Coffee Break Read – The Banker’s Wife

When the youngest son of a minor banking dynasty wanted a wife, the plain-faced and dumpy daughter of a middle-ranking merchant was deemed more than good enough for him.
But. By the time he was forty he was the richest man in the city. 
A subtle campaign begun. Fat old men dropped sugared words in his ears, and fragrant young women breathed adultery in his nostrils. 
None of the city’s merchants and bankers could believe that he might not wish for divorce and a toothsome young bride, so they threw their daughters and sisters into his path like sacrificial lambs. 
He bore it stoically, until he found one young madam pink and naked in his counting house very early one morning. The gentlemanly thing to do would have been to repudiate his wife and children and marry the girl immediately, but he wasn’t a gentleman so he had her wrapped in a horse blanket and escorted back to her father’s house before foreclosing on the mortgages he held on the family’s vineyards and hill farms. 
That put a stop to the most outrageously obvious behaviours but not, sadly, to the ambitions of the owners of young unmarried daughters.
The whispering against his wife began soon after it became obvious nothing else would move the wealthy banker. At first it was subtle enough to be ignored. But when he heard that it said that she had a number of lovers he stormed home in righteous anger. 
He found his wife serenely engaged in her stillroom.
“Why are they doing this to us?”
“Doing what in particular?”
“Blackening your name now..”
His wife smiled her sweet smile and pressed his shoulder.
“Because I’m not good enough for you.”
He swore, before taking her small work roughened hands in his. 
“But don’t they understand that I love you?”
“How would they? Most of them love only money, and position, and showing off to the world. How would they understand the happiness of our home?”
He groaned but had to admit the truth of what she said.
“That is as maybe. But there has to be a way to stop this constant drip, drip, dripping. Before I do something regrettable.”
“I’m sure there is. We just have to think.”
Obscurely comforted the banker went back to his place of business, while his wife carried on bottling cordial and thought very hard.
By the time her husband came home for his supper she had the seed of an idea. When he had finished his food and was sitting by the fire with a stoup of ale in his hand she broached the subject.
“My dear. How many of the noble families in the city owe you money?”
“Without my books I don’t know precisely. But I suspect the answer is all of them. Why do you ask?”
She smiled. A secret folded sort of a smile. “I have been thinking about our little problem. I was wondering how the great and good of this city might react if there was a rumour set abroad that you were considering foreclosing on the mortgages of one or more families as you suspect them of speaking mischief against you…”
He stared at her, then started to laugh. “With extreme fear my love. But how would one set such a rumour afoot?”
“Among the women. I have only to drop a word or two in the ears of one or two of the less discreet of my acquaintance and the thing is done.”
He put his silver tankard down and came to kneel in front of her chair. “Will that be sufficient for them to leave us alone, do you think?”
“It is my hope. But if not we will have to decide who we dislike most and ruin him…”
He threw his head back and laughed delightedly.
“You have the right of it my dearest. You set your rumour about and I will drop hints that I might be acquiring a rather nice country property or two in the near future.”
His wife smiled demurely. “I never fancied a country house. But I wouldn’t mind a bigger garden.”
“If we don’t have to foreclose on anybody I’ll just buy you a house with what you want.” 
“Another child?”
With a roar of delight, the banker dragged his by now laughing wife into his arms. “Come to bed hussy. I must prove myself more manly than your lovers.”
And so he did, and he only had to foreclose on three mortgages before he and his family were left alone to enjoy the finest house in all the city and the happiest of families.

© jane jago 2019

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