Part 11 out of 11
sclerotic veins and arteries. For a great many years now he had
taken very little exercise, and his digestion had been considerably
impaired thereby. He was past seventy, and his time had been
reached. They found him there the next morning, his hands folded
in his lap, his head on his bosom, quite cold.
He was buried with honors out of St. Timothy's Church, the funeral
attended by a large body of politicians and city officials, who
discussed secretly among themselves whether his grief over his
daughter had anything to do with his end. All his good deeds were
remembered, of course, and Mollenhauer and Simpson sent great
floral emblems in remembrance. They were very sorry that he was
gone, for they had been a cordial three. But gone he was, and
that ended their interest in the matter. He left all of his
property to his wife in one of the shortest wills ever recorded
"I give and bequeath to my beloved wife, Norah, all my property
of whatsoever kind to be disposed of as she may see fit."
There was no misconstruing this. A private paper drawn secretly
for her sometime before by Butler, explained how the property
should be disposed of by her at her death. It was Butler's real
will masquerading as hers, and she would not have changed it for
worlds; but he wanted her left in undisturbed possession of
everything until she should die. Aileen's originally assigned
portion had never been changed. According to her father's will,
which no power under the sun could have made Mrs. Butler alter,
she was left $250,000 to be paid at Mrs. Butler's death. Neither
this fact nor any of the others contained in the paper were
communicated by Mrs. Butler, who retained it to be left as her
will. Aileen often wondered, but never sought to know, what had
been left her. Nothing she fancied--but felt that she could not
Butler's death led at once to a great change in the temper of the
home. After the funeral the family settled down to a seemingly
peaceful continuance of the old life; but it was a matter of seeming
merely. The situation stood with Callum and Owen manifesting a
certain degree of contempt for Aileen, which she, understanding,
reciprocated. She was very haughty. Owen had plans of forcing
her to leave after Butler's death, but he finally asked himself
what was the use. Mrs. Butler, who did not want to leave the old
home, was very fond of Aileen, so therein lay a reason for letting
her remain. Besides, any move to force her out would have entailed
an explanation to her mother, which was not deemed advisable.
Owen himself was interested in Caroline Mollenhauer, whom he hoped
some day to marry--as much for her prospective wealth as for any
other reason, though he was quite fond of her. In the January
following Butler's death, which occurred in August, Norah was
married very quietly, and the following spring Callum embarked on
a similar venture.
In the meanwhile, with Butler's death, the control of the political
situation had shifted considerably. A certain Tom Collins,
formerly one of Butler's henchmen, but latterly a power in the
First, Second, Third, and Fourth Wards, where he had numerous
saloons and control of other forms of vice, appeared as a claimant
for political recognition. Mollenhauer and Simpson had to consult
him, as he could make very uncertain the disposition of some hundred
and fifteen thousand votes, a large number of which were fraudulent,
but which fact did not modify their deadly character on occasion.
Butler's sons disappeared as possible political factors, and were
compelled to confine themselves to the street-railway and contracting
business. The pardon of Cowperwood and Stener, which Butler would
have opposed, because by keeping Stener in he kept Cowperwood in,
became a much easier matter. The scandal of the treasury defalcation
was gradually dying down; the newspapers had ceased to refer to
it in any way. Through Steger and Wingate, a large petition signed
by all important financiers and brokers had been sent to the Governor
pointing out that Cowperwood's trial and conviction had been most
unfair, and asking that he be pardoned. There was no need of any
such effort, so far as Stener was concerned; whenever the time
seemed ripe the politicians were quite ready to say to the Governor
that he ought to let him go. It was only because Butler had opposed
Cowperwood's release that they had hesitated. It was really not
possible to let out the one and ignore the other; and this petition,
coupled with Butler's death, cleared the way very nicely.
Nevertheless, nothing was done until the March following Butler's
death, when both Stener and Cowperwood had been incarcerated thirteen
months--a length of time which seemed quite sufficient to appease
the anger of the public at large. In this period Stener had undergone
a considerable change physically and mentally. In spite of the
fact that a number of the minor aldermen, who had profited in various
ways by his largess, called to see him occasionally, and that he
had been given, as it were, almost the liberty of the place, and
that his family had not been allowed to suffer, nevertheless he
realized that his political and social days were over. Somebody
might now occasionally send him a basket of fruit and assure him
that he would not be compelled to suffer much longer; but when he
did get out, he knew that he had nothing to depend on save his
experience as an insurance agent and real-estate dealer. That had
been precarious enough in the days when he was trying to get some
small political foothold. How would it be when he was known only
as the man who had looted the treasury of five hundred thousand
dollars and been sent to the penitentiary for five years? Who would
lend him the money wherewith to get a little start, even so much as
four or five thousand dollars? The people who were calling to pay
their respects now and then, and to assure him that he had been
badly treated? Never. All of them could honestly claim that they
had not so much to spare. If he had good security to offer--yes;
but if he had good security he would not need to go to them at all.
