Not the least important of the force of the Weymouth Bank was Uncle
Bushrod. Sixty years had Uncle Bushrod given of faithful service to
the house of Weymouth as chattel, servitor, and friend. Of the colour
of the mahogany bank furniture was Uncle Bushrod--thus dark was he
externally; white as the uninked pages of the bank ledgers was his
soul. Eminently pleasing to Uncle Bushrod would the comparison have
been; for to him the only institution in existence worth considering
was the Weymouth Bank, of which he was something between porter and
Weymouth lay, dreamy and umbrageous, among the low foothills along the
brow of a Southern valley. Three banks there were in Weymouthville.
Two were hopeless, misguided enterprises, lacking the presence and
prestige of a Weymouth to give them glory. The third was The Bank,
managed by the Weymouths--and Uncle Bushrod. In the old Weymouth
homestead--the red brick, white porticoed mansion, the first to your
right as you crossed Elder Creek, coming into town--lived Mr. Robert
Weymouth (the president of the bank), his widowed daughter, Mrs. Vesey
--called "Miss Letty" by every one--and her two children, Nan and Guy.
There, also in a cottage on the grounds, resided Uncle Bushrod and
Aunt Malindy, his wife. Mr. William Weymouth (the cashier of the bank)
lived in a modern, fine house on the principal avenue.
Mr. Robert was a large, stout man, sixty-two years of age, with a
smooth, plump face, long iron-gray hair and fiery blue eyes. He was
high-tempered, kind, and generous, with a youthful smile and a
formidable, stern voice that did not always mean what it sounded like.
Mr. William was a milder man, correct in deportment and absorbed in
business. The Weymouths formed The Family of Weymouthville, and were
looked up to, as was their right of heritage.
Uncle Bushrod was the bank's trusted porter, messenger, vassal, and
guardian. He carried a key to the vault, just as Mr. Robert and Mr.
Williams did. Sometimes there was ten, fifteen, or twenty thousand
dollars in sacked silver stacked on the vault floor. It was safe with
Uncle Bushrod. He was a Weymouth in heart, honesty, and pride.
Of late Uncle Bushrod had not been without worry. It was on account of
Marse Robert. For nearly a year Mr. Robert had been known to indulge
in too much drink. Not enough, understand, to become tipsy, but the
habit was getting a hold upon him, and every one was beginning to
notice it. Half a dozen times a day he would leave the bank and step
around to the Merchants and Planters' Hotel to take a drink. Mr.
Roberts' usual keen judgment and business capacity became a little
impaired. Mr. William, a Weymouth, but not so rich in experience,
tried to dam the inevitable backflow of the tide, but with incomplete
success. The deposits in the Weymouth Bank dropped from six figures to
five. Past-due paper began to accumulate, owing to injudicious loans.
No one cared to address Mr. Robert on the subject of temperance. Many
of his friends said that the cause of it had been the death of his
wife some two years before. Others hesitated on account of Mr.
Robert's quick temper, which was extremely apt to resent personal
interference of such a nature. Miss Letty and the children noticed the
change and grieved about it. Uncle Bushrod also worried, but he was
one of those who would not have dared to remonstrate, although he and
Marse Robert had been raised almost as companions. But there was a
heavier shock coming to Uncle Bushrod than that caused by the bank
president's toddies and juleps.
Mr. Robert had a passion for fishing, which he usually indulged
whenever the season and business permitted. One day, when reports had
been coming in relating to the bass and perch, he announced his
intention of making a two or three days' visit to the lakes. He was
going down, he said, to Reedy Lake with Judge Archinard, an old
Now, Uncle Bushrod was treasurer of the Sons and Daughters of the
Burning Bush. Every association he belonged to made him treasurer
without hesitation. He stood AA1 in coloured circles. He was
understood among them to be Mr. Bushrod Weymouth, of the Weymouth
The night following the day on which Mr. Robert mentioned his intended
fishing-trip the old man woke up and rose from his bed at twelve
o'clock, declaring he must go down to the bank and fetch the pass-book
of the Sons and Daughters, which he had forgotten to bring home. The
bookkeeper had balanced it for him that day, put the cancelled checks
in it, and snapped two elastic bands around it. He put but one band
around other pass-books.
