The Wooing Of Bettina by W. Y. Sheppard
A Story of Finance
Mr. Paul Strumley stood on the veranda of Mr.
Richard Stokes's sumptuous home in the fashionable
suburb of Lawrenceville and faced the daughter of the house
indignantly. The daughter of the house was also plainly
perturbed. Their mutual agitation was sharply accentuated
by the fresh calmness of the spring morning, which seemed
to hover like a north-bound bird over the wide, velvety lawn.
"Bettina," announced Mr. Strumley suddenly, "your
"An old goose."
"No, a brute!"
This explosion appeared momentarily to relieve his state
of mind. But in his breast there was still left a sufficiency
of outraged dignity to warm his cheeks hotly, and not by any
means without an abundance of cause. Scarcely an hour
before he had nervously, yet exultantly, alighted from his big
touring car in front of the Commercial Bank, to seek the
president of that institution in the sanctity of his private
office. There, briefly but eloquently, he announced the
engagement of Miss Bettina Stokes to Mr. Paul Strumley,
and naïvely requested for the happy young people a full share
of the parental sanction and blessing. And his callow confidence
can hardly be condemned on recalling that he was
one of the wealthiest and most popular young swains in the
city. Mr. Stokes, however, did not seem to take this into
consideration. On the contrary, he rose to the occasion with
an outburst of disapprobation too inflammatory to be set
on paper, and quickly followed it with a picturesque and
uncompromising ultimatum. In the confused distress of
the unexpected Mr. Strumley found himself unable to marshal
a single specimen of logical refutation. He could only retreat
in haste, to recover, if possible, at leisure.
But this leisure, the time it had taken him to hurl the
machine across town to Bettina, had proven sadly insufficient.
When he rushed up the steps to the veranda, where sat
the object of his affections rocking in beautiful serenity, he
was still choking from indignation, and had found it hard to
tell her in coherent sentences that her father had energetically
refused the honor of an alliance with the highly respectable
The grounds, however, on which had been based this
unreasonable objection were of all things under the sun the
most preposterous. Mr. Stokes had emphatically declared
that his daughter's happiness was too dear to him to be foolishly
entrusted to one who could not even manage his own
affairs, let alone the affairs of a wife, and, presumably later,
of a family. Mr. Strumley was rich at present, so much
was readily conceded; but he was not capable himself of taking
care of what a thrifty parent had laid by for him. He in his
weak-mindedness was compelled to hire the brains of a mere
substitute, a manager, if you prefer. Should anything happen,
and such things happen every day, where would Mr. Strumley
be? And where, pray, would be his wife and family? In
"My daughter is too good for a man who cannot manage
his own concerns," the irate father had summed up. "When
you have shown yourself capable, my lad, of competing in
the world with grown-up intellects, then there will be time
enough for you to contemplate matrimony—and not until
then. Good morning to you, Mr. Strumley."
"And he snapped his jaws together like a vise," recalled
Paul, coming out from his gloomy retrospection.
"If he shut them so," and Bettina worked her pretty chin
out to its farthest extension, "well, that means he is like the
man from Missouri; you've got to show him before he changes
his mind one iota."
"I ought to have been humping over a desk from the start,"
regretted Mr. Strumley, feeling his bulging biceps dolefully.
"It's all right stroking a crew, and heaps of fun, too, but it
doesn't win you a wife. Now there's your dad, he couldn't
pull a soap box across a bath tub; but he can pull through
a 'deal' I couldn't budge with a hand-spike."
Miss Bettina sighed sympathetically, and smiled appreciatively.
She felt deeply for her lover, and was justly proud
of such a capable parent. "Every one does say papa is an
excellent business man," she remarked; "and he certainly
can swing some wonderful deals. Only yesterday I accidentally
overheard him telling Mr. Proctor that he held an option—I
think that was the word—from Haynes, Forster & Company
on thousands and thousands of acres of timber land in Arkansas.
He said it would expire to-day at two o'clock, but that
he was going to buy the land for cash—'spot cash' he said
was what they demanded."