The man who would have actually helped him if he had only known
was Frank A. Cowperwood. Stener could have confessed his mistake,
as Cowperwood saw it, and Cowperwood would have given him the money
gladly, without any thought of return. But by his poor understanding
of human nature, Stener considered that Cowperwood must be an enemy
of his, and he would not have had either the courage or the business
judgment to approach him.
During his incarceration Cowperwood had been slowly accumulating
a little money through Wingate. He had paid Steger considerable
sums from time to time, until that worthy finally decided that it
would not be fair to take any more.
"If ever you get on your feet, Frank," he said, "you can remember
me if you want to, but I don't think you'll want to. It's been
nothing but lose, lose, lose for you through me. I'll undertake
this matter of getting that appeal to the Governor without any
charge on my part. Anything I can do for you from now on is free
gratis for nothing."
"Oh, don't talk nonsense, Harper," replied Cowperwood. "I don't
know of anybody that could have done better with my case. Certainly
there isn't anybody that I would have trusted as much. I don't
like lawyers you know."
"Yes--well," said Steger, "they've got nothing on financiers, so
we'll call it even." And they shook hands.
So when it was finally decided to pardon Stener, which was in the
early part of March, 1873--Cowperwood's pardon was necessarily but
gingerly included. A delegation, consisting of Strobik, Harmon,
and Winpenny, representing, as it was intended to appear, the
unanimous wishes of the council and the city administration, and
speaking for Mollenhauer and Simpson, who had given their consent,
visited the Governor at Harrisburg and made the necessary formal
representations which were intended to impress the public. At the
same time, through the agency of Steger, Davison, and Walter Leigh,
the appeal in behalf of Cowperwood was made. The Governor, who
had had instructions beforehand from sources quite superior to
this committee, was very solemn about the whole procedure. He
would take the matter under advisement. He would look into the
history of the crimes and the records of the two men. He could
make no promises--he would see. But in ten days, after allowing
the petitions to gather considerable dust in one of his pigeonholes
and doing absolutely nothing toward investigating anything, he
issued two separate pardons in writing. One, as a matter of
courtesy, he gave into the hands of Messrs. Strobik, Harmon, and
Winpenny, to bear personally to Mr. Stener, as they desired that
he should. The other, on Steger's request, he gave to him. The
two committees which had called to receive them then departed; and
the afternoon of that same day saw Strobik, Harmon, and Winpenny
arrive in one group, and Steger, Wingate, and Walter Leigh in
another, at the prison gate, but at different hours.
This matter of the pardon of Cowperwood, the exact time of it,
was kept a secret from him, though the fact that he was to be
pardoned soon, or that he had a very excellent chance of being,
had not been denied--rather had been made much of from time to
time. Wingate had kept him accurately informed as to the progress
being made, as had Steger; but when it was actually ascertained,
from the Governor's private secretary, that a certain day would
see the pardon handed over to them, Steger, Wingate, and Walter
Leigh had agreed between themselves that they would say nothing,
taking Cowperwood by surprise. They even went so far--that is,
Steger and Wingate did--as to indicate to Cowperwood that there
was some hitch to the proceedings and that he might not now get
out so soon. Cowperwood was somewhat depressed, but properly
stoical; he assured himself that he could wait, and that he would
be all right sometime. He was rather surprised therefore, one
Friday afternoon, to see Wingate, Steger, and Leigh appear at his
cell door, accompanied by Warden Desmas.
The warden was quite pleased to think that Cowperwood should finally
be going out--he admired him so much--and decided to come along to
the cell, to see how he would take his liberation. On the way
Desmas commented on the fact that he had always been a model prisoner.
"He kept a little garden out there in that yard of his," he confided
to Walter Leigh. "He had violets and pansies and geraniums out
there, and they did very well, too."
Leigh smiled. It was like Cowperwood to be industrious and tasteful,
even in prison. Such a man could not be conquered. "A very
remarkable man, that," he remarked to Desmas.
"Very," replied the warden. "You can tell that by looking at him."
The four looked in through the barred door where he was working,
without being observed, having come up quite silently.
"Hard at it, Frank?" asked Steger.
Cowperwood glanced over his shoulder and got up. He had been
thinking, as always these days, of what he would do when he did
"What is this," he asked--"a political delegation?" He suspected
something on the instant. All four smiled cheeringly, and Bonhag
unlocked the door for the warden.
"Nothing very much, Frank," replied Stager, gleefully, "only you're
a free man. You can gather up your traps and come right along,
if you wish."
Cowperwood surveyed his friends with a level gaze. He had not
expected this so soon after what had been told him. He was not
one to be very much interested in the practical joke or the surprise,
but this pleased him--the sudden realization that he was free.
Still, he had anticipated it so long that the charm of it had been
discounted to a certain extent. He had been unhappy here, and he
had not. The shame and humiliation of it, to begin with, had been
much. Latterly, as he had become inured to it all, the sense of
narrowness and humiliation had worn off. Only the consciousness
of incarceration and delay irked him. Barring his intense desire
for certain things--success and vindication, principally--he found
that he could live in his narrow cell and be fairly comfortable.
