A ROCK IN THE BALTIC
A ROCK IN THE BALTIC
THE INCIDENT AT THE BANK
IN the public room of the Sixth National Bank at Bar Harbor in Maine
Lieutenant Alan Drummond H.M.S. "Consternation" stood aside to give
precedence to a lady. The Lieutenant had visited the bank for the
purpose of changing several crisp white Bank of England notes into the
currency of the country he was then visiting. The lady did not appear
to notice either his courtesy or his presence and this was the more
remarkable since Drummond was a young man sufficiently conspicuous
even in a crowd and he and she were at that moment the only
customers in the bank. He was tall well-knit and stalwart blond as a
Scandinavian with dark blue eyes which he sometimes said jocularly
were the colors of his university. He had been slowly approaching the
cashier's window with the easy movement of a man never in a hurry
when the girl appeared at the door and advanced rapidly to the bank
counter with its brass wire screen surrounding the arched aperture
behind which stood the cashier. Although very plainly attired her
gown nevertheless possessed a charm of simplicity that almost
suggested complex Paris and she wore it with that air of distinction
the secret of which is supposed to be the exclusive property of French
and American women.
The young man saw nothing of this and although he appreciated the
beauty of the girl what struck him at that instant was the expression
of anxiety on her face whose apparently temporary pallor was
accentuated by an abundance of dark hair. It seemed to him that she
had resolutely set herself a task which she was most reluctant to
perform. From the moment she entered the door her large dark eyes
were fixed almost appealingly on the cashier and they beheld nothing
else. Drummond mentally slow as he usually was came to the quick
conclusion that this was a supreme moment in her life on which
perhaps great issues depended. He saw her left hand grasp the corner
of the ledge in front of the cashier with a grip of nervous tension
as if the support thus attained was necessary to her. Her right hand
trembled slightly as she passed an oblong slip of paper through the
aperture to the calm and indifferent official.
"Will you give me the money for this check?" she asked in a low voice.
The cashier scrutinized the document for some time in silence. The
signature appeared unfamiliar to him.
"One moment madam" he said quietly and retired to a desk in the
back part of the bank where he opened a huge book turned over some
leaves rapidly and ran his finger down a page. His dilatory action
seemed to increase the young woman's panic. Her pallor increased and
she swayed slightly as if in danger of falling but brought her right
hand to the assistance of the left and so steadied herself against
the ledge of the cashier's counter.
"By Jove!" said the Lieutenant to himself "there's something wrong
here. I wonder what it is. Such a pretty girl too!"
The cashier behind his screen saw nothing of this play of the
emotions. He returned nonchalantly to his station and asked in
"How will you have the money madam?"
"Gold if you please" she replied almost in a whisper a rosy flush
chasing the whiteness from her face while a deep sigh marked the
passing of a crisis.
At this juncture an extraordinary thing happened. The cashier counted
out some golden coins and passed them through the aperture toward
their new owner.
"Thank you" said the girl. Then without touching the money she
turned like one hypnotized her unseeing eyes still taking no heed of
the big Lieutenant and passed rapidly out of the bank The cashier
paid no regard to this abandonment of treasure. He was writing some
hieroglyphics on the cashed check.
"By Jove!" gasped the Lieutenant aloud springing forward as he spoke
sweeping the coins into his hand and bolting for the door. This was
an action which would have awakened the most negligent cashier had he
been in a trance. Automatically he whisked out a revolver which lay in
an open drawer under his hand.
"Stop you scoundrel or I fire!" he shouted but the Lieutenant had
already disappeared. Quick as thought the cashier darted into the
passage and without waiting to unfasten the low door which separated
the public and private rooms of the bank leaped over it and
bareheaded gave chase. A. British naval officer in uniform rapidly
overtaking a young woman quite unconscious of his approach followed
by an excited bareheaded man with a revolver in his grasp was a
sight which would quickly have collected a crowd almost anywhere but
it happened to be the lunch hour and the inhabitants of that famous
summer resort were in-doors; thus fortunately the street was
deserted. The naval officer was there because the hour of the midday
meal on board the cruiser did not coincide with lunch time on shore.
The girl was there because it happened to be the only portion of the
day when she could withdraw unobserved from the house in which she
lived during banking hours to try her little agitating financial
experiment. The cashier was there because the bank had no lunch hour
and because he had just witnessed the most suspicious circumstance
that his constantly alert eye had ever beheld. Calm and imperturbable
as a bank cashier may appear to the outside public he is a man under
constant strain during business hours. Each person with whom he is
unacquainted that confronts him at his post is a possible robber who
at any moment may attempt either by violence or chicanery to filch
the treasure he guards. The happening of any event outside the usual
routine at once arouses a cashier's distrust and this sudden flight
of a stranger with money which did not belong to him quite justified
the perturbation of the cashier. From that point onward innocence of
conduct or explanation so explicit as to satisfy any ordinary man
becomes evidence of more subtle guilt to the mind of a bank official.