Mr. Strumley smiled ruefully. "And I guess it will be
some of my 'spot cash,'" he ruminated. "I am not saying
anything against your father, Bettina, but if it wasn't for
such idle good-for-nothings as myself, who let their money
accumulate in his bank, I doubt if he could swing many of
these 'big deals.' If we were like he wanted us to be, we'd
be swinging them ourselves."
After Mr. Strumley had finished his bit of philosophy, he
fell to communing with himself. Apparently his own wisdom
had stirred a new thought within his breast. It had. He
was beginning to wonder what would happen if Bettina's
father suddenly found himself bereft of sufficient "spot cash"
to take advantage of this option. Anyone having a second
call on same might be fortunate enough to swing the "big
deal"—and profit by it, according to his intentions!
"Paul," Bettina broke in upon his meditations, a little note
of hopeful pleading in her voice, "it might not be too late
for you to—to reform?"
Mr. Strumley aroused himself with difficulty, and looked
into her bewitching face before replying. Then: "Maybe
you are right," he mused; "at any rate I have an idea."
And kissing her thoughtfully, he strode down the steps toward
where encouragingly panted his car.
The car proudly bore Mr. Strumley and his idea to the
brand-new offices of a certain young friend of his who had
himself only recently metamorphosed from the shell to the
swivel chair. Mr. Greenlee looked up in mute surprise. But
Mr. Strumley ignored it and came to the point with a rush.
Did Mr. Greenlee have twenty thousand dollars in cash to
spare? He did? Good! Would he lend it to Mr. Strumley
on gilt-edge collateral? Never mind exclamations; they had
no market value. Eight per cent. did. Then Mr. Greenlee
was willing to make the loan? That was talking business;
and Mr. Strumley with the securities would call in two hours
for the cash. That would give Mr. Greenlee ample time in
which to get it from his bank—the Commercial.
When outside Mr. Strumley allowed himself to smile.
Suddenly this evidence of inward hilarity broadened into a
heartily exploded greeting, as a familiar figure turned the
corner and advanced directly toward him. It was another
wealthy customer of the aforesaid bank.
"I was just on my way to your office, Mr. Proctor," Paul
announced pleasantly, at the same time cautiously drawing to
one side the customer of the Commercial. "I intend investing
heavily in real estate," he vouchsafed with admirable sang-froid;
"and need, right away, in spot cash, about thirty
thousand dollars. Have you got that much to spare at 8 per
cent., on first class security?"
Eight per cent! Mr. Proctor's expression expanded. He
made his living by lending money for much less. If dear
Mr. Strumley would call at his office within two hours he
should have it every cent—just as soon as he could get a
check cashed at the Commercial.
Next the faithful machine whirled Paul to the rooms of
his staid attorney and general manager, Mr. John Edwards.
That elderly gentleman welcomed him with his nearest
approach to a smile. But the young man was in no mood for
an elaborate exchange of exhilarations. Without preface he
inquired the amount of his deposit subject to check in the
Commercial Bank. Fifty thousand dollars! A most delightful
sum. He needed it every cent within an hour. Also he
wanted from his safe-deposit box enough A1 collateral to
secure loans of twenty and thirty thousand, respectively. But
first would Mr. Edwards kindly call up and get second option
on all Arkansas timber lands represented by Haynes, Forster
& Company? Mr. Strumley believed that the first option
was held by a local party. Furthermore he knew it expired
to-day; and had reasons to believe that a local party would not
be able to take advantage of it, and he, Mr. Strumley, thought
that he could handle the property to a good purpose.
For the first time Mr. Edwards learned that his young
client had a will of his own. After a few fruitless exhortations
he rose to obey, but remarking: "Right much money in
these hard times to withdraw in a lump from the bank."
Then, with a sidelong glance at the grave, boyish face, he
added significantly: "Know you would not do anything to
jeopardize Mr. Stokes's financial standing."
"Oh, a bagatelle like that wouldn't embarrass as shrewd
and resourceful a business man as he," assured Paul breezily.
"Money is pretty tight," mused the lawyer. But he called
up Haynes, Forster & Company without further remonstrances
and afterward went out to perform his commissions.
