Part 1 out of 11
Prepared by Kirk Pearson
by Theodore Dreiser
The Philadelphia into which Frank Algernon Cowperwood was born
was a city of two hundred and fifty thousand and more. It was
set with handsome parks, notable buildings, and crowded with
historic memories. Many of the things that we and he knew later
were not then in existence--the telegraph, telephone, express
company, ocean steamer, city delivery of mails. There were no
postage-stamps or registered letters. The street car had not
arrived. In its place were hosts of omnibuses, and for longer
travel the slowly developing railroad system still largely
connected by canals.
Cowperwood's father was a bank clerk at the time of Frank's birth,
but ten years later, when the boy was already beginning to turn a
very sensible, vigorous eye on the world, Mr. Henry Worthington
Cowperwood, because of the death of the bank's president and the
consequent moving ahead of the other officers, fell heir to the
place vacated by the promoted teller, at the, to him, munificent
salary of thirty-five hundred dollars a year. At once he decided,
as he told his wife joyously, to remove his family from 21
Buttonwood Street to 124 New Market Street, a much better
neighborhood, where there was a nice brick house of three stories
in height as opposed to their present two-storied domicile. There
was the probability that some day they would come into something
even better, but for the present this was sufficient. He was
Henry Worthington Cowperwood was a man who believed only what he
saw and was content to be what he was--a banker, or a prospective
one. He was at this time a significant figure--tall, lean,
inquisitorial, clerkly--with nice, smooth, closely-cropped side
whiskers coming to almost the lower lobes of his ears. His upper
lip was smooth and curiously long, and he had a long, straight
nose and a chin that tended to be pointed. His eyebrows were
bushy, emphasizing vague, grayish-green eyes, and his hair was
short and smooth and nicely parted. He wore a frock-coat always--
it was quite the thing in financial circles in those days--and a
high hat. And he kept his hands and nails immaculately clean.
His manner might have been called severe, though really it was
more cultivated than austere.
Being ambitious to get ahead socially and financially, he was
very careful of whom or with whom he talked. He was as much
afraid of expressing a rabid or unpopular political or social
opinion as he was of being seen with an evil character, though
he had really no opinion of great political significance to
express. He was neither anti- nor pro-slavery, though the air
was stormy with abolition sentiment and its opposition. He
believed sincerely that vast fortunes were to be made out of
railroads if one only had the capital and that curious thing, a
magnetic personality--the ability to win the confidence of others.
He was sure that Andrew Jackson was all wrong in his opposition
to Nicholas Biddle and the United States Bank, one of the great
issues of the day; and he was worried, as he might well be, by the
perfect storm of wildcat money which was floating about and which
was constantly coming to his bank--discounted, of course, and
handed out again to anxious borrowers at a profit. His bank was
the Third National of Philadelphia, located in that center of all
Philadelphia and indeed, at that time, of practically all national
finance--Third Street--and its owners conducted a brokerage
business as a side line. There was a perfect plague of State
banks, great and small, in those days, issuing notes practically
without regulation upon insecure and unknown assets and failing
and suspending with astonishing rapidity; and a knowledge of all
these was an important requirement of Mr. Cowperwood's position.
As a result, he had become the soul of caution. Unfortunately,
for him, he lacked in a great measure the two things that are
necessary for distinction in any field--magnetism and vision. He
was not destined to be a great financier, though he was marked
out to be a moderately successful one.
Mrs. Cowperwood was of a religious temperament--a small woman,
with light-brown hair and clear, brown eyes, who had been very
attractive in her day, but had become rather prim and matter-of-fact
and inclined to take very seriously the maternal care of her three
sons and one daughter. The former, captained by Frank, the eldest,
were a source of considerable annoyance to her, for they were
forever making expeditions to different parts of the city, getting
in with bad boys, probably, and seeing and hearing things they
should neither see nor hear.
Frank Cowperwood, even at ten, was a natural-born leader. At the
day school he attended, and later at the Central High School, he
was looked upon as one whose common sense could unquestionably be
trusted in all cases. He was a sturdy youth, courageous and
defiant. From the very start of his life, he wanted to know about
economics and politics. He cared nothing for books. He was a
clean, stalky, shapely boy, with a bright, clean-cut, incisive
face; large, clear, gray eyes; a wide forehead; short, bristly,
dark-brown hair. He had an incisive, quick-motioned, self-sufficient
manner, and was forever asking questions with a keen desire for an
intelligent reply. He never had an ache or pain, ate his food with
gusto, and ruled his brothers with a rod of iron. "Come on, Joe!"
"Hurry, Ed!" These commands were issued in no rough but always a
sure way, and Joe and Ed came. They looked up to Frank from the
first as a master, and what he had to say was listened to eagerly.
He was forever pondering, pondering--one fact astonishing him quite
as much as another--for he could not figure out how this thing he
had come into--this life--was organized. How did all these people
get into the world? What were they doing here? Who started things,
anyhow? His mother told him the story of Adam and Eve, but he
didn't believe it. There was a fish-market not so very far from
his home, and there, on his way to see his father at the bank, or
conducting his brothers on after-school expeditions, he liked to
look at a certain tank in front of one store where were kept odd
specimens of sea-life brought in by the Delaware Bay fishermen.
He saw once there a sea-horse--just a queer little sea-animal that
looked somewhat like a horse--and another time he saw an electric
eel which Benjamin Franklin's discovery had explained. One day he
saw a squid and a lobster put in the tank, and in connection with
them was witness to a tragedy which stayed with him all his life
and cleared things up considerably intellectually. The lobster,
it appeared from the talk of the idle bystanders, was offered no
food, as the squid was considered his rightful prey. He lay at
the bottom of the clear glass tank on the yellow sand, apparently
seeing nothing--you could not tell in which way his beady, black
buttons of eyes were looking--but apparently they were never off
the body of the squid. The latter, pale and waxy in texture,
looking very much like pork fat or jade, moved about in torpedo
fashion; but his movements were apparently never out of the eyes
of his enemy, for by degrees small portions of his body began to
disappear, snapped off by the relentless claws of his pursuer.
The lobster would leap like a catapult to where the squid was
apparently idly dreaming, and the squid, very alert, would dart
away, shooting out at the same time a cloud of ink, behind which
it would disappear. It was not always completely successful,
however. Small portions of its body or its tail were frequently
left in the claws of the monster below. Fascinated by the drama,
young Cowperwood came daily to watch.
One morning he stood in front of the tank, his nose almost pressed
to the glass. Only a portion of the squid remained, and his
ink-bag was emptier than ever. In the corner of the tank sat the
lobster, poised apparently for action.
The boy stayed as long as he could, the bitter struggle fascinating
him. Now, maybe, or in an hour or a day, the squid might die,
slain by the lobster, and the lobster would eat him. He looked
again at the greenish-copperish engine of destruction in the corner
and wondered when this would be. To-night, maybe. He would come
He returned that night, and lo! the expected had happened. There
was a little crowd around the tank. The lobster was in the corner.
Before him was the squid cut in two and partially devoured.
"He got him at last," observed one bystander. "I was standing
right here an hour ago, and up he leaped and grabbed him. The
squid was too tired. He wasn't quick enough. He did back up, but
that lobster he calculated on his doing that. He's been figuring
on his movements for a long time now. He got him to-day."
Frank only stared. Too bad he had missed this. The least touch
of sorrow for the squid came to him as he stared at it slain.
Then he gazed at the victor.
"That's the way it has to be, I guess," he commented to himself.
"That squid wasn't quick enough." He figured it out.
"The squid couldn't kill the lobster--he had no weapon. The
lobster could kill the squid--he was heavily armed. There was
nothing for the squid to feed on; the lobster had the squid as
prey. What was the result to be? What else could it be? He didn't
have a chance," he concluded finally, as he trotted on homeward.
The incident made a great impression on him. It answered in a
rough way that riddle which had been annoying him so much in the
past: "How is life organized?" Things lived on each other--that
was it. Lobsters lived on squids and other things. What lived
on lobsters? Men, of course! Sure, that was it! And what lived on
men? he asked himself. Was it other men? Wild animals lived on
men. And there were Indians and cannibals. And some men were
killed by storms and accidents. He wasn't so sure about men living
on men; but men did kill each other. How about wars and street
fights and mobs? He had seen a mob once. It attacked the Public
Ledger building as he was coming home from school. His father had
explained why. It was about the slaves. That was it! Sure, men
lived on men. Look at the slaves. They were men. That's what
all this excitement was about these days. Men killing other men--
He went on home quite pleased with himself at his solution.
"Mother!" he exclaimed, as he entered the house, "he finally got
"Got who? What got what?" she inquired in amazement. "Go wash
"Why, that lobster got that squid I was telling you and pa about
the other day."
"Well, that's too bad. What makes you take any interest in such
things? Run, wash your hands."
"Well, you don't often see anything like that. I never did." He
went out in the back yard, where there was a hydrant and a post
with a little table on it, and on that a shining tin-pan and a
bucket of water. Here he washed his face and hands.
"Say, papa," he said to his father, later, "you know that squid?"
"Well, he's dead. The lobster got him."
His father continued reading. "Well, that's too bad," he said,
But for days and weeks Frank thought of this and of the life he
was tossed into, for he was already pondering on what he should
be in this world, and how he should get along. From seeing his
father count money, he was sure that he would like banking; and
Third Street, where his father's office was, seemed to him the
cleanest, most fascinating street in the world.
The growth of young Frank Algernon Cowperwood was through years
of what might be called a comfortable and happy family existence.
