Part 10 out of 11
dark gray-blue twill suit of pure wool, a light, well-made gray
overcoat, a black derby hat of the latest shape, his shoes new
and of good leather, his tie of the best silk, heavy and conservatively
colored, his hair and mustache showing the attention of an intelligent
barber, and his hands well manicured--the receiving overseer saw
at once that he was in the presence of some one of superior
intelligence and force, such a man as the fortune of his trade
rarely brought into his net.
Cowperwood stood in the middle of the room without apparently
looking at any one or anything, though he saw all. "Convict number
3633," Kendall called to a clerk, handing him at the same time a
yellow slip of paper on which was written Cowperwood's full name
and his record number, counting from the beginning of the
The underling, a convict, took it and entered it in a book, reserving
the slip at the same time for the penitentiary "runner" or "trusty,"
who would eventually take Cowperwood to the "manners" gallery.
"You will have to take off your clothes and take a bath," said
Kendall to Cowperwood, eyeing him curiously. "I don't suppose you
need one, but it's the rule."
"Thank you," replied Cowperwood, pleased that his personality was
counting for something even here. "Whatever the rules are, I want
When he started to take off his coat, however, Kendall put up his
hand delayingly and tapped a bell. There now issued from an
adjoining room an assistant, a prison servitor, a weird-looking
specimen of the genus "trusty." He was a small, dark, lopsided
individual, one leg being slightly shorter, and therefore one
shoulder lower, than the other. He was hollow-chested, squint-eyed,
and rather shambling, but spry enough withal. He was dressed in
a thin, poorly made, baggy suit of striped jeans, the prison
stripes of the place, showing a soft roll-collar shirt underneath,
and wearing a large, wide-striped cap, peculiarly offensive in its
size and shape to Cowperwood. He could not help thinking how
uncanny the man's squint eyes looked under its straight outstanding
visor. The trusty had a silly, sycophantic manner of raising one
hand in salute. He was a professional "second-story man," "up"
for ten years, but by dint of good behavior he had attained to the
honor of working about this office without the degrading hood
customary for prisoners to wear over the cap. For this he was
properly grateful. He now considered his superior with nervous
dog-like eyes, and looked at Cowperwood with a certain cunning
appreciation of his lot and a show of initial mistrust.
One prisoner is as good as another to the average convict; as a
matter of fact, it is their only consolation in their degradation
that all who come here are no better than they. The world may
have misused them; but they misuse their confreres in their thoughts.
The "holier than thou" attitude, intentional or otherwise, is quite
the last and most deadly offense within prison walls. This
particular "trusty" could no more understand Cowperwood than could
a fly the motions of a fly-wheel; but with the cocky superiority
of the underling of the world he did not hesitate to think that
he could. A crook was a crook to him--Cowperwood no less than the
shabbiest pickpocket. His one feeling was that he would like to
demean him, to pull him down to his own level.
"You will have to take everything you have out of your pockets,"
Kendall now informed Cowperwood. Ordinarily he would have said,
"Search the prisoner."
Cowperwood stepped forward and laid out a purse with twenty-five
dollars in it, a pen-knife, a lead-pencil, a small note-book, and
a little ivory elephant which Aileen had given him once, "for luck,"
and which he treasured solely because she gave it to him. Kendall
looked at the latter curiously. "Now you can go on," he said to
the "trusty," referring to the undressing and bathing process which
was to follow.
"This way," said the latter, addressing Cowperwood, and preceding
him into an adjoining room, where three closets held three
old-fashioned, iron-bodied, wooden-top bath-tubs, with their
attendant shelves for rough crash towels, yellow soap, and the
like, and hooks for clothes.
"Get in there," said the trusty, whose name was Thomas Kuby,
pointing to one of the tubs.
Cowperwood realized that this was the beginning of petty official
supervision; but he deemed it wise to appear friendly even here.
"I see," he said. "I will."
"That's right," replied the attendant, somewhat placated. "What
did you bring?"
Cowperwood looked at him quizzically. He did not understand. The
prison attendant realized that this man did not know the lingo of
the place. "What did you bring?" he repeated. "How many years
did you get?"
"Oh!" exclaimed Cowperwood, comprehendingly. "I understand. Four
and three months."
He decided to humor the man. It would probably be better so.
"What for?" inquired Kuby, familiarly.
Cowperwood's blood chilled slightly. "Larceny," he said.
"Yuh got off easy," commented Kuby. "I'm up for ten. A rube judge
did that to me."
Kuby had never heard of Cowperwood's crime. He would not have
understood its subtleties if he had. Cowperwood did not want to
talk to this man; he did not know how. He wished he would go away;
but that was not likely. He wanted to be put in his cell and let
"That's too bad," he answered; and the convict realized clearly
that this man was really not one of them, or he would not have
said anything like that. Kuby went to the two hydrants opening
into the bath-tub and turned them on. Cowperwood had been undressing
the while, and now stood naked, but not ashamed, in front of this
"Don't forget to wash your head, too," said Kuby, and went away.
Cowperwood stood there while the water ran, meditating on his
fate. It was strange how life had dealt with him of late--so
severely. Unlike most men in his position, he was not suffering
from a consciousness of evil. He did not think he was evil. As
he saw it, he was merely unfortunate. To think that he should be
actually in this great, silent penitentiary, a convict, waiting
here beside this cheap iron bathtub, not very sweet or hygienic
to contemplate, with this crackbrained criminal to watch over him!
He stepped into the tub and washed himself briskly with the biting
yellow soap, drying himself on one of the rough, only partially
bleached towels. He looked for his underwear, but there was none.
At this point the attendant looked in again. "Out here," he said,
Cowperwood followed, naked. He was led through the receiving
overseer's office into a room, where were scales, implements of
measurement, a record-book, etc. The attendant who stood guard
at the door now came over, and the clerk who sat in a corner
automatically took down a record-blank. Kendall surveyed Cowperwood's
decidedly graceful figure, already inclining to a slight thickening
around the waist, and approved of it as superior to that of most who
came here. His skin, as he particularly noted, was especially
"Step on the scale," said the attendant, brusquely.
Cowperwood did so, The former adjusted the weights and scanned the
"Weight, one hundred and seventy-five," he called. "Now step over
He indicated a spot in the side wall where was fastened in a thin
slat--which ran from the floor to about seven and one half feet
above, perpendicularly--a small movable wooden indicator, which,
when a man was standing under it, could be pressed down on his
head. At the side of the slat were the total inches of height,
laid off in halves, quarters, eighths, and so on, and to the right
a length measurement for the arm. Cowperwood understood what was
wanted and stepped under the indicator, standing quite straight.
"Feet level, back to the wall," urged the attendant. "So. Height,
five feet nine and ten-sixteenths," he called. The clerk in the
corner noted it. He now produced a tape-measure and began measuring
Cowperwood's arms, legs, chest, waist, hips, etc. He called out
the color of his eyes, his hair, his mustache, and, looking into
his mouth, exclaimed, "Teeth, all sound."
After Cowperwood had once more given his address, age, profession,
whether he knew any trade, etc.--which he did not--he was allowed
to return to the bathroom, and put on the clothing which the prison
provided for him--first the rough, prickly underwear, then the
cheap soft roll-collar, white-cotton shirt, then the thick bluish-gray
cotton socks of a quality such as he had never worn in his life,
and over these a pair of indescribable rough-leather clogs, which
felt to his feet as though they were made of wood or iron--oily
and heavy. He then drew on the shapeless, baggy trousers with
their telltale stripes, and over his arms and chest the loose-cut
shapeless coat and waistcoat. He felt and knew of course that he
looked very strange, wretched. And as he stepped out into the
overseer's room again he experienced a peculiar sense of depression,
a gone feeling which before this had not assailed him and which
now he did his best to conceal. This, then, was what society did
to the criminal, he thought to himself. It took him and tore away
from his body and his life the habiliments of his proper state and
left him these. He felt sad and grim, and, try as he would--he
could not help showing it for a moment. It was always his business
and his intention to conceal his real feelings, but now it was
not quite possible. He felt degraded, impossible, in these clothes,
and he knew that he looked it. Nevertheless, he did his best to
pull himself together and look unconcerned, willing, obedient,
considerate of those above him. After all, he said to himself,
it was all a play of sorts, a dream even, if one chose to view it
so, a miasma even, from which, in the course of time and with a
little luck one might emerge safely enough. He hoped so. It could
not last. He was only acting a strange, unfamiliar part on the
stage, this stage of life that he knew so well.
Kendall did not waste any time looking at him, however. He merely
said to his assistant, "See if you can find a cap for him," and the
latter, going to a closet containing numbered shelves, took down
a cap--a high-crowned, straight-visored, shabby, striped affair
which Cowperwood was asked to try on. It fitted well enough,
slipping down close over his ears, and he thought that now his
indignities must be about complete. What could be added? There
could be no more of these disconcerting accoutrements. But he was
mistaken. "Now, Kuby, you take him to Mr. Chapin," said Kendall.
Kuby understood. He went back into the wash-room and produced
what Cowperwood had heard of but never before seen--a
blue-and-white-striped cotton bag about half the length of an
ordinary pillow-case and half again as wide, which Kuby now unfolded
and shook out as he came toward him. It was a custom. The use
of this hood, dating from the earliest days of the prison, was
intended to prevent a sense of location and direction and thereby
obviate any attempt to escape. Thereafter during all his stay he
was not supposed to walk with or talk to or see another prisoner--
not even to converse with his superiors, unless addressed. It was
a grim theory, and yet one definitely enforced here, although as
he was to learn later even this could be modified here.
"You'll have to put this on," Kuby said, and opened it in such a
way that it could be put over Cowperwood's head.
Cowperwood understood. He had heard of it in some way, in times
past. He was a little shocked--looked at it first with a touch
of real surprise, but a moment after lifted his hands and helped
pull it down.
"Never mind," cautioned the guard, "put your hands down. I'll
get it over."
Cowperwood dropped his arms. When it was fully on, it came to
about his chest, giving him little means of seeing anything. He
felt very strange, very humiliated, very downcast. This simple
thing of a blue-and-white striped bag over his head almost cost
him his sense of self-possession. Why could not they have spared
him this last indignity, he thought?
"This way," said his attendant, and he was led out to where he
could not say.
"If you hold it out in front you can see to walk," said his guide;
and Cowperwood pulled it out, thus being able to discern his feet
and a portion of the floor below. He was thus conducted--seeing
nothing in his transit--down a short walk, then through a long
corridor, then through a room of uniformed guards, and finally up
a narrow flight of iron steps, leading to the overseer's office
on the second floor of one of the two-tier blocks. There, he
heard the voice of Kuby saying: "Mr. Chapin, here's another prisoner
for you from Mr. Kendall."
"I'll be there in a minute," came a peculiarly pleasant voice from
the distance. Presently a big, heavy hand closed about his arm,
and he was conducted still further.
"You hain't got far to go now," the voice said, "and then I'll take
that bag off," and Cowperwood felt for some reason a sense of
sympathy, perhaps--as though he would choke. The further steps
were not many.