Soon Mr. Strumley lighted a cigar and followed. There
would be something doing in the way of entertainment
presently in the neighborhood of the musty old Commercial
In front of that institution he had the good fortune to meet
the town miser, who seldom strayed far from the portals
behind which reposed his hoard. Mr. Strumley halted to
liberally wish the local celebrity an abundance of good health
and many days of prosperity. Incidentally he noted through
the massive doors that his three cash-seeking friends were in
the line before the paying teller's window, the lawyer being
last and Mr. Greenlee first. When the latter came out, still
busily trying to cram the packages of bills properly in the
satchel he carried, Paul remarked confidentially to his
"Must be something doing to-day. The big guns are
drawing all of theirs out."
The old fellow gave a start as the suggestion shot home.
Before Paul could nurse it further, he had sprinted off up the
street like mad, chattering to himself about the desirability
of returning immediately with his certificates of deposit.
It is an old adage that no one knows the genesis of a "run
on the bank." Maybe Mr. Strumley was the exception which
proves the validity of the rule. At any rate he considered
with large satisfaction the magical gathering of a panic-inoculated
crowd, which, sans courage, sans reason, sans everything
but a thirst for the touch of their adored cash, clamored
loudly, despairingly, for the instant return of their dearly
At last through the meshes of the mad throng appeared the
shiny pate of Mr. John Edwards. He uttered an exclamation
of relief at the sight of his calm client.
"Hope you got it before the storm broke?" Mr. Strumley
"S-s-sh!" cautioned the attorney dramatically. "I was
about to go in search of you." Then he added in even a
lower key: "Mr. Stokes asked me to persuade you not to
withdraw the money until he had had a chance to get the flurry
well in hand."
"But the money is mine, and I want it now," expostulated
the young man.
"Come with me, please, and listen to reason," beseeched
the lawyer, drawing him resolutely in the direction of a side
entrance. "It would be a dire misfortune, sir, a calamity to
the community, if the bank were forced to close its doors. So
far, however, it is only the small depositors who are clamoring;
but the others will quickly enough follow if you do not
let your fifty thousand remain to help wipe out this first rush.
The bank, though, is as sound as a dollar."
In another instant they were through the door, and before
Mr. Strumley could reply, for the second time that morning
he stood in the presence of Bettina's father.
"As Mr. Edwards will tell you," explained Paul, unable
altogether to suppress his nervousness, "I hold second option
for to-day on large timber tracts in Arkansas, represented by
Messrs. Haynes, Forster & Company. The first option,
I was advised, will expire at two o'clock; and my party was
of the belief it would not be closed. It is a big deal, Mr.
Stokes,"—Mr. Stokes winced perceptibly—"and I was
extremely anxious to swing it, because—er—well, because
it's my first big venture and much depends on its success."
"Yes," mused Mr. Stokes sadly, "it is quite probable the
first option may be allowed to lapse, and I understand good
money is to be made in Arkansas timber." His face had
grown a trifle ashy. "Of course, this being the case, I feel
in honor bound, Mr. Strumley, to instantly recall my
Paul gave a gasp of admiration. He was glad Bettina's
father was "game." So was Bettina. In the up-boiling of
his feelings he emphatically vetoed the determination of the
banker. Indeed, so well and eloquently did he argue for the
retention and use of his funds by the Commercial, that even
the self-effacing man of "deals" could not resist the onslaught.
He rose with unconcealed emotion and grasped the hand of
the young man whose generosity would save the credit of the
old financial institution.
Later, flushed with victory, Mr. Strumley returned to the
cushions of his touring car; and the jubilantly chugging
machine whizzed him off in the direction where, surrounded by
cash, awaited the 8 per cent. expectations of Messrs. Proctor
and Greenlee. Later still he descended with said cash upon
the offices of Haynes, Forster & Company. And even later,
after an exhilarating spin in the country, he arrived safe and
blithesome at his well-appointed rooms in the Hotel Fulton,
ready to remove with good soap and pure aqua the stains of
mart and road before calling on Miss Bettina Stokes.