He had long since become used to the limy smell (used to defeat
a more sickening one), and to the numerous rats which he quite
regularly trapped. He had learned to take an interest in chair-caning,
having become so proficient that he could seat twenty in a day if
he chose, and in working in the little garden in spring, summer,
and fall. Every evening he had studied the sky from his narrow
yard, which resulted curiously in the gift in later years of a
great reflecting telescope to a famous university. He had not
looked upon himself as an ordinary prisoner, by any means--had
not felt himself to be sufficiently punished if a real crime had
been involved. From Bonhag he had learned the history of many
criminals here incarcerated, from murderers up and down, and many
had been pointed out to him from time to time. He had been escorted
into the general yard by Bonhag, had seen the general food of the
place being prepared, had heard of Stener's modified life here,
and so forth. It had finally struck him that it was not so bad,
only that the delay to an individual like himself was wasteful.
He could do so much now if he were out and did not have to fight
court proceedings. Courts and jails! He shook his head when he
thought of the waste involved in them.
"That's all right," he said, looking around him in an uncertain
way. "I'm ready."
He stepped out into the hall, with scarcely a farewell glance, and
to Bonhag, who was grieving greatly over the loss of so profitable
a customer, he said: "I wish you would see that some of these
things are sent over to my house, Walter. You're welcome to the
chair, that clock, this mirror, those pictures--all of these things
in fact, except my linen, razors, and so forth."
The last little act of beneficence soothed Bonhag's lacerated soul
a little. They went out into the receiving overseer's office,
where Cowperwood laid aside his prison suit and the soft shirt
with a considerable sense of relief. The clog shoes had long
since been replaced by a better pair of his own. He put on the
derby hat and gray overcoat he had worn the year before, on entering,
and expressed himself as ready. At the entrance of the prison he
turned and looked back--one last glance--at the iron door leading
into the garden.
"You don't regret leaving that, do you, Frank?" asked Steger,
"I do not," replied Cowperwood. "It wasn't that I was thinking
of. It was just the appearance of it, that's all."
In another minute they were at the outer gate, where Cowperwood
shook the warden finally by the hand. Then entering a carriage
outside the large, impressive, Gothic entrance, the gates were
locked behind them and they were driven away.
"Well, there's an end of that, Frank," observed Steger, gayly;
"that will never bother you any more."
"Yes," replied Cowperwood. "It's worse to see it coming than
"It seems to me we ought to celebrate this occasion in some way,"
observed Walter Leigh. "It won't do just to take Frank home.
Why don't we all go down to Green's? That's a good idea."
"I'd rather not, if you don't mind," replied Cowperwood, feelingly.
"I'll get together with you all, later. Just now I'd like to go
home and change these clothes."
He was thinking of Aileen and his children and his mother and
father and of his whole future. Life was going to broaden out
for him considerably from now on, he was sure of it. He had
learned so much about taking care of himself in those thirteen
months. He was going to see Aileen, and find how she felt about
things in general, and then he was going to resume some such duties
as he had had in his own concern, with Wingate & Co. He was going
to secure a seat on 'change again, through his friends; and, to
escape the effect of the prejudice of those who might not care to
do business with an ex-convict, he was going to act as general
outside man, and floor man on 'charge, for Wingate & Co. His
practical control of that could not be publicly proved. Now for
some important development in the market--some slump or something.
He would show the world whether he was a failure or not.
They let him down in front of his wife's little cottage, and he
entered briskly in the gathering gloom.
On September 18, 1873, at twelve-fifteen of a brilliant autumn
day, in the city of Philadelphia, one of the most startling
financial tragedies that the world has ever seen had its commencement.
The banking house of Jay Cooke & Co., the foremost financial
organization of America, doing business at Number 114 South Third
Street in Philadelphia, and with branches in New York, Washington,
and London, closed its doors. Those who know anything about the
financial crises of the United States know well the significance
of the panic which followed. It is spoken of in all histories as
the panic of 1873, and the widespread ruin and disaster which
followed was practically unprecedented in American history.
At this time Cowperwood, once more a broker--ostensibly a broker's
agent--was doing business in South Third Street, and representing
Wingate & Co. on 'change. During the six months which had elapsed
since he had emerged from the Eastern Penitentiary he had been
quietly resuming financial, if not social, relations with those
who had known him before.
Furthermore, Wingate & Co. were prospering, and had been for some
time, a fact which redounded to his credit with those who knew.
Ostensibly he lived with his wife in a small house on North
Twenty-first Street. In reality he occupied a bachelor apartment
on North Fifteenth Street, to which Aileen occasionally repaired.
The difference between himself and his wife had now become a matter
of common knowledge in the family, and, although there were some
faint efforts made to smooth the matter over, no good resulted.
The difficulties of the past two years had so inured his parents
to expect the untoward and exceptional that, astonishing as this
was, it did not shock them so much as it would have years before.
They were too much frightened by life to quarrel with its weird
developments. They could only hope and pray for the best.
The Butler family, on the other hand, what there was of it, had
become indifferent to Aileen's conduct. She was ignored by her
brothers and Norah, who now knew all; and her mother was so taken
up with religious devotions and brooding contemplation of her loss
that she was not as active in her observation of Aileen's life as
she might have been. Besides, Cowperwood and his mistress were
more circumspect in their conduct than they had ever been before.