A cell door was reached and unlocked by the inserting of a great
iron key. It was swung open, and the same big hand guided him
through. A moment later the bag was pulled easily from his head,
and he saw that he was in a narrow, whitewashed cell, rather dim,
windowless, but lighted from the top by a small skylight of frosted
glass three and one half feet long by four inches wide. For a
night light there was a tin-bodied lamp swinging from a hook near
the middle of one of the side walls. A rough iron cot, furnished
with a straw mattress and two pairs of dark blue, probably unwashed
blankets, stood in one corner. There was a hydrant and small sink
in another. A small shelf occupied the wall opposite the bed. A
plain wooden chair with a homely round back stood at the foot of
the bed, and a fairly serviceable broom was standing in one corner.
There was an iron stool or pot for excreta, giving, as he could
see, into a large drain-pipe which ran along the inside wall, and
which was obviously flushed by buckets of water being poured into
it. Rats and other vermin infested this, and it gave off an
unpleasant odor which filled the cell. The floor was of stone.
Cowperwood's clear-seeing eyes took it all in at a glance. He
noted the hard cell door, which was barred and cross-barred with
great round rods of steel, and fastened with a thick, highly
polished lock. He saw also that beyond this was a heavy wooden
door, which could shut him in even more completely than the iron
one. There was no chance for any clear, purifying sunlight here.
Cleanliness depended entirely on whitewash, soap and water and
sweeping, which in turn depended on the prisoners themselves.
He also took in Chapin, the homely, good-natured, cell overseer
whom he now saw for the first time--a large, heavy, lumbering man,
rather dusty and misshapen-looking, whose uniform did not fit him
well, and whose manner of standing made him look as though he would
much prefer to sit down. He was obviously bulky, but not strong,
and his kindly face was covered with a short growth of grayish-brown
whiskers. His hair was cut badly and stuck out in odd strings or
wisps from underneath his big cap. Nevertheless, Cowperwood was
not at all unfavorably impressed--quite the contrary--and he felt
at once that this man might be more considerate of him than the
others had been. He hoped so, anyhow. He did not know that he
was in the presence of the overseer of the "manners squad," who
would have him in charge for two weeks only, instructing him in
the rules of the prison, and that he was only one of twenty-six,
all told, who were in Chapin's care.
That worthy, by way of easy introduction, now went over to the bed
and seated himself on it. He pointed to the hard wooden chair,
which Cowperwood drew out and sat on.
"Well, now you're here, hain't yuh?" he asked, and answered himself
quite genially, for he was an unlettered man, generously disposed,
of long experience with criminals, and inclined to deal kindly with
kindly temperament and a form of religious belief--Quakerism--had
inclined him to be merciful, and yet his official duties, as
Cowperwood later found out, seemed to have led him to the conclusion
that most criminals were innately bad. Like Kendall, he regarded
them as weaklings and ne'er-do-wells with evil streaks in them,
and in the main he was not mistaken. Yet he could not help being
what he was, a fatherly, kindly old man, having faith in those
shibboleths of the weak and inexperienced mentally--human justice
and human decency.
"Yes, I'm here, Mr. Chapin," Cowperwood replied, simply, remembering
his name from the attendant, and flattering the keeper by the use
To old Chapin the situation was more or less puzzling. This was
the famous Frank A. Cowperwood whom he had read about, the noted
banker and treasury-looter. He and his co-partner in crime, Stener,
were destined to serve, as he had read, comparatively long terms
here. Five hundred thousand dollars was a large sum of money in
those days, much more than five million would have been forty years
later. He was awed by the thought of what had become of it--how
Cowperwood managed to do all the things the papers had said he had
done. He had a little formula of questions which he usually went
through with each new prisoner--asking him if he was sorry now for
the crime he had committed, if he meant to do better with a new
chance, if his father and mother were alive, etc.; and by the
manner in which they answered these questions--simply, regretfully,
defiantly, or otherwise--he judged whether they were being adequately
punished or not. Yet he could not talk to Cowperwood as he now
saw or as he would to the average second-story burglar, store-looter,
pickpocket, and plain cheap thief and swindler. And yet he scarcely
knew how else to talk.
"Well, now," he went on, "I don't suppose you ever thought you'd
get to a place like this, did you, Mr. Cowperwood?"
"I never did," replied Frank, simply. "I wouldn't have believed
it a few months ago, Mr. Chapin. I don't think I deserve to be
here now, though of course there is no use of my telling you that."
He saw that old Chapin wanted to moralize a little, and he was
only too glad to fall in with his mood. He would soon be alone
with no one to talk to perhaps, and if a sympathetic understanding
could be reached with this man now, so much the better. Any port
in a storm; any straw to a drowning man.
"Well, no doubt all of us makes mistakes," continued Mr. Chapin,
superiorly, with an amusing faith in his own value as a moral guide
and reformer. "We can't just always tell how the plans we think
so fine are coming out, can we? You're here now, an' I suppose you're
sorry certain things didn't come out just as you thought; but if
you had a chance I don't suppose you'd try to do just as you did
before, now would yuh?"
"No, Mr. Chapin, I wouldn't, exactly," said Cowperwood, truly
enough, "though I believed I was right in everything I did. I
don't think legal justice has really been done me."
"Well, that's the way," continued Chapin, meditatively, scratching
his grizzled head and looking genially about. "Sometimes, as I
allers says to some of these here young fellers that comes in here,
we don't know as much as we thinks we does. We forget that others
are just as smart as we are, and that there are allers people that
are watchin' us all the time. These here courts and jails and
detectives--they're here all the time, and they get us. I gad"--
Chapin's moral version of "by God"--"they do, if we don't behave."
"Yes," Cowperwood replied, "that's true enough, Mr. Chapin."
"Well," continued the old man after a time, after he had made a
few more solemn, owl-like, and yet well-intentioned remarks, "now
here's your bed, and there's your chair, and there's your wash-stand,
and there's your water-closet. Now keep 'em all clean and use 'em
right." (You would have thought he was making Cowperwood a present
of a fortune.) "You're the one's got to make up your bed every
mornin' and keep your floor swept and your toilet flushed and your
cell clean. There hain't anybody here'll do that for yuh. You
want to do all them things the first thing in the mornin' when you
get up, and afterward you'll get sumpin' to eat, about six-thirty.
You're supposed to get up at five-thirty."
"Yes, Mr. Chapin," Cowperwood said, politely. "You can depend on
me to do all those things promptly."
"There hain't so much more," added Chapin. "You're supposed to
wash yourself all over once a week an' I'll give you a clean towel
for that. Next you gotta wash this floor up every Friday mornin'."
Cowperwood winced at that. "You kin have hot water for that if
you want it. I'll have one of the runners bring it to you. An'
as for your friends and relations"--he got up and shook himself
like a big Newfoundland dog. "You gotta wife, hain't you?"
"Yes," replied Cowperwood.
"Well, the rules here are that your wife or your friends kin come
to see you once in three months, and your lawyer--you gotta lawyer
"Yes, sir," replied Cowperwood, amused.
"Well, he kin come every week or so if he likes--every day, I
guess--there hain't no rules about lawyers. But you kin only
write one letter once in three months yourself, an' if you want
anything like tobaccer or the like o' that, from the store-room,
you gotta sign an order for it, if you got any money with the
warden, an' then I can git it for you."
The old man was really above taking small tips in the shape of
money. He was a hold-over from a much more severe and honest
regime, but subsequent presents or constant flattery were not amiss
in making him kindly and generous. Cowperwood read him accurately.
"Very well, Mr. Chapin; I understand," he said, getting up as the
old man did.
"Then when you have been here two weeks," added Chapin, rather
ruminatively (he had forgot to state this to Cowperwood before),
"the warden 'll come and git yuh and give yuh yer regular cell
summers down-stairs. Yuh kin make up yer mind by that time what
y'u'd like tuh do, what y'u'd like to work at. If you behave
yourself proper, more'n like they'll give yuh a cell with a yard.
Yuh never can tell."
He went out, locking the door with a solemn click; and Cowperwood
stood there, a little more depressed than he had been, because of
this latest intelligence. Only two weeks, and then he would be
transferred from this kindly old man's care to another's, whom he
did not know and with whom he might not fare so well.
"If ever you want me for anything--if ye're sick or sumpin' like
that," Chapin now returned to say, after he had walked a few paces
away, "we have a signal here of our own. Just hang your towel
out through these here bars. I'll see it, and I'll stop and find
out what yuh want, when I'm passin'."
Cowperwood, whose spirits had sunk, revived for the moment.
"Yes, sir," he replied; "thank you, Mr. Chapin."
The old man walked away, and Cowperwood heard his steps dying down
the cement-paved hall. He stood and listened, his ears being
greeted occasionally by a distant cough, a faint scraping of some
one's feet, the hum or whir of a machine, or the iron scratch of
a key in a lock. None of the noises was loud. Rather they were
all faint and far away. He went over and looked at the bed, which
was not very clean and without linen, and anything but wide or
soft, and felt it curiously. So here was where he was to sleep
from now on--he who so craved and appreciated luxury and refinement.
If Aileen or some of his rich friends should see him here. Worse,
he was sickened by the thought of possible vermin. How could he
tell? How would he do? The one chair was abominable. The skylight
was weak. He tried to think of himself as becoming accustomed to
the situation, but he re-discovered the offal pot in one corner,
and that discouraged him. It was possible that rats might come
up here--it looked that way. No pictures, no books, no scene, no
person, no space to walk--just the four bare walls and silence,
which he would be shut into at night by the thick door. What a
He sat down and contemplated his situation. So here he was at
last in the Eastern Penitentiary, and doomed, according to the
judgment of the politicians (Butler among others), to remain here
four long years and longer. Stener, it suddenly occurred to him,
was probably being put through the same process he had just gone
through. Poor old Stener! What a fool he had made of himself.
But because of his foolishness he deserved all he was now getting.
But the difference between himself and Stener was that they would
let Stener out. It was possible that already they were easing his
punishment in some way that he, Cowperwood, did not know. He put
his hand to his chin, thinking--his business, his house, his
friends, his family, Aileen. He felt for his watch, but remembered
that they had taken that. There was no way of telling the time.
Neither had he any notebook, pen, or pencil with which to amuse
or interest himself. Besides he had had nothing to eat since
morning. Still, that mattered little. What did matter was that
he was shut up here away from the world, quite alone, quite lonely,
without knowing what time it was, and that he could not attend to
any of the things he ought to be attending to--his business affairs,
his future. True, Steger would probably come to see him after a
while. That would help a little. But even so--think of his
position, his prospects up to the day of the fire and his state
now. He sat looking at his shoes; his suit. God! He got up and
walked to and fro, to and fro, but his own steps and movements
sounded so loud. He walked to the cell door and looked out through
the thick bars, but there was nothing to see--nothing save a
portion of two cell doors opposite, something like his own. He
came back and sat in his single chair, meditating, but, getting
weary of that finally, stretched himself on the dirty prison bed
to try it. It was not uncomfortable entirely. He got up after a
while, however, and sat, then walked, then sat. What a narrow
place to walk, he thought. This was horrible--something like a
living tomb. And to think he should be here now, day after day
and day after day, until--until what?
