have nobody but Nelson. He thanked them briefly, assuring them he would look after their interests with all his might. It was thought advisable not to have a vice-president. For secretary-treasurer A. P. Henty was nominated. In a short speech he declined, and finished by suggesting Mr. Sam Robb, whom he said would know how to handle the banks because he had been a manager.

"Does anybody know him?" called someone, during a silence.

"Yes," replied the president, coming to the front of the stage. "If any man is competent of handling the work, and worthy of the honor, I know Mr. Robb to be. He is one of the best friends I have, and I know him to be both clever and honest. Added to his ability and integrity, he has experience; and the ways of big business are plain to him. My friends, we need just such a man as Mr. Robb for secretary-treasurer."

Their gratitude to Evan for his long efforts in making a bank union possible would not permit the assembly to reject the man whom the president so strongly recommended for the position of secretary. They elected Robb to the office, on a good salary.

Why go into further details of the organization? It was in good hands, and behind it were the brains of two thousand young Canadian businessmen. Why should it not work out? And with the initiation fee and monthly dues, why should it not pay as it grew?

A committee on finance was chosen, to thoroughly canvass any endowments offered. Mr. Doro's offer was refused, but the association made him honorary-president and adopted a resolution to borrow money from him for the erection of a Bankclerks' Retreat in Toronto. The financial committee saw to it that Nelson and Henty were refunded their expenses from Victoria to Halifax.

The hour was late before the evening session adjourned. A. P. delivered a farewell address, in which he declared he was "not cut out for office work," and Sam Robb convinced the assembly that he was the man for the office they had conferred upon him.

Evan cut his closing sentences short. As the orchestra played "God Save the King" he looked down into the audience and saw someone pushing toward the platform. It was the Bonehead.

"Hey," said Perry, beckoning to Evan, "I want to speak to you." He dragged his yielding victim to a corner. "This union'll just about bring my salary up to the marriage mark. Fine, ain't it? I suppose you know that Frank and I are——"

"No, I didn't know," replied Evan, coldly. Then, absently, "Did you bring her down with you?"

"Sure. I've been working in Orangeville; she came down on the late afternoon train and I met her on the way. Why don't you congratulate me?"

Nelson acted as though he had not heard. "Where is she?" he asked.

"Oh, she beat it with a friend just before the thing was dismissed. She's staying with her cousin on Jarvis Street. We're going back together on the morning train."

Never in his life had Perry been so objectionable to Nelson as he was during those few minutes. The egotism of him to aspire to Frankie's love! And yet there came to Evan the stinging realization that he, himself, had failed to cherish that love. It was not the Bonehead's fault that he was engaged to her—who could blame him? That was a matter for Frankie to decide, and apparently she had decided.

Evan had no heart for further handshakes. He sought out Robb and taking him by the arm left Massey Hall by the stage entrance. Rain had fallen in torrents and the gutters were full of water, but the sky had cleared, and the air was fresh and cool.

"Let's walk home," said Robb, "I'm all worked up; this thing has taken away my breath—I need the air."

Evan did not smile; he walked along in silence.

"What's the matter, old man?" asked his friend when they had reached University Avenue; "has something disappointed you?"

"No," said Evan, ashamed of his moodiness, "I was just thinking of one night similar to this when I was on the cash-book. Doesn't it seem a long time ago, Sam?"

Robb took a deep breath at the word "Sam."

"Old friend," he said, vibrantly, "you can't understand what you've done for me to-night. I was almost at the breaking-point."

Evan's eyes were turned up a side street, an unpaved street where the mud was deep and slimy.

"For heaven's sake!" he whispered, "look who goes there! When I whistle," he continued excitedly, "you fall back and watch for cops. I'm going to spoil that blue coat and those flannel pants."

"I recognize him," said Robb; "go easy; remember you've been a farmer."

It was past midnight. The avenue was deserted. Large chestnuts clothed the side street, down which the person designated walked, in darkness.

Evan fairly panted as he trailed his quarry. Within a few rods of It he began to run noiselessly upon the grass. Then he pounced upon it, like a jaguar upon a fawn. Sam was a short distance behind.

Down in the mud went the blue coat and flannel pants, and there echoed a cry much like that of a frightened girl. Smothering that cry with a handful of mud, Evan proceeded to plaster every part of his victim, except the ears, into one of which he facetiously whispered:

"Alfy dear, this is Evan."

All but howling, Castle scrambled out of the gutter and ran for his life.

Sam tried several times to speak, as they walked up to his home, but his eye fell on Evan's muddy raincoat and he failed. Through the night Mrs. Robb was startled by certain silent convulsions.

"Sammy," she whispered, "are you ill?"

"Yes, Ede," he said jerkily, "a pain in the side."



CHAPTER XXII.

SHE WAITS FOR US.

Early next morning Evan was at Henty's hotel.

"A. P.," he said, "all aboard for Hometon."

The old man looked up.

"Take him with you if you like, Mr. Nelson," he said; "but mind you bring him back, and come along yourself. I've got a cook down home I want you to taste."

Evan accepted the invitation and expressed hope that the cook was not from Western Canada. A. P. jumped into his clothes.