Their movements were more carefully guarded, though the result was
the same. Cowperwood was thinking of the West--of reaching some
slight local standing here in Philadelphia, and then, with perhaps
one hundred thousand dollars in capital, removing to the boundless
prairies of which he had heard so much--Chicago, Fargo, Duluth,
Sioux City, places then heralded in Philadelphia and the East as
coming centers of great life--and taking Aileen with him. Although
the problem of marriage with her was insoluble unless Mrs.
Cowperwood should formally agree to give him up--a possibility
which was not manifest at this time, neither he nor Aileen were
deterred by that thought. They were going to build a future
together--or so they thought, marriage or no marriage. The only
thing which Cowperwood could see to do was to take Aileen away
with him, and to trust to time and absence to modify his wife's
point of view.
This particular panic, which was destined to mark a notable change
in Cowperwood's career, was one of those peculiar things which
spring naturally out of the optimism of the American people and
the irrepressible progress of the country. It was the result, to
be accurate, of the prestige and ambition of Jay Cooke, whose early
training and subsequent success had all been acquired in Philadelphia,
and who had since become the foremost financial figure of his day.
It would be useless to attempt to trace here the rise of this man
to distinction; it need only be said that by suggestions which he
made and methods which he devised the Union government, in its
darkest hours, was able to raise the money wherewith to continue
the struggle against the South. After the Civil War this man, who
had built up a tremendous banking business in Philadelphia, with
great branches in New York and Washington, was at a loss for some
time for some significant thing to do, some constructive work which
would be worthy of his genius. The war was over; the only thing
which remained was the finances of peace, and the greatest things
in American financial enterprise were those related to the
construction of transcontinental railway lines. The Union Pacific,
authorized in 1860, was already building; the Northern Pacific and
the Southern Pacific were already dreams in various pioneer minds.
The great thing was to connect the Atlantic and the Pacific by
steel, to bind up the territorially perfected and newly solidified
Union, or to enter upon some vast project of mining, of which gold
and silver were the most important. Actually railway-building was
the most significant of all, and railroad stocks were far and away
the most valuable and important on every exchange in America. Here
in Philadelphia, New York Central, Rock Island, Wabash, Central
Pacific, St. Paul, Hannibal & St. Joseph, Union Pacific, and
Ohio & Mississippi were freely traded in. There were men who were
getting rich and famous out of handling these things; and such
towering figures as Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, Daniel Drew,
James Fish, and others in the East, and Fair, Crocker, W. R. Hearst,
and Collis P. Huntington, in the West, were already raising their
heads like vast mountains in connection with these enterprises.
Among those who dreamed most ardently on this score was Jay Cooke,
who without the wolfish cunning of a Gould or the practical
knowledge of a Vanderbilt, was ambitious to thread the northern
reaches of America with a band of steel which should be a permanent
memorial to his name.
The project which fascinated him most was one that related to the
development of the territory then lying almost unexplored between
the extreme western shore of Lake Superior, where Duluth now stands,
and that portion of the Pacific Ocean into which the Columbia River
empties--the extreme northern one-third of the United States.
Here, if a railroad were built, would spring up great cities and
prosperous towns. There were, it was suspected, mines of various
metals in the region of the Rockies which this railroad would
traverse, and untold wealth to be reaped from the fertile corn and
wheat lands. Products brought only so far east as Duluth could
then be shipped to the Atlantic, via the Great Lakes and the Erie
Canal, at a greatly reduced cost. It was a vision of empire, not
unlike the Panama Canal project of the same period, and one that
bade fair apparently to be as useful to humanity. It had aroused
the interest and enthusiasm of Cooke. Because of the fact that
the government had made a grant of vast areas of land on either
side of the proposed track to the corporation that should seriously
undertake it and complete it within a reasonable number of years,
and because of the opportunity it gave him of remaining a
distinguished public figure, he had eventually shouldered the
project. It was open to many objections and criticisms; but the
genius which had been sufficient to finance the Civil War was
considered sufficient to finance the Northern Pacific Railroad.
Cooke undertook it with the idea of being able to put the merits
of the proposition before the people direct--not through the agency
of any great financial corporation--and of selling to the butcher,
the baker, and the candlestick-maker the stock or shares that he
wished to dispose of.
It was a brilliant chance. His genius had worked out the sale of
great government loans during the Civil War to the people direct
in this fashion. Why not Northern Pacific certificates? For several
years he conducted a pyrotechnic campaign, surveying the territory
in question, organizing great railway-construction corps, building
hundreds of miles of track under most trying conditions, and selling
great blocks of his stock, on which interest of a certain percentage
was guaranteed. If it had not been that he knew little of
railroad-building, personally, and that the project was so vast
that it could not well be encompassed by one man, even so great a
man it might have proved successful, as under subsequent management
it did. However, hard times, the war between France and Germany,
which tied up European capital for the time being and made it
indifferent to American projects, envy, calumny, a certain percentage
of mismanagement, all conspired to wreck it. On September 18,
1873, at twelve-fifteen noon, Jay Cooke & Co. failed for approximately
eight million dollars and the Northern Pacific for all that had
been invested in it--some fifty million dollars more.