Until the Governor pardoned him or his time was up, or his fortune
So he cogitated while the hours slipped by. It was nearly five
o'clock before Steger was able to return, and then only for a
little while. He had been arranging for Cowperwood's appearance
on the following Thursday, Friday, and Monday in his several court
proceedings. When he was gone, however, and the night fell and
Cowperwood had to trim his little, shabby oil-lamp and to drink
the strong tea and eat the rough, poor bread made of bran and white
flour, which was shoved to him through the small aperture in the
door by the trencher trusty, who was accompanied by the overseer
to see that it was done properly, he really felt very badly. And
after that the center wooden door of his cell was presently closed
and locked by a trusty who slammed it rudely and said no word.
Nine o'clock would be sounded somewhere by a great bell, he
understood, when his smoky oil-lamp would have to be put out
promptly and he would have to undress and go to bed. There were
punishments, no doubt, for infractions of these rules--reduced
rations, the strait-jacket, perhaps stripes--he scarcely knew what.
He felt disconsolate, grim, weary. He had put up such a long,
unsatisfactory fight. After washing his heavy stone cup and tin
plate at the hydrant, he took off the sickening uniform and shoes
and even the drawers of the scratching underwear, and stretched
himself wearily on the bed. The place was not any too warm, and
he tried to make himself comfortable between the blankets--but it
was of little use. His soul was cold.
"This will never do," he said to himself. "This will never do.
I'm not sure whether I can stand much of this or not." Still he
turned his face to the wall, and after several hours sleep
Those who by any pleasing courtesy of fortune, accident of birth,
inheritance, or the wisdom of parents or friends, have succeeded
in avoiding making that anathema of the prosperous and comfortable,
"a mess of their lives," will scarcely understand the mood of
Cowperwood, sitting rather gloomily in his cell these first days,
wondering what, in spite of his great ingenuity, was to become of
him. The strongest have their hours of depression. There are
times when life to those endowed with the greatest intelligence--
perhaps mostly to those--takes on a somber hue. They see so many
phases of its dreary subtleties. It is only when the soul of man
has been built up into some strange self-confidence, some curious
faith in its own powers, based, no doubt, on the actual presence
of these same powers subtly involved in the body, that it fronts
life unflinchingly. It would be too much to say that Cowperwood's
mind was of the first order. It was subtle enough in all conscience--
and involved, as is common with the executively great, with a strong
sense of personal advancement. It was a powerful mind, turning,
like a vast searchlight, a glittering ray into many a dark corner;
but it was not sufficiently disinterested to search the ultimate
dark. He realized, in a way, what the great astronomers,
sociologists, philosophers, chemists, physicists, and physiologists
were meditating; but he could not be sure in his own mind that,
whatever it was, it was important for him. No doubt life held
many strange secrets. Perhaps it was essential that somebody
should investigate them. However that might be, the call of his
own soul was in another direction. His business was to make money--
to organize something which would make him much money, or, better
yet, save the organization he had begun.
But this, as he now looked upon it, was almost impossible. It had
been too disarranged and complicated by unfortunate circumstances.
He might, as Steger pointed out to him, string out these bankruptcy
proceedings for years, tiring out one creditor and another, but in
the meantime the properties involved were being seriously damaged.
Interest charges on his unsatisfied loans were making heavy inroads;
court costs were mounting up; and, to cap it all, he had discovered
with Steger that there were a number of creditors--those who had
sold out to Butler, and incidentally to Mollenhauer--who would
never accept anything except the full value of their claims. His
one hope now was to save what he could by compromise a little later,
and to build up some sort of profitable business through Stephen
Wingate. The latter was coming in a day or two, as soon as Steger
had made some working arrangement for him with Warden Michael
Desmas who came the second day to have a look at the new prisoner.
Desmas was a large man physically--Irish by birth, a politician by
training--who had been one thing and another in Philadelphia from
a policeman in his early days and a corporal in the Civil War to
a ward captain under Mollenhauer. He was a canny man, tall,
raw-boned, singularly muscular-looking, who for all his fifty-seven
years looked as though he could give a splendid account of himself
in a physical contest. His hands were large and bony, his face
more square than either round or long, and his forehead high. He
had a vigorous growth of short-clipped, iron-gray hair, and a
bristly iron-gray mustache, very short, keen, intelligent blue-gray
eyes; a florid complexion; and even-edged, savage-looking teeth,
which showed the least bit in a slightly wolfish way when he smiled.
However, he was not as cruel a person as he looked to be;
temperamental, to a certain extent hard, and on occasions savage,
but with kindly hours also. His greatest weakness was that he was
not quite mentally able to recognize that there were mental and
social differences between prisoners, and that now and then one
was apt to appear here who, with or without political influences,
was eminently worthy of special consideration. What he could
recognize was the differences pointed out to him by the politicians
in special cases, such as that of Stener--not Cowperwood. However,
seeing that the prison was a public institution apt to be visited
at any time by lawyers, detectives, doctors, preachers, propagandists,
and the public generally, and that certain rules and regulations
had to be enforced (if for no other reason than to keep a moral
and administrative control over his own help), it was necessary
to maintain--and that even in the face of the politician--a certain
amount of discipline, system, and order, and it was not possible
to be too liberal with any one. There were, however, exceptional
cases--men of wealth and refinement, victims of those occasional
uprisings which so shocked the political leaders generally--who
had to be looked after in a friendly way.
Desmas was quite aware, of course, of the history of Cowperwood
and Stener. The politicians had already given him warning that
Stener, because of his past services to the community, was to be
treated with special consideration. Not so much was said about
Cowperwood, although they did admit that his lot was rather hard.
Perhaps he might do a little something for him but at his own risk.
"Butler is down on him," Strobik said to Desmas, on one occasion.
"It's that girl of his that's at the bottom of it all. If you
listened to Butler you'd feed him on bread and water, but he isn't
a bad fellow. As a matter of fact, if George had had any sense
Cowperwood wouldn't be where he is to-day. But the big fellows
wouldn't let Stener alone. They wouldn't let him give Cowperwood
Although Strobik had been one of those who, under pressure from
Mollenhauer, had advised Stener not to let Cowperwood have any
more money, yet here he was pointing out the folly of the victim's
course. The thought of the inconsistency involved did not trouble
him in the least.
Desmas decided, therefore, that if Cowperwood were persona non
grata to the "Big Three," it might be necessary to be indifferent
to him, or at least slow in extending him any special favors. For
Stener a good chair, clean linen, special cutlery and dishes, the
daily papers, privileges in the matter of mail, the visits of
friends, and the like. For Cowperwood--well, he would have to
look at Cowperwood and see what he thought. At the same time,
Steger's intercessions were not without their effect on Desmas.
So the morning after Cowperwood's entrance the warden received a
letter from Terrence Relihan, the Harrisburg potentate, indicating
that any kindness shown to Mr. Cowperwood would be duly appreciated
by him. Upon the receipt of this letter Desmas went up and looked
through Cowperwood's iron door. On the way he had a brief talk
with Chapin, who told him what a nice man he thought Cowperwood
Desmas had never seen Cowperwood before, but in spite of the shabby
uniform, the clog shoes, the cheap shirt, and the wretched cell,
he was impressed. Instead of the weak, anaemic body and the shifty
eyes of the average prisoner, he saw a man whose face and form
blazed energy and power, and whose vigorous erectness no wretched
clothes or conditions could demean. He lifted his head when Desmas
appeared, glad that any form should have appeared at his door, and
looked at him with large, clear, examining eyes--those eyes that
in the past had inspired so much confidence and surety in all those
who had known him. Desmas was stirred. Compared with Stener,
whom he knew in the past and whom he had met on his entry, this
man was a force. Say what you will, one vigorous man inherently
respects another. And Desmas was vigorous physically. He eyed
Cowperwood and Cowperwood eyed him. Instinctly Desmas liked him.
He was like one tiger looking at another.
Instinctively Cowperwood knew that he was the warden. This is Mr.
Desmas, isn't it?" he asked, courteously and pleasantly.
"Yes, sir, I'm the man," replied Desmas interestedly. "These rooms
are not as comfortable as they might be, are they?" The warden's
even teeth showed in a friendly, yet wolfish, way.
"They certainly are not, Mr. Desmas," replied Cowperwood, standing
very erect and soldier-like. "I didn't imagine I was coming to a
hotel, however." He smiled.
"There isn't anything special I can do for you, is there, Mr.
Cowperwood?" began Desmas curiously, for he was moved by a thought
that at some time or other a man such as this might be of service
to him. "I've been talking to your lawyer." Cowperwood was
intensely gratified by the Mr. So that was the way the wind was
blowing. Well, then, within reason, things might not prove so bad
here. He would see. He would sound this man out.
"I don't want to be asking anything, Warden, which you cannot
reasonably give," he now returned politely. "But there are a few
things, of course, that I would change if I could. I wish I might
have sheets for my bed, and I could afford better underwear if you
would let me wear it. This that I have on annoys me a great deal."
"They're not the best wool, that's true enough," replied Desmas,
solemnly. "They're made for the State out here in Pennsylvania
somewhere. I suppose there's no objection to your wearing your
own underwear if you want to. I'll see about that. And the sheets,
too. We might let you use them if you have them. We'll have to
go a little slow about this. There are a lot of people that take
a special interest in showing the warden how to tend to his business."
"I can readily understand that, Warden," went on Cowperwood briskly,
"and I'm certainly very much obliged to you. You may be sure that
anything you do for me here will be appreciated, and not misused,
and that I have friends on the outside who can reciprocate for me
in the course of time." He talked slowly and emphatically, looking
Desmas directly in the eye all of the time. Desmas was very much
"That's all right," he said, now that he had gone so far as to be
friendly. "I can't promise much. Prison rules are prison rules.
But there are some things that can be done, because it's the rule
to do them for other men when they behave themselves. You can
have a better chair than that, if you want it, and something to
read too. If you're in business yet, I wouldn't want to do anything
to stop that. We can't have people running in and out of here every
fifteen minutes, and you can't turn a cell into a business office--
that's not possible. It would break up the order of the place.
Still, there's no reason why you shouldn't see some of your friends
now and then. As for your mail--well, that will have to be opened
in the ordinary way for the time being, anyhow. I'll have to see
about that. I can't promise too much. You'll have to wait until
you come out of this block and down-stairs. Some of the cells
have a yard there; if there are any empty--" The warden cocked his
eye wisely, and Cowperwood saw that his tot was not to be as bad
as he had anticipated--though bad enough. The warden spoke to him
about the different trades he might follow, and asked him to think
about the one he would prefer. "You want to have something to
keep your hands busy, whatever else you want. You'll find you'll
need that. Everybody here wants to work after a time. I notice
Cowperwood understood and thanked Desmas profusely. The horror
of idleness in silence and in a cell scarcely large enough to turn
around in comfortably had already begun to creep over him, and the
thought of being able to see Wingate and Steger frequently, and
to have his mail reach him, after a time, untampered with, was a
great relief. He was to have his own underwear, silk and wool--
thank God!--and perhaps they would let him take off these shoes
after a while. With these modifications and a trade, and perhaps
the little yard which Desmas had referred to, his life would be,
if not ideal, at least tolerable. The prison was still a prison,
but it looked as though it might not be so much of a terror to him
as obviously it must be to many.