The first thing that attracted his eyes on entering his little
sitting room was a neatly wrapped parcel on the table. On
the top of it reclined a dainty, snowy envelope. Mr. Strumley
approached suspiciously. Then he recognized the handwriting
and uttered an exclamation of joy. It was from
In the short time he held the missive poised reverently in
his hand Paul permitted a glow of satisfaction to permeate
his being. He had done well and was justly entitled to a
moment of self laudation. Mr. Stokes—Bettina's father—would
no longer be against him, for who could not say he
was not capable of competing in the world-arena with full-grown,
gladiatorial intellects? He had even successfully
crossed blades with Mr. Stokes's own best brand of Damascene
gray matter. And he had won the fray, for the everlasting
good and happiness of all parties concerned. In anticipation
he already felt himself thrilling proudly beneath the crown of
Bettina's love and her father's benediction.
The crackle of the delicate linen beneath his grasp brought
him sweetly back to the real. What delicious token could
Bettina be sending him? Of course her father had told her
all. How happy she, too, must be! Mr. Strumley broke the
seal of the envelope and read:
"Mr. Paul Strumley,
"I herewith return your letters, photographs, etc. Papa
has told me all. It was at first impossible to believe you
capable of taking such a base advantage of my confidence
about the Arkansas option; but I am at last thoroughly convinced
that you incited the run on the bank to embarrass poor
papa and compel him to let the deal fall into your traitorous
hands. And the by-play of yours in returning the money you
did not really need, though it has completely deceived him,
has in my eyes only added odium to your treachery. I trust
that I have made it quite clear that in the future we can meet
only as strangers.
Mr. Strumley let the letter slip unnoticed through his
palsied fingers. He sat down with heavy stupefaction. So
this was the sud-spray of his beautiful bubble? It was incomprehensible!
Bettina! Bettina! Oh, how could she? Where
was her faith? No small voice answered from within the
depths of his breast; and Mr. Strumley got clumsily to his
feet. He was painfully conscious that he must do something—think
something. But what was he to do? What was he
to think? Could he ever make her understand? Make her
believe? At least he could go and try.
Mr. Strumley finished his toilet nervously; and repaired
to the home of Bettina, to cast his hope on the waters of her
faith and charity. The butler courteously informed him that
she was "not in." But Mr. Stokes was in the library. Would
Mr. Strumley like to see him? Mr. Strumley thought not.
It was a bad night for Paul. From side to side he tossed
in search of inspiration. Day came; and he rolled wearily
over to catch the first beams of the gladsome spring sunshine.
From its torrid home ninety-three million miles afar it hurried
to his bedside. It shimmered in his face and laughed with
warm invigoration into the torpid cells of his brain. It awakened
them, filled them with new life, hope—inspiration!
Mr. Strumley leaped from his bed to the bath-tub, and
fluttered frolicsomely in the crystal tide. When he sprang out
there was the flush of vigorous young manhood on his skin
and the glow of an expectant lover's ardency in his breast.
Everything was arranged satisfactorily in the space beneath
Mr. Strumley's water-tousled hair, wherein sat the goddess of
Mr. Strumley, after a hurried stop-over at the office of his
astounded charge d'affaires, reached the Commercial Bank
before the messenger boys. While waiting in the balm of
the spring morning for the doors to open he circumnavigated
the block nine times—he counted them. Coming in on the
last tack he sighted the portly form of the banker careening
with dignified speed around the corner. Another instant he
had crossed the mat and disappeared into his financial harbor.
Mr. Strumley steered rapidly in his wake.
Again he stood in the presence of Bettina's father. This
time, however, he was calm. In fact, the atmosphere about
the two men was heavily charged with the essence of good
fellowship. Mr. Stokes held out his hand cordially. The
younger man pressed its broad palm with almost filial veneration.
He noted, too, with a slight touch of remorse, that the
banker's countenance was harassed. Evidently his heart
still ached for the lost Arkansas timber. Mr. Strumley
He had something to say to Mr. Stokes, and began to say
it with the easy enunciation of one who rests confident in the
sunshine of righteousness. He spoke evenly, fluently. Of
course Mr. Stokes at first might be a trifle perplexed. But
please bear with him, hear him through, then he himself should
be the sole judge.
He, Mr. Strumley, did not care a rap—no, not a single
rap, for every tree that grew in the entire state of Arkansas.