One can imagine what the result was--the most important financier
and the most distinguished railway enterprise collapsing at one
and the same time. "A financial thunderclap in a clear sky," said
the Philadelphia Press. "No one could have been more surprised,"
said the Philadelphia Inquirer, "if snow had fallen amid the
sunshine of a summer noon." The public, which by Cooke's previous
tremendous success had been lulled into believing him invincible,
could not understand it. It was beyond belief. Jay Cooke fail?
Impossible, or anything connected with him. Nevertheless, he had
failed; and the New York Stock Exchange, after witnessing a number
of crashes immediately afterward, closed for eight days. The Lake
Shore Railroad failed to pay a call-loan of one million seven
hundred and fifty thousand dollars; and the Union Trust Company,
allied to the Vanderbilt interests, closed its doors after withstanding
a prolonged run. The National Trust Company of New York had eight
hundred thousand dollars of government securities in its vaults,
but not a dollar could be borrowed upon them; and it suspended.
Suspicion was universal, rumor affected every one.
In Philadelphia, when the news reached the stock exchange, it came
first in the form of a brief despatch addressed to the stock board
from the New York Stock Exchange--"Rumor on street of failure of
Jay Cooke & Co. Answer." It was not believed, and so not replied
to. Nothing was thought of it. The world of brokers paid scarcely
any attention to it. Cowperwood, who had followed the fortunes
of Jay Cooke & Co. with considerable suspicion of its president's
brilliant theory of vending his wares direct to the people--was
perhaps the only one who had suspicions. He had once written a
brilliant criticism to some inquirer, in which he had said that
no enterprise of such magnitude as the Northern Pacific had ever
before been entirely dependent upon one house, or rather upon one
man, and that he did not like it. "I am not sure that the lands
through which the road runs are so unparalleled in climate, soil,
timber, minerals, etc., as Mr. Cooke and his friends would have
us believe. Neither do I think that the road can at present, or
for many years to come, earn the interest which its great issues
of stock call for. There is great danger and risk there." So
when the notice was posted, he looked at it, wondering what the
effect would be if by any chance Jay Cooke & Co. should fail.
He was not long in wonder. A second despatch posted on 'change
read: "New York, September 18th. Jay Cooke & Co. have suspended."
Cowperwood could not believe it. He was beside himself with the
thought of a great opportunity. In company with every other broker,
he hurried into Third Street and up to Number 114, where the famous
old banking house was located, in order to be sure. Despite his
natural dignity and reserve, he did not hesitate to run. If this
were true, a great hour had struck. There would be wide-spread
panic and disaster. There would be a terrific slump in prices of
all stocks. He must be in the thick of it. Wingate must be on
hand, and his two brothers. He must tell them how to sell and
when and what to buy. His great hour had come!
The banking house of Jay Cooke & Co., in spite of its tremendous
significance as a banking and promoting concern, was a most
unpretentious affair, four stories and a half in height of gray
stone and red brick. It had never been deemed a handsome or
comfortable banking house. Cowperwood had been there often.
Wharf-rats as long as the forearm of a man crept up the culverted
channels of Dock Street to run through the apartments at will.
Scores of clerks worked under gas-jets, where light and air were
not any too abundant, keeping track of the firm's vast accounts.
It was next door to the Girard National Bank, where Cowperwood's
friend Davison still flourished, and where the principal financial
business of the street converged. As Cowperwood ran he met his
brother Edward, who was coming to the stock exchange with some
word for him from Wingate.
"Run and get Wingate and Joe," he said. "There's something big
on this afternoon. Jay Cooke has failed."
Edward waited for no other word, but hurried off as directed.
Cowperwood reached Cooke & Co. among the earliest. To his utter
astonishment, the solid brown-oak doors, with which he was familiar,
were shut, and a notice posted on them, which he quickly read, ran:
September 18, 1873.
To the Public--We regret to be obliged to announce that, owing
to unexpected demands on us, our firm has been obliged to suspend
payment. In a few days we will be able to present a statement
to our creditors. Until which time we must ask their patient
consideration. We believe our assets to be largely in excess
of our liabilities.
Jay Cooke & Co.
A magnificent gleam of triumph sprang into Cowperwood's eye. In
company with many others he turned and ran back toward the exchange,
while a reporter, who had come for information knocked at the
massive doors of the banking house, and was told by a porter, who
peered out of a diamond-shaped aperture, that Jay Cooke had gone
home for the day and was not to be seen.
"Now," thought Cowperwood, to whom this panic spelled opportunity,
not ruin, "I'll get my innings. I'll go short of this--of
Before, when the panic following the Chicago fire had occurred,
he had been long--had been compelled to stay long of many things
in order to protect himself. To-day he had nothing to speak of--
perhaps a paltry seventy-five thousand dollars which he had managed
to scrape together. Thank God! he had only the reputation of
Wingate's old house to lose, if he lost, which was nothing. With
it as a trading agency behind him--with it as an excuse for his
presence, his right to buy and sell--he had everything to gain.