During the two weeks in which Cowperwood was in the "manners squad,"
in care of Chapin, he learned nearly as much as he ever learned of
the general nature of prison life; for this was not an ordinary
penitentiary in the sense that the prison yard, the prison squad,
the prison lock-step, the prison dining-room, and prison associated
labor make the ordinary penitentiary. There was, for him and for
most of those confined there, no general prison life whatsoever.
The large majority were supposed to work silently in their cells
at the particular tasks assigned them, and not to know anything of
the remainder of the life which went on around them, the rule of
this prison being solitary confinement, and few being permitted
to work at the limited number of outside menial tasks provided.
Indeed, as he sensed and as old Chapin soon informed him, not more
than seventy-five of the four hundred prisoners confined here were
so employed, and not all of these regularly--cooking, gardening
in season, milling, and general cleaning being the only avenues
of escape from solitude. Even those who so worked were strictly
forbidden to talk, and although they did not have to wear the
objectionable hood when actually employed, they were supposed to
wear it in going to and from their work. Cowperwood saw them
occasionally tramping by his cell door, and it struck him as
strange, uncanny, grim. He wished sincerely at times since old
Chapin was so genial and talkative that he were to be under him
permanently; but it was not to be.
His two weeks soon passed--drearily enough in all conscience but
they passed, interlaced with his few commonplace tasks of bed-making,
floor-sweeping, dressing, eating, undressing, rising at five-thirty,
and retiring at nine, washing his several dishes after each meal,
etc. He thought he would never get used to the food. Breakfast,
as has been said, was at six-thirty, and consisted of coarse black
bread made of bran and some white flour, and served with black
coffee. Dinner was at eleven-thirty, and consisted of bean or
vegetable soup, with some coarse meat in it, and the same bread.
Supper was at six, of tea and bread, very strong tea and the same
bread--no butter, no milk, no sugar. Cowperwood did not smoke,
so the small allowance of tobacco which was permitted was without
value to him. Steger called in every day for two or three weeks,
and after the second day, Stephen Wingate, as his new business
associate, was permitted to see him also--once every day, if he
wished, Desmas stated, though the latter felt he was stretching
a point in permitting this so soon. Both of these visits rarely
occupied more than an hour, or an hour and a half, and after that
the day was long. He was taken out on several days on a court
order, between nine and five, to testify in the bankruptcy
proceedings against him, which caused the time in the beginning
to pass quickly.
It was curious, once he was in prison, safely shut from the world
for a period of years apparently, how quickly all thought of
assisting him departed from the minds of those who had been most
friendly. He was done, so most of them thought. The only thing
they could do now would be to use their influence to get him out
some time; how soon, they could not guess. Beyond that there was
nothing. He would really never be of any great importance to any
one any more, or so they thought. It was very sad, very tragic,
but he was gone--his place knew him not.
"A bright young man, that," observed President Davison of the
Girard National, on reading of Cowperwood's sentence and incarceration.
"Too bad! Too bad! He made a great mistake."
Only his parents, Aileen, and his wife--the latter with mingled
feelings of resentment and sorrow--really missed him. Aileen,
because of her great passion for him, was suffering most of all.
Four years and three months; she thought. If he did not get out
before then she would be nearing twenty-nine and he would be nearing
forty. Would he want her then? Would she be so attractive? And
would nearly five years change his point of view? He would have
to wear a convict suit all that time, and be known as a convict
forever after. It was hard to think about, but only made her more
than ever determined to cling to him, whatever happened, and to
help him all she could.
Indeed the day after his incarceration she drove out and looked
at the grim, gray walls of the penitentiary. Knowing nothing
absolutely of the vast and complicated processes of law and penal
servitude, it seemed especially terrible to her. What might not
they be doing to her Frank? Was he suffering much? Was he thinking
of her as she was of him? Oh, the pity of it all! The pity! The
pity of herself--her great love for him! She drove home, determined
to see him; but as he had originally told her that visiting days
were only once in three months, and that he would have to write
her when the next one was, or when she could come, or when he could
see her on the outside, she scarcely knew what to do. Secrecy was
The next day, however, she wrote him just the same, describing the
drive she had taken on the stormy afternoon before--the terror of
the thought that he was behind those grim gray walls--and declaring
her determination to see him soon. And this letter, under the new
arrangement, he received at once. He wrote her in reply, giving
the letter to Wingate to mail. It ran:
My sweet girl:--I fancy you are a little downhearted to think
I cannot be with you any more soon, but you mustn't be. I
suppose you read all about the sentence in the paper. I came
out here the same morning--nearly noon. If I had time, dearest,
I'd write you a long letter describing the situation so as to
ease your mind; but I haven't. It's against the rules, and I
am really doing this secretly. I'm here, though, safe enough,
and wish I were out, of course. Sweetest, you must be careful
how you try to see me at first. You can't do me much service
outside of cheering me up, and you may do yourself great harm.
Besides, I think I have done you far more harm than I can ever
make up to you and that you had best give me up, although I know
you do not think so, and I would be sad, if you did. I am to be
in the Court of Special Pleas, Sixth and Chestnut, on Friday at
two o'clock; but you cannot see me there. I'll be out in charge
of my counsel. You must be careful. Perhaps you'll think
better, and not come here.
This last touch was one of pure gloom, the first Cowperwood had
ever introduced into their relationship but conditions had changed
him. Hitherto he had been in the position of the superior being,
the one who was being sought--although Aileen was and had been
well worth seeking--and he had thought that he might escape unscathed,
and so grow in dignity and power until she might not possibly be
worthy of him any longer. He had had that thought. But here, in
stripes, it was a different matter. Aileen's position, reduced
in value as it was by her long, ardent relationship with him, was
now, nevertheless, superior to his--apparently so. For after all,
was she not Edward Butler's daughter, and might she, after she had
been away from him a while, wish to become a convict's bride. She
ought not to want to, and she might not want to, for all he knew;
she might change her mind. She ought not to wait for him. Her
life was not yet ruined. The public did not know, so he thought--
not generally anyhow--that she had been his mistress. She might
marry. Why not, and so pass out of his life forever. And would
not that be sad for him? And yet did he not owe it to her, to a
sense of fair play in himself to ask her to give him up, or at
least think over the wisdom of doing so?
He did her the justice to believe that she would not want to give
him up; and in his position, however harmful it might be to her,
it was an advantage, a connecting link with the finest period of
his past life, to have her continue to love him. He could not,
however, scribbling this note in his cell in Wingate's presence,
and giving it to him to mail (Overseer Chapin was kindly keeping
a respectful distance, though he was supposed to be present),
refrain from adding, at the last moment, this little touch of doubt
which, when she read it, struck Aileen to the heart. She read it
as gloom on his part--as great depression. Perhaps, after all,
the penitentiary and so soon, was really breaking his spirit, and
he had held up so courageously so long. Because of this, now she
was madly eager to get to him, to console him, even though it was
difficult, perilous. She must, she said.
In regard to visits from the various members of his family--his
mother and father, his brother, his wife, and his sister--Cowperwood
made it plain to them on one of the days on which he was out
attending a bankruptcy hearing, that even providing it could be
arranged he did not think they should come oftener than once in
three months, unless he wrote them or sent word by Steger. The
truth was that he really did not care to see much of any of them
at present. He was sick of the whole social scheme of things.
In fact he wanted to be rid of the turmoil he had been in, seeing
it had proved so useless. He had used nearly fifteen thousand
dollars thus far in defending himself--court costs, family
maintenance, Steger, etc.; but he did not mind that. He expected
to make some little money working through Wingate. His family
were not utterly without funds, sufficient to live on in a small
way. He had advised them to remove into houses more in keeping
with their reduced circumstances, which they had done--his mother
and father and brothers and sister to a three-story brick house
of about the caliber of the old Buttonwood Street house, and his
wife to a smaller, less expensive two-story one on North Twenty-first
Street, near the penitentiary, a portion of the money saved out
of the thirty-five thousand dollars extracted from Stener under
false pretenses aiding to sustain it. Of course all this was a
terrible descent from the Girard Avenue mansion for the elder
Cowperwood; for here was none of the furniture which characterized
the other somewhat gorgeous domicile--merely store-bought, ready-made
furniture, and neat but cheap hangings and fixtures generally.
The assignees, to whom all Cowperwood's personal property belonged,
and to whom Cowperwood, the elder, had surrendered all his holdings,
would not permit anything of importance to be removed. It had all
to be sold for the benefit of creditors. A few very small things,
but only a few, had been kept, as everything had been inventoried
some time before. One of the things which old Cowperwood wanted
was his own desk which Frank had had designed for him; but as it
was valued at five hundred dollars and could not be relinquished
by the sheriff except on payment of that sum, or by auction, and
as Henry Cowperwood had no such sum to spare, he had to let the
desk go. There were many things they all wanted, and Anna Adelaide
had literally purloined a few though she did not admit the fact
to her parents until long afterward.
There came a day when the two houses in Girard Avenue were the
scene of a sheriffs sale, during which the general public, without
let or hindrance, was permitted to tramp through the rooms and
examine the pictures, statuary, and objects of art generally,
which were auctioned off to the highest bidder. Considerable fame
had attached to Cowperwood's activities in this field, owing in
the first place to the real merit of what he had brought together,
and in the next place to the enthusiastic comment of such men as
Wilton Ellsworth, Fletcher Norton, Gordon Strake--architects and
art dealers whose judgment and taste were considered important in
Philadelphia. All of the lovely things by which he had set great
store--small bronzes, representative of the best period of the
Italian Renaissance; bits of Venetian glass which he had collected
with great care--a full curio case; statues by Powers, Hosmer,
and Thorwaldsen--things which would be smiled at thirty years
later, but which were of high value then; all of his pictures by
representative American painters from Gilbert to Eastman Johnson,
together with a few specimens of the current French and English
schools, went for a song. Art judgment in Philadelphia at this
time was not exceedingly high; and some of the pictures, for lack
of appreciative understanding, were disposed of at much too low a
figure. Strake, Norton, and Ellsworth were all present and bought
liberally. Senator Simpson, Mollenhauer, and Strobik came to see
what they could see. The small-fry politicians were there, en
masse. But Simpson, calm judge of good art, secured practically
the best of all that was offered. To him went the curio case of
Venetian glass; one pair of tall blue-and-white Mohammedan cylindrical
vases; fourteen examples of Chinese jade, including several artists'
water-dishes and a pierced window-screen of the faintest tinge of
green. To Mollenhauer went the furniture and decorations of the
entry-hall and reception-room of Henry Cowperwood's house, and to
Edward Strobik two of Cowperwood's bird's-eye maple bedroom suites
for the most modest of prices. Adam Davis was present and secured
the secretaire of buhl which the elder Cowperwood prized so highly.
To Fletcher Norton went the four Greek vases--a kylix, a water-jar,
and two amphorae--which he had sold to Cowperwood and which he
valued highly. Various objects of art, including a Sevres dinner
set, a Gobelin tapestry, Barye bronzes and pictures by Detaille,
Fortuny, and George Inness, went to Walter Leigh, Arthur Rivers,
Joseph Zimmerman, Judge Kitchen, Harper Steger, Terrence Relihan,
Trenor Drake, Mr. and Mrs. Simeon Jones, W. C. Davison, Frewen
Kasson, Fletcher Norton, and Judge Rafalsky.