Buttonwood Street, where he spent the first ten years of his life,
was a lovely place for a boy to live. It contained mostly small
two and three-story red brick houses, with small white marble steps
leading up to the front door, and thin, white marble trimmings
outlining the front door and windows. There were trees in the
street--plenty of them. The road pavement was of big, round
cobblestones, made bright and clean by the rains; and the sidewalks
were of red brick, and always damp and cool. In the rear was a
yard, with trees and grass and sometimes flowers, for the lots were
almost always one hundred feet deep, and the house-fronts, crowding
close to the pavement in front, left a comfortable space in the
The Cowperwoods, father and mother, were not so lean and narrow
that they could not enter into the natural tendency to be happy and
joyous with their children; and so this family, which increased at
the rate of a child every two or three years after Frank's birth
until there were four children, was quite an interesting affair
when he was ten and they were ready to move into the New Market
Street home. Henry Worthington Cowperwood's connections were
increased as his position grew more responsible, and gradually he
was becoming quite a personage. He already knew a number of the
more prosperous merchants who dealt with his bank, and because as
a clerk his duties necessitated his calling at other banking-houses,
he had come to be familiar with and favorably known in the Bank of
the United States, the Drexels, the Edwards, and others. The
brokers knew him as representing a very sound organization, and
while he was not considered brilliant mentally, he was known as a
most reliable and trustworthy individual.
In this progress of his father young Cowperwood definitely shared.
He was quite often allowed to come to the bank on Saturdays, when
he would watch with great interest the deft exchange of bills at
the brokerage end of the business. He wanted to know where all the
types of money came from, why discounts were demanded and received,
what the men did with all the money they received. His father,
pleased at his interest, was glad to explain so that even at this
early age--from ten to fifteen--the boy gained a wide knowledge of
the condition of the country financially--what a State bank was
and what a national one; what brokers did; what stocks were, and
why they fluctuated in value. He began to see clearly what was
meant by money as a medium of exchange, and how all values were
calculated according to one primary value, that of gold. He was
a financier by instinct, and all the knowledge that pertained to
that great art was as natural to him as the emotions and subtleties
of life are to a poet. This medium of exchange, gold, interested
him intensely. When his father explained to him how it was mined,
he dreamed that he owned a gold mine and waked to wish that he did.
He was likewise curious about stocks and bonds and he learned that
some stocks and bonds were not worth the paper they were written
on, and that others were worth much more than their face value
"There, my son," said his father to him one day, "you won't often
see a bundle of those around this neighborhood." He referred to
a series of shares in the British East India Company, deposited
as collateral at two-thirds of their face value for a loan of one
hundred thousand dollars. A Philadelphia magnate had hypothecated
them for the use of the ready cash. Young Cowperwood looked at
them curiously. "They don't look like much, do they?" he commented.
"They are worth just four times their face value," said his father,
Frank reexamined them. "The British East India Company," he read.
"Ten pounds--that's pretty near fifty dollars."
"Forty-eight, thirty-five," commented his father, dryly. "Well,
if we had a bundle of those we wouldn't need to work very hard.
You'll notice there are scarcely any pin-marks on them. They
aren't sent around very much. I don't suppose these have ever
been used as collateral before."
Young Cowperwood gave them back after a time, but not without a
keen sense of the vast ramifications of finance. What was the
East India Company? What did it do? His father told him.
At home also he listened to considerable talk of financial
investment and adventure. He heard, for one thing, of a curious
character by the name of Steemberger, a great beef speculator
from Virginia, who was attracted to Philadelphia in those days by
the hope of large and easy credits. Steemberger, so his father
said, was close to Nicholas Biddle, Lardner, and others of the
United States Bank, or at least friendly with them, and seemed to
be able to obtain from that organization nearly all that he asked
for. His operations in the purchase of cattle in Virginia, Ohio,
and other States were vast, amounting, in fact, to an entire
monopoly of the business of supplying beef to Eastern cities. He
was a big man, enormous, with a face, his father said, something
like that of a pig; and he wore a high beaver hat and a long
frock-coat which hung loosely about his big chest and stomach.
He had managed to force the price of beef up to thirty cents a
pound, causing all the retailers and consumers to rebel, and this
was what made him so conspicuous. He used to come to the brokerage
end of the elder Cowperwood's bank, with as much as one hundred
thousand or two hundred thousand dollars, in twelve months--
post-notes of the United States Bank in denominations of one
thousand, five thousand, and ten thousand dollars. These he would
cash at from ten to twelve per cent. under their face value, having
previously given the United States Bank his own note at four months
for the entire amount. He would take his pay from the Third
National brokerage counter in packages of Virginia, Ohio, and
western Pennsylvania bank-notes at par, because he made his
disbursements principally in those States. The Third National
would in the first place realize a profit of from four to five per
cent. on the original transaction; and as it took the Western
bank-notes at a discount, it also made a profit on those.
There was another man his father talked about--one Francis J.
Grund, a famous newspaper correspondent and lobbyist at Washington,
who possessed the faculty of unearthing secrets of every kind,
especially those relating to financial legislation. The secrets
of the President and the Cabinet, as well as of the Senate and the
House of Representatives, seemed to be open to him. Grund had been
about, years before, purchasing through one or two brokers large
amounts of the various kinds of Texas debt certificates and bonds.
The Republic of Texas, in its struggle for independence from Mexico,
had issued bonds and certificates in great variety, amounting in
value to ten or fifteen million dollars. Later, in connection
with the scheme to make Texas a State of the Union, a bill was
passed providing a contribution on the part of the United States
of five million dollars, to be applied to the extinguishment of
this old debt. Grund knew of this, and also of the fact that some
of this debt, owing to the peculiar conditions of issue, was to be
paid in full, while other portions were to be scaled down, and
there was to be a false or pre-arranged failure to pass the bill
at one session in order to frighten off the outsiders who might
have heard and begun to buy the old certificates for profit. He
acquainted the Third National Bank with this fact, and of course
the information came to Cowperwood as teller. He told his wife
about it, and so his son, in this roundabout way, heard it, and
his clear, big eyes glistened. He wondered why his father did not
take advantage of the situation and buy some Texas certificates for
himself. Grund, so his father said, and possibly three or four
others, had made over a hundred thousand dollars apiece. It wasn't
exactly legitimate, he seemed to think, and yet it was, too. Why
shouldn't such inside information be rewarded? Somehow, Frank
realized that his father was too honest, too cautious, but when he
grew up, he told himself, he was going to be a broker, or a
financier, or a banker, and do some of these things.
Just at this time there came to the Cowperwoods an uncle who had
not previously appeared in the life of the family. He was a
brother of Mrs. Cowperwood's--Seneca Davis by name--solid,
unctuous, five feet ten in height, with a big, round body, a
round, smooth head rather bald, a clear, ruddy complexion, blue
eyes, and what little hair he had of a sandy hue. He was
exceedingly well dressed according to standards prevailing in
those days, indulging in flowered waistcoats, long, light-colored
frock-coats, and the invariable (for a fairly prosperous man) high
hat. Frank was fascinated by him at once. He had been a planter
in Cuba and still owned a big ranch there and could tell him tales
of Cuban life--rebellions, ambuscades, hand-to-hand fighting with
machetes on his own plantation, and things of that sort. He
brought with him a collection of Indian curies, to say nothing of
an independent fortune and several slaves--one, named Manuel, a
tall, raw-boned black, was his constant attendant, a bodyservant,
as it were. He shipped raw sugar from his plantation in boat-loads
to the Southwark wharves in Philadelphia. Frank liked him because
he took life in a hearty, jovial way, rather rough and offhand for
this somewhat quiet and reserved household.
"Why, Nancy Arabella," he said to Mrs Cowperwood on arriving one
Sunday afternoon, and throwing the household into joyous astonishment
at his unexpected and unheralded appearance, "you haven't grown an
inch! I thought when you married old brother Hy here that you were
going to fatten up like your brother. But look at you! I swear to
Heaven you don't weigh five pounds." And he jounced her up and
down by the waist, much to the perturbation of the children, who
had never before seen their mother so familiarly handled.
Henry Cowperwood was exceedingly interested in and pleased at the
arrival of this rather prosperous relative; for twelve years
before, when he was married, Seneca Davis had not taken much notice
"Look at these little putty-faced Philadelphians," he continued,
"They ought to come down to my ranch in Cuba and get tanned up.
That would take away this waxy look." And he pinched the cheek
of Anna Adelaide, now five years old. "I tell you, Henry, you
have a rather nice place here." And he looked at the main room
of the rather conventional three-story house with a critical eye.
Measuring twenty by twenty-four and finished in imitation cherry,
with a set of new Sheraton parlor furniture it presented a
quaintly harmonious aspect. Since Henry had become teller the
family had acquired a piano--a decided luxury in those days--
brought from Europe; and it was intended that Anna Adelaide, when
she was old enough, should learn to play. There were a few
uncommon ornaments in the room--a gas chandelier for one thing, a
glass bowl with goldfish in it, some rare and highly polished
shells, and a marble Cupid bearing a basket of flowers. It was
summer time, the windows were open, and the trees outside, with
their widely extended green branches, were pleasantly visible
shading the brick sidewalk. Uncle Seneca strolled out into the
"Well, this is pleasant enough," he observed, noting a large elm
and seeing that the yard was partially paved with brick and
enclosed within brick walls, up the sides of which vines were
climbing. "Where's your hammock? Don't you string a hammock here
in summer? Down on my veranda at San Pedro I have six or seven."
"We hadn't thought of putting one up because of the neighbors,
but it would be nice," agreed Mrs. Cowperwood. "Henry will have
to get one."
"I have two or three in my trunks over at the hotel. My niggers
make 'em down there. I'll send Manuel over with them in the
He plucked at the vines, tweaked Edward's ear, told Joseph, the
second boy, he would bring him an Indian tomahawk, and went back
into the house.
"This is the lad that interests me," he said, after a time, laying
a hand on the shoulder of Frank. "What did you name him in full,
"Well, you might have named him after me. There's something to
this boy. How would you like to come down to Cuba and be a planter,
"I'm not so sure that I'd like to," replied the eldest.
"Well, that's straight-spoken. What have you against it?"
"Nothing, except that I don't know anything about it."
"What do you know?"
The boy smiled wisely. "Not very much, I guess."
"Well, what are you interested in?"
"Aha! What's bred in the bone, eh? Get something of that from
your father, eh? Well, that's a good trait. And spoken like a
man, too! We'll hear more about that later. Nancy, you're
breeding a financier here, I think. He talks like one."