The ordinary citizen seeing the Lieutenant finally overtake and
accost the hurrying girl raise his cap then pour into her
outstretched hand the gold he had taken would have known at once that
here was an every-day exercise of natural politeness. Not so the
cashier. The farther he got from the bank the more poignantly did he
realize that these two in front both strangers to him had by their
combined action lured him pistol and all away from his post during
the dullest hour of the day. It was not the decamping with those few
pieces of gold which now troubled him: it was fear of what might be
going on behind him. He was positive that these two had acted in
conjunction. The uniform worn by the man did not impose upon him. Any
thief could easily come by a uniform and as his mind glanced rapidly
backwards over the various points of the scheme he saw how effectual
the plan was: first the incredible remissness of the woman in leaving
her gold on the counter; second the impetuous disappearance of the
man with the money; and third his own heedless plunge into the
street after them. He saw the whole plot in a flash: he had literally
leaped into the trap and during his five or ten minutes' absence the
accomplices of the pair might have overawed the unarmed clerks and
walked off with the treasure. His cash drawer was unlocked and even
the big safe stood wide open. Surprise had as effectually lured him
away as if he had been a country bumpkin. Bitterly and breathlessly
did he curse his own precipitancy. His duty was to guard the bank yet
it had not been the bank that was robbed but at best a careless
woman who had failed to pick up her money. He held the check for it
and the loss if any was hers not the bank's yet here he was
running bareheaded down the street like a fool and now those two
stood quite calmly together he handing her the money and thus
spreading a mantle of innocence over the vile trick. But whatever was
happening in the bank he would secure two of the culprits at least.
The two quite oblivious of the danger that threatened them were
somewhat startled by a panting man trembling with rage bareheaded
and flourishing a deadly weapon sweeping down upon them.
"Come back to the bank instantly you two!" he shouted.
"Why?" asked the Lieutenant in a quiet voice.
"Because I say so for one thing."
"That reason is unanswerable" replied the Lieutenant with a slight
laugh which further exasperated his opponent. "I think you are
exciting yourself unnecessarily. May I beg you to put that pistol in
your pocket? On the cruiser we always cover up the guns when ladies
honor us with their presence. You wish me to return because I had no
authority for taking the money? Right: come along."
The cashier regarded this as bluff and an attempt to give the woman
opportunity to escape.
"You must come back also" he said to the girl.
"I'd rather not" she pleaded in a low voice and it was hardly
possible to have made a more injudicious remark if she had taken the
whole afternoon to prepare.
Renewed determination shone from the face of the cashier.
"You must come back to the bank" he reiterated.
"Oh I say" protested the Lieutenant "you are now exceeding your
authority. I alone am the culprit. The young lady is quite blameless
and you have no right to detain her for a moment."
The girl who had been edging away and showing signs of flight which
the bareheaded man visibly on the alert leaned forward ready to
intercept seemed to make up her mind to bow to the inevitable.
Ignoring the cashier she looked up at the blond Lieutenant with a
slight smile on her pretty lips.
"It was really all my fault at the beginning" she said "and very
stupid of me. I am slightly acquainted with the bank manager and I am
sure he will vouch for me if he is there."
With that she turned and walked briskly toward the bank at so rapid a
pace as to indicate that she did not wish an escort. The bareheaded
official found his anger unaccountably deserting him while a great
fear that he had put his foot in it took its place.
"Really" said the Lieutenant gently as they strode along together
"an official in your position should be a good judge of human nature.
How any sane person especially a young man can look at that
beautiful girl and suspect her of evil passes my comprehension. Do
you know her?"
"No" said the cashier shortly. "Do you?"
The Lieutenant laughed genially.
"Still suspicious eh?" he asked. "No I don't know her but to use a
banking term you may bet your bottom dollar I'm going to. Indeed I
am rather grateful to you for your stubbornness in forcing us to
return. It's a quality I like and you possess it in marvelous
development so I intend to stand by you when the managerial censure
is due. I'm very certain I met your manager at the dinner they gave us
last night. Mr. Morton isn't he?"
"Yes" growled the cashier in gruff despondency.
"Ah that's awfully jolly. One of the finest fellows I've met in ten
years. Now the lady said she was acquainted with him so if I don't
wheedle an introduction out of him it will show that a man at a
dinner and a man in a bank are two different individuals. You were
looking for plots; so there is mine laid bare to you. It's an
introduction not gold I'm conspiring for."