Within four days after the sale began the two houses were bare of
their contents. Even the objects in the house at 931 North Tenth
Street had been withdrawn from storage where they had been placed
at the time it was deemed advisable to close this institution, and
placed on sale with the other objects in the two homes. It was
at this time that the senior Cowperwoods first learned of something
which seemed to indicate a mystery which had existed in connection
with their son and his wife. No one of all the Cowperwoods was
present during all this gloomy distribution; and Aileen, reading
of the disposition of all the wares, and knowing their value to
Cowperwood, to say nothing of their charm for her, was greatly
depressed; yet she was not long despondent, for she was convinced
that Cowperwood would some day regain his liberty and attain a
position of even greater significance in the financial world. She
could not have said why but she was sure of it.
In the meanwhile Cowperwood had been transferred to a new overseer
and a new cell in Block 3 on the ground door, which was like all
the others in size, ten by sixteen, but to which was attached the
small yard previously mentioned. Warden Desmas came up two days
before he was transferred, and had another short conversation with
him through his cell door.
"You'll be transferred on Monday," he said, in his reserved, slow
way. "They'll give you a yard, though it won't be much good to
you--we only allow a half-hour a day in it. I've told the overseer
about your business arrangements. He'll treat you right in that
matter. Just be careful not to take up too much time that way, and
things will work out. I've decided to let you learn caning chairs.
That'll be the best for you. It's easy, and it'll occupy your
The warden and some allied politicians made a good thing out of
this prison industry. It was really not hard labor--the tasks set
were simple and not oppressive, but all of the products were
promptly sold, and the profits pocketed. It was good, therefore,
to see all the prisoners working, and it did them good. Cowperwood
was glad of the chance to do something, for he really did not care
so much for books, and his connection with Wingate and his old
affairs were not sufficient to employ his mind in a satisfactory
way. At the same time, he could not help thinking, if he seemed
strange to himself, now, how much stranger he would seem then,
behind these narrow bars working at so commonplace a task as caning
chairs. Nevertheless, he now thanked Desmas for this, as well as
for the sheets and the toilet articles which had just been brought
"That's all right," replied the latter, pleasantly and softly, by
now much intrigued by Cowperwood. "I know that there are men and
men here, the same as anywhere. If a man knows how to use these
things and wants to be clean, I wouldn't be one to put anything in
The new overseer with whom Cowperwood had to deal was a very
different person from Elias Chapin. His name was Walter Bonhag,
and he was not more than thirty-seven years of age--a big, flabby
sort of person with a crafty mind, whose principal object in life
was to see that this prison situation as he found it should furnish
him a better income than his normal salary provided. A close study
of Bonhag would have seemed to indicate that he was a stool-pigeon
of Desmas, but this was really not true except in a limited way.
Because Bonhag was shrewd and sycophantic, quick to see a point
in his or anybody else's favor, Desmas instinctively realized
that he was the kind of man who could be trusted to be lenient on
order or suggestion. That is, if Desmas had the least interest
in a prisoner he need scarcely say so much to Bonhag; he might
merely suggest that this man was used to a different kind of life,
or that, because of some past experience, it might go hard with
him if be were handled roughly; and Bonhag would strain himself
to be pleasant. The trouble was that to a shrewd man of any
refinement his attentions were objectionable, being obviously
offered for a purpose, and to a poor or ignorant man they were
brutal and contemptuous. He had built up an extra income for
himself inside the prison by selling the prisoners extra allowances
of things which he secretly brought into the prison. It was
strictly against the rules, in theory at least, to bring in anything
which was not sold in the store-room--tobacco, writing paper, pens,
ink, whisky, cigars, or delicacies of any kind. On the other hand,
and excellently well for him, it was true that tobacco of an
inferior grade was provided, as well as wretched pens, ink and
paper, so that no self-respecting man, if he could help it, would
endure them. Whisky was not allowed at all, and delicacies were
abhorred as indicating rank favoritism; nevertheless, they were
brought in. If a prisoner had the money and was willing to see
that Bonhag secured something for his trouble, almost anything
would be forthcoming. Also the privilege of being sent into the
general yard as a "trusty," or being allowed to stay in the little
private yard which some cells possessed, longer than the half-hour
ordinarily permitted, was sold.
One of the things curiously enough at this time, which worked in
Cowperwood's favor, was the fact that Bonhag was friendly with the
overseer who had Stener in charge, and Stener, because of his
political friends, was being liberally treated, and Bonhag knew of
this. He was not a careful reader of newspapers, nor had he any
intellectual grasp of important events; but he knew by now that
both Stener and Cowperwood were, or had been, individuals of great
importance in the community; also that Cowperwood had been the
more important of the two. Better yet, as Bonhag now heard,
Cowperwood still had money. Some prisoner, who was permitted to
read the paper, told him so. And so, entirely aside from Warden
Desmas's recommendation, which was given in a very quiet, noncommittal
way, Bonhag was interested to see what he could do for Cowperwood
for a price.
The day Cowperwood was installed in his new cell, Bonhag lolled
up to the door, which was open, and said, in a semipatronizing way,
"Got all your things over yet?" It was his business to lock the
door once Cowperwood was inside it.
"Yes, sir," replied Cowperwood, who had been shrewd enough to get
the new overseer's name from Chapin; "this is Mr. Bonhag, I presume?"
"That's me," replied Bonhag, not a little flattered by the recognition,
but still purely interested by the practical side of this encounter.
He was anxious to study Cowperwood, to see what type of man he was.
"You'll find it a little different down here from up there," observed
Bonhag. "It ain't so stuffy. These doors out in the yards make
"Oh, yes," said Cowperwood, observantly and shrewdly, "that is the
yard Mr. Desmas spoke of."
At the mention of the magic name, if Bonhag had been a horse, his
ears would have been seen to lift. For, of course, if Cowperwood
was so friendly with Desmas that the latter had described to him
the type of cell he was to have beforehand, it behooved Bonhag to
be especially careful.
"Yes, that's it, but it ain't much," he observed. "They only allow
a half-hour a day in it. Still it would be all right if a person
could stay out there longer."
This was his first hint at graft, favoritism; and Cowperwood
distinctly caught the sound of it in his voice.
"That's too bad," he said. "I don't suppose good conduct helps
a person to get more." He waited to hear a reply, but instead
Bonhag continued with: "I'd better teach you your new trade now.
You've got to learn to cane chairs, so the warden says. If you
want, we can begin right away." But without waiting for Cowperwood
to acquiesce, he went off, returning after a time with three
unvarnished frames of chairs and a bundle of cane strips or withes,
which he deposited on the floor. Having so done--and with a
flourish--he now continued: "Now I'll show you if you'll watch me,"
and he began showing Cowperwood how the strips were to be laced
through the apertures on either side, cut, and fastened with little
hickory pegs. This done, he brought a forcing awl, a small hammer,
a box of pegs, and a pair of clippers. After several brief
demonstrations with different strips, as to how the geometric
forms were designed, he allowed Cowperwood to take the matter in
hand, watching over his shoulder. The financier, quick at anything,
manual or mental, went at it in his customary energetic fashion,
and in five minutes demonstrated to Bonhag that, barring skill and
speed, which could only come with practice, he could do it as well
as another. "You'll make out all right," said Bonhag. "You're
supposed to do ten of those a day. We won't count the next few
days, though, until you get your hand in. After that I'll come
around and see how you're getting along. You understand about
the towel on the door, don't you?" he inquired.
"Yes, Mr. Chapin explained that to me," replied Cowperwood. "I
think I know what most of the rules are now. I'll try not to
break any of them."
The days which followed brought a number of modifications of his
prison lot, but not sufficient by any means to make it acceptable
to him. Bonhag, during the first few days in which he trained
Cowperwood in the art of caning chairs, managed to make it perfectly
clear that there were a number of things he would be willing to
do for him. One of the things that moved him to this, was that
already he had been impressed by the fact that Stener's friends
were coming to see him in larger numbers than Cowperwood's,
sending him an occasional basket of fruit, which he gave to the
overseers, and that his wife and children had been already permitted
to visit him outside the regular visiting-day. This was a cause
for jealousy on Bonhag's part. His fellow-overseer was lording
it over him--telling him, as it were, of the high jinks in Block
4. Bonhag really wanted Cowperwood to spruce up and show what he
could do, socially or otherwise.
And so now he began with: "I see you have your lawyer and your
partner here every day. There ain't anybody else you'd like to
have visit you, is there? Of course, it's against the rules to
have your wife or sister or anybody like that, except on visiting
days--" And here he paused and rolled a large and informing eye
on Cowperwood--such an eye as was supposed to convey dark and
mysterious things. "But all the rules ain't kept around here by
a long shot."
Cowperwood was not the man to lose a chance of this kind. He
smiled a little--enough to relieve himself, and to convey to Bonhag
that he was gratified by the information, but vocally he observed:
"I'll tell you how it is, Mr. Bonhag. I believe you understand
my position better than most men would, and that I can talk to you.
There are people who would like to come here, but I have been
afraid to let them come. I did not know that it could be arranged.
If it could be, I would be very grateful. You and I are practical
men--I know that if any favors are extended some of those who help
to bring them about must be looked after. If you can do anything
to make it a little more comfortable for me here I will show you
that I appreciate it. I haven't any money on my person, but I can
always get it, and I will see that you are properly looked after."
Bonhag's short, thick ears tingled. This was the kind of talk he
liked to hear. "I can fix anything like that, Mr. Cowperwood,"
he replied, servilely. "You leave it to me. If there's any one
you want to see at any time, just let me know. Of course I have
to be very careful, and so do you, but that's all right, too. If
you want to stay out in that yard a little longer in the mornings
or get out there afternoons or evenings, from now on, why, go ahead.
It's all right. I'll just leave the door open. If the warden or
anybody else should be around, I'll just scratch on your door with
my key, and you come in and shut it. If there's anything you want
from the outside I can get it for you--jelly or eggs or butter or
any little thing like that. You might like to fix up your meals a
little that way."
"I'm certainly most grateful, Mr. Bonhag," returned Cowperwood in
his grandest manner, and with a desire to smile, but he kept a
"In regard to that other matter," went on Bonhag, referring to
the matter of extra visitors, "I can fix that any time you want
to. I know the men out at the gate. If you want anybody to come
here, just write 'em a note and give it to me, and tell 'em to
ask for me when they come. That'll get 'em in all right. When
they get here you can talk to 'em in your cell. See! Only when
I tap they have to come out. You want to remember that. So just
you let me know."
Cowperwood was exceedingly grateful. He said so in direct, choice
language. It occurred to him at once that this was Aileen's
opportunity, and that he could now notify her to come. If she
veiled herself sufficiently she would probably be safe enough.
He decided to write her, and when Wingate came he gave him a letter
Two days later, at three o'clock in the afternoon--the time appointed
by him--Aileen came to see him. She was dressed in gray broadcloth
with white-velvet trimmings and cut-steel buttons which glistened
like silver, and wore, as additional ornaments, as well as a
protection against the cold, a cap, stole, and muff of snow-white
ermine. Over this rather striking costume she had slipped a long
dark circular cloak, which she meant to lay off immediately upon
her arrival. She had made a very careful toilet as to her shoes,
gloves, hair, and the gold ornaments which she wore. Her face was
concealed by a thick green veil, as Cowperwood had suggested; and
she arrived at an hour when, as near as he had been able to
prearrange, he would be alone. Wingate usually came at four,
after business, and Steger in the morning, when he came at all.