Where many men were thinking of ruin, he was thinking of success.
He would have Wingate and his two brothers under him to execute
his orders exactly. He could pick up a fourth and a fifth man if
necessary. He would give them orders to sell--everything--ten,
fifteen, twenty, thirty points off, if necessary, in order to trap
the unwary, depress the market, frighten the fearsome who would
think he was too daring; and then he would buy, buy, buy, below
these figures as much as possible, in order to cover his sales and
reap a profit.
His instinct told him how widespread and enduring this panic would
be. The Northern Pacific was a hundred-million-dollar venture.
It involved the savings of hundreds of thousands of people--small
bankers, tradesmen, preachers, lawyers, doctors, widows, institutions
all over the land, and all resting on the faith and security of
Jay Cooke. Once, not unlike the Chicago fire map, Cowperwood had
seen a grand prospectus and map of the location of the Northern
Pacific land-grant which Cooke had controlled, showing a vast
stretch or belt of territory extending from Duluth--"The Zenith
City of the Unsalted Seas," as Proctor Knott, speaking in the House
of Representatives, had sarcastically called it--through the
Rockies and the headwaters of the Missouri to the Pacific Ocean.
He had seen how Cooke had ostensibly managed to get control of
this government grant, containing millions upon millions of acres
and extending fourteen hundred miles in length; but it was only
a vision of empire. There might be silver and gold and copper
mines there. The land was usable--would some day be usable. But
what of it now? It would do to fire the imaginations of fools
with--nothing more. It was inaccessible, and would remain so for
years to come. No doubt thousands had subscribed to build this
road; but, too, thousands would now fail if it had failed. Now
the crash had come. The grief and the rage of the public would
be intense. For days and days and weeks and months, normal
confidence and courage would be gone. This was his hour. This
was his great moment. Like a wolf prowling under glittering,
bitter stars in the night, he was looking down into the humble
folds of simple men and seeing what their ignorance and their
unsophistication would cost them.
He hurried back to the exchange, the very same room in which only
two years before he had fought his losing fight, and, finding
that his partner and his brother had not yet come, began to sell
everything in sight. Pandemonium had broken loose. Boys and men
were fairly tearing in from all sections with orders from panic-struck
brokers to sell, sell, sell, and later with orders to buy; the
various trading-posts were reeling, swirling masses of brokers and
their agents. Outside in the street in front of Jay Cooke & Co.,
Clark & Co., the Girard National Bank, and other institutions,
immense crowds were beginning to form. They were hurrying here
to learn the trouble, to withdraw their deposits, to protect their
interests generally. A policeman arrested a boy for calling out
the failure of Jay Cooke & Co., but nevertheless the news of the
great disaster was spreading like wild-fire.
Among these panic-struck men Cowperwood was perfectly calm, deadly
cold, the same Cowperwood who had pegged solemnly at his ten chairs
each day in prison, who had baited his traps for rats, and worked
in the little garden allotted him in utter silence and loneliness.
Now he was vigorous and energetic. He had been just sufficiently
about this exchange floor once more to have made his personality
impressive and distinguished. He forced his way into the center
of swirling crowds of men already shouting themselves hoarse,
offering whatever was being offered in quantities which were
astonishing, and at prices which allured the few who were anxious
to make money out of the tumbling prices to buy. New York Central
had been standing at 104 7/8 when the failure was announced; Rhode
Island at 108 7/8; Western Union at 92 1/2; Wabash at 70 1/4;
Panama at 117 3/8; Central Pacific at 99 5/8; St. Paul at 51;
Hannibal & St. Joseph at 48; Northwestern at 63; Union Pacific at
26 3/4; Ohio and Mississippi at 38 3/4. Cowperwood's house had
scarcely any of the stocks on hand. They were not carrying them
for any customers, and yet he sold, sold, sold, to whoever would
take, at prices which he felt sure would inspire them.
"Five thousand of New York Central at ninety-nine, ninety-eight,
ninety-seven, ninety-six, ninety-five, ninety-four, ninety-three,
ninety-two, ninety-one, ninety, eighty-nine," you might have heard
him call; and when his sales were not sufficiently brisk he would
turn to something else--Rock Island, Panama, Central Pacific,
Western Union, Northwestern, Union Pacific. He saw his brother
and Wingate hurrying in, and stopped in his work long enough to
instruct them. "Sell everything you can," he cautioned them
quietly, "at fifteen points off if you have to--no lower than that
now--and buy all you can below it. Ed, you see if you cannot buy
up some local street-railways at fifteen off. Joe, you stay near
me and buy when I tell you."
The secretary of the board appeared on his little platform.
"E. W. Clark & Company," he announced, at one-thirty, "have just
closed their doors."
"Tighe & Company," he called at one-forty-five, "announce that
they are compelled to suspend."
"The First National Bank of Philadelphia," he called, at two o'clock,
"begs to state that it cannot at present meet its obligations."
