[C4] "Our Talisman, No. 4," Spirit of the Times, Jan. 20, 1842: A Queer Scene in Bank

Our Talisman No. 4.


            Queer and most amusing scenes, as well as scenes of festering corruption, are frequently to be met with in those modern rag-manufacturing institutions denominated banks.  On Monday morning something of this character occurred in one of the temples of the Money-God that grace our city, of a character too rich, piquant, and peculiar to be permitted "to blush unseen," and pass unnoticed by the popular tongue.  Flib was present by means of his ring, and the following is the substance of his story:

            The hour was towards noon—the place, the Director's room in a certain banking house.  The board was grouped around the box containing the notes offered the bank for discount.  "I had made the wish," said Flib, "rubbed the talisman, and presently I found myself standing behind a desk looking quietly over the shoulders of the men in authority, and watching the various changes in their physiognomies."

            Here was a round-visaged, rubicund, and portly gentleman, with his thumbs inserted into the arm-holes of his vest, his thin legs crossed one over the other, and his brow knit with thought.  He is meditating some benevolent project, says I to myself.  I rubbed the ring, and wished to see the landscape of his mind.

            "Let's see.  I'll not go in for discounting that paltry fellow's note.  His credit's good enough—he is rather enterprising, but my relatives must be served first—and—and I wonder whether there's no plan of bleeding this bank without discovery.  Now in that box there are contained quite a number of mechanic's and trader's notes.  They may all go to the dogs.  I go in for my relatives—I do decidedly."

            Enough of you, says I; and turning to the next director, a sharp thin-faced man, I looked into his mind.  He was occupied in discussing an important point.  An old and infirm widow had been living in one of his houses without paying him rent.

            "I guess that's settled"—he mused—"yes, I'll turn the old bag out of house and home on Saturday next, and take the sacrament on Sunday.  The old dragon!  Why couldn't she pay me my rent?"

            Thus were they all occupied in planning over various schemes, suited to their various turns of thought.  A little bit of a fellow at one end of the chain of directors, was musing after this fashion.

            "We can drive things in our own way—we can now.  That fellow will not be re-elected—he will not by any means.  The bank is our omnibus, we are the drivers, and our destination is"—

            "The devil!" I whispered in the ear of the director.

            I don't know whether he heard me or not, but at all events he felt rather uncomfortable.  He screwed his lips up like one of his own purses, and continued—"Yes, the fellow won't be elected.  If elected he shan't take his seat—he shan't—"

            The door opened, and a slightly made young gentleman, attired in black, entered.  He was marked by a shrewd look, and intelligent countenance.

            "That's him by —!" exclaimed the little director.  "Monsieur Tonson come again!" cried the fat gentleman.  "The plagues of Egypt returned!" whispered the thin faced and merciful man.

            The young gentleman in black, very coolly looked around as if to take a glimpse of their various visages, for the purpose of affording him assistance in the art of portrait painting should he ever turn his attention that way. 

            "The worst of it is, that he owns 13 shares of stock in the bank, and—"

            "He must be choked off;"

            "Bought off,"

            "Or got off, or—"

            "Done something else with, that's certain!"

            "Gentlemen," exclaimed the President, "when this whispering has ceased, I've a small matter to lay before the board.  These documents announce the election of Mr. A. and Mr. B. as Directors of this bank, by the Legislature, on the part of the State.  One of them is present, I perceive, and has taken his seat."

            The President pointed to the young gentleman in black and then sat down.

            This announcement created pretty considerable buzzing among the corps of Directors.

            "I wonder who's been boring at Harrisburg," said the sharp faced man.

            "How much are screw augers a dozen?" asked the portly gentleman, and

            "Do they manufacture gimblets at Harrisburg?" added the little bit of a fellow with a knowing wink, and then there was considerable hee-hee-ing, and haw-haw-ing done, intermingled with any quantity of funny faces, all the fun being evidently got up and prepared for the especial benefit of the young gentleman in black.  He very coolly turned round to his brother Directors, and observed that even if he had taken a few oysters with any select number of the members of the Legislature at Harrisburg, he imagined that it was nobody's business.

            "Oysters?" inquired a good humored Director, with fun written in every line of his face, "Oysters, who says anything about oysters?"

            The young gentleman in black observed that the allusion to boring had some connection possibly with the fact that he, as well as others, had treated some of the members of the Legislature, to an oyster!

            "Oysters!" whispered the Director, "and pray, sir, may I ask what did the members do with the oysters?"  He drew his chair to the side, of the gentleman in black, and with upraised eye-brows and parted lips, awaited an answer to his thrilling inquiry.

            Every body wondered what the members of the Legislature could do with oysters; what use could they possibly turn them to?  It was certainly a puzzling question.  The board listened with the greatest interest, to hear the reply of the young gentleman.  The ruddy faced director inclined his head to one side, so as to hear more clearly; the thin-faced one looked pleasant for a moment in the intensity of his interest; and the little bit of a fellow sraightened up as if to drink in every word that was uttered.

            "Oh, yes—certainly"—exclaimed the Director who had just put the query—"Oh, yes—certainly,what could they do with 'em?"

            "Yes, what could they do with 'em?" said sharp face.

            "What could they do with 'em?" cried portly.

            "What could they do with 'em?" screamed little one.

            "Well, they—" began the gentleman in black.

            "Yes, they—" interrupted sharp face.

            "That is to say—yes—yes—" cried little one.

            "Yes—yes—yes—" added portly, bursting with impatience.

            "Why, they ate them, to be sure!"

            Here a horse-laugh rent the chamber.  One of the Directors, (an old rat who had corrupted more legislators with champaigne dinners than you could shake a stick at,) turning up his eyes, piously exclaimed—

            "Well, well, what are our legislatures coming to!"  A significant wink succeeded the exclamation.  Flib vanished as the gentleman in black took his seat.

            Flib intends to be present at the board this morning.