She was very nervous over this strange adventure, leaving the
street-car in which she had chosen to travel some distance away
and walking up a side street. The cold weather and the gray walls
under a gray sky gave her a sense of defeat, but she had worked
very hard to look nice in order to cheer her lover up. She knew
how readily he responded to the influence of her beauty when
Cowperwood, in view of her coming, had made his cell as acceptable
as possible. It was clean, because he had swept it himself and
made his own bed; and besides he had shaved and combed his hair,
and otherwise put himself to rights. The caned chairs on which
he was working had been put in the corner at the end of the bed.
His few dishes were washed and hung up, and his clogs brushed with
a brush which he now kept for the purpose. Never before, he thought
to himself, with a peculiar feeling of artistic degradation, had
Aileen seen him like this. She had always admired his good taste
in clothes, and the way he carried himself in them; and now she
was to see him in garments which no dignity of body could make
presentable. Only a stoic sense of his own soul-dignity aided him
here. After all, as he now thought, he was Frank A. Cowperwood,
and that was something, whatever he wore. And Aileen knew it.
Again, he might be free and rich some day, and he knew that she
believed that. Best of all, his looks under these or any other
circumstances, as he knew, would make no difference to Aileen.
She would only love him the more. It was her ardent sympathy that
he was afraid of. He was so glad that Bonhag had suggested that
she might enter the cell, for it would be a grim procedure talking
to her through a barred door.
When Aileen arrived she asked for Mr. Bonhag, and was permitted
to go to the central rotunda, where he was sent for. When he
came she murmured: "I wish to see Mr. Cowperwood, if you please";
and he exclaimed, "Oh, yes, just come with me." As he came across
the rotunda floor from his corridor he was struck by the evident
youth of Aileen, even though he could not see her face. This now
was something in accordance with what he had expected of Cowperwood.
A man who could steal five hundred thousand dollars and set a
whole city by the ears must have wonderful adventures of all kinds,
and Aileen looked like a true adventure. He led her to the little
room where he kept his desk and detained visitors, and then bustled
down to Cowperwood's cell, where the financier was working on one
of his chairs and scratching on the door with his key, called:
"There's a young lady here to see you. Do you want to let her
"Thank you, yes," replied Cowperwood; and Bonhag hurried away,
unintentionally forgetting, in his boorish incivility, to unlock
the cell door, so that he had to open it in Aileen's presence.
The long corridor, with its thick doors, mathematically spaced
gratings and gray-stone pavement, caused Aileen to feel faint at
heart. A prison, iron cells! And he was in one of them. It
chilled her usually courageous spirit. What a terrible place for
her Frank to be! What a horrible thing to have put him here! Judges,
juries, courts, laws, jails seemed like so many foaming ogres
ranged about the world, glaring down upon her and her love-affair.
The clank of the key in the lock, and the heavy outward swinging
of the door, completed her sense of the untoward. And then she
Because of the price he was to receive, Bonhag, after admitting
her, strolled discreetly away. Aileen looked at Cowperwood from
behind her veil, afraid to speak until she was sure Bonhag had
gone. And Cowperwood, who was retaining his self-possession by
an effort, signaled her but with difficulty after a moment or two.
"It's all right," he said. "He's gone away." She lifted her veil,
removed her cloak, and took in, without seeming to, the stuffy,
narrow thickness of the room, his wretched shoes, the cheap,
misshapen suit, the iron door behind him leading out into the
little yard attached to his cell. Against such a background,
with his partially caned chairs visible at the end of the bed,
he seemed unnatural, weird even. Her Frank! And in this condition.
She trembled and it was useless for her to try to speak. She could
only put her arms around him and stroke his head, murmuring: "My
poor boy--my darling. Is this what they have done to you? Oh, my
poor darling." She held his head while Cowperwood, anxious to
retain his composure, winced and trembled, too. Her love was so
full--so genuine. It was so soothing at the same time that it was
unmanning, as now he could see, making of him a child again. And
for the first time in his life, some inexplicable trick of chemistry--
that chemistry of the body, of blind forces which so readily
supersedes reason at times--he lost his self-control. The depth
of Aileen's feelings, the cooing sound of her voice, the velvety
tenderness of her hands, that beauty that had drawn him all the
time--more radiant here perhaps within these hard walls, and in
the face of his physical misery, than it had ever been before--
completely unmanned him. He did not understand how it could; he
tried to defy the moods, but he could not. When she held his head
close and caressed it, of a sudden, in spite of himself, his breast
felt thick and stuffy, and his throat hurt him. He felt, for him,
an astonishingly strange feeling, a desire to cry, which he did
his best to overcome; it shocked him so. There then combined and
conspired to defeat him a strange, rich picture of the great world
he had so recently lost, of the lovely, magnificent world which
he hoped some day to regain. He felt more poignantly at this
moment than ever he had before the degradation of the clog shoes,
the cotton shirt, the striped suit, the reputation of a convict,
permanent and not to be laid aside. He drew himself quickly away
from her, turned his back, clinched his hands, drew his muscles
taut; but it was too late. He was crying, and he could not stop.
"Oh, damn it!" he exclaimed, half angrily, half self-commiseratingly,
in combined rage and shame. "Why should I cry? What the devil's
the matter with me, anyhow?"
Aileen saw it. She fairly flung herself in front of him, seized
his head with one hand, his shabby waist with the other, and held
him tight in a grip that he could not have readily released.
"Oh, honey, honey, honey!" she exclaimed, pityingly feverishly.
"I love you, I adore you. They could cut my body into bits if it
would do you any good. To think that they should make you cry!
Oh, my sweet, my sweet, my darling boy!"
She pulled his still shaking body tighter, and with her free hand
caressed his head. She kissed his eyes, his hair, his cheeks. He
pulled himself loose again after a moment, exclaiming, "What the
devil's got into me?" but she drew him back.
"Never mind, honey darling, don't you be ashamed to cry. Cry here
on my shoulder. Cry here with me. My baby--my honey pet!"
He quieted down after a few moments, cautioning her against
Bonhag, and regaining his former composure, which he was so ashamed
to have lost.
"You're a great girl, pet," he said, with a tender and yet apologetic
smile. "You're all right--all that I need--a great help to me;
but don't worry any longer about me, dear. I'm all right. It
isn't as bad as you think. How are you?"
Aileen on her part was not to be soothed so easily. His many woes,
including his wretched position here, outraged her sense of justice
and decency. To think her fine, wonderful Frank should be compelled
to come to this--to cry. She stroked his head, tenderly, while
wild, deadly, unreasoning opposition to life and chance and untoward
opposition surged in her brain. Her father--damn him! Her family--
pooh! What did she care? Her Frank--her Frank. How little all
else mattered where he was concerned. Never, never, never would
she desert him--never--come what might. And now she clung to him
in silence while she fought in her brain an awful battle with
life and law and fate and circumstance. Law--nonsense! People--
they were brutes, devils, enemies, hounds! She was delighted, eager,
crazy to make a sacrifice of herself. She would go anywhere for
or with her Frank now. She would do anything for him. Her family
was nothing--life nothing, nothing, nothing. She would do anything
he wished, nothing more, nothing less; anything she could do to
save him, to make his life happier, but nothing for any one else.
The days passed. Once the understanding with Bonhag was reached,
Cowperwood's wife, mother and sister were allowed to appear on
occasions. His wife and the children were now settled in the
little home for which he was paying, and his financial obligations
to her were satisfied by Wingate, who paid her one hundred and
twenty five dollars a month for him. He realized that he owed
her more, but he was sailing rather close to the wind financially,
these days. The final collapse of his old interests had come in
March, when he had been legally declared a bankrupt, and all his
properties forfeited to satisfy the claims against him. The city's
claim of five hundred thousand dollars would have eaten up more
than could have been realized at the time, had not a pro rata
payment of thirty cents on the dollar been declared. Even then
the city never received its due, for by some hocus-pocus it was
declared to have forfeited its rights. Its claims had not been
made at the proper time in the proper way. This left larger
portions of real money for the others.
Fortunately by now Cowperwood had begun to see that by a little
experimenting his business relations with Wingate were likely to
prove profitable. The broker had made it clear that he intended
to be perfectly straight with him. He had employed Cowperwood's
two brothers, at very moderate salaries--one to take care of the
books and look after the office, and the other to act on 'change
with him, for their seats in that organization had never been sold.
And also, by considerable effort, he had succeeded in securing
Cowperwood, Sr., a place as a clerk in a bank. For the latter,
since the day of his resignation from the Third National had been
in a deep, sad quandary as to what further to do with his life.
His son's disgrace! The horror of his trial and incarceration.
Since the day of Frank's indictment and more so, since his sentence
and commitment to the Eastern Penitentiary, he was as one who
walked in a dream. That trial! That charge against Frank! His own
son, a convict in stripes--and after he and Frank had walked so
proudly in the front rank of the successful and respected here.
Like so many others in his hour of distress, he had taken to reading
the Bible, looking into its pages for something of that mind
consolation that always, from youth up, although rather casually
in these latter years, he had imagined was to be found there. The
Psalms, Isaiah, the Book of Job, Ecclesiastes. And for the most
part, because of the fraying nature of his present ills, not finding
But day after day secreting himself in his room--a little hall-bedroom
office in his newest home, where to his wife, he pretended that
he had some commercial matters wherewith he was still concerned--
and once inside, the door locked, sitting and brooding on all that
had befallen him--his losses; his good name. Or, after months of
this, and because of the new position secured for him by Wingate--
a bookkeeping job in one of the outlying banks--slipping away
early in the morning, and returning late at night, his mind a
gloomy epitome of all that had been or yet might be.
To see him bustling off from his new but very much reduced home
at half after seven in the morning in order to reach the small
bank, which was some distance away and not accessible by street-car
line, was one of those pathetic sights which the fortunes of trade
so frequently offer. He carried his lunch in a small box because
it was inconvenient to return home in the time allotted for this
purpose, and because his new salary did not permit the extravagance
of a purchased one. It was his one ambition now to eke out a
respectable but unseen existence until he should die, which he
hoped would not be long. He was a pathetic figure with his thin
legs and body, his gray hair, and his snow-white side-whiskers.
He was very lean and angular, and, when confronted by a difficult
problem, a little uncertain or vague in his mind. An old habit
which had grown on him in the years of his prosperity of putting
his hand to his mouth and of opening his eyes in an assumption of
surprise, which had no basis in fact, now grew upon him. He really
degenerated, although he did not know it, into a mere automaton.
Life strews its shores with such interesting and pathetic wrecks.
One of the things that caused Cowperwood no little thought at this
time, and especially in view of his present extreme indifference
to her, was how he would bring up this matter of his indifference
to his wife and his desire to end their relationship. Yet apart
from the brutality of the plain truth, he saw no way. As he could
plainly see, she was now persisting in her pretense of devotion,
uncolored, apparently, by any suspicion of what had happened.