After each announcement, always, as in the past, when the gong had
compelled silence, the crowd broke into an ominous "Aw, aw, aw."
"Tighe & Company," thought Cowperwood, for a single second, when
he heard it. "There's an end of him." And then he returned to
When the time for closing came, his coat torn, his collar twisted
loose, his necktie ripped, his hat lost, he emerged sane, quiet,
"Well, Ed," he inquired, meeting his brother, "how'd you make
out?" The latter was equally torn, scratched, exhausted.
"Christ," he replied, tugging at his sleeves, "I never saw such
a place as this. They almost tore my clothes off."
"Buy any local street-railways?"
"About five thousand shares."
"We'd better go down to Green's," Frank observed, referring to
the lobby of the principal hotel. "We're not through yet. There'll
be more trading there."
He led the way to find Wingate and his brother Joe, and together
they were off, figuring up some of the larger phases of their
purchases and sales as they went.
And, as he predicted, the excitement did not end with the coming
of the night. The crowd lingered in front of Jay Cooke & Co.'s
on Third Street and in front of other institutions, waiting
apparently for some development which would be favorable to them.
For the initiated the center of debate and agitation was Green's
Hotel, where on the evening of the eighteenth the lobby and corridors
were crowded with bankers, brokers, and speculators. The stock
exchange had practically adjourned to that hotel en masse. What
of the morrow? Who would be the next to fail? From whence would
money be forthcoming? These were the topics from each mind and
upon each tongue. From New York was coming momentarily more news
of disaster. Over there banks and trust companies were falling
like trees in a hurricane. Cowperwood in his perambulations, seeing
what he could see and hearing what he could hear, reaching
understandings which were against the rules of the exchange, but
which were nevertheless in accord with what every other person was
doing, saw about him men known to him as agents of Mollenhauer and
Simpson, and congratulated himself that he would have something
to collect from them before the week was over. He might not own
a street-railway, but he would have the means to. He learned from
hearsay, and information which had been received from New York and
elsewhere, that things were as bad as they could be, and that
there was no hope for those who expected a speedy return of normal
conditions. No thought of retiring for the night entered until
the last man was gone. It was then practically morning.
The next day was Friday, and suggested many ominous things. Would
it be another Black Friday? Cowperwood was at his office before
the street was fairly awake. He figured out his program for the
day to a nicety, feeling strangely different from the way he had
felt two years before when the conditions were not dissimilar.
Yesterday, in spite of the sudden onslaught, he had made one
hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and he expected to make as
much, if not more, to-day. There was no telling what he could
make, he thought, if he could only keep his small organization in
perfect trim and get his assistants to follow his orders exactly.
Ruin for others began early with the suspension of Fisk & Hatch,
Jay Cooke's faithful lieutenants during the Civil War. They had
calls upon them for one million five hundred thousand dollars in
the first fifteen minutes after opening the doors, and at once
closed them again, the failure being ascribed to Collis P. Huntington's
Central Pacific Railroad and the Chesapeake & Ohio. There was a
long-continued run on the Fidelity Trust Company. News of these
facts, and of failures in New York posted on 'change, strengthened
the cause Cowperwood was so much interested in; for he was selling
as high as he could and buying as low as he could on a constantly
sinking scale. By twelve o'clock he figured with his assistants
that he had cleared one hundred thousand dollars; and by three
o'clock he had two hundred thousand dollars more. That afternoon
between three and seven he spent adjusting his trades, and between
seven and one in the morning, without anything to eat, in gathering
as much additional information as he could and laying his plans
for the future. Saturday morning came, and he repeated his
performance of the day before, following it up with adjustments
on Sunday and heavy trading on Monday. By Monday afternoon at
three o'clock he figured that, all losses and uncertainties to one
side, he was once more a millionaire, and that now his future lay
clear and straight before him.
As he sat at his desk late that afternoon in his office looking
out into Third Street, where a hurrying of brokers, messengers,
and anxious depositors still maintained, he had the feeling that
so far as Philadelphia and the life here was concerned, his day
and its day with him was over. He did not care anything about
the brokerage business here any more or anywhere. Failures such
as this, and disasters such as the Chicago fire, that had overtaken
him two years before, had cured him of all love of the stock
exchange and all feeling for Philadelphia. He had been very
unhappy here in spite of all his previous happiness; and his
experience as a convict had made, him, he could see quite plainly,
unacceptable to the element with whom he had once hoped to associate.
There was nothing else to do, now that he had reestablished
himself as a Philadelphia business man and been pardoned for an
offense which he hoped to make people believe he had never committed,
but to leave Philadelphia to seek a new world.
"If I get out of this safely," he said to himself, "this is the
end. I am going West, and going into some other line of business."
He thought of street-railways, land speculation, some great
manufacturing project of some kind, even mining, on a legitimate
"I have had my lesson," he said to himself, finally getting up and
preparing to leave. "I am as rich as I was, and only a little
older. They caught me once, but they will not catch me again."
