How they Stopped the “Run”

by Anthony Hope

There was a run on the Sandhill and District Bank. It had lasted the whole of one day, and had shown no signs of abating in the evening. If it lasted another day! Old Mr. Bradshaw wiped his brow. It had come just at the awkwardest time—just after the farmers had got their usual loans, just when securities were hard to realize; in fact, just at the moment when the bank, though in reality solvent, was emphatically not in a position in answer a long-continued demand for payment on the spot. Mr. Bradshaw groaned out all these distressing facts to his son Dick. It was, indeed, no use talking to Dick, for he took no interest in business, and had spent the day in a boat with the Flirtington girls; still, Mr. Bradshaw was bound to talk to someone.

“We shall have to put the shutters up. One day’s grace would save us, I believe; we could get the money then. But if they’re at us again to-morrow morning, we can’t last two hours.”

Dick sympathized, but had nothing to suggest, except that it would not make matters worse if he carried out his engagement to go to the circus with the Flirtington girls.

“Oh, go to h—ll with the Flirtington girls, if you like,” groaned Mr. Bradshaw.

So Dick went—to the circus (the other expedition, as he observed, would keep), and enjoyed the performance very much, especially the lion-taming, which was magnificent, and so impressed Dick that he deserted his companions, went behind the scenes, and insisted on standing Signor Philippini several glasses.

“Is that big chap quite safe?” he asked admiringly.

I can do anythink with ’im,” said the signor (whose English was naturally defective); “but with anyone helse ’e’s a roarer, ’e is, and no mistake.”

After the performance Dick took the Flirtington girls home; then, with a thoughtful look on his face, he went and had some talk with his father, and came away, carefully placing a roll of notes in his breast pocket. Then he sought Signor Philippini’s society once more. And that’s all that is really known about it—if, that is, we discard the obviously fanciful statement of Fanny Flirtington that, as she was gazing at the moon about 2 A. M., she saw a heavy wagon, drawn by two horses and driven by Signor Philippini, pass along the street in the direction of the bank. She must have been wrong; for Philippini, by the evidence of his signora (whose name, notwithstanding that Philippini’s morals were perfectly correct, was Mrs. Buggins), went to bed at 11.30, and snored like a pig all night.

However these things may be, this is what happened next morning. When the first of the depositors arrived at 7 A. M., they found one of the windows of the bank smashed to pieces and the shutter hanging loose. A cry went up that there had been a robbery, and one or two men began to climb in. They did not get far before a fearful roar proceeded from the neighborhood of the counter. They looked at one another, and said it would be more regular to wait for the officials. The roars continued. They sent for Mr. Bradshaw. Hardly had he arrived (accompanied by Dick, breathless and in shirt-sleeves) before the backmost rows of the now considerable crowd became agitated with a new sensation. The news spread rapidly. Frantic men ran to and fro; several ladies fainted; the circus-proprietor was sent for. A lion had escaped from the menagerie, and was supposed to be at large in the town!

“Send for Philippini!” cried the proprietor. They did so. Philippini had started early for a picnic in the country, and would not return till just before the performance in the evening. The proprietor was in despair.

“Where’s the beast gone to?” he cried.

A roar from the bank answered his question.

“Well, I’m blowed if he’s not in the bank!” exclaimed the proprietor.

It certainly appeared to be the fact that Atlas (that was the lion’s name) had taken refuge in the bank, and was in full possession of the premises and assets. Under these circumstances there was, Mr. Bradshaw explained, a difficulty in resuming cash payments; but if his checks would be accepted—— The crowd roared almost as loud as Atlas at such an idea. Something must be done. They sent for the mayor; he repudiated liability. They sent for the fire brigade and the lifeboat crew; neither would come. They got guns, and peppered the furniture. Atlas retired behind the fireproof safe and roared worse than ever. Meanwhile the precious hours were passing. Mr. Bradshaw’s money was also on its way from London. At last Dick took a noble resolution.

“I will go in at any cost,” he cried, and, in spite of Fanny Flirtington’s tears, he scaled the window and disappeared from view. The crowd waited to hear Atlas scrunching; but he only roared. When Dick was inside, he paused and asked in a low voice: “Is he chained?”

“Yes,” answered Signor Philippini from behind the safe. “Is the Aunt Sally business over?” and he came out with a long pole in his hand. He used the pole to stir poor Atlas up when the roars became deficient in quantity and quality.

“The money ought to be here in three hours,” said Dick. “Have you got the back-door key?”

Philippini reassured him. Then Dick took a wild running leap at the window; Philippini stirred up Atlas, who roared lustily. Dick escaped with his life, and landed, a breathless heap, at the mayor’s feet. The mayor raised him, and said he should write to Her Majesty, and suggest that Dick would be a proper recipient of the Albert Medal, and the vicar (who had no money in the bank) indignantly asked the crowd if they could not trust a family which produced scions like that. Several people cried “Hear, hear!” and told Mr. Bradshaw that they never really meant to withdraw their deposits. Mr. Bradshaw thanked them, and looked at his watch.

At half-past three Philippini ran up; he also was breathless, and his shoes were dusty from walking in the country. At once he effected an entry, amid a scene of great excitement. A moment later he appeared at the window and cried in a terror-stricken voice:

“I can’t ’old ’im! I can’t ’old ’im! ’E’s mad! Look out for yourselves!” and he leaped from the window.

The crowd fled in all directions, and two boys were all but run over by a cart which was being driven rapidly from the railway station to the bank.

“All right,” said Dick to the signor; “bring up the wagon.” And then, with great difficulty and consummate courage, the signor and Dick brought an iron cage up to the window, and drove Atlas in. The operation took more than an hour, because they had to feed Atlas and drink a bottle of champagne themselves before they set about it. So that it was six o’clock before Atlas was out, and the money was in, and the Sandhill and District Bank opened its doors for business.

“We gained just the time we needed,” said Mr. Bradshaw. “It was dirt-cheap at fifty pounds!”

And Dick, although he did not get the Albert Medal, was taken into partnership, and married Fanny Flirtington. It was the only way of preventing her seeing things she was not meant to see out of the window at 2 A. M. and chattering about them in public.