It was now three o'clock and I thought I might be in time to draw some money on my letter of credit, at the bank which we had found standing in a pleasant garden in the course of our stroll through the town the night before. We had said, How charming it would be to draw money in such an environment; and full of the romantic expectation, I offered my letter at the window, where after a discreet interval I managed to call from their preoccupation some unoccupied persons within. They had not a very financial air, and I thought them the porters they really were, with some fear that I had come after banking-hours. But they joined in reassuring me, and told me that if I would return after five o'clock the proper authorities would be there.
I did not know then what late hours Spain kept in every way; but I concealed my surprise; and I came back at the time suggested, and offered my letter at the window with a request for ten pounds, which I fancied I might need. A clerk took the letter and scrutinized it with a deliberation which I thought it scarcely merited. His self-respect doubtless would not suffer him to betray that he could not read the English of it; and with an air of wishing to consult higher authority he carried it to another clerk at a desk across the room. To this official it seemed to come as something of a blow. Tie made a show of reading it several times over, inside and out, and then from the pigeonhole of his desk he began to accumulate what I supposed corroborative documents, or pieces justificatives. When lie had amassed a heap several inches thick, he rose and hurried out through the gate, across the hall where I sat, into a room beyond. He returned without in any wise referring himself to me and sat down at his desk again. The first clerk explained to the anxious face with which I now approached him that the second clerk had taken my letter to the director. I went back to my seat and waited fifteen minutes longer, fifteen having passed already; then I presented my anxious face, now somewhat indignant, to the first clerk again. "What is the director doing with my letter?" The first clerk referred my question to the second clerk, who answered from his place, "He is verifying the signature." "But what signature?" I wondered to myself, reflecting that he had as yet had none of mine. Could it be the signature of my New York banker or my London one? I repaired once more to the window, after another wait, and said in polite but firm Castilian, "Do me the favor to return me my letter." A commotion of protest took place within the barrier, followed by the repeated explanation that the director was verifying the signature. I returned to toy place and considered that the suspicious document which I had presented bore record of moneys drawn in London, in Paris, in Tours, in San Sebastian, which ought to have allayed all suspicion; then for the last time I repaired to the window; more in anger now than in sorrow, and gathered nay severest Spanish together for a final demand: "Do me the favor to give me back my letter without the pounds sterling." The clerks consulted together; one of them decided to go to the director's room, and after a dignified delay he came back with my letter, and dashed it down before me with the only rudeness I experienced in Spain.
I was glad to get it on any terms; it was only too probable that it would have been returned without the money if I had not demanded it; and I did what I could with the fact that this amusing financial transaction, involving a total of fifty dollars, had taken place in the chief banking-house of one of the commercial and industrial centers of the country. Valladolid is among other works the seat of the locomotive works of the northern railway lines, and as these machines average a speed of twenty-five miles an hour with express trains, it seemed strange to me that something like their rapidity should not have governed the action of that bank director in forcing me to ask back my discredited letter of credit.