The cashier had nothing further to say. When they entered the bank
together he saw the clerks all busily at work and knew that no
startling event had happened during his absence. The girl had gone
direct to the manager's room and thither the young men followed her.
The bank manager was standing at his desk trying to preserve a severe
financial cast of countenance which the twinkle in his eyes belied.
The girl also standing had evidently been giving him a rapid sketch
of what had occurred but now fell into silence when accuser and
The advent of the Englishman was a godsend to the manager. He was too
courteous a gentleman to laugh in the face of a lady who very
seriously was relating a set of incidents which appealed to his sense
of humor so the coming of the Lieutenant enabled him to switch off
his mirth on another subject and in reply to the officer's cordial
"Good-morning Mr. Morton" he replied:
"Why Lieutenant I'm delighted to see you. That was a very jolly song
you sang for us last night: I'll never forget it. What do you call it?
Whittington Fair?" And he laughed outright as at a genial
The Lieutenant blushed red as a girl and stammered:
"Really Mr. Morton you know that's not according to the rules of
evidence. When a fellow comes up for trial previous convictions are
never allowed to be mentioned till after the sentence. Whiddicomb Fair
should not be held against me in the present crisis."
The manager chuckled gleefully. The cashier when he saw how the land
lay had quietly withdrawn closing the door behind him.
"Well Lieutenant I think I must have this incident cabled to
Europe" said Morton "so the effete nations of your continent may
know that a plain bank cashier isn't afraid to tackle the British
navy. Indeed Mr. Drummond if you read history you will learn that
this is a dangerous coast for your warships. It seems rather
inhospitable that a guest of our town cannot pick all the gold he
wants out of a bank but a cashier has necessarily somewhat narrow
views on the subject. I was just about to apologize to Miss Amhurst
who is a valued client of ours when you came in and I hope Miss
Amhurst"-- he continued gravely turning to the girl-- "that you will
excuse us for the inconvenience to which you have been put."
"Oh it does not matter in the least" replied the young woman with
nevertheless a sigh of relief. "It was all my own fault in so
carelessly leaving the money. Some time when less in a hurry than I
am at the present moment I will tell you how I came to make the
Meanwhile the manager caught and interpreted correctly an imploring
look from the Lieutenant.
"Before you go Miss Amhurst will you permit me to introduce to you
my friend Lieutenant Drummond of H.M.S. 'Consternation.'"
This ritual to convention being performed the expression on the
girl's face showed the renewal of her anxiety to be gone and as she
turned to the door the officer sprang forward and opened it for her.
If the manager expected the young man to return he was disappointed
for Drummond threw over his shoulder the hasty remark:
"I will see you at the Club this evening" whereupon the genial
Morton finding himself deserted sat down in his swivel chair and
laughed quietly to himself.
There was the slightest possible shade of annoyance on the girl's face
as the sailor walked beside her from the door of the manager's room
through the public portion of the bank to the exit and the young man
noticing this became momentarily tongue-tied but nevertheless
persisted with a certain awkward doggedness which was not going to
allow so slight a hint that his further attendance was unnecessary to
baffle him. He did not speak until they had passed down the stone
steps to the pavement and then his utterance began with a
half-embarrassed stammer as if the shadow of displeasure demanded
justification on his part.
"You-- you see Miss Amhurst we have been properly introduced."
For the first time he heard the girl laugh just a little and the
sound was very musical to him.
"The introduction was of the slightest" she said. "I cannot claim
even an acquaintance with Mr. Morton although I did so in the
presence of his persistent subordinate. I have met the manager of the
bank but once before and that for a few moments only when he showed
me where to sign my name in a big book."
"Nevertheless" urged Drummond "I shall defend the validity of that
introduction against all comers. The head of a bank is a most
important man in every country and his commendation is really very
much sought after."
"You appear to possess it. He complimented your singing you know"
and there was a roguish twinkle in the girl's eye as she glanced up
sideways at him while a smile came to her lips as she saw the color
again mount to his cheeks. She had never before met a man who blushed
and she could not help regarding him rather as a big boy than a person
to be taken seriously. His stammer became more pronounced.
"I-- I think you are laughing at me Miss Amhurst and indeed I don't
wonder at it and I-- I am afraid you consider me even more persistent
than the cashier. But I did want to tell you how sorry I am to have
caused you annoyance."
"Oh you have not done so" replied the girl quickly. "As I said
before it was all my own fault in the beginning."