He looked at Frank carefully now. There was real force in that
sturdy young body--no doubt of it. Those large, clear gray eyes
were full of intelligence. They indicated much and revealed
"A smart boy!" he said to Henry, his brother-in-law. "I like
his get-up. You have a bright family."
Henry Cowperwood smiled dryly. This man, if he liked Frank,
might do much for the boy. He might eventually leave him some of
his fortune. He was wealthy and single.
Uncle Seneca became a frequent visitor to the house--he and his
negro body-guard, Manuel, who spoke both English and Spanish,
much to the astonishment of the children; and he took an increasing
interest in Frank.
"When that boy gets old enough to find out what he wants to do, I
think I'll help him to do it," he observed to his sister one day;
and she told him she was very grateful. He talked to Frank about
his studies, and found that he cared little for books or most of
the study he was compelled to pursue. Grammar was an abomination.
Literature silly. Latin was of no use. History--well, it was
"I like bookkeeping and arithmetic," he observed. "I want to get
out and get to work, though. That's what I want to do."
"You're pretty young, my son," observed his uncle. "You're only how
old now? Fourteen?"
"Well, you can't leave school much before sixteen. You'll do
better if you stay until seventeen or eighteen. It can't do you
any harm. You won't be a boy again."
"I don't want to be a boy. I want to get to work."
"Don't go too fast, son. You'll be a man soon enough. You want
to be a banker, do you?"
"Well, when the time comes, if everything is all right and you've
behaved yourself and you still want to, I'll help you get a start
in business. If I were you and were going to be a banker, I'd
first spend a year or so in some good grain and commission house.
There's good training to be had there. You'll learn a lot that
you ought to know. And, meantime, keep your health and learn all
you can. Wherever I am, you let me know, and I'll write and find
out how you've been conducting yourself."
He gave the boy a ten-dollar gold piece with which to start a
bank-account. And, not strange to say, he liked the whole
Cowperwood household much better for this dynamic, self-sufficient,
sterling youth who was an integral part of it.
It was in his thirteenth year that young Cowperwood entered into
his first business venture. Walking along Front Street one day,
a street of importing and wholesale establishments, he saw an
auctioneer's flag hanging out before a wholesale grocery and from
the interior came the auctioneer's voice: "What am I bid for this
exceptional lot of Java coffee, twenty-two bags all told, which
is now selling in the market for seven dollars and thirty-two
cents a bag wholesale? What am I bid? What am I bid? The whole
lot must go as one. What am I bid?"
"Eighteen dollars," suggested a trader standing near the door,
more to start the bidding than anything else. Frank paused.
"Twenty-two!" called another.
"Thirty!" a third. "Thirty-five!" a fourth, and so up to
seventy-five, less than half of what it was worth.
"I'm bid seventy-five! I'm bid seventy-five!" called the auctioneer,
loudly. "Any other offers? Going once at seventy-five; am I offered
eighty? Going twice at seventy-five, and"--he paused, one hand
raised dramatically. Then he brought it down with a slap in the
palm of the other--"sold to Mr. Silas Gregory for seventy-five.
Make a note of that, Jerry," he called to his red-haired,
freckle-faced clerk beside him. Then he turned to another lot
of grocery staples--this time starch, eleven barrels of it.
Young Cowperwood was making a rapid calculation. If, as the
auctioneer said, coffee was worth seven dollars and thirty-two
cents a bag in the open market, and this buyer was getting this
coffee for seventy-five dollars, he was making then and there
eighty-six dollars and four cents, to say nothing of what his
profit would be if he sold it at retail. As he recalled, his
mother was paying twenty-eight cents a pound. He drew nearer,
his books tucked under his arm, and watched these operations
closely. The starch, as he soon heard, was valued at ten dollars
a barrel, and it only brought six. Some kegs of vinegar were
knocked down at one-third their value, and so on. He began to
wish he could bid; but he had no money, just a little pocket
change. The auctioneer noticed him standing almost directly
under his nose, and was impressed with the stolidity--solidity--of
the boy's expression.
"I am going to offer you now a fine lot of Castile soap--seven
cases, no less--which, as you know, if you know anything about
soap, is now selling at fourteen cents a bar. This soap is worth
anywhere at this moment eleven dollars and seventy-five cents a
case. What am I bid? What am I bid? What am I bid?" He was talking
fast in the usual style of auctioneers, with much unnecessary
emphasis; but Cowperwood was not unduly impressed. He was already
rapidly calculating for himself. Seven cases at eleven dollars
and seventy-five cents would be worth just eighty-two dollars and
twenty-five cents; and if it went at half--if it went at half--
"Twelve dollars," commented one bidder.
"Fifteen," bid another.
"Twenty," called a third.
"Twenty-five," a fourth.
Then it came to dollar raises, for Castile soap was not such a
vital commodity. "Twenty-six." "Twenty-seven." "Twenty-eight."
"Twenty-nine." There was a pause. "Thirty," observed young
The auctioneer, a short lean faced, spare man with bushy hair and
an incisive eye, looked at him curiously and almost incredulously
but without pausing. He had, somehow, in spite of himself, been
impressed by the boy's peculiar eye; and now he felt, without
knowing why, that the offer was probably legitimate enough, and
that the boy had the money. He might be the son of a grocer.
"I'm bid thirty! I'm bid thirty! I'm bid thirty for this fine lot
of Castile soap. It's a fine lot. It's worth fourteen cents a
bar. Will any one bid thirty-one? Will any one bid thirty-one?
Will any one bid thirty-one?"
"Thirty-one," said a voice.
"Thirty-two," replied Cowperwood. The same process was repeated.
"I'm bid thirty-two! I'm bid thirty-two! I'm bid thirty-two! Will
anybody bid thirty-three? It's fine soap. Seven cases of fine
Castile soap. Will anybody bid thirty-three?"
Young Cowperwood's mind was working. He had no money with him;
but his father was teller of the Third National Bank, and he could
quote him as reference. He could sell all of his soap to the family
grocer, surely; or, if not, to other grocers. Other people were
anxious to get this soap at this price. Why not he?
The auctioneer paused.
"Thirty-two once! Am I bid thirty-three? Thirty-two twice! Am I bid
thirty-three? Thirty-two three times! Seven fine cases of soap.
Am I bid anything more?" Once, twice! Three times! Am I bid anything
more?"--his hand was up again--"and sold to Mr.--?" He leaned over
and looked curiously into the face of his young bidder.
"Frank Cowperwood, son of the teller of the Third National Bank,"
replied the boy, decisively.
"Oh, yes," said the man, fixed by his glance.
"Will you wait while I run up to the bank and get the money?"
"Yes. Don't be gone long. If you're not here in an hour I'll
sell it again."
Young Cowperwood made no reply. He hurried out and ran fast; first,
to his mother's grocer, whose store was within a block of his home.
Thirty feet from the door he slowed up, put on a nonchalant air,
and strolling in, looked about for Castile soap. There it was,
the same kind, displayed in a box and looking just as his soap
"How much is this a bar, Mr. Dalrymple?" he inquired.
"Sixteen cents," replied that worthy.
"If I could sell you seven boxes for sixty-two dollars just like
this, would you take them?"
"The same soap?"
Mr. Dalrymple calculated a moment.
"Yes, I think I would," he replied, cautiously.
"Would you pay me to-day?"
"I'd give you my note for it. Where is the soap?"
He was perplexed and somewhat astonished by this unexpected
proposition on the part of his neighbor's son. He knew Mr.
Cowperwood well--and Frank also.
"Will you take it if I bring it to you to-day?"
"Yes, I will," he replied. "Are you going into the soap business?"
"No. But I know where I can get some of that soap cheap."
He hurried out again and ran to his father's bank. It was after
banking hours; but he knew how to get in, and he knew that his
father would be glad to see him make thirty dollars. He only
wanted to borrow the money for a day.
"What's the trouble, Frank?" asked his father, looking up from his
desk when he appeared, breathless and red faced.
"I want you to loan me thirty-two dollars! Will you?"
"Why, yes, I might. What do you want to do with it?"
"I want to buy some soap--seven boxes of Castile soap. I know
where I can get it and sell it. Mr. Dalrymple will take it. He's
already offered me sixty-two for it. I can get it for thirty-two.
Will you let me have the money? I've got to run back and pay the
His father smiled. This was the most business-like attitude he
had seen his son manifest. He was so keen, so alert for a boy of
"Why, Frank," he said, going over to a drawer where some bills were,
"are you going to become a financier already? You're sure you're
not going to lose on this? You know what you're doing, do you?"
"You let me have the money, father, will you?" he pleaded. "I'll
show you in a little bit. Just let me have it. You can trust me."
He was like a young hound on the scent of game. His father could
not resist his appeal.
"Why, certainly, Frank," he replied. "I'll trust you." And he
counted out six five-dollar certificates of the Third National's
own issue and two ones. "There you are."
Frank ran out of the building with a briefly spoken thanks and
returned to the auction room as fast as his legs would carry him.
When he came in, sugar was being auctioned. He made his way to
the auctioneer's clerk.
"I want to pay for that soap," he suggested.
"Yes. Will you give me a receipt?"
"Do you deliver this?"
"No. No delivery. You have to take it away in twenty-four hours."
That difficulty did not trouble him.
"All right," he said, and pocketed his paper testimony of purchase.
The auctioneer watched him as he went out. In half an hour he was
back with a drayman--an idle levee-wharf hanger-on who was waiting
for a job.
Frank had bargained with him to deliver the soap for sixty cents.
In still another half-hour he was before the door of the astonished
Mr. Dalrymple whom he had come out and look at the boxes before
attempting to remove them. His plan was to have them carried on
to his own home if the operation for any reason failed to go
through. Though it was his first great venture, he was cool as
"Yes," said Mr. Dalrymple, scratching his gray head reflectively.
"Yes, that's the same soap. I'll take it. I'll be as good as my
word. Where'd you get it, Frank?"
"At Bixom's auction up here," he replied, frankly and blandly.
