WHEREIN IS ONE OF THE MANY PRIVATE PANICS WHICH FOLLOWED THE BURSTING OF THE BUBBLE OF SPECULATION.
Samson and Harry saw the bursting of the great bubble of ’37. Late that night Disaster, loathsome and thousand legged, crept into the little city. It came on a steamer from the East and hastened from home to home, from tavern to tavern. It bit as it traveled. Great banks had suspended payment; New York had suffered a panic; many large business enterprises in the East had failed; certain agents for the bonds of Illinois had absconded with the state’s money; in the big cities there had been an ominous closing of doors and turning of locks; a great army of men were out of employment. Those of sound judgment in Chicago knew that all the grand schemes of the statesmen and speculators of Illinois were as the visions of an ended dream. The local banks did not open their doors next day. The little city was in a frenzy of excitement. The streets were filled with a shouting, half crazed throng. New fortunes had shrunk to nothing and less than nothing in a night. Lots in the city were offered for a tithe of what their market value had been. Davis had known that the storm would arrive with the first steamer and in the slang of business had put on a life-preserver. Samson knew that the time to buy was when every one wanted to sell. He wore a belt with some two thousand dollars of gold coin tucked away in its pockets. He bought two corner lots for himself in the city and two acres for Mrs. Lukins on the prairie half a mile from town. They got their deeds and went to the Kelsos to bid them good-by.
“Is there anything I can do for you?” Samson asked.
“Just give us a friendly thought now and then,” said Kelso.
“You can have my horse or my wallet or the strength of my two hands.”
“I have heard you called a damned Yankee but I can think of no greater blessing than to be damned in a like manner,” Kelso answered. “Keep your largess for those who need it more, good friend.”
After these hearty farewells Samson and Harry set out for their home. They were not again to see the gentle face and hear the pleasant talk of Jack Kelso. He had once said, in the presence of the writer, that it is well to remember, always, that things can not go on with us as they are. Changes come—slowly and quite according to our calculations or so swiftly and Unexpectedly that they fill us with confusion. Learned and wise in the weighty problems of humanity he had little prudence in regulating the affairs of his own family.
Kelso had put every dollar he had and some that he hoped to have into land. Bim, who had been teaching in one of the schools, had invested all her savings in a dream city on the shore of an unconstructed canal.
Like many who had had no experience with such phenomena they underestimated the seriousness of the panic. They thought that, in a week or so, its effect would pass and that Illinois would then resume its triumphal march toward its high destiny. Not even Samson Traylor had a correct notion of the slowness of Time.