"No I shouldn't have taken the gold. I should have come up with you
and told you that it still awaited you in the bank and now I beg your
permission to walk down the street with you because if any one were
looking at us from these windows and saw us pursued by a bareheaded
man with a revolver they will now on looking out again learn that
it is all right and may even come to regard the revolver and the
hatless one as an optical delusion."
Again the girl laughed.
"I am quite unknown in Bar Harbor having fewer acquaintances than
even a stranger like yourself therefore so far as I am concerned it
does not in the least matter whether any one saw us or not. We shall
walk together then as far as the spot where the cashier overtook us
and this will give me an opportunity of explaining if not of
excusing my leaving the money on the counter. I am sure my conduct
must have appeared inexplicable both to you and the cashier although
of course you would be too polite to say so."
"I assure you Miss Amhurst--"
"I know what you would say" she interrupted with a vivacity which
had not heretofore characterized her "but you see the distance to
the corner is short and as I am in a hurry if you don't wish my
story to be continued in our next--"
"Ah if there is to be a next--" murmured the young man so fervently
that it was now the turn of color to redden her cheeks.
"I am talking heedlessly" she said quickly. "What I want to say is
this: I have never had much money. Quite recently I inherited what had
been accumulated by a relative whom I never knew. It seemed so
incredible so strange-- well it seems incredible and strange yet--
and I have been expecting to wake and find it all a dream. Indeed
when you overtook me at this spot where we now stand I feared you had
come to tell me it was a mistake; to hurl me from the clouds to the
hard earth again."
"But it was just the reverse of that" he cried eagerly. "Just the
reverse remember. I came to confirm your dream and you received from
my hand the first of your fortune."
"Yes" she admitted her eyes fixed on the sidewalk.
"I see how it was" he continued enthusiastically. "I suppose you had
never drawn a check before."
"Never" she conceded.
"And this was merely a test. You set up your dream against the hard
common sense of a bank which has no dreams. You were to transform
your vision into the actual or find it vanish. When the commonplace
cashier passed forth the coin their jingle said to you 'The supposed
phantasy is real' but the gold pieces themselves at that supreme
moment meant no more to you than so many worthless counters so you
turned your back upon them."
She looked up at him her eyes though moist illumined with pleasure
inspired by the sympathy in his tones rather than the import of his
words. The girl's life heretofore had been as scant of kindness as of
cash and there was a deep sincerity in his voice which was as
refreshing to her lonesome heart as it was new to her experience. This
man was not so stupid as he had pretended to be. He had accurately
divined the inner meaning of what had happened. She had forgotten the
necessity for haste which had been so importunate a few minutes
"You must be a mind-reader" she said.
"No I am not at all a clever person" he laughed. "Indeed as I told
you I am always blundering into trouble and making things
uncomfortable for my friends. I regret to say I am rather under a
cloud just now in the service and I have been called upon to endure
the frown of my superiors."
"Why what has happened?" she asked. After their temporary halt at the
corner where they had been overtaken they now strolled along together
like old friends her prohibition out of mind.
"Well you see I was temporarily in command of the cruiser coming
down the Baltic and passing an island rock a few miles away I
thought it would be a good opportunity to test a new gun that had been
put aboard when we left England. The sea was very calm and the rock
most temptsome. Of course I knew it was Russian territory but who
could have imagined that such a point in space was inhabited by
anything else than sea-gulls."
"What!" cried the girl looking up at him with new interest. "You
don't mean to say you are the officer that Russia demanded from
England and England refused to give up?"
"Oh England could not give me up of course but she apologized and
assured Russia she had no evil intent. Still anything that sets the
diplomatists at work is frowned upon and the man who does an act
which his government is forced to disclaim becomes unpopular with his
"I read about it in the papers at the time. Didn't the rock fire back
"Yes it did and no one could have been more surprised than I when I
saw the answering puff of smoke."
"How came a cannon to be there?"
"Nobody knows. I suppose that rock in the Baltic is a concealed fort
with galleries and gun-rooms cut in the stone after the fashion of our
defences at Gibraltar. I told the court-martial that I had added a
valuable bit of information to our naval knowledge but I don't
suppose this contention exercised any influence on the minds of my
judges. I also called their attention to the fact that my shell had
hit while the Russian shot fell half a mile short. That remark nearly
cost me my commission. A court-martial has no sense of humor."
"I suppose everything is satisfactorily settled now?"
"Well hardly that. You see Continental nations are extremely
suspicious of Britain's good intentions as indeed they are of the
good intentions of each other. No government likes to have-- well
what we might call a 'frontier incident' happen and even if a country
is quite in the right it nevertheless looks askance at any official
of its own who through his stupidity brings about an international
complication. As concerns myself I am rather under a cloud as I told
you. The court-martial acquitted me but it did so with reluctance and