Mr. Dalrymple had the drayman bring in the soap; and after some
formality--because the agent in this case was a boy--made out his
note at thirty days and gave it to him.
Frank thanked him and pocketed the note. He decided to go back
to his father's bank and discount it, as he had seen others doing,
thereby paying his father back and getting his own profit in ready
money. It couldn't be done ordinarily on any day after business
hours; but his father would make an exception in his case.
He hurried back, whistling; and his father glanced up smiling when
he came in.
"Well, Frank, how'd you make out?" he asked.
"Here's a note at thirty days," he said, producing the paper
Dalrymple had given him. "Do you want to discount that for me? You
can take your thirty-two out of that."
His father examined it closely. "Sixty-two dollars!" he observed.
"Mr. Dalrymple! That's good paper! Yes, I can. It will cost you
ten per cent.," he added, jestingly. "Why don't you just hold it,
though? I'll let you have the thirty-two dollars until the end of
"Oh, no," said his son, "you discount it and take your money. I
may want mine."
His father smiled at his business-like air. "All right," he said.
"I'll fix it to-morrow. Tell me just how you did this." And his
son told him.
At seven o'clock that evening Frank's mother heard about it, and
in due time Uncle Seneca.
"What'd I tell you, Cowperwood?" he asked. "He has stuff in him,
that youngster. Look out for him."
Mrs. Cowperwood looked at her boy curiously at dinner. Was this
the son she had nursed at her bosom not so very long before? Surely
he was developing rapidly.
"Well, Frank, I hope you can do that often," she said.
"I hope so, too, ma," was his rather noncommittal reply.
Auction sales were not to be discovered every day, however, and
his home grocer was only open to one such transaction in a
reasonable period of time, but from the very first young Cowperwood
knew how to make money. He took subscriptions for a boys' paper;
handled the agency for the sale of a new kind of ice-skate, and
once organized a band of neighborhood youths into a union for the
purpose of purchasing their summer straw hats at wholesale. It
was not his idea that he could get rich by saving. From the first
he had the notion that liberal spending was better, and that
somehow he would get along.
It was in this year, or a little earlier, that he began to take
an interest in girls. He had from the first a keen eye for the
beautiful among them; and, being good-looking and magnetic himself,
it was not difficult for him to attract the sympathetic interest
of those in whom he was interested. A twelve-year old girl,
Patience Barlow, who lived further up the street, was the first
to attract his attention or be attracted by him. Black hair and
snapping black eyes were her portion, with pretty pigtails down
her back, and dainty feet and ankles to match a dainty figure.
She was a Quakeress, the daughter of Quaker parents, wearing a
demure little bonnet. Her disposition, however, was vivacious,
and she liked this self-reliant, self-sufficient, straight-spoken
boy. One day, after an exchange of glances from time to time, he
said, with a smile and the courage that was innate in him: "You
live up my way, don't you?"
"Yes," she replied, a little flustered--this last manifested in a
nervous swinging of her school-bag--"I live at number one-forty-one."
"I know the house," he said. "I've seen you go in there. You go
to the same school my sister does, don't you? Aren't you Patience
Barlow?" He had heard some of the boys speak her name. "Yes. How
do you know?"
"Oh, I've heard," he smiled. "I've seen you. Do you like licorice?"
He fished in his coat and pulled out some fresh sticks that were
sold at the time.
"Thank you," she said, sweetly, taking one.
"It isn't very good. I've been carrying it a long time. I had some
taffy the other day."
"Oh, it's all right," she replied, chewing the end of hers.
"Don't you know my sister, Anna Cowperwood?" he recurred, by way
of self-introduction. "She's in a lower grade than you are, but I
thought maybe you might have seen her."
"I think I know who she is. I've seen her coming home from school."
"I live right over there," he confided, pointing to his own home
as he drew near to it, as if she didn't know. "I'll see you around
here now, I guess."
"Do you know Ruth Merriam?" she asked, when he was about ready to
turn off into the cobblestone road to reach his own door.
"She's giving a party next Tuesday," she volunteered, seemingly
pointlessly, but only seemingly.
"Where does she live?"
"There in twenty-eight."
"I'd like to go," he affirmed, warmly, as he swung away from her.
"Maybe she'll ask you," she called back, growing more courageous
as the distance between them widened. "I'll ask her."
"Thanks," he smiled.
And she began to run gayly onward.
He looked after her with a smiling face. She was very pretty.
He felt a keen desire to kiss her, and what might transpire at
Ruth Merriam's party rose vividly before his eyes.
This was just one of the early love affairs, or puppy loves, that
held his mind from time to time in the mixture of after events.
Patience Barlow was kissed by him in secret ways many times before
he found another girl. She and others of the street ran out to
play in the snow of a winter's night, or lingered after dusk before
her own door when the days grew dark early. It was so easy to catch
and kiss her then, and to talk to her foolishly at parties. Then
came Dora Fitler, when he was sixteen years old and she was fourteen;
and Marjorie Stafford, when he was seventeen and she was fifteen.
Dora Fitter was a brunette, and Marjorie Stafford was as fair as
the morning, with bright-red cheeks, bluish-gray eyes, and flaxen
hair, and as plump as a partridge.
It was at seventeen that he decided to leave school. He had not
graduated. He had only finished the third year in high school;
but he had had enough. Ever since his thirteenth year his mind
had been on finance; that is, in the form in which he saw it
manifested in Third Street. There had been odd things which he
had been able to do to earn a little money now and then. His
Uncle Seneca had allowed him to act as assistant weigher at the
sugar-docks in Southwark, where three-hundred-pound bags were
weighed into the government bonded warehouses under the eyes of
United States inspectors. In certain emergencies he was called
to assist his father, and was paid for it. He even made an
arrangement with Mr. Dalrymple to assist him on Saturdays; but
when his father became cashier of his bank, receiving an income
of four thousand dollars a year, shortly after Frank had reached
his fifteenth year, it was self-evident that Frank could no longer
continue in such lowly employment.
Just at this time his Uncle Seneca, again back in Philadelphia
and stouter and more domineering than ever, said to him one day:
"Now, Frank, if you're ready for it, I think I know where there's
a good opening for you. There won't be any salary in it for the
first year, but if you mind your p's and q's, they'll probably
give you something as a gift at the end of that time. Do you know
of Henry Waterman & Company down in Second Street?"
"I've seen their place."
"Well, they tell me they might make a place for you as a bookkeeper.
They're brokers in a way--grain and commission men. You say you
want to get in that line. When school's out, you go down and see
Mr. Waterman--tell him I sent you, and he'll make a place for you,
I think. Let me know how you come out."
Uncle Seneca was married now, having, because of his wealth,
attracted the attention of a poor but ambitious Philadelphia
society matron; and because of this the general connections of
the Cowperwoods were considered vastly improved. Henry Cowperwood
was planning to move with his family rather far out on North Front
Street, which commanded at that time a beautiful view of the river
and was witnessing the construction of some charming dwellings.
His four thousand dollars a year in these pre-Civil-War times was
considerable. He was making what he considered judicious and
conservative investments and because of his cautious, conservative,
clock-like conduct it was thought he might reasonably expect some
day to be vice-president and possibly president, of his bank.
This offer of Uncle Seneca to get him in with Waterman & Company
seemed to Frank just the thing to start him off right. So he
reported to that organization at 74 South Second Street one day
in June, and was cordially received by Mr. Henry Waterman, Sr.
There was, he soon learned, a Henry Waterman, Jr., a young man of
twenty-five, and a George Waterman, a brother, aged fifty, who
was the confidential inside man. Henry Waterman, Sr., a man of
fifty-five years of age, was the general head of the organization,
inside and out--traveling about the nearby territory to see
customers when that was necessary, coming into final counsel in
cases where his brother could not adjust matters, suggesting and
advising new ventures which his associates and hirelings carried
out. He was, to look at, a phlegmatic type of man--short, stout,
wrinkled about the eyes, rather protuberant as to stomach,
red-necked, red-faced, the least bit popeyed, but shrewd, kindly,
good-natured, and witty. He had, because of his naturally
common-sense ideas and rather pleasing disposition built up a
sound and successful business here. He was getting strong in
years and would gladly have welcomed the hearty cooperation of his
son, if the latter had been entirely suited to the business.
He was not, however. Not as democratic, as quick-witted, or as
pleased with the work in hand as was his father, the business
actually offended him. And if the trade had been left to his
care, it would have rapidly disappeared. His father foresaw this,
was grieved, and was hoping some young man would eventually appear
who would be interested in the business, handle it in the same
spirit in which it had been handled, and who would not crowd his
Then came young Cowperwood, spoken of to him by Seneca Davis. He
looked him over critically. Yes, this boy might do, he thought.
There was something easy and sufficient about him. He did not
appear to be in the least flustered or disturbed. He knew how to
keep books, he said, though he knew nothing of the details of the
grain and commission business. It was interesting to him. He
would like to try it.
"I like that fellow," Henry Waterman confided to his brother the
moment Frank had gone with instructions to report the following
morning. "There's something to him. He's the cleanest, briskest,
most alive thing that's walked in here in many a day."
"Yes," said George, a much leaner and slightly taller man, with
dark, blurry, reflective eyes and a thin, largely vanished growth
of brownish-black hair which contrasted strangely with the egg-shaped
whiteness of his bald head. "Yes, he's a nice young man. It's a
wonder his father don't take him in his bank."
"Well, he may not be able to," said his brother. "He's only the
"Well, we'll give him a trial. I bet anything he makes good. He's
a likely-looking youth."
Henry got up and walked out into the main entrance looking into
Second Street. The cool cobble pavements, shaded from the eastern
sun by the wall of buildings on the east--of which his was a part--
the noisy trucks and drays, the busy crowds hurrying to and fro,
pleased him. He looked at the buildings over the way--all three
and four stories, and largely of gray stone and crowded with life--
and thanked his stars that he had originally located in so prosperous
a neighborhood. If he had only brought more property at the time he
"I wish that Cowperwood boy would turn out to be the kind of man
I want," he observed to himself, meditatively. "He could save me a
lot of running these days."
