Phil. A. (Philip Augustus) Rush.

The teller's tale; a banking story for bankers, a law story for lawyers, a love story for lovers online

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of post-bellum election and law-making
practices, Mr. Blair was enamored of
nothing not even his profession, the
law except as it helped to shoulder
him upward and onward to political

And that was perfectly natural, since
business and politics do not any more
mix than the plodding methods of ac-
quiring a competency harmonize with a
gambler's chances or a schemer's near-
cuts to wealth.

Mr. Blair had his eye on a seat in Con-
gress before accepting the position of
judge, and it is said that he cast not a
few anchors toward the goal of his ambi-
tion while presiding with dignity over
the court.

How often is it that office-holding de-
generates into money-making, and the
ambitious mind veers from the paths

Colonel and Congressman 49

of intellectuality to those of absolute
sordidness! This comes from the desire
of the man of small means to move in
the style of his wealthy official associate.
And in this tendency democracy might
well establish her protest against the
growing plutocracy of the times.

Having once observed the inequality of
station which often results from wealth
rather than brains, it does not take the
person of ordinary individuality long to
become a convert to the idea that money
is everything. And when he does, he is
not apt to be over-scrupulous as to the
way he will add to his holdings.

The fact that Mr. Blair was a judge,
then a congressman, never offered itself
to Arthur St. John as a reason why he
should love Mary Blair for he had loved
her long before. Nevertheless, the bare
fact of the relationship makes Mr. Blair
of interest to us; for an interesting girl's
father would be interesting, though he
were no more than that necessary evil, a
man, not a congressman.

Frankly speaking, a congressman is

50 The Teller's Tale

ordinarily only a politician; and we
must admit that a politician does not
represent that development of moral and
intellectual life which should make his
position enviable or his daughter proud
above her fellow-women.

In fact, the average politician is a pre-
tender, standing for measures he does
not believe in, and promising reforms he
knows to be impossible of accomplish-
ment. He wins popular favor by assuming
originality of thought and independence
of speech, while, in reality, he sizes up
his crowd and tells them, in language
usually borrowed from others, what he
knows they already believe, caring not a
whit whether it be true or false.

More than this, the prevailing and
successful type of politician is worse than
a mere trimmer; he is a self-centred,
self-seeking egoist, whose knowledge is
superficial and theoretical, rather than
thorough and practical; and, having to
play so many roles and be all things to
so many people, he generally closes out
his career without playing any part very

Colonel and Congressman 51

well, and without having been very much
to anybody.

A stranded ship, without wind or wave,
is no more a wreck than a politician with-
out a job. Knowing in advance the help-
lessness of this estate, it is small wonder
that the occupation does not tend to
the cultivation of that independence of
thought and character which are neces-
sary attributes of the statesman a
character with whom the politician is
oftentimes confused.

Many congressmen are politicians. A
few are statesmen. And as we proceed
with this narrative we hope to be able to
place Mr. Blair in the class to which he
belongs, if we have not already done so.

At the time our story begins, it was
said that he wished to give up his seat in
Congress and take from his party (then
in power) an important post as foreign



business venture, being cap-
italized with money, is expected to
produce money. In other words, it is
expected to pay dividends by the repro-
duction of its capital ; and its success de-
pends upon its 'ability to do so.

Matrimony, being capitalized with
love, is expected to produce love ; and its
success depends upon its ability to de-
clare dividends out of its earnings.

And, as dollars and cents are the high-
est exponents of money, so, human beings
are the highest exponents of love. Gener-
ally speaking, therefore, matrimonial
alliances which do not conform to the
rule of reproduction by declaring regular
dividends in kind, are failures. And this
suggests the answer to much that has

The Blairs at Home 53

been written on the question as to
whether or not marriage is a failure.

But some marriages which are matri-
monial in form, are not so in fact; and,
as matrimonial unions, they are failures
from the beginning: Not being capital-
ized with love, they do not produce love.
For we can only reap what we have sown.

This suggests to me a glance into the
home of the Blairs, that we may see how
they lived and moved and had their being.

