Title Thumbnail

Two Christmas Stories: Sam Franklin's Savings-Bank

Hesba Stretton

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
IF any one had told Sam Franklin before he married that he would ever save money out of his wages, he would have laughed the idea to scorn; they had never been more than enough when he had only himself to keep, and when there was a wife into the bargain, what chance would there be for him to have a penny to put by? Yet, before he had been a husband many weeks, he had made the discovery that the wages which had only been enough for one were rather more than enough for two. There were no dinners at the cookshops to be paid for, no long evenings spent in the public-houses, no laundresses’ bills to meet. He had a great deal more comfort with a somewhat smaller outlay. When Sam found half-a-crown in his pocket over and above the sum he allowed his wife for housekeeping and rent, he hardly knew what to do with it. His own fireside was very comfortable, and he did not care to leave it for the tavern. He and his wife were living on the first-floor of a house in a decent, quiet street, mostly occupied by artisans like himself, though the houses were from three to four stories high, and had been built for richer people. They had a sitting-room, with a bedroom behind it, and the use of a back kitchen for cooking and washing; so the place was quite large enough for comfort. Ann Franklin had notions of cleanliness and smartness, which made her take great pride in herself and all her belongings. The parlour, as she liked it to be called, was kept bright and cheerful, and that man must have had a strange idea of comfort who preferred the noise and smoke of a public-house taproom. What, then, was Sam to do with his spare half-crown? It doubled itself into five shillings, and by-and-by a golden half-sovereign lay among the silver and copper he carried loose in his pocket. He was a man of few words—a close man, his comrades called him—and silent as the grave concerning his own affairs. Had he told one of them when he was about to be married? Not his best friend amongst them! Had he mentioned it as a piece of news interesting to himself that he had a son born? Never! He despised men who could not keep a still tongue in their heads, but must prate about all they did or thought. Even with his wife he was sparing of words, though he liked her to tell him everything she did, and keep no secret from him. But then Ann was only a woman; a man should have more control over his tongue. So Sam Franklin did not say a word about his savings, though they seemed to grow like seed sown in good ground. Every week he gave his wife the sum they had first agreed upon, and she made the best of it cheerfully, letting him know how every penny was spent, and sometimes wondering to him how his comrades’ wives managed to be so much smarter than she was. At first he had thoughts of buying her a new bonnet or shawl, but he scarcely liked to own that he had been keeping back the money from her. This difficulty became greater as the sum grew larger; and, besides that, the possession of it began to get a hold upon him. It gave to him a secret consciousness of wealth among his fellow-workmen, which was very pleasant for a time; but by-and-by this feeling passed away, and a strange, unaccountable dread of being poor took possession of him. He began to talk about bad times, and the high prices of provisions and clothing, and the expenses of a family, though his own consisted of his cheery, managing wife, and one boy only. But this change in Sam Franklin was so gradual, that neither himself nor his wife had any idea what was going on. He spent his evenings at home, and went nearly every Sunday to the place of worship which Ann and Johnny constantly attended. Ann was very proud of her tall, fine-looking husband, whose clothes she kept in such good order that he looked, in her eyes at least, quite a gentleman.