Curiously, after only three or four minutes of conversation with the
boy, he sensed this marked quality of efficiency. Something told
him he would do well.
The appearance of Frank Cowperwood at this time was, to say the
least, prepossessing and satisfactory. Nature had destined him
to be about five feet ten inches tall. His head was large, shapely,
notably commercial in aspect, thickly covered with crisp, dark-brown
hair and fixed on a pair of square shoulders and a stocky body.
Already his eyes had the look that subtle years of thought bring.
They were inscrutable. You could tell nothing by his eyes. He
walked with a light, confident, springy step. Life had given him
no severe shocks nor rude awakenings. He had not been compelled
to suffer illness or pain or deprivation of any kind. He saw
people richer than himself, but he hoped to be rich. His family
was respected, his father well placed. He owed no man anything.
Once he had let a small note of his become overdue at the bank,
but his father raised such a row that he never forgot it. "I
would rather crawl on my hands and knees than let my paper go to
protest," the old gentleman observed; and this fixed in his mind
what scarcely needed to be so sharply emphasized--the significance
of credit. No paper of his ever went to protest or became overdue
after that through any negligence of his.
He turned out to be the most efficient clerk that the house of
Waterman & Co. had ever known. They put him on the books at
first as assistant bookkeeper, vice Mr. Thomas Trixler, dismissed,
and in two weeks George said: "Why don't we make Cowperwood head
bookkeeper? He knows more in a minute than that fellow Sampson
will ever know."
"All right, make the transfer, George, but don't fuss so. "He
won't be a bookkeeper long, though. I want to see if he can't
handle some of these transfers for me after a bit."
The books of Messrs. Waterman & Co., though fairly complicated,
were child's play to Frank. He went through them with an ease
and rapidity which surprised his erstwhile superior, Mr. Sampson.
"Why, that fellow," Sampson told another clerk on the first day
he had seen Cowperwood work, "he's too brisk. He's going to make
a bad break. I know that kind. Wait a little bit until we get
one of those rush credit and transfer days." But the bad break Mr.
Sampson anticipated did not materialize. In less than a week
Cowperwood knew the financial condition of the Messrs. Waterman as
well as they did--better--to a dollar. He knew how their accounts
were distributed; from what section they drew the most business;
who sent poor produce and good--the varying prices for a year told
that. To satisfy himself he ran back over certain accounts in the
ledger, verifying his suspicions. Bookkeeping did not interest
him except as a record, a demonstration of a firm's life. He knew
he would not do this long. Something else would happen; but he
saw instantly what the grain and commission business was--every
detail of it. He saw where, for want of greater activity in
offering the goods consigned--quicker communication with shippers
and buyers, a better working agreement with surrounding commission
men--this house, or, rather, its customers, for it had nothing,
endured severe losses. A man would ship a tow-boat or a car-load
of fruit or vegetables against a supposedly rising or stable
market; but if ten other men did the same thing at the same time,
or other commission men were flooded with fruit or vegetables,
and there was no way of disposing of them within a reasonable
time, the price had to fall. Every day was bringing its special
consignments. It instantly occurred to him that he would be of
much more use to the house as an outside man disposing of heavy
shipments, but he hesitated to say anything so soon. More than
likely, things would adjust themselves shortly.
The Watermans, Henry and George, were greatly pleased with the
way he handled their accounts. There was a sense of security in
his very presence. He soon began to call Brother George's
attention to the condition of certain accounts, making suggestions
as to their possible liquidation or discontinuance, which pleased
that individual greatly. He saw a way of lightening his own labors
through the intelligence of this youth; while at the same time
developing a sense of pleasant companionship with him.
Brother Henry was for trying him on the outside. It was not always
possible to fill the orders with the stock on hand, and somebody
had to go into the street or the Exchange to buy and usually he
did this. One morning, when way-bills indicated a probable glut
of flour and a shortage of grain--Frank saw it first--the elder
Waterman called him into his office and said:
"Frank, I wish you would see what you can do with this condition
that confronts us on the street. By to-morrow we're going to be
overcrowded with flour. We can't be paying storage charges, and
our orders won't eat it up. We're short on grain. Maybe you could
trade out the flour to some of those brokers and get me enough
grain to fill these orders."
"I'd like to try," said his employee.
He knew from his books where the various commission-houses were.
He knew what the local merchants' exchange, and the various
commission-merchants who dealt in these things, had to offer.
This was the thing he liked to do--adjust a trade difficulty of
this nature. It was pleasant to be out in the air again, to be
going from door to door. He objected to desk work and pen work
and poring over books. As he said in later years, his brain was
his office. He hurried to the principal commission-merchants,
learning what the state of the flour market was, and offering his
surplus at the very rate he would have expected to get for it if
there had been no prospective glut. Did they want to buy for
immediate delivery (forty-eight hours being immediate) six hundred
barrels of prime flour? He would offer it at nine dollars straight,
in the barrel. They did not. He offered it in fractions, and some
agreed to take one portion, and some another. In about an hour he
was all secure on this save one lot of two hundred barrels, which
he decided to offer in one lump to a famous operator named
Genderman with whom his firm did no business. The latter, a big
man with curly gray hair, a gnarled and yet pudgy face, and little
eyes that peeked out shrewdly through fat eyelids, looked at
Cowperwood curiously when he came in.
"What's your name, young man?" he asked, leaning back in his wooden
"So you work for Waterman & Company? You want to make a record, no
doubt. That's why you came to me?"
Cowperwood merely smiled.
"Well, I'll take your flour. I need it. Bill it to me."
Cowperwood hurried out. He went direct to a firm of brokers in
Walnut Street, with whom his firm dealt, and had them bid in the
grain he needed at prevailing rates. Then he returned to the
"Well," said Henry Waterman, when he reported, "you did that quick.
Sold old Genderman two hundred barrels direct, did you? That's
doing pretty well. He isn't on our books, is he?"
"I thought not. Well, if you can do that sort of work on the
street you won't be on the books long."
Thereafter, in the course of time, Frank became a familiar figure
in the commission district and on 'change (the Produce Exchange),
striking balances for his employer, picking up odd lots of things
they needed, soliciting new customers, breaking gluts by disposing
of odd lots in unexpected quarters. Indeed the Watermans were
astonished at his facility in this respect. He had an uncanny
faculty for getting appreciative hearings, making friends, being
introduced into new realms. New life began to flow through the
old channels of the Waterman company. Their customers were better
satisfied. George was for sending him out into the rural districts
to drum up trade, and this was eventually done.
Near Christmas-time Henry said to George: "We'll have to make
Cowperwood a liberal present. He hasn't any salary. How would
five hundred dollars do?"
"That's pretty much, seeing the way times are, but I guess he's
worth it. He's certainly done everything we've expected, and more.
He's cut out for this business."
"What does he say about it? Do you ever hear him say whether he's
"Oh, he likes it pretty much, I guess. You see him as much as I
"Well, we'll make it five hundred. That fellow wouldn't make a
bad partner in this business some day. He has the real knack for
it. You see that he gets the five hundred dollars with a word
from both of us."
So the night before Christmas, as Cowperwood was looking over some
way-bills and certificates of consignment preparatory to leaving
all in order for the intervening holiday, George Waterman came to
"Hard at it," he said, standing under the flaring gaslight and
looking at his brisk employee with great satisfaction.
It was early evening, and the snow was making a speckled pattern
through the windows in front.
"Just a few points before I wind up," smiled Cowperwood.
"My brother and I have been especially pleased with the way you
have handled the work here during the past six months. We wanted
to make some acknowledgment, and we thought about five hundred
dollars would be right. Beginning January first we'll give you a
regular salary of thirty dollars a week."
"I'm certainly much obliged to you," said Frank. "I didn't expect
that much. It's a good deal. I've learned considerable here that
I'm glad to know."
"Oh, don't mention it. We know you've earned it. You can stay
with us as long as you like. We're glad to have you with us."
Cowperwood smiled his hearty, genial smile. He was feeling very
comfortable under this evidence of approval. He looked bright
and cheery in his well-made clothes of English tweed.
On the way home that evening he speculated as to the nature of
this business. He knew he wasn't going to stay there long, even
in spite of this gift and promise of salary. They were grateful,
of course; but why shouldn't they be? He was efficient, he knew
that; under him things moved smoothly. It never occurred to him
that he belonged in the realm of clerkdom. Those people were the
kind of beings who ought to work for him, and who would. There
was nothing savage in his attitude, no rage against fate, no dark
fear of failure. These two men he worked for were already nothing
more than characters in his eyes--their business significated
itself. He could see their weaknesses and their shortcomings as
a much older man might have viewed a boy's.
After dinner that evening, before leaving to call on his girl,
Marjorie Stafford, he told his father of the gift of five hundred
dollars and the promised salary.
"That's splendid," said the older man. "You're doing better than
I thought. I suppose you'll stay there."
"No, I won't. I think I'll quit sometime next year."
"Well, it isn't exactly what I want to do. It's all right, but
I'd rather try my hand at brokerage, I think. That appeals to me."
"Don't you think you are doing them an injustice not to tell them?"
"Not at all. They need me." All the while surveying himself in
a mirror, straightening his tie and adjusting his coat.
"Have you told your mother?"
"No. I'm going to do it now."
He went out into the dining-room, where his mother was, and slipping
his arms around her little body, said: "What do you think, Mammy?"
"Well, what?" she asked, looking affectionately into his eyes.
"I got five hundred dollars to-night, and I get thirty a week next
year. What do you want for Christmas?"
"You don't say! Isn't that nice! Isn't that fine! They must like
you. You're getting to be quite a man, aren't you?"
"What do you want for Christmas?"
"Nothing. I don't want anything. I have my children."
He smiled. "All right. Then nothing it is."
But she knew he would buy her something.
He went out, pausing at the door to grab playfully at his sister's
waist, and saying that he'd be back about midnight, hurried to
Marjorie's house, because he had promised to take her to a show.