Mrs. Blair was a daughter of the Old
South, having been born early enough to
taste the sweets of plenty, and to catch,
in memory and tradition, an impression
of the sumptuousness of that former
time ; which circumstance, combined with
the fact that she was an only daughter,
filled her otherwise beautiful character
with a selfishness calculated to destroy
contentment and weaken some of the
other fruits of a Christian spirit.

With these inclinations to begin with,
it is no wonder that she should have
wedded a man who looked through
golden glasses with silver rims, the focus

54 The Teller's Tale

of which was always fixed on the al-
mighty dollar and the ambitions and
pleasure that go with money. And, as
an exponent of love a dividend paid out
of their accumulated affections, it is
no wonder that Mary Blair, their only
child, should have exhausted their capi-
tal, surplus, and undivided profits.

In the rearing of children, we sow seeds
of self-sacrifice; and, in their lives and
character, if our work has been well done,
we reap a harvest of love an hundred-fold
greater than the seeds we have sown.

In the case of the Blairs, the wonder is
that the Lord did not take from them the
talents so little cultivated. Probably He
did. Perhaps He accomplished this pur-
pose in Mary. For if she was lovable,
and they were not, was she not as far
from them as night is from day, as vice is
from virtue, as right is from wrong ?

Since Mr. Blair had no son to inherit
his name, and take up the struggle for
honors where he should leave off, it was
but natural (as already hinted at) that he
should be all the more anxious that his

The Blairs at Home 55

daughter should make her position secure
by wedding a man already able to confer
a great name, as well as fortune, upon
her. And in this ambition Mrs. Blair
shared equally with him.

Congress was still in the midst of the
long session; but Mr. Blair, having been
assured of his appointment to a foreign
mission, and not being therefore a can-
didate for re-election, was allowing the
duties of his membership to rest lightly
upon him. He liked society more than
ever now, for the reason that society was
liking him more, in view of the new honors
which were coming his way.

While a member of the lower house is
an important personage at home, Wash-
ington does not take him seriously, for
the very good reason that he is so numer-
ous that there is not seriousness enough
to go round. Therefore, in Washington,
he is only a person.

But a minister, like a senator, is differ-
ent. He is a personage; and if he does
not get the good things it is because he
refuses them outright.

56 The Teller's Tale

Mr. Blair was at home for the purpose
of accompanying Mrs. Blair and Mary
back to Washington, where he wished to
have them remain for the balance of the

In the living room at home, father and
mother were painting a picture of Wash-
ington and its pleasures, not only for
Washington's sake, but with reference to
its advantages as a preparatory school
for the fetes which the family were to
enjoy in the social life of a minister.

"Father, I do not see how I am to go;
I have accepted a place on the entertain-
ment committee for the bankers' meeting
next month. It will be the swellest time
we 've ever had in Willow Springs, with
all those nice visitors here."

"Daughter, how can you be so short-
sighted? Just as a nickel placed against
the eye would obscure a mountain of
gold, so you allow a little collection of
bankers here in this State (most of whom
borrow their money from New York),
with their country manners, to shut out
the splendid company of wealth and re-

The Blairs at Home 57

finement awaiting you and your mother
in Washington.'*

"But, father, I like these people
their 'country manners,' and all. We
have never had a State meeting here
whose representatives were not delight-
ful guests ; and, as I am fond of bankers
anyway, I am looking forward to this
meeting with much anticipation. Be-
sides, not having yet put away childish
things, I am still fond of nickels."

"But would you not enjoy the large
social life, after you had once gotten out
of the trend of this little existence you
have down here? For, granting that
these people are all that they try to be,
or hope to be, that is not much. This
meeting will only last a few days, and
then even your nickel is denied you."

"Mr. Blair, do you not understand
that Mary is to go with Arthur to the bank-
ers' banquet ; that he is the toy of child-
hood to which she clings the "nickel"
that is here before the bankers' meeting,
and will be after it, and all the time?
Just where she should have gotten so

58 The Teller's Tale

much sentiment, I am sure I do not know,
unless by an atavism whereof the other
Blairs have no record. But it is true;
and I believe she was under the same
spell of sentimentality when she had us
promise long ago that we would instruct
her, but not cross her, in the matter of
love and marriage."