Yet since his trial and conviction, she had been hearing from one
source and another that he was still intimate with Aileen, and it
was only her thought of his concurrent woes, and the fact that he
might possibly be spared to a successful financial life, that now
deterred her from speaking. He was shut up in a cell, she said
to herself, and she was really very sorry for him, but she did not
love him as she once had. He was really too deserving of reproach
for his general unseemly conduct, and no doubt this was what was
intended, as well as being enforced, by the Governing Power of the
One can imagine how much such an attitude as this would appeal to
Cowperwood, once he had detected it. By a dozen little signs,
in spite of the fact that she brought him delicacies, and commiserated
on his fate, he could see that she felt not only sad, but reproachful,
and if there was one thing that Cowperwood objected to at all times
it was the moral as well as the funereal air. Contrasted with the
cheerful combative hopefulness and enthusiasm of Aileen, the wearied
uncertainty of Mrs. Cowperwood was, to say the least, a little
tame. Aileen, after her first burst of rage over his fate, which
really did not develop any tears on her part, was apparently convinced
that he would get out and be very successful again. She talked
success and his future all the time because she believed in it.
Instinctively she seemed to realize that prison walls could not
make a prison for him. Indeed, on the first day she left she
handed Bonhag ten dollars, and after thanking him in her attractive
voice--without showing her face, however--for his obvious kindness
to her, bespoke his further favor for Cowperwood--"a very great man,"
as she described him, which sealed that ambitious materialist's
fate completely. There was nothing the overseer would not do for
the young lady in the dark cloak. She might have stayed in
Cowperwood's cell for a week if the visiting-hours of the penitentiary
had not made it impossible.
The day that Cowperwood decided to discuss with his wife the
weariness of his present married state and his desire to be free
of it was some four months after he had entered the prison. By
that time he had become inured to his convict life. The silence
of his cell and the menial tasks he was compelled to perform,
which had at first been so distressing, banal, maddening, in their
pointless iteration, had now become merely commonplace--dull, but
not painful. Furthermore he had learned many of the little
resources of the solitary convict, such as that of using his lamp
to warm up some delicacy which he had saved from a previous meal
or from some basket which had been sent him by his wife or Aileen.
He had partially gotten rid of the sickening odor of his cell by
persuading Bonhag to bring him small packages of lime; which he
used with great freedom. Also he succeeded in defeating some of
the more venturesome rats with traps; and with Bonhag's permission,
after his cell door had been properly locked at night, and sealed
with the outer wooden door, he would take his chair, if it were
not too cold, out into the little back yard of his cell and look
at the sky, where, when the nights were clear, the stars were to
be seen. He had never taken any interest in astronomy as a
scientific study, but now the Pleiades, the belt of Orion, the Big
Dipper and the North Star, to which one of its lines pointed,
caught his attention, almost his fancy. He wondered why the stars
of the belt of Orion came to assume the peculiar mathematical
relation to each other which they held, as far as distance and
arrangement were concerned, and whether that could possibly have
any intellectual significance. The nebulous conglomeration of
the suns in Pleiades suggested a soundless depth of space, and he
thought of the earth floating like a little ball in immeasurable
reaches of ether. His own life appeared very trivial in view of
these things, and he found himself asking whether it was all really
of any significance or importance. He shook these moods off with
ease, however, for the man was possessed of a sense of grandeur,
largely in relation to himself and his affairs; and his temperament
was essentially material and vital. Something kept telling him
that whatever his present state he must yet grow to be a significant
personage, one whose fame would be heralded the world over--who
must try, try, try. It was not given ail men to see far or to do
brilliantly; but to him it was given, and he must be what he was
cut out to be. There was no more escaping the greatness that was
inherent in him than there was for so many others the littleness
that was in them.
Mrs. Cowperwood came in that afternoon quite solemnly, bearing
several changes of linen, a pair of sheets, some potted meat and
a pie. She was not exactly doleful, but Cowperwood thought that
she was tending toward it, largely because of her brooding over
his relationship to Aileen, which he knew that she knew. Something
in her manner decided him to speak before she left; and after
asking her how the children were, and listening to her inquiries
in regard to the things that he needed, he said to her, sitting
on his single chair while she sat on his bed:
"Lillian, there's something I've been wanting to talk with you
about for some time. I should have done it before, but it's better
late than never. I know that you know that there is something
between Aileen Butler and me, and we might as well have it open
and aboveboard. It's true I am very fond of her and she is very
devoted to me, and if ever I get out of here I want to arrange it
so that I can marry her. That means that you will have to give
me a divorce, if you will; and I want to talk to you about that
now. This can't be so very much of a surprise to you, because
you must have seen this long while that our relationship hasn't
been all that it might have been, and under the circumstances this
can't prove such a very great hardship to you--I am sure." He
paused, waiting, for Mrs. Cowperwood at first said nothing.
Her thought, when he first broached this, was that she ought to
make some demonstration of astonishment or wrath: but when she
looked into his steady, examining eyes, so free from the illusion
of or interest in demonstrations of any kind, she realized how
useless it would be. He was so utterly matter-of-fact in what
seemed to her quite private and secret affairs--very shameless.
She had never been able to understand quite how he could take the
subtleties of life as he did, anyhow. Certain things which she
always fancied should be hushed up he spoke of with the greatest
nonchalance. Her ears tingled sometimes at his frankness in
disposing of a social situation; but she thought this must be
characteristic of notable men, and so there was nothing to be said
about it. Certain men did as they pleased; society did not seem
to be able to deal with them in any way. Perhaps God would,
later--she was not sure. Anyhow, bad as he was, direct as he
was, forceful as he was, he was far more interesting than most of
the more conservative types in whom the social virtues of polite
speech and modest thoughts were seemingly predominate.
"I know," she said, rather peacefully, although with a touch of
anger and resentment in her voice. "I've known all about it all
this time. I expected you would say something like this to me
some day. It's a nice reward for all my devotion to you; but
it's just like you, Frank. When you are set on something, nothing
can stop you. It wasn't enough that you were getting along so
nicely and had two children whom you ought to love, but you had
to take up with this Butler creature until her name and yours are
a by-word throughout the city. I know that she comes to this
prison. I saw her out here one day as I was coming in, and I
suppose every one else knows it by now. She has no sense of
decency and she does not care--the wretched, vain thing--but I
would have thought that you would be ashamed, Frank, to go on the
way that you have, when you still have me and the children and
your father and mother and when you are certain to have such a
hard fight to get yourself on your feet, as it is. If she had any
sense of decency she would not have anything to do with you--the
Cowperwood looked at his wife with unflinching eyes. He read in
her remarks just what his observation had long since confirmed--
that she was sympathetically out of touch with him. She was no
longer so attractive physically, and intellectually she was not
Aileen's equal. Also that contact with those women who had deigned
to grace his home in his greatest hour of prosperity had proved
to him conclusively she was lacking in certain social graces.
Aileen was by no means so vastly better, still she was young and
amenable and adaptable, and could still be improved. Opportunity
as he now chose to think, might make Aileen, whereas for Lillian--
or at least, as he now saw it--it could do nothing.
"I'll tell you how it is, Lillian," he said; "I'm not sure that
you are going to get what I mean exactly, but you and I are not
at all well suited to each other any more."
"You didn't seem to think that three or four years ago," interrupted
his wife, bitterly.
"I married you when I was twenty-one," went on Cowperwood, quite
brutally, not paying any attention to her interruption, "and I
was really too young to know what I was doing. I was a mere boy.
It doesn't make so much difference about that. I am not using
that as an excuse. The point that I am trying to make is this--
that right or wrong, important or not important, I have changed
my mind since. I don't love you any more, and I don't feel that
I want to keep up a relationship, however it may look to the public,
that is not satisfactory to me. You have one point of view about
life, and I have another. You think your point of view is the
right one, and there are thousands of people who will agree with
you; but I don't think so. We have never quarreled about these
things, because I didn't think it was important to quarrel about
them. I don't see under the circumstances that I am doing you any
great injustice when I ask you to let me go. I don't intend to
desert you or the children--you will get a good living-income
from me as long as I have the money to give it to you--but I want
my personal freedom when I come out of here, if ever I do, and I
want you to let me have it. The money that you had and a great
deal more, once I am out of here, you will get back when I am on
my feet again. But not if you oppose me--only if you help me. I
want, and intend to help you always--but in my way."
He smoothed the leg of his prison trousers in a thoughtful way,
and plucked at the sleeve of his coat. Just now he looked very
much like a highly intelligent workman as he sat here, rather than
like the important personage that he was. Mrs. Cowperwood was
"That's a nice way to talk to me, and a nice way to treat me!"
she exclaimed dramatically, rising and walking the short space--
some two steps--that lay between the wall and the bed. "I might
have known that you were too young to know your own mind when you
married me. Money, of course, that's all you think of and your
own gratification. I don't believe you have any sense of justice
in you. I don't believe you ever had. You only think of yourself,
Frank. I never saw such a man as you. You have treated me like
a dog all through this affair; and all the while you have been
running with that little snip of an Irish thing, and telling her
all about your affairs, I suppose. You let me go on believing
that you cared for me up to the last moment, and then you suddenly
step up and tell me that you want a divorce. I'll not do it.
I'll not give you a divorce, and you needn't think it."
Cowperwood listened in silence. His position, in so far as this
marital tangle was concerned, as he saw, was very advantageous.
He was a convict, constrained by the exigencies of his position
to be out of personal contact with his wife for a long period of
time to come, which should naturally tend to school her to do
without him. When he came out, it would be very easy for her to
get a divorce from a convict, particularly if she could allege
misconduct with another woman, which he would not deny. At the
same time, he hoped to keep Aileen's name out of it. Mrs.
Cowperwood, if she would, could give any false name if he made no
contest. Besides, she was not a very strong person, intellectually
speaking. He could bend her to his will. There was no need of
saying much more now; the ice had been broken, the situation had
been put before her, and time should do the rest.
"Don't be dramatic, Lillian," he commented, indifferently. "I'm
not such a loss to you if you have enough to live on. I don't
think I want to live in Philadelphia if ever I come out of here.
My idea now is to go west, and I think I want to go alone. I
sha'n't get married right away again even if you do give me a
divorce. I don't care to take anybody along. It would be better
for the children if you would stay here and divorce me. The
public would think better of them and you."
"I'll not do it," declared Mrs. Cowperwood, emphatically. "I'll
never do it, never; so there! You can say what you choose. You
owe it to me to stick by me and the children after all I've done
for you, and I'll not do it. You needn't ask me any more; I'll
not do it."
"Very well," replied Cowperwood, quietly, getting up. "We needn't
talk about it any more now. Your time is nearly up, anyhow."
(Twenty minutes was supposed to be the regular allotment for
visitors.) "Perhaps you'll change your mind sometime."
She gathered up her muff and the shawl-strap in which she had
carried her gifts, and turned to go. It had been her custom to
kiss Cowperwood in a make-believe way up to this time, but now she
was too angry to make this pretense. And yet she was sorry, too--
sorry for herself and, she thought, for him.
