Whoever has been in Boston remembers, or has seen, the old Beacon Hill Bank, which stood, not on Beacon Hill, indeed, but in that part of School Street now occupied by the City Hall. You passed down by the dirty old church, on the northeast corner of School and Tremont Streets, which stands trying to hide its ugly face behind a row of columns like sooty fingers, and whose School-Street side is quite bare, and has the distracted aspect peculiar to buildings erected on an inclined plane;—passing this, you came in sight of the bank, a darksome, respectable edifice of brick, two stories and a half high, and gambrel-roofed. It stood a little back from the street, much as an antiquated aristocrat might withdraw from the stream of modern life, and fancy himself exclusive. The poor old bank! Its respectable brick walls have contributed a few rubbish-heaps to the new land in the Back Bay, perhaps; and its floors and gambrel-roof have long since vanished up somebody’s chimney; only its money—its baser part—still survives and circulates. Aristocracy and exclusivism do not pay.
The bank, perhaps, took its title from the fact that it owed its chief support to the Beacon Hill families,—Boston’s aristocracy; and Boston’s standard names appeared upon its list of managers. If business led you that way, you mounted the well-worn steps, and entered the rather strict and formal door, over which clung the weather-worn sign,—faded gold lettering upon a rusty black background. Nothing that met your eyes looked new, although everything was scrupulously neat. Opposite the doorway, a wooden flight of stairs mounted to the next floor, where were the offices of some old Puritan lawyers. Leaving the stairs on your left, you passed down a dusky passage, and through a glass door, when behold! the banking-room, with its four grave bald-headed clerks. But you did not come to draw or deposit, your business was with the President. “Mr. MacGentle in?” “That way, sir.” You opened a door with “Private” painted in black letters upon its ground-glass panel. Another bald-headed gentleman, with a grim determination about the mouth, rose up from his table and barred your way. This was Mr. Dyke, the breakwater against which the waves of would-be intruders into the inner seclusion often broke themselves in vain; and unless you had a genuine pass, your expedition ended there.
Our pass—for we, too, are to call on Mr. MacGentle—would carry us through solider obstructions than Mr. Dyke; it is the pass of imagination. He does not even raise his head as we brush by him.
But, first, let us inquire who Mr. MacGentle is, besides President of the Beacon Hill Bank. He is a man of refinement and cultivation, a scholar and a reader, has travelled, and, it is said, could handle a pen to better purpose than the signing bank-notes. In his earlier years he studied law, and gained a certain degree of distinction in the profession, although (owing, perhaps, to his having entered it with too