Aunt Malindy objected to the mission at so late an hour, denouncing it
as foolish and unnecessary, but Uncle Bushrod was not to be deflected
"I done told Sister Adaline Hoskins," he said, "to come by here for
dat book to-morrer mawnin' at sebin o'clock, for to kyar' it to de
meetin' of de bo'd of 'rangements, and dat book gwine to be here when
So, Uncle Bushrod put on his old brown suit, got his thick hickory
stick, and meandered through the almost deserted streets of
Weymouthville. He entered the bank, unlocking the side door, and found
the pass-book where he had left it, in the little back room used for
consultations, where he always hung his coat. Looking about casually,
he saw that everything was as he had left it, and was about to start
for home when he was brought to a standstill by the sudden rattle of a
key in the front door. Some one came quickly in, closed the door
softly, and entered the counting-room through the door in the iron
That division of the bank's space was connected with the back room by
a narrow passageway, now in deep darkness.
Uncle Bushrod, firmly gripping his hickory stick, tiptoed gently up
this passage until he could see the midnight intruder into the sacred
precincts of the Weymouth Bank. One dim gas-jet burned there, but even
in its nebulous light he perceived at once that the prowler was the
Wondering, fearful, undecided what to do, the old coloured man stood
motionless in the gloomy strip of hallway, and waited developments.
The vault, with its big iron door, was opposite him. Inside that was
the safe, holding the papers of value, the gold and currency of the
bank. On the floor of the vault was, perhaps, eighteen thousand
dollars in silver.
The president took his key from his pocket, opened the vault and went
inside, nearly closing the door behind him. Uncle Bushrod saw, through
the narrow aperture, the flicker of a candle. In a minute or two--it
seemed an hour to the watcher--Mr. Robert came out, bringing with him
a large hand-satchel, handling it in a careful but hurried manner, as
if fearful that he might be observed. With one hand he closed and
locked the vault door.
With a reluctant theory forming itself beneath his wool, Uncle Bushrod
waited and watched, shaking in his concealing shadow.
Mr. Robert set the satchel softly upon a desk, and turned his coat
collar up about his neck and ears. He was dressed in a rough suit of
gray, as if for travelling. He glanced with frowning intentness at the
big office clock above the burning gas-jet, and then looked
lingeringly about the bank--lingeringly and fondly, Uncle Bushrod
thought, as one who bids farewell to dear and familiar scenes.
Now he caught up his burden again and moved promptly and softly out of
the bank by the way he had come locking the front door behind him.
For a minute or longer Uncle Bushrod was as stone in his tracks. Had
that midnight rifler of safes and vaults been any other on earth than
the man he was, the old retainer would have rushed upon him and struck
to save the Weymouth property. But now the watcher's soul was tortured
by the poignant dread of something worse than mere robbery. He was
seized by an accusing terror that said the Weymouth name and the
Weymouth honour were about to be lost. Marse Robert robbing the bank!
What else could it mean? The hour of the night, the stealthy visit to
the vault, the satchel brought forth and with expedition and silence,
the prowler's rough dress, his solicitous reading of the clock, and
noiseless departure--what else could it mean?
And then to the turmoil of Uncle Bushrod's thoughts came the
corroborating recollection of preceding events--Mr. Robert's
increasing intemperance and consequent many moods of royal high
spirits and stern tempers; the casual talk he had heard in the bank of
the decrease in business and difficulty in collecting loans. What else
could it all mean but that Mr. Robert Weymouth was an absconder--was
about to fly with the bank's remaining funds, leaving Mr. William,
Miss Letty, little Nab, Guy, and Uncle Bushrod to bear the disgrace?
During one minute Uncle Bushrod considered these things, and then he
awoke to sudden determination and action.
"Lawd! Lawd!" he moaned aloud, as he hobbled hastily toward the side
door. "Sech a come-off after all dese here years of big doin's and
fine doin's. Scan'lous sights upon de yearth when de Weymouth fambly
done turn out robbers and 'bezzlers! Time for Uncle Bushrod to clean
out somebody's chicken-coop and eben matters up. Oh, Lawd! Marse
Robert, you ain't gwine do dat. 'N Miss Letty an' dem chillun so proud
and talkin' 'Weymouth, Weymouth,' all de time! I'm gwine to stop you
ef I can. 'Spec you shoot Mr. Nigger's head off ef he fool wid you,
but I'm gwine stop you ef I can."
Uncle Bushrod, aided by his hickory stick, impeded by his rheumatism,
hurried down the street toward the railroad station, where the two
lines touching Weymouthville met. As he had expected and feared, he
saw there Mr. Robert, standing in the shadow of the building, waiting
for the train. He held the satchel in his hand.