"Anything you want for Christmas this year, Margy?" he asked, after
kissing her in the dimly-lighted hall. "I got five hundred
She was an innocent little thing, only fifteen, no guile, no
"Oh, you needn't get me anything."
"Needn't I?" he asked, squeezing her waist and kissing her mouth
It was fine to be getting on this way in the world and having such
a good time.
The following October, having passed his eighteenth year by nearly
six months, and feeling sure that he would never want anything to
do with the grain and commission business as conducted by the
Waterman Company, Cowperwood decided to sever his relations with
them and enter the employ of Tighe & Company, bankers and brokers.
Cowperwood's meeting with Tighe & Company had come about in the
ordinary pursuance of his duties as outside man for Waterman &
Company. From the first Mr. Tighe took a keen interest in this
subtle young emissary.
"How's business with you people?" he would ask, genially; or,
"Find that you're getting many I.O.U.'s these days?"
Because of the unsettled condition of the country, the over-inflation
of securities, the slavery agitation, and so forth, there were
prospects of hard times. And Tighe--he could not have told you
why--was convinced that this young man was worth talking to in
regard to all this. He was not really old enough to know, and yet
he did know.
"Oh, things are going pretty well with us, thank you, Mr. Tighe,"
Cowperwood would answer.
"I tell you," he said to Cowperwood one morning, "this slavery
agitation, if it doesn't stop, is going to cause trouble."
A negro slave belonging to a visitor from Cuba had just been
abducted and set free, because the laws of Pennsylvania made freedom
the right of any negro brought into the state, even though in
transit only to another portion of the country, and there was
great excitement because of it. Several persons had been arrested,
and the newspapers were discussing it roundly.
"I don't think the South is going to stand for this thing. It's
making trouble in our business, and it must be doing the same
thing for others. We'll have secession here, sure as fate, one of
these days." He talked with the vaguest suggestion of a brogue.
"It's coming, I think," said Cowperwood, quietly. "It can't be
healed, in my judgment. The negro isn't worth all this excitement,
but they'll go on agitating for him--emotional people always do
this. They haven't anything else to do. It's hurting our Southern
"I thought so. That's what people tell me."
He turned to a new customer as young Cowperwood went out, but again
the boy struck him as being inexpressibly sound and deep-thinking
on financial matters. "If that young fellow wanted a place, I'd
give it to him," he thought.
Finally, one day he said to him: "How would you like to try your
hand at being a floor man for me in 'change? I need a young man
here. One of my clerks is leaving."
"I'd like it," replied Cowperwood, smiling and looking intensely
gratified. "I had thought of speaking to you myself some time."
"Well, if you're ready and can make the change, the place is open.
Come any time you like."
"I'll have to give a reasonable notice at the other place,"
Cowperwood said, quietly. "Would you mind waiting a week or two?"
"Not at all. It isn't as important as that. Come as soon as you
can straighten things out. I don't want to inconvenience your
It was only two weeks later that Frank took his departure from
Waterman & Company, interested and yet in no way flustered by his
new prospects. And great was the grief of Mr. George Waterman.
As for Mr. Henry Waterman, he was actually irritated by this
"Why, I thought," he exclaimed, vigorously, when informed by
Cowperwood of his decision, "that you liked the business. Is it
a matter of salary?"
"No, not at all, Mr. Waterman. It's just that I want to get into
the straight-out brokerage business."
"Well, that certainly is too bad. I'm sorry. I don't want to
urge you against your own best interests. You know what you are
doing. But George and I had about agreed to offer you an interest
in this thing after a bit. Now you're picking up and leaving.
Why, damn it, man, there's good money in this business."
"I know it," smiled Cowperwood, "but I don't like it. I have
other plans in view. I'll never be a grain and commission man."
Mr. Henry Waterman could scarcely understand why obvious success
in this field did not interest him. He feared the effect of his
departure on the business.
And once the change was made Cowperwood was convinced that this
new work was more suited to him in every way--as easy and more
profitable, of course. In the first place, the firm of Tighe &
Co., unlike that of Waterman & Co., was located in a handsome
green-gray stone building at 66 South Third Street, in what was
then, and for a number of years afterward, the heart of the
financial district. Great institutions of national and international
import and repute were near at hand--Drexel & Co., Edward Clark &
Co., the Third National Bank, the First National Bank, the Stock
Exchange, and similar institutions. Almost a score of smaller
banks and brokerage firms were also in the vicinity. Edward
Tighe, the head and brains of this concern, was a Boston Irishman,
the son of an immigrant who had flourished and done well in that
conservative city. He had come to Philadelphia to interest himself
in the speculative life there. "Sure, it's a right good place for
those of us who are awake," he told his friends, with a slight
Irish accent, and he considered himself very much awake. He was a
medium-tall man, not very stout, slightly and prematurely gray,
and with a manner which was as lively and good-natured as it was
combative and self-reliant. His upper lip was ornamented by a
short, gray mustache.
"May heaven preserve me," he said, not long after he came there,
"these Pennsylvanians never pay for anything they can issue bonds
for." It was the period when Pennsylvania's credit, and for that
matter Philadelphia's, was very bad in spite of its great wealth.
"If there's ever a war there'll be battalions of Pennsylvanians
marching around offering notes for their meals. If I could just
live long enough I could get rich buyin' up Pennsylvania notes and
bonds. I think they'll pay some time; but, my God, they're mortal
slow! I'll be dead before the State government will ever catch up
on the interest they owe me now."
It was true. The condition of the finances of the state and city
was most reprehensible. Both State and city were rich enough; but
there were so many schemes for looting the treasury in both
instances that when any new work had to be undertaken bonds were
necessarily issued to raise the money. These bonds, or warrants,
as they were called, pledged interest at six per cent.; but when
the interest fell due, instead of paying it, the city or State
treasurer, as the case might be, stamped the same with the date
of presentation, and the warrant then bore interest for not only
its original face value, but the amount then due in interest. In
other words, it was being slowly compounded. But this did not help
the man who wanted to raise money, for as security they could not
be hypothecated for more than seventy per cent. of their market
value, and they were not selling at par, but at ninety. A man might
buy or accept them in foreclosure, but he had a long wait. Also,
in the final payment of most of them favoritism ruled, for it was
only when the treasurer knew that certain warrants were in the hands
of "a friend" that he would advertise that such and such warrants--
those particular ones that he knew about--would be paid.
What was more, the money system of the United States was only then
beginning slowly to emerge from something approximating chaos to
something more nearly approaching order. The United States Bank,
of which Nicholas Biddle was the progenitor, had gone completely
in 1841, and the United States Treasury with its subtreasury system
had come in 1846; but still there were many, many wildcat banks,
sufficient in number to make the average exchange-counter broker
a walking encyclopedia of solvent and insolvent institutions.
Still, things were slowly improving, for the telegraph had facilitated
stock-market quotations, not only between New York, Boston, and
Philadelphia, but between a local broker's office in Philadelphia
and his stock exchange. In other words, the short private wire
had been introduced. Communication was quicker and freer, and
daily grew better.
Railroads had been built to the South, East, North, and West.
There was as yet no stock-ticker and no telephone, and the
clearing-house had only recently been thought of in New York,
and had not yet been introduced in Philadelphia. Instead of a
clearing-house service, messengers ran daily between banks and
brokerage firms, balancing accounts on pass-books, exchanging
bills, and, once a week, transferring the gold coin, which was
the only thing that could be accepted for balances due, since
there was no stable national currency. "On 'change," when the
gong struck announcing the close of the day's business, a company
of young men, known as "settlement clerks," after a system borrowed
from London, gathered in the center of the room and compared or
gathered the various trades of the day in a ring, thus eliminating
all those sales and resales between certain firms which naturally
canceled each other. They carried long account books, and called
out the transactions--"Delaware and Maryland sold to Beaumont and
Company," "Delware and Maryland sold to Tighe and Company," and so
on. This simplified the bookkeeping of the various firms, and
made for quicker and more stirring commercial transactions.
Seats "on 'change" sold for two thousand dollars each. The members
of the exchange had just passed rules limiting the trading to the
hours between ten and three (before this they had been any time
between morning and midnight), and had fixed the rates at which
brokers could do business, in the face of cut-throat schemes which
had previously held. Severe penalties were fixed for those who
failed to obey. In other words, things were shaping up for a
great 'change business, and Edward Tighe felt, with other brokers,
that there was a great future ahead.
The Cowperwood family was by this time established in its new and
larger and more tastefully furnished house on North Front Street,
facing the river. The house was four stories tall and stood
twenty-five feet on the street front, without a yard.
Here the family began to entertain in a small way, and there came
to see them, now and then, representatives of the various interests
that Henry Cowperwood had encountered in his upward climb to the
position of cashier. It was not a very distinguished company, but
it included a number of people who were about as successful as
himself--heads of small businesses who traded at his bank, dealers
in dry-goods, leather, groceries (wholesale), and grain. The
children had come to have intimacies of their own. Now and then,
because of church connections, Mrs. Cowperwood ventured to have
an afternoon tea or reception, at which even Cowperwood attempted
the gallant in so far as to stand about in a genially foolish way
and greet those whom his wife had invited. And so long as he could
maintain his gravity very solemnly and greet people without being
required to say much, it was not too painful for him. Singing
was indulged in at times, a little dancing on occasion, and there
was considerably more "company to dinner," informally, than there
had been previously.
And here it was, during the first year of the new life in this
house, that Frank met a certain Mrs. Semple, who interested him
greatly. Her husband had a pretentious shoe store on Chestnut
Street, near Third, and was planning to open a second one farther
out on the same street.