Mary had stepped out just before her
mother began speaking; and when she
came in again it was arranged that Mr.
and Mrs. Blair should go on to Washing-
ton then, and that Mary should remain
in Willow Springs as the guest of Alice
Wilmot until after the meeting of the
bankers, and then join them in Wash-

"Love in a cottage" may be an iri-
descent dream; but it is one which the
world has believed in so long that the
habit is now incurable, even with people
otherwise indifferent.


WILLOW SPRINGS has long been
known as the "convention city"
of this portion of the State, and all the
organized bodies, whether social, indus-
trial, educational, secular, or religious,
have partaken of the open-door hos-
pitality of her people.

In May, - , the State Bankers' As-
sociation paid us their first visit, the
invitation of our bankers and other busi-
ness men having been accepted at the
annual meeting the year before.

The occasion was a notable one, on
account of the wealth and business acu-
men of the members present, the tre-
mendous interests they represented, the
important character of the questions dis-
cussed, and the business transacted; also


60 The Teller's Tale

fertile splendid entertainment, public and
private, accorded them as our guests.

We have to shut our eyes to a bad
thing sometimes ; or, at least, the best of
us do so, which is some argument in its
favor. I am reminded of this now by re-
calling the fact that, although ours is,
conspicuously, a "dry" town, the local
committee had what they denominated
a "high -ball" corner, fitted up in a con-
venient place, the refreshments wherein
were not the least appreciated of our

One of the evenings of their stay with
us was given over to a banquet, where
brilliant toasts were said, an attractive
menu was served, and music and mirth
delighted mind and heart; and happy
indeed were the strong men and hand-
some women who, conscious of their
strength and beauty, vied with one an-
other in the exchange of those clever
conceptions which are the condiments of
thought that make intellectual inter-
course a feast of reason and a flow of soul.

Albert and Arthur were conspicuously

The Bankers' Meeting 61

the most alert and popular of the young
men who directed the dispensation of
hospitality, while Alice and Mary were
the bright particular stars in the galaxy
of gracious young girls whose presence
was a benediction to the assembly.

And of all the people of every calling,
who have been entertained by us, I think
it safe to say that none have ever evi-
denced such genuine pleasure as beamed
from the countenances of our men of
finance on that evening.

Nor do I believe I have ever seen even a
frolicsome set of youngsters more over-
joyed than they were the day we drove
them across Town Creek to Big Lake,
and gave them an old-fashioned barbecue
of mutton and beef, with broiled carp
fresh from the water.

As I observed their delight, and en-
tered into their merry-making, I could
not help but conclude that their jovial
light -heartedness could be accounted for
in the wonderful mental relaxation which
had come to them in laying aside their
business for the occasion; and that their

62 The Teller's Tale

demeanor and feelings not only showed
how great had been the relaxation, and
how great is the ordinary nervous strain
under which they work and live, but the
need they have for periods of recreation
and rest.

Not only this, but it also occurred to
me that, if possible, their methods of
business should be so modified as to
make their work less trying on the ner-
vous forces.

The knitted brow, the drawn muscles,
and the serious expression are evidences
of trouble in conception, worry in details,
and weariness in watching and waiting,
all of which show there is in the ma-
chinery of the business, somewhere or
somehow, a friction between the things
to be done and the mental forces neces-
sary to their accomplishment which
ought to be overcome. For the ma-
chinery of human endeavor, when prop-
erly set up, ought to be as frictionless as
the machinery constructed of wood and

The feature of the meeting, however,

The Bankers' Meeting 63

which excited the interest of those pres-
ent, as well as the interest of the entire
State afterwards, even more than our
skill for entertainment, was the paper
read by Colonel Wilmot at the final ses-
sion. This paper was entitled " How
Shall We Know ? ' ' and dealt with a ques-
tion to which he had given serious thought,
even for months before the request came
from the Association's committee asking
that he should prepare a paper on some
"live" topic to be chosen by himself.