When Uncle Bushrod came within twenty yards of the bank president,
standing like a huge, gray ghost by the station wall, sudden
perturbation seized him. The rashness and audacity of the thing he had
come to do struck him fully. He would have been happy could he have
turned and fled from the possibilities of the famous Weymouth wrath.
But again he saw, in his fancy, the white reproachful face of Miss
Letty, and the distressed looks of Nan and Guy, should he fail in his
duty and they question him as to his stewardship.
Braced by the thought, he approached in a straight line, clearing his
throat and pounding with his stick so that he might be early
recognized. Thus he might avoid the likely danger of too suddenly
surprising the sometimes hasty Mr. Robert.
"Is that you, Bushrod?" called the clamant, clear voice of the gray
"Yes, suh, Marse Robert."
"What the devil are you doing out at this time of night?"
For the first time in his life, Uncle Bushrod told Marse Robert a
falsehood. He could not repress it. He would have to circumlocute a
little. His nerve was not equal to a direct attack.
"I done been down, suh, to see ol' Aunt M'ria Patterson. She taken
sick in de night, and I kyar'ed her a bottle of M'lindy's medercine.
"Humph!" said Robert. "You better get home out of the night air. It's
damp. You'll hardly be worth killing to-morrow on account of your
rheumatism. Think it'll be a clear day, Bushrod?"
"I 'low it will, suh. De sun sot red las' night."
Mr. Robert lit a cigar in the shadow, and the smoke looked like his
gray ghost expanding and escaping into the night air. Somehow, Uncle
Bushrod could barely force his reluctant tongue to the dreadful
subject. He stood, awkward, shambling, with his feet upon the gravel
and fumbling with his stick. But then, afar off--three miles away, at
the Jimtown switch--he heard the faint whistle of the coming train,
the one that was to transport the Weymouth name into the regions of
dishonour and shame. All fear left him. He took off his hat and faced
the chief of the clan he served, the great, royal, kind, lofty,
terrible Weymouth--he bearded him there at the brink of the awful
thing that was about to happen.
"Marse Robert," he began, his voice quivering a little with the stress
of his feelings, "you 'member de day dey-all rode de tunnament at Oak
Lawn? De day, suh, dat you win in de ridin', and you crown Miss Lucy
"Tournament?" said Mr. Robert, taking his cigar from his mouth. "Yes,
I remember very well the--but what the deuce are you talking about
tournaments here at midnight for? Go 'long home, Bushrod. I believe
"Miss Lucy tetch you on de shoulder," continued the old man, never
heeding, "wid a s'ord, and say: 'I mek you a knight, Suh Robert--rise
up, pure and fearless and widout reproach.' Dat what Miss Lucy say.
Dat's been a long time ago, but me nor you ain't forgot it. And den
dar's another time we ain't forgot--de time when Miss Lucy lay on her
las' bed. She sent for Uncle Bushrod, and she say: 'Uncle Bushrod,
when I die, I want you to take good care of Mr. Robert. Seem like'--so
Miss Lucy say--'he listen to you mo' dan to anybody else. He apt to be
mighty fractious sometimes, and maybe he cuss you when you try to
'suade him but he need somebody what understand him to be 'round wid
him. He am like a little child sometimes'--so Miss Lucy say, wid her
eyes shinin' in her po', thin face--'but he always been'--dem was her
words--'my knight, pure and fearless and widout reproach.'"
Mr. Robert began to mask, as was his habit, a tendency to soft-
heartedness with a spurious anger.
"You--you old windbag!" he growled through a cloud of swirling cigar
smoke. "I believe you are crazy. I told you to go home, Bushrod. Miss
Lucy said that, did she? Well, we haven't kept the scutcheon very
clear. Two years ago last week, wasn't it, Bushrod, when she died?
Confound it! Are you going to stand there all night gabbing like a
The train whistled again. Now it was at the water tank, a mile away.
"Marse Robert," said Uncle Bushrod, laying his hand on the satchel
that the banker held. "For Gawd's sake, don' take dis wid you. I knows
what's in it. I knows where you got it in de bank. Don' kyar' it wid
you. Dey's big trouble in dat valise for Miss Lucy and Miss Lucy's
child's chillun. Hit's bound to destroy de name of Weymouth and bow
down dem dat own it wid shame and triberlation. Marse Robert, you can
kill dis ole nigger ef you will, but don't take away dis 'er' valise.