What he wanted to do was to show Mr. Stokes—Bettina's
father—that he was worth the while. That is, he wanted to
demonstrate—it was a good word—to demonstrate that he
had brains in his cranium as good as many another variety
that boasted a trade mark of wider popularity. Had he done
it? And if what he had done did not concur with the elements
of high finance, he would like Mr. Stokes—Bettina's
father—to tell him what it did concur with. Now, there was
the whole story from its incipiency. And as conclusive proof
that he did not mean to profit by the deal financially, would
Mr. Stokes kindly examine those papers?
Mr. Stokes looked at the documents tossed on the desk
before him; and saw that they were several warranty deeds,
conveying to Richard Stokes, his heirs and assigns forever,
all titles and claims of all kinds whatsoever in certain therein-after
described tracts or parcels of land in the state of Arkansas,
for value received.
Mr. Strumley leaned back and contentedly watched a flush
overspread the banker's face. His automobile waited at the
door to whisk him to Bettina, and he was ready to carry on
the campaign there the moment her father had finished his
effusions of gratitude. Meanwhile the flush deepened; and,
all impatience to fly to his lady-love, Paul egged on the speech.
"You will note, Mr. Stokes," he volunteered, "that the
price is exactly the same you had proposed paying. At your
convenience, of course, you can remit this amount to my
attorney, Mr. Edwards."
Mr. Stokes rose slowly. The flush had become apoplectic.
"Mr. Strumley," he began, his large voice trembling, "this
trick of yours is unworthy of an honorable man. Here, sir,
take these papers and leave my office immediately."
Mr. Strumley rose also. Like the banker's voice, he, too,
"But, sir——" he commenced to expostulate.
"Go!" thundered the father of Bettina.
Dazed, confused by the suddenness of the blast, Paul
groped his way through the bank to the refuge of his car.
Mechanically he put one hand on the lever and glanced ahead
for obstacles. Crossing the street, not twenty yards ahead,
tripped the most dangerous one conceivable—the beautiful
Mr. Strumley's hand fell limply to his knee. Fascinated
he watched her reach the curb and with a little skip spring to
the pavement. Then she came straight toward him; but he
could see she was blissfully oblivious of his nearness. Suddenly
an odd wave of emotion surged through his brain. His
heart leaped with primitive savagery of love, and every fibre
in him rebelled fiercely against the decrees and limitations of
modern courtship. He had failed in the game as governed
and modified by the rules of polite society and high finance.
The primogenital man-spirit in him cried out for its inning.
Mr. Strumley, as umpire, hearkened to its clamor.
"Bettina!" he called, as that young lady came calmly
abreast of the car, "wait a moment. I must speak with you."
She started with a half-frightened exclamation; but met
his look, at first defiantly, scornfully, then hesitatingly, faltering
as she tried to take another step onward.
"Bettina!" Mr. Strumley's voice vibrated determinedly,
"I said I wished to speak with you. I can explain—everything."
She halted reluctantly, and partly turned. In a moment
he was at her side, his hand upon her arm. His glance had
in it all the compelling strength of unadulterated, pristine
manhood. She seemed to feel its potency, and without
remonstrance suffered him to lead her toward the machine.
For a moment, for a single moment, Mr. Strumley was
exhilaratingly conscious of being borne aloft on a great wave
of victorious gladness. Then the waters of triumph let him
down with a shock.
At the word they both pivoted like pieces of automata. Mr.
Stokes, large and severe, was standing between the portals of
his financial fortification.
"Bettina!" His voice was almost irresistible in the force
of its parental summons.
At the sound of it the primeval lover, newly renascent in
Mr. Strumley's breast, cowed before the power of genitorial
insistency. Then it came back into its own exultantly.
"Bettina, my darling, get in," he commanded.
She faltered, turned rebelliously, turned again and obeyed.
"Bettina!" The voice of the childless banker faded off in
the distance, its last echo drowned in the full-throated:
"Bettina, we are going to be married at once," that broke
joyously from Mr. Strumley's lips. "I have followed the
example of the Romans, and taken me a wife from the Sabines."
Bettina peeped up at him from beneath the dark screens
of her lashes. "Then I, like the wise Sabian ladies, shall save
the day for peace and for Rome," she smiled archly.
And the machine laughed "Chug-chug!"