The occasion of the meeting was an evening call on the part of
the Semples, Mr. Semple being desirous of talking with Henry
Cowperwood concerning a new transportation feature which was then
entering the world--namely, street-cars. A tentative line,
incorporated by the North Pennsylvania Railway Company, had been
put into operation on a mile and a half of tracks extending from
Willow Street along Front to Germantown Road, and thence by various
streets to what was then known as the Cohocksink Depot; and it was
thought that in time this mode of locomotion might drive out the
hundreds of omnibuses which now crowded and made impassable the
downtown streets. Young Cowperwood had been greatly interested
from the start. Railway transportation, as a whole, interested
him, anyway, but this particular phase was most fascinating. It
was already creating widespread discussion, and he, with others,
had gone to see it. A strange but interesting new type of car,
fourteen feet long, seven feet wide, and nearly the same height,
running on small iron car-wheels, was giving great satisfaction as
being quieter and easier-riding than omnibuses; and Alfred Semple
was privately considering investing in another proposed line which,
if it could secure a franchise from the legislature, was to run on
Fifth and Sixth streets.
Cowperwood, Senior, saw a great future for this thing; but he did
not see as yet how the capital was to be raised for it. Frank
believed that Tighe & Co. should attempt to become the selling
agents of this new stock of the Fifth and Sixth Street Company in
the event it succeeded in getting a franchise. He understood that
a company was already formed, that a large amount of stock was to
be issued against the prospective franchise, and that these shares
were to be sold at five dollars, as against an ultimate par value
of one hundred. He wished he had sufficient money to take a large
block of them.
Meanwhile, Lillian Semple caught and held his interest. Just what
it was about her that attracted him at this age it would be hard
to say, for she was really not suited to him emotionally,
intellectually, or otherwise. He was not without experience with
women or girls, and still held a tentative relationship with Marjorie
Stafford; but Lillian Semple, in spite of the fact that she was
married and that he could have legitimate interest in her, seemed
not wiser and saner, but more worth while. She was twenty-four as
opposed to Frank's nineteen, but still young enough in her thoughts
and looks to appear of his own age. She was slightly taller than
he--though he was now his full height (five feet ten and one-half
inches)--and, despite her height, shapely, artistic in form and
feature, and with a certain unconscious placidity of soul, which
came more from lack of understanding than from force of character.
Her hair was the color of a dried English walnut, rich and plentiful,
and her complexion waxen--cream wax---with lips of faint pink, and
eyes that varied from gray to blue and from gray to brown, according
to the light in which you saw them. Her hands were thin and
shapely, her nose straight, her face artistically narrow. She was
not brilliant, not active, but rather peaceful and statuesque
without knowing it. Cowperwood was carried away by her appearance.
Her beauty measured up to his present sense of the artistic. She
was lovely, he thought--gracious, dignified. If he could have his
choice of a wife, this was the kind of a girl he would like to have.
As yet, Cowperwood's judgment of women was temperamental rather
than intellectual. Engrossed as he was by his desire for wealth,
prestige, dominance, he was confused, if not chastened by
considerations relating to position, presentability and the like.
None the less, the homely woman meant nothing to him. And the
passionate woman meant much. He heard family discussions of this
and that sacrificial soul among women, as well as among men--women
who toiled and slaved for their husbands or children, or both, who
gave way to relatives or friends in crises or crucial moments,
because it was right and kind to do so--but somehow these stories
did not appeal to him. He preferred to think of people--even
women--as honestly, frankly self-interested. He could not have
told you why. People seemed foolish, or at the best very unfortunate
not to know what to do in all circumstances and how to protect
themselves. There was great talk concerning morality, much praise
of virtue and decency, and much lifting of hands in righteous
horror at people who broke or were even rumored to have broken
the Seventh Commandment. He did not take this talk seriously.
Already he had broken it secretly many times. Other young men did.
Yet again, he was a little sick of the women of the streets and the
bagnio. There were too many coarse, evil features in connection
with such contacts. For a little while, the false tinsel-glitter
of the house of ill repute appealed to him, for there was a certain
force to its luxury--rich, as a rule, with red-plush furniture,
showy red hangings, some coarse but showily-framed pictures, and,
above all, the strong-bodied or sensuously lymphatic women who
dwelt there, to (as his mother phrased it) prey on men. The strength
of their bodies, the lust of their souls, the fact that they could,
with a show of affection or good-nature, receive man after man,
astonished and later disgusted him. After all, they were not smart.
There was no vivacity of thought there. All that they could do,
in the main, he fancied, was this one thing. He pictured to himself
the dreariness of the mornings after, the stale dregs of things
when only sleep and thought of gain could aid in the least; and
more than once, even at his age, he shook his head. He wanted
contact which was more intimate, subtle, individual, personal.
So came Lillian Semple, who was nothing more to him than the shadow
of an ideal. Yet she cleared up certain of his ideas in regard to
women. She was not physically as vigorous or brutal as those other
women whom he had encountered in the lupanars, thus far--raw,
unashamed contraveners of accepted theories and notions--and for
that very reason he liked her. And his thoughts continued to dwell
on her, notwithstanding the hectic days which now passed like
flashes of light in his new business venture. For this stock
exchange world in which he now found himself, primitive as it
would seem to-day, was most fascinating to Cowperwood. The room
that he went to in Third Street, at Dock, where the brokers or
their agents and clerks gathered one hundred and fifty strong,
was nothing to speak of artistically--a square chamber sixty by
sixty, reaching from the second floor to the roof of a four-story
building; but it was striking to him. The windows were high and
narrow; a large-faced clock faced the west entrance of the room
where you came in from the stairs; a collection of telegraph
instruments, with their accompanying desks and chairs, occupied
the northeast corner. On the floor, in the early days of the
exchange, were rows of chairs where the brokers sat while various
lots of stocks were offered to them. Later in the history of the
exchange the chairs were removed and at different points posts or
floor-signs indicating where certain stocks were traded in were
introduced. Around these the men who were interested gathered to
do their trading. From a hall on the third floor a door gave
entrance to a visitor's gallery, small and poorly furnished; and
on the west wall a large blackboard carried current quotations in
stocks as telegraphed from New York and Boston. A wicket-like
fence in the center of the room surrounded the desk and chair of
the official recorder; and a very small gallery opening from the
third floor on the west gave place for the secretary of the board,
when he had any special announcement to make. There was a room
off the southwest corner, where reports and annual compendiums of
chairs were removed and at different signs indicating where certain
stocks of various kinds were kept and were available for the use of
Young Cowperwood would not have been admitted at all, as either a
broker or broker's agent or assistant, except that Tighe, feeling
that he needed him and believing that he would be very useful,
bought him a seat on 'change--charging the two thousand dollars it
cost as a debt and then ostensibly taking him into partnership.
It was against the rules of the exchange to sham a partnership in
this way in order to put a man on the floor, but brokers did it.
These men who were known to be minor partners and floor assistants
were derisively called "eighth chasers" and "two-dollar brokers,"
because they were always seeking small orders and were willing to
buy or sell for anybody on their commission, accounting, of course,
to their firms for their work. Cowperwood, regardless of his
intrinsic merits, was originally counted one of their number, and
he was put under the direction of Mr. Arthur Rivers, the regular
floor man of Tighe & Company.
Rivers was an exceedingly forceful man of thirty-five, well-dressed,
well-formed, with a hard, smooth, evenly chiseled face, which was
ornamented by a short, black mustache and fine, black, clearly
penciled eyebrows. His hair came to an odd point at the middle of
his forehead, where he divided it, and his chin was faintly and
attractively cleft. He had a soft voice, a quiet, conservative
manner, and both in and out of this brokerage and trading world
was controlled by good form. Cowperwood wondered at first why
Rivers should work for Tighe--he appeared almost as able--but
afterward learned that he was in the company. Tighe was the
organizer and general hand-shaker, Rivers the floor and outside
It was useless, as Frank soon found, to try to figure out exactly
why stocks rose and fell. Some general reasons there were, of
course, as he was told by Tighe, but they could not always be
"Sure, anything can make or break a market"--Tighe explained in
his delicate brogue--"from the failure of a bank to the rumor that
your second cousin's grandmother has a cold. It's a most unusual
world, Cowperwood. No man can explain it. I've seen breaks in
stocks that you could never explain at all--no one could. It
wouldn't be possible to find out why they broke. I've seen rises
the same way. My God, the rumors of the stock exchange! They beat
the devil. If they're going down in ordinary times some one is
unloading, or they're rigging the market. If they're going up--
God knows times must be good or somebody must be buying--that's
sure. Beyond that--well, ask Rivers to show you the ropes. Don't
you ever lose for me, though. That's the cardinal sin in this
office." He grinned maliciously, even if kindly, at that.
Cowperwood understood--none better. This subtle world appealed
to him. It answered to his temperament.
There were rumors, rumors, rumors--of great railway and street-car
undertakings, land developments, government revision of the tariff,
war between France and Turkey, famine in Russia or Ireland, and
so on. The first Atlantic cable had not been laid as yet, and
news of any kind from abroad was slow and meager. Still there
were great financial figures in the held, men who, like Cyrus
Field, or William H. Vanderbilt, or F. X. Drexel, were doing
marvelous things, and their activities and the rumors concerning
them counted for much.
Frank soon picked up all of the technicalities of the situation.
A "bull," he learned, was one who bought in anticipation of a higher
price to come; and if he was "loaded up" with a "line" of stocks
he was said to be "long." He sold to "realize" his profit, or if
his margins were exhausted he was "wiped out." A "bear" was one
who sold stocks which most frequently he did not have, in
anticipation of a lower price, at which he could buy and satisfy
his previous sales. He was "short" when he had sold what he did
not own, and he "covered" when he bought to satisfy his sales and
to realize his profits or to protect himself against further loss
in case prices advanced instead of declining. He was in a "corner"
when he found that he could not buy in order to make good the
stock he had borrowed for delivery and the return of which had
been demanded. He was then obliged to settle practically at a
price fixed by those to whom he and other "shorts" had sold.