We may say, in passing, that there is
not the least reason to doubt that the
subject presented fulfilled the require-

The paper contained a discussion of
that feature of the banking business
which enables the subordinate officers
and employees to exercise dominion over
the assets and liabilities of the bank.
For instance, the teller, as the receiver of
deposits, may by himself alone, and with
the bare touch of a pen, increase the
bank's liabilities to an indefinite extent.

The teller receives the money deposited

64 The Teller's Tale

and he pays out the money withdrawn.
He may enter all the money he receives
on the books of the bank, or he may leave
off some entries and put the money in
his pocket; and the cashier and others
will know what the books show, but not
what the pocket contains. The teller is
expected to make the books show all he
has received, to put it all together in the
bank, and not put any of it in his pocket ;
but, in this case, as in others, it is the
unexpected that frequently happens ; and
many banks know, to their sorrow, that
they have become liable for large sums
of money which they never used and
never saw, for they are as liable for the
money the teller puts in his pocket as
they are for that which is shown on the
books and placed in the bank's vault.

The person who pays the money to the
teller and takes his receipt for it, does not
know whether his deposit is recorded in
the books of the bank or not. If it is, the
other people in the bank will know it, but
if it is not, they will not know it, and not
count it among the liabilities of the bank.

Colonel Wilmot reading his paper at the bankers' meeting.

The Bankers' Meeting 65

By failing to enter sums deposited and
appropriating them to his own use, or
holding them in his possession, a teller
may personally accumulate large sums of
money. When checks against these un-
entered deposits are presented he may
pay them from this held-out fund, and in
this way escape detection; though he
usually makes abstractions from, or with-
holds from the books, only such deposits
as he has every reason to believe will not
be drawn on soon by the depositors.

Not only may deposits be withheld
from the books and the vault when
received, but the teller, bookkeeper, or
other subordinate may so manipulate
the books or papers in his possession or
under his control, either by himself or in
conjunction with another employee or an
outsider, as to withhold collections or
withdraw deposits unlawfully.

Take the bookkeeper, for instance.
When a check is presented to the teller,
it is he who must say whether it is
good. How easy it is for him to call a
check good, which is not good, allow a

66 The Teller's Tale

confederate to draw money on it, charge
this to some inactive account, and risk
the chances of making a fortune in specu-
lation before the likelihood of discovery.
And, like the teller, if this account be-
comes active and the depositor draws
upon it, his check is paid, and, if need be,
charged to some other inactive account.
Under the present system, this might be
kept up without detection indefinitely,
for the reason that the subordinates
know the depositors and their habits,
while the officers do not know the de-
positors and are not, systematically,
brought in touch with them.

The note teller, the collector, the mes-
senger boy all, have abundant oppor-
tunities of the same or similar kind ; and
so frequently do defalcations occur that
the world expects to hear, ever and
anon, that some teller, or one of the
others mentioned, has been playing the
races, bucket shops, fast society, etc.,
for months, and even years, at the ex-
pense of the bank he is supposed to
serve; and we refuse to be startled at

The Bankers' Meeting 67

the head-lines when these things are an-
nounced in the papers.

The paramount difficulty with the
business is that there is no way by which
a bank can ascertain at any given time
just what its condition is just what it
owes, for the reason that its stock-
holders' committee can only examine its
own books, which will not show its true
condition when some deposits have never
been entered on the books and others
have been unlawfully withdrawn, both of
which sums are unknown quantities.

The banks therefore need some rule,
custom, or law, by which a committee of
the stockholders can ascertain the en-
tered and unentered deposits, the law-
fully and the unlawfully withdrawn
deposits, the assets and liabilities of all
kind, and thus know the condition of the
bank as completely, as accurately, as the
merchant or manufacturer, or other busi-
ness man, may know his condition, where
there is no one but himself to increase
liability by signing or endorsing notes
or papers. And this is not a question

68 The Teller's Tale

of trusting our fellowmen, so much as it
is the question of being able to ascertain
whether or not we have trusted wisely.