If I ever crosses over de Jordan, what I gwine to say to Miss Lucy
when she ax me: 'Uncle Bushrod, wharfo' didn' you take good care of
Mr. Robert Weymouth threw away his cigar and shook free one arm with
that peculiar gesture that always preceded his outbursts of
irascibility. Uncle Bushrod bowed his head to the expected storm, but
he did not flinch. If the house of Weymouth was to fall, he would fall
with it. The banker spoke, and Uncle Bushrod blinked with surprise.
The storm was there, but it was suppressed to the quietness of a
"Bushrod," said Mr. Robert, in a lower voice than he usually employed,
"you have overstepped all bounds. You have presumed upon the leniency
with which you have been treated to meddle unpardonably. So you know
what is in this satchel! Your long and faithful service is some
excuse, but--go home, Bushrod--not another word!"
But Bushrod grasped the satchel with a firmer hand. The headlight of
the train was now lightening the shadows about the station. The roar
was increasing, and folks were stirring about at the track side.
"Marse Robert, gimme dis 'er' valise. I got a right, suh, to talk to
you dis 'er' way. I slaved for you and 'tended to you from a child up.
I went th'ough de war as yo' body-servant tell we whipped de Yankees
and sent 'em back to de No'th. I was at yo' weddin', and I was n' fur
away when yo' Miss Letty was bawn. And Miss Letty's chillun, dey
watches to-day for Uncle Bushrod when he come home ever' evenin'. I
been a Weymouth, all 'cept in colour and entitlements. Both of us is
old, Marse Robert. 'Tain't goin' to be long till we gwine to see Miss
Lucy and has to give an account of our doin's. De ole nigger man won't
be 'spected to say much mo' dan he done all he could by de fambly dat
owned him. But de Weymouths, dey must say day been livin' pure and
fearless and widout reproach. Gimme dis valise, Marse Robert--I'm
gwine to hab it. I'm gwine to take it back to the bank and lock it up
in de vault. I'm gwine to do Miss Lucy's biddin'. Turn 'er loose,
The train was standing at the station. Some men were pushing trucks
along the side. Two or three sleepy passengers got off and wandered
away into the night. The conductor stepped to the gravel, swung his
lantern and called: "Hello, Frank!" at some one invisible. The bell
clanged, the brakes hissed, the conductor drawled: "All aboard!"
Mr. Robert released his hold on the satchel. Uncle Bushrod hugged it
to his breast with both arms, as a lover clasps his first beloved.
"Take it back with you, Bushrod," said Mr. Robert, thrusting his hands
into his pockets. "And let the subject drop--now mind! You've said
quite enough. I'm going to take the train. Tell Mr. William I will be
back on Saturday. Good night."
The banker climbed the steps of the moving train and disappeared in a
coach. Uncle Bushrod stood motionless, still embracing the precious
satchel. His eyes were closed and his lips were moving in thanks to
the Master above for the salvation of the Weymouth honour. He knew Mr.
Robert would return when he said he would. The Weymouths never lied.
Nor now, thank the Lord! could it be said that they embezzled the
money in banks.
Then awake to the necessity for further guardianship of Weymouth trust
funds, the old man started for the bank with the redeemed satchel.
* * * * *
Three hours from Weymouthville, in the gray dawn, Mr. Robert alighted
from the train at a lonely flag-station. Dimly he could see the figure
of a man waiting on the platform, and the shape of a spring-waggon,
team and driver. Half a dozen lengthy bamboo fishing-poles projected
from the waggon's rear.
"You're here, Bob," said Judge Archinard, Mr. Robert's old friend and
schoolmate. "It's going to be a royal day for fishing. I thought you
said--why, didn't you bring along the stuff?"
The president of the Weymouth Bank took off his hat and rumpled his
"Well, Ben, to tell you the truth, there's an infernally presumptuous
old nigger belonging in my family that broke up the arrangement. He
came down to the depot and vetoed the whole proceeding. He means all
right, and--well, I reckon he /is/ right. Somehow, he had found out
what I had along--though I hid it in the bank vault and sneaked it out
at midnight. I reckon he has noticed that I've been indulging a little
more than a gentleman should, and he laid for me with some reaching
"I'm going to quit drinking," Mr. Robert concluded. "I've come to the
conclusion that a man can't keep it up and be quite what he'd like to
be--'pure and fearless and without reproach'--that's the way old
Bushrod quoted it."
"Well, I'll have to admit," said the judge, thoughtfully, as they
climbed into the waggon, "that the old darkey's argument can't
conscientiously be overruled."
"Still," said Mr. Robert, with a ghost of a sigh, "there was two
quarts of the finest old silk-velvet Bourbon in that satchel you ever
wet your lips with."