Mr Banks had had dreams of walking with giants.
And of carving his niche in the edifice of time. He had felt the thrill of totting up a balanced book, a thousand ciphers in a row. When gazing at a graph that showed the profits up, his little cup of joy had overflowed.
He had ground, ground, ground at that grindstone, a sentence that sounds better in the present tense.
But years of daft lending, stupid investments and the previously unknown fact that the word “banker” derives from an old Irish word meaning “thick as porridge” had all caught up with him. The mortgages he had granted had been on houses of cards, the developers he had funded had been under-developed, the seed capital he had provided had been planted on stony soil, or possibly eaten by the bird-woman’s birds. He had backed a company that sold cranberry-flavoured whiskey, which was unfit for drinking, even by Americans.
He had traded in futures, whatever they are, and they were going to cost him his.
Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank had no money left. Tomorrow morning there would be a run on the bank.
Which was why he now sat in the great marble hallway outside the office in which he would shortly meet his fate.
The door opened, and he was called inside, to be meet the Irish Minister for Finance.
“Ah, Banks,” said the Minister. “We’re going to have to take this very seriously.”
Here we go, thought Mr Banks. “What are you going to do?”
“We’re going to take over your bad loans, guarantee your bank, and repay all of your creditors.”
“The Irish people, of course. A couple with a massive mortgage. A family on the dole. A man with one leg named Smith. People like that.”
“Won’t they object?”
“If they do, they can go fly a kite.”
“And what’s going to happen to me?”
“Well, obviously you’ll have to go. But we won’t sack you, we’ll let you retire, on a massive pension.”
Mr Banks was stunned. Jane and Michael could stay at their private school. Mrs Banks could stay on her endless committees. They wouldn’t have to get rid of their French au-pair, Marie Popin.
“Aren’t you going to punch a hole in my hat?”
“Punch a hole in my bowler hat. It’s the greatest punishment that a banker can face.”
The Minister stared at him, and just for a second Mr Banks could see deep, deep anger in his eyes.
“Is that so?” said the Minister. “Well, that explains an awful lot.”