"Frank," she declared, dramatically, at the last moment, "I never
saw such a man as you. I don't believe you have any heart. You're
not worthy of a good wife. You're worthy of just such a woman as
you're getting. The idea!" Suddenly tears came to her eyes, and
she flounced scornfully and yet sorrowfully out.
Cowperwood stood there. At least there would be no more useless
kissing between them, he congratulated himself. It was hard in
a way, but purely from an emotional point of view. He was not
doing her any essential injustice, he reasoned--not an economic
one--which was the important thing. She was angry to-day, but
she would get over it, and in time might come to see his point of
view. Who could tell? At any rate he had made it plain to her
what he intended to do and that was something as he saw it. He
reminded one of nothing so much, as he stood there, as of a young
chicken picking its way out of the shell of an old estate. Although
he was in a cell of a penitentiary, with nearly four years more
to serve, yet obviously he felt, within himself, that the whole
world was still before him. He could go west if he could not
reestablish himself in Philadelphia; but he must stay here long
enough to win the approval of those who had known him formerly--
to obtain, as it were, a letter of credit which he could carry
to other parts.
"Hard words break no bones," he said to himself, as his wife went
out. "A man's never done till he's done. I'll show some of these
people yet." Of Bonhag, who came to close the cell door, he
asked whether it was going to rain, it looked so dark in the hall.
"It's sure to before night," replied Bonhag, who was always wondering
over Cowperwood's tangled affairs as he heard them retailed here
The time that Cowperwood spent in the Eastern Penitentiary of
Pennsylvania was exactly thirteen months from the day of his entry
to his discharge. The influences which brought about this result
were partly of his willing, and partly not. For one thing, some
six months after his incarceration, Edward Malia Butler died,
expired sitting in his chair in his private office at his home.
The conduct of Aileen had been a great strain on him. From the
time Cowperwood had been sentenced, and more particularly after
the time he had cried on Aileen's shoulder in prison, she had
turned on her father in an almost brutal way. Her attitude,
unnatural for a child, was quite explicable as that of a tortured
sweetheart. Cowperwood had told her that he thought Butler was
using his influence to withhold a pardon for him, even though one
were granted to Stener, whose life in prison he had been following
with considerable interest; and this had enraged her beyond measure.
She lost no chance of being practically insulting to her father,
ignoring him on every occasion, refusing as often as possible to
eat at the same table, and when she did, sitting next her mother
in the place of Norah, with whom she managed to exchange. She
refused to sing or play any more when he was present, and persistently
ignored the large number of young political aspirants who came to
the house, and whose presence in a way had been encouraged for her
benefit. Old Butler realized, of course, what it was all about.
He said nothing. He could not placate her.
Her mother and brothers did not understand it at all at first.
(Mrs. Butler never understood.) But not long after Cowperwood's
incarceration Callum and Owen became aware of what the trouble was.
Once, when Owen was coming away from a reception at one of the
houses where his growing financial importance made him welcome, he
heard one of two men whom he knew casually, say to the other, as
they stood at the door adjusting their coats, "You saw where this
fellow Cowperwood got four years, didn't you?"
"Yes," replied the other. "A clever devil that--wasn't he? I
knew that girl he was in with, too--you know who I mean. Miss
Butler--wasn't that her name?"
Owen was not sure that he had heard right. He did not get the
connection until the other guest, opening the door and stepping
out, remarked: "Well, old Butler got even, apparently. They say
he sent him up."
Owen's brow clouded. A hard, contentious look came into his eyes.
He had much of his father's force. What in the devil were they
talking about? What Miss Butler did they have in mind? Could this
be Aileen or Norah, and how could Cowperwood come to be in with
either of them? It could not possibly be Norah, he reflected;
she was very much infatuated with a young man whom he knew, and
was going to marry him. Aileen had been most friendly with the
Cowperwoods, and had often spoken well of the financier. Could
it be she? He could not believe it. He thought once of overtaking
the two acquaintances and demanding to know what they meant, but
when he came out on the step they were already some distance down
the street and in the opposite direction from that in which he
wished to go. He decided to ask his father about this.
On demand, old Butler confessed at once, but insisted that his
son keep silent about it.
"I wish I'd have known," said Owen, grimly. "I'd have shot the
"Aisy, aisy," said Butler. "Yer own life's worth more than his,
and ye'd only be draggin' the rest of yer family in the dirt with
him. He's had somethin' to pay him for his dirty trick, and he'll
have more. Just ye say nothin' to no one. Wait. He'll be wantin'
to get out in a year or two. Say nothin' to her aither. Talkin'
won't help there. She'll come to her sinses when he's been away
long enough, I'm thinkin'." Owen had tried to be civil to his
sister after that, but since he was a stickler for social perfection
and advancement, and so eager to get up in the world himself, he
could not understand how she could possibly have done any such
thing. He resented bitterly the stumbling-block she had put in
his path. Now, among other things, his enemies would have this
to throw in his face if they wanted to--and they would want to,
trust life for that.
Callum reached his knowledge of the matter in quite another manner,
but at about the same time. He was a member of an athletic club
which had an attractive building in the city, and a fine country
club, where he went occasionally to enjoy the swimming-pool and
the Turkish bath connected with it. One of his friends approached
him there in the billiard-room one evening and said, "Say, Butler,
you know I'm a good friend of yours, don't you?"
"Why, certainly, I know it," replied Callum. "What's the matter?"
"Well, you know," said the young individual, whose name was Richard
Pethick, looking at Callum with a look of almost strained affection,
"I wouldn't come to you with any story that I thought would hurt
your feelings or that you oughtn't to know about, but I do think
you ought to know about this." He pulled at a high white collar
which was choking his neck.
"I know you wouldn't, Pethick," replied Callum; very much interested.
"What is it? What's the point?"
"Well, I don't like to say anything," replied Pethick, "but that
fellow Hibbs is saying things around here about your sister."
"What's that?" exclaimed Callum, straightening up in the most
dynamic way and bethinking him of the approved social procedure
in all such cases. He should be very angry. He should demand
and exact proper satisfaction in some form or other--by blows
very likely if his honor had been in any way impugned. "What is
it he says about my sister? What right has he to mention her name
here, anyhow? He doesn't know her."
Pethick affected to be greatly concerned lest he cause trouble
between Callum and Hibbs. He protested that he did not want to,
when, in reality, he was dying to tell. At last he came out with,
"Why, he's circulated the yarn that your sister had something to
do with this man Cowperwood, who was tried here recently, and
that that's why he's just gone to prison."
"What's that?" exclaimed Callum, losing the make-believe of the
unimportant, and taking on the serious mien of some one who feels
desperately. "He says that, does he? Where is he? I want to see
if he'll say that to me."
Some of the stern fighting ability of his father showed in his
slender, rather refined young face.
"Now, Callum," insisted Pethick, realizing the genuine storm he
had raised, and being a little fearful of the result, "do be
careful what you say. You mustn't have a row in here. You know
it's against the rules. Besides he may be drunk. It's just some
foolish talk he's heard, I'm sure. Now, for goodness' sake, don't
get so excited." Pethick, having evoked the storm, was not a
little nervous as to its results in his own case. He, too, as
well as Callum, himself as the tale-bearer, might now be involved.
But Callum by now was not so easily restrained. His face was quite
pale, and he was moving toward the old English grill-room, where
Hibbs happened to be, consuming a brandy-and-soda with a friend
of about his own age. Callum entered and called him.
"Oh, Hibbs!" he said.
Hibbs, hearing his voice and seeing him in the door, arose and
came over. He was an interesting youth of the collegiate type,
educated at Princeton. He had heard the rumor concerning Aileen
from various sources--other members of the club, for one--and had
ventured to repeat it in Pethick's presence.
"What's that you were just saying about my sister?" asked Callum,
grimly, looking Hibbs in the eye.
"Why--I--" hesitated Hibbs, who sensed trouble and was eager to
avoid it. He was not exceptionally brave and looked it. His hair
was straw-colored, his eyes blue, and his cheeks pink. "Why--
nothing in particular. Who said I was talking about her?" He
looked at Pethick, whom he knew to be the tale-bearer, and the
latter exclaimed, excitedly:
"Now don't you try to deny it, Hibbs. You know I heard you?"
"Well, what did I say?" asked Hibbs, defiantly.
"Well, what did you say?" interrupted Callum, grimly, transferring
the conversation to himself. "That's just what I want to know."
"Why," stammered Hibbs, nervously, "I don't think I've said anything
that anybody else hasn't said. I just repeated that some one said
that your sister had been very friendly with Mr. Cowperwood. I
didn't say any more than I have heard other people say around here."
"Oh, you didn't, did you?" exclaimed Callum, withdrawing his hand
from his pocket and slapping Hibbs in the face. He repeated the
blow with his left hand, fiercely. "Perhaps that'll teach you to
keep my sister's name out of your mouth, you pup!"
Hibbs's arms flew up. He was not without pugilistic training, and
he struck back vigorously, striking Callum once in the chest and
once in the neck. In an instant the two rooms of this suite were
in an uproar. Tables and chairs were overturned by the energy of
men attempting to get to the scene of action. The two combatants
were quickly separated; sides were taken by the friends of each,
excited explanations attempted and defied. Callum was examining
the knuckles of his left hand, which were cut from the blow he had
delivered. He maintained a gentlemanly calm. Hibbs, very much
flustered and excited, insisted that he had been most unreasonably
used. The idea of attacking him here. And, anyhow, as he maintained
now, Pethick had been both eavesdropping and lying about him.
Incidentally, the latter was protesting to others that he had done
the only thing which an honorable friend could do. It was a nine
days' wonder in the club, and was only kept out of the newspapers
by the most strenuous efforts on the part of the friends of both
parties. Callum was so outraged on discovering that there was
some foundation for the rumor at the club in a general rumor which
prevailed that he tendered his resignation, and never went there
"I wish to heaven you hadn't struck that fellow," counseled Owen,
when the incident was related to him. "It will only make more talk.
She ought to leave this place; but she won't. She's struck on
that fellow yet, and we can't tell Norah and mother. We will never
hear the last of this, you and I--believe me."
"Damn it, she ought to be made to go," exclaimed Callum.
"Well, she won't," replied Owen. "Father has tried making her,
and she won't go. Just let things stand. He's in the penitentiary
now, and that's probably the end of him. The public seem to think
that father put him there, and that's something. Maybe we can
persuade her to go after a while. I wish to God we had never had
sight of that fellow. If ever he comes out, I've a good notion
to kill him."
"Oh, I wouldn't do anything like that," replied Callum. "It's
useless. It would only stir things up afresh. He's done for,
They planned to urge Norah to marry as soon as possible. And as
for their feelings toward Aileen, it was a very chilly atmosphere
which Mrs. Butler contemplated from now on, much to her confusion,
grief, and astonishment.
In this divided world it was that Butler eventually found himself,
all at sea as to what to think or what to do. He had brooded so
long now, for months, and as yet had found no solution. And
finally, in a form of religious despair, sitting at his desk, in
his business chair, he had collapsed--a weary and disconsolate man
of seventy. A lesion of the left ventricle was the immediate
physical cause, although brooding over Aileen was in part the
mental one. His death could not have been laid to his grief over
Aileen exactly, for he was a very large man--apoplectic and with