"I'm ready," he said, soon; "have I time for breakfast?"

"No; get a banana on the way down town. Our folks will meet us at Union Station."

They missed the Teeswater train, in spite of their hurrying, or, perhaps, on account of their hurrying; and had to wait for the Owen Sound.

"You couldn't guess who went out on the first train, Evan," whispered Lou, looking wise.

"Frankie and Porter, I imagine," replied Evan, casually.

"How did you know?"

"Met Perry last night," answered the brother, briefly. "What are you looking so queer about, Sis?"

"Oh, nothing," said Lou, disappointedly; "only I thought you would be more interested than you are."

He made no reply, again to his sister's astonishment, but turned to Henty.

"A. P.," he said, "we'll meet the girl you're going to marry, when we get to Orangeville. We'll have to change from this train to hers."

A. P. blushed ridiculously, and so did Lou. Evan pretended not to notice, and turned his attention to the luggage.

On the way to Orangeville father and son found each other interesting. There was still a sparkle in George Nelson's eye. Back in a double seat Henty was bravely endeavoring to take care of two ladies, mother and daughter.

At Orangeville, as Perry was saying his farewells to Frankie, Lou caught her eye and beckoned to her. Not having to pass the seat where Evan and his father were, Frankie obeyed the summons. She was introduced to Henty, and deliberately sat beside him. "The porter" looked sourly around and disappeared. Evan caught a girl's eye in a mirror and left his seat. Not having seen Frankie for three years and a half he was somewhat prepared for a change, but not for the change that had taken place. Her cheeks were no longer round and girlish, her voice had changed, her eyes were older and more womanly-comprehending.

"Frankie," he said, taking the little hand she offered, "it seems mighty good to get a look at you after—all that has happened."

He fully expected that she would show embarrassment—he was inwardly excited himself—but she answered him calmly, while Lou looked on in wonder:

"I've been looking at you for hours, Evan—on the platform; you are quite famous now, you know. Everyone waits to get a peep at you."

There was a potent rebuke in her words. Evan felt it keenly. He made an excuse to get back to his father.

Hometon was out with the town band to meet the Nelson party. Some of the bankclerks had driven to the depot in hacks to meet him they called their "New G. M."

The excitement did not appeal to Evan, but he readily forgave dear old Hometon this one excess. There was a concert arranged in the town-hall for the evening, which, of course, had to have a chairman.

Just before the concert began old Grandpa Newman nudged John, the grocer, sitting beside him, and whispered huskily:

"It do beat all, John, the way people carry on nowadays. Now, in my day—"

Luckily for the grocer, the band began to badly play a march. The chairman grinned in his seat—in fancy he was transported to Albany Avenue, Brooklyn, and listened again to the saloon bands of that benighted street.

The day after the village dissipation Evan loitered around home playing catch with Henty and Lou. He found they liked to have the ball tossed midway between them, and did his best to be accommodating.

"Well, A. P.," he said, when Lou had given up the game to help get lunch, "what do you think of Miss Arling?"

Henty blushed from his adam's-apple to the tips of his ears, one grand and final blush.

"Evan," he said, "I'm in love."

"I thought you'd fall in love with her, A. P.," was the reply. "Frankie is the finest girl in town."

"For you, maybe," said A. P., "but not for me. Nelsy," he continued in confusion, "we have known each other a long while. What would you think of me if I told you I loved your sister?"

A smile, happy yet troubled, was the answer Henty got.

In the afternoon Evan sat reading beneath the old maple trees that had shaded his school-books from the sun in the beloved school-days gone by. Lou came out and stood beside him a moment, and when he looked up she bent over him, with the lovelight in her eyes.

"Brother," she said, "I knew you would bring him to me, but I never dreamed he would be so grand!"

The brother laughed and teased her. When she had gone he sat musing on the wonders of a girl's heart. There came to him, as there had often come, the sure knowledge that he possessed such a treasure; but this time came also the fear that that treasure might unwillingly be given to another, for reasons that puzzle men.

"What foolish creatures we are," ran his thoughts. "I know that Frankie is waiting for me to come. I have known it for years, and she made me see it again yesterday on the train. I don't know why I can't get up the courage to face the girl I love. I must. I must go now and make good my promise. She is waiting for me in spite of all!"

More serious, perhaps, than he had ever been, he walked down the back street along which a schoolboy and schoolgirl had so often strolled together. When he came to the Arling residence he ascended the steps with a palpitating heart. The front door was open. He rapped timidly and waited, but there was no response. He peeked in, believing that someone must be there.

Yes, Someone was there. She lay on the couch asleep, tear stains on her cheeks. He moved toward her and knelt beside the couch. Her eyes opened in wonder.

"I've come for you," he said, quietly.

She studied him as if he puzzled her. There was the mystified expression of a baby's eyes in hers. For a while they gazed at each other; then came the tears that must stain her face forever with marks of happiness, and she murmured:

"I can't believe my dream has come true!"

No questions were asked. What mattered the past, now? Porter Perry and Hamilton episodes were no longer of any consequence. The only significant thing was love; love that had endured and was therefore true.

THE END

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