He smiled at first at the air of great secrecy and wisdom on the
part of the younger men. They were so heartily and foolishly
suspicious. The older men, as a rule, were inscrutable. They
pretended indifference, uncertainty. They were like certain fish
after a certain kind of bait, however. Snap! and the opportunity
was gone. Somebody else had picked up what you wanted. All had
their little note-books. All had their peculiar squint of eye or
position or motion which meant "Done! I take you!" Sometimes they
seemed scarcely to confirm their sales or purchases--they knew
each other so well--but they did. If the market was for any reason
active, the brokers and their agents were apt to be more numerous
than if it were dull and the trading indifferent. A gong sounded
the call to trading at ten o'clock, and if there was a noticeable
rise or decline in a stock or a group of stocks, you were apt to
witness quite a spirited scene. Fifty to a hundred men would
shout, gesticulate, shove here and there in an apparently aimless
marmer; endeavoring to take advantage of the stock offered or called
"Five-eighths for five hundred P. and W.," some one would call--
Rivers or Cowperwood, or any other broker.
Five hundred at three-fourths," would come the reply from some
one else, who either had an order to sell the stock at that price
or who was willing to sell it short, hoping to pick up enough of
the stock at a lower figure later to fill his order and make a
little something besides. If the supply of stock at that figure
was large Rivers would probably continue to bid five-eighths. If,
on the other hand, he noticed an increasing demand, he would
probably pay three-fourths for it. If the professional traders
believed Rivers had a large buying order, they would probably try
to buy the stock before he could at three-fourths, believing they
could sell it out to him at a slightly higher price. The
professional traders were, of course, keen students of psychology;
and their success depended on their ability to guess whether or
not a broker representing a big manipulator, like Tighe, had an
order large enough to affect the market sufficiently to give them
an opportunity to "get in and out," as they termed it, at a profit
before he had completed the execution of his order. They were
like hawks watching for an opportunity to snatch their prey from
under the very claws of their opponents.
Four, five, ten, fifteen, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, and
sometimes the whole company would attempt to take advantage of the
given rise of a given stock by either selling or offering to buy,
in which case the activity and the noise would become deafening.
Given groups might be trading in different things; but the large
majority of them would abandon what they were doing in order to
take advantage of a speciality. The eagerness of certain young
brokers or clerks to discover all that was going on, and to take
advantage of any given rise or fall, made for quick physical action,
darting to and fro, the excited elevation of explanatory fingers.
Distorted faces were shoved over shoulders or under arms. The
most ridiculous grimaces were purposely or unconsciously indulged
in. At times there were situations in which some individual was
fairly smothered with arms, faces, shoulders, crowded toward him
when he manifested any intention of either buying or selling at a
profitable rate. At first it seemed quite a wonderful thing to
young Cowperwood--the very physical face of it--for he liked human
presence and activity; but a little later the sense of the thing
as a picture or a dramatic situation, of which he was a part faded,
and he came down to a clearer sense of the intricacies of the
problem before him. Buying and selling stocks, as he soon learned,
was an art, a subtlety, almost a psychic emotion. Suspicion,
intuition, feeling--these were the things to be "long" on.
Yet in time he also asked himself, who was it who made the real
money--the stock-brokers? Not at all. Some of them were making
money, but they were, as he quickly saw, like a lot of gulls or
stormy petrels, hanging on the lee of the wind, hungry and anxious
to snap up any unwary fish. Back of them were other men, men with
shrewd ideas, subtle resources. Men of immense means whose
enterprise and holdings these stocks represented, the men who
schemed out and built the railroads, opened the mines, organized
trading enterprises, and built up immense manufactories. They might
use brokers or other agents to buy and sell on 'change; but this
buying and selling must be, and always was, incidental to the
actual fact--the mine, the railroad, the wheat crop, the flour
mill, and so on. Anything less than straight-out sales to realize
quickly on assets, or buying to hold as an investment, was gambling
pure and simple, and these men were gamblers. He was nothing more
than a gambler's agent. It was not troubling him any just at this
moment, but it was not at all a mystery now, what he was. As in
the case of Waterman & Company, he sized up these men shrewdly,
judging some to be weak, some foolish, some clever, some slow, but
in the main all small-minded or deficient because they were agents,
tools, or gamblers. A man, a real man, must never be an agent, a
tool, or a gambler--acting for himself or for others--he must employ
such. A real man--a financier--was never a tool. He used tools.
He created. He led.
Clearly, very clearly, at nineteen, twenty, and twenty-one years
of age, he saw all this, but he was not quite ready yet to do
anything about it. He was certain, however, that his day would
In the meantime, his interest in Mrs. Semple had been secretly
and strangely growing. When he received an invitation to call at
the Semple home, he accepted with a great deal of pleasure. Their
house was located not so very far from his own, on North Front
Street, in the neighborhood of what is now known as No. 956. It
had, in summer, quite a wealth of green leaves and vines. The
little side porch which ornamented its south wall commanded a
charming view of the river, and all the windows and doors were
topped with lunettes of small-paned glass. The interior of the
house was not as pleasing as he would have had it. Artistic
impressiveness, as to the furniture at least, was wanting, although
it was new and good. The pictures were--well, simply pictures.
There were no books to speak of--the Bible, a few current novels,
some of the more significant histories, and a collection of
antiquated odds and ends in the shape of books inherited from
relatives. The china was good--of a delicate pattern. The carpets
and wall-paper were too high in key. So it went. Still, the
personality of Lillian Semple was worth something, for she was
really pleasing to look upon, making a picture wherever she stood
There were no children--a dispensation of sex conditions which had
nothing to do with her, for she longed to have them. She was
without any notable experience in social life, except such as had
come to the Wiggin family, of which she was a member--relatives and
a few neighborhood friends visiting. Lillian Wiggin, that was her
maiden name--had two brothers and one sister, all living in
Philadelphia and all married at this time. They thought she had
done very well in her marriage.
It could not be said that she had wildly loved Mr. Semple at any
time. Although she had cheerfully married him, he was not the kind
of man who could arouse a notable passion in any woman. He was
practical, methodic, orderly. His shoe store was a good one--
well-stocked with styles reflecting the current tastes and a model
of cleanliness and what one might term pleasing brightness. He
loved to talk, when he talked at all, of shoe manufacturing, the
development of lasts and styles. The ready-made shoe--machine-made
to a certain extent--was just coming into its own slowly, and
outside of these, supplies of which he kept, he employed bench-making
shoemakers, satisfying his customers with personal measurements
and making the shoes to order.
Mrs. Semple read a little--not much. She had a habit of sitting
and apparently brooding reflectively at times, but it was not based
on any deep thought. She had that curious beauty of body, though,
that made her somewhat like a figure on an antique vase, or out of
a Greek chorus. It was in this light, unquestionably, that
Cowperwood saw her, for from the beginning he could not keep his
eyes off her. In a way, she was aware of this but she did not
attach any significance to it. Thoroughly conventional, satisfied
now that her life was bound permanently with that of her husband,
she had settled down to a staid and quiet existence.
At first, when Frank called, she did not have much to say. She was
gracious, but the burden of conversation fell on her husband.
Cowperwood watched the varying expression of her face from time
to time, and if she had been at all psychic she must have felt
something. Fortunately she was not. Semple talked to him
pleasantly, because in the first place Frank was becoming
financially significant, was suave and ingratiating, and in the
next place he was anxious to get richer and somehow Frank represented
progress to him in that line. One spring evening they sat on the
porch and talked--nothing very important--slavery, street-cars,
the panic--it was on then, that of 1857--the development of the
West. Mr. Semple wanted to know all about the stock exchange. In
return Frank asked about the shoe business, though he really did
not care. All the while, inoffensively, he watched Mrs. Semple.
Her manner, he thought, was soothing, attractive, delightful. She
served tea and cake for them. They went inside after a time to
avoid the mosquitoes. She played the piano. At ten o'clock he
Thereafter, for a year or so, Cowperwood bought his shoes of Mr.
Semple. Occasionally also he stopped in the Chestnut Street store
to exchange the time of the day. Semple asked his opinion as to
the advisability of buying some shares in the Fifth and Sixth
Street line, which, having secured a franchise, was creating
great excitement. Cowperwood gave him his best judgment. It was
sure to be profitable. He himself had purchased one hundred shares
at five dollars a share, and urged Semple to do so. But he was
not interested in him personally. He liked Mrs. Semple, though
he did not see her very often.
About a year later, Mr. Semple died. It was an untimely death,
one of those fortuitous and in a way insignificant episodes which
are, nevertheless, dramatic in a dull way to those most concerned.
He was seized with a cold in the chest late in the fall--one of
those seizures ordinarily attributed to wet feet or to going out
on a damp day without an overcoat--and had insisted on going to
business when Mrs. Semple urged him to stay at home and recuperate.
He was in his way a very determined person, not obstreperously so,
but quietly and under the surface. Business was a great urge. He
saw himself soon to be worth about fifty thousand dollars. Then
this cold--nine more days of pneumonia--and he was dead. The shoe
store was closed for a few days; the house was full of sympathetic
friends and church people. There was a funeral, with burial
service in the Callowhill Presbyterian Church, to which they
belonged, and then he was buried. Mrs. Semple cried bitterly.
The shock of death affected her greatly and left her for a time in
a depressed state. A brother of hers, David Wiggin, undertook for
the time being to run the shoe business for her. There was no
will, but in the final adjustment, which included the sale of the
shoe business, there being no desire on anybody's part to contest
her right to all the property, she received over eighteen thousand
dollars. She continued to reside in the Front Street house, and
was considered a charming and interesting widow.
Throughout this procedure young Cowperwood, only twenty years of
age, was quietly manifest. He called during the illness. He
attended the funeral. He helped her brother, David Wiggin, dispose
of the shoe business. He called once or twice after the funeral,
then stayed away for a considerable time. In five months he
reappeared, and thereafter he was a caller at stated intervals--
periods of a week or ten days.
Again, it would be hard to say what he saw in Semple. Her prettiness,
wax-like in its quality, fascinated him; her indifference aroused
perhaps his combative soul. He could not have explained why, but
he wanted her in an urgent, passionate way. He could not think of
her reasonably, and he did not talk of her much to any one. His
family knew that he went to see her, but there had grown up in the
Cowperwood family a deep respect for the mental force of Frank.
He was genial, cheerful, gay at most times, without being talkative,
and he was decidedly successful. Everybody knew he was making