In order that the stockholders may
know their bank's real condition, they
must be brought face to face with all the
people, both debtors and creditors, who
sustain business relations with the bank;
but as the unentered deposits belong to
people whose names are not on the books
and are unknown to the stockholders;
and, further, since it is impossible to have
personal interviews with all those whose
names do so appear, on the same day or
otherwise, with the view of ascertaining
if their accounts be stated as they un-
derstand them, Colonel Wilmot declared
that the only way to reach every actual
and possible depositor or other creditor,
and every debtor, would be a law making
a published statement of the bank's con-
dition binding on all interested parties,
unless they should report to the commit-
tee of the bank, for correction, within a
given time, any errors that might be
found in such statement.

The Bankers' Meeting 69

In this connection, Colonel Wilmot
pointed out the practice under the law
of publishing notices in the papers to
ascertain who are the creditors of a de-
ceased person's estate, and he did not
think it more important to get such in-
formation in that case, than in the case
of a bank while it is living. For the in-
tegrity of the bank is the foundation
of the community's business, and in its
keeping are lodged the fortunes of a

We observe, in passing, that by the
fullest use of banks of deposit for the
safe keeping of our funds and the con-
venience of business, and the conse-
quent use of bank checks for paying our
bills at home and abroad, we may trans-
act at least ninety-nine one-hundredths
of the business of the world without actu-
ally handling any money. This enables
us to do our business on a hundredth
part of the money we would employ if
there were no banks. It enables the
money we have any given volume to
do ninety-nine times the service or work

70 The Teller's Tale

it could do if there were no banks, and its
working value is therefore and thereby
enhanced ninety -nine times.

Since this economy in the use of actual
money enables the proprietor and the
employer to have more work done and,
practically, furnishes more money with
which to pay labor, banks and banking
are found to touch the lives of more
people than any other institution, except
the Church, and to be benefactors to
every man in every walk of life.

This being the case, and the safety of
the bank being assured, we are under a
business, as well as a moral, obligation to
give the bank our fullest support.

We make progress in some matters
rapidly, breaking away from ancient
rules and methods, or modifying them
according to the demands of justice,
while in other matters we hold to the old
rules and methods absolutely, even when
modification would appear as the essen-
tial and necessary thing.

According to the established rule, the
teller in the employ of the bank, being

The Bankers' Meeting 71

the agent of the bank, binds the bank
for the safe-keeping and return of all the
deposits received by him, no matter
whether he is faithful to the bank or not,
because he is placed there by the bank
for the purpose of receiving deposits.

This is the rule, and a proper rule ; but
there is no reason why, by notices prop-
erly given, the depositor should not be
required to make his initial deposit only
with the knowledge of the officers of the

It is also a reasonable limitation on the
rule to say that the bank is to be bound
only with the distinct understanding that
it shall have the right to have the acts
of the teller and other employees inquired
into, at stated times, and the accounts
made by them, and kept by them, with
depositors and others, reconciled and ad-
justed; such reconciliation to be made
by a committee of stockholders on proper
notices and publications.

The interests of the banking busi-
ness require these modifications of the
rule stated: the interests of the public

72 The Teller's Tale

demand them, and the common-sense
and judgment of men everywhere will ap-
plaud them as the most important busi-
ness reforms that have taken place at
any time.

Colonel Wilmot said that watchfulness
offered no solution of the difficulty; for
if it were possible for an officer or a
director to be present and witness the
counting of every dollar that falls on the
deal board, such an exhibition of espion-
age and distrust would be apparent to
the customer on the other side of the
wicket and destroy his confidence. Be-
sides, even an officer or director goes
wrong sometimes.

Under the present system it is neces-
sary for the officers to be watchful and
vigilant every moment of the business
hours, and it is this high tension of watch-
ing, coupled with the knowledge that
vigilance vouchsafes no absolute protec-
tion, that undermines the banker's health
and makes him old before his time.
Some have innocently imagined that the

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