He talked to Wingate about following up the campaign on the lines
in which he had started, and he himself intended to follow it up
with great energy; but all the while his mind was running with
this one rich thought: "I am a millionaire. I am a free man. I
am only thirty-six, and my future is all before me."
It was with this thought that he went to visit Aileen, and to plan
for the future.
It was only three months later that a train, speeding through the
mountains of Pennsylvania and over the plains of Ohio and Indiana,
bore to Chicago and the West the young financial aspirant who, in
spite of youth and wealth and a notable vigor of body, was a solemn,
conservative speculator as to what his future might be. The West,
as he had carefully calculated before leaving, held much. He had
studied the receipts of the New York Clearing House recently and
the disposition of bank-balances and the shipment of gold, and had
seen that vast quantities of the latter metal were going to Chicago.
He understood finance accurately. The meaning of gold shipments
was clear. Where money was going trade was--a thriving, developing
life. He wished to see clearly for himself what this world had
Two years later, following the meteoric appearance of a young
speculator in Duluth, and after Chicago had seen the tentative
opening of a grain and commission company labeled Frank A. Cowperwood
& Co., which ostensibly dealt in the great wheat crops of the West,
a quiet divorce was granted Mrs. Frank A. Cowperwood in Philadelphia,
because apparently she wished it. Time had not seemingly dealt
badly with her. Her financial affairs, once so bad, were now
apparently all straightened out, and she occupied in West Philadelphia,
near one of her sisters, a new and interesting home which was fitted
with all the comforts of an excellent middle-class residence. She
was now quite religious once more. The two children, Frank and
Lillian, were in private schools, returning evenings to their mother.
"Wash" Sims was once more the negro general factotum. Frequent
visitors on Sundays were Mr. and Mrs. Henry Worthington Cowperwood,
no longer distressed financially, but subdued and wearied, the wind
completely gone from their once much-favored sails. Cowperwood,
senior, had sufficient money wherewith to sustain himself, and
that without slaving as a petty clerk, but his social joy in life
was gone. He was old, disappointed, sad. He could feel that with
his quondam honor and financial glory, he was the same--and he was
not. His courage and his dreams were gone, and he awaited death.
Here, too, came Anna Adelaide Cowperwood on occasion, a clerk in
the city water office, who speculated much as to the strange
vicissitudes of life. She had great interest in her brother, who
seemed destined by fate to play a conspicuous part in the world;
but she could not understand him. Seeing that all those who were
near to him in any way seemed to rise or fall with his prosperity,
she did not understand how justice and morals were arranged in
this world. There seemed to be certain general principles--or
people assumed there were--but apparently there were exceptions.
Assuredly her brother abided by no known rule, and yet he seemed
to be doing fairly well once more. What did this mean? Mrs.
Cowperwood, his former wife, condemned his actions, and yet
accepted of his prosperity as her due. What were the ethics of
Cowperwood's every action was known to Aileen Butler, his present
whereabouts and prospects. Not long after his wife's divorce,
and after many trips to and from this new world in which he was
now living, these two left Philadelphia together one afternoon in
the winter. Aileen explained to her mother, who was willing to
go and live with Norah, that she had fallen in love with the former
banker and wished to marry him. The old lady, gathering only a
garbled version of it at first, consented.
Thus ended forever for Aileen this long-continued relationship
with this older world. Chicago was before her--a much more
distinguished career, Frank told her, than ever they could have
had in Philadelphia.
"Isn't it nice to be finally going?" she commented.
"It is advantageous, anyhow," he said.
Concerning Mycteroperca Bonaci
There is a certain fish, the scientific name of which is Mycteroperca
Bonaci, its common name Black Grouper, which is of considerable
value as an afterthought in this connection, and which deserves
to be better known. It is a healthy creature, growing quite
regularly to a weight of two hundred and fifty pounds, and lives
a comfortable, lengthy existence because of its very remarkable
ability to adapt itself to conditions. That very subtle thing
which we call the creative power, and which we endow with the
spirit of the beatitudes, is supposed to build this mortal life
in such fashion that only honesty and virtue shall prevail.
Witness, then, the significant manner in which it has fashioned
the black grouper. One might go far afield and gather less
forceful indictments--the horrific spider spinning his trap for
the unthinking fly; the lovely Drosera (Sundew) using its crimson
calyx for a smothering-pit in which to seal and devour the victim
of its beauty; the rainbow-colored jellyfish that spreads its
prismed tentacles like streamers of great beauty, only to sting
and torture all that falls within their radiant folds. Man himself
is busy digging the pit and fashioning the snare, but he will not
believe it. His feet are in the trap of circumstance; his eyes
are on an illusion.
Mycteroperca moving in its dark world of green waters is as fine
an illustration of the constructive genius of nature, which is not
beatific, as any which the mind of man may discover. Its great
superiority lies in an almost unbelievable power of simulation,
which relates solely to the pigmentation of its skin. In electrical
mechanics we pride ourselves on our ability to make over one
brilliant scene into another in the twinkling of an eye, and flash
before the gaze of an onlooker picture after picture, which appear
and disappear as we look. The directive control of Mycteroperca
over its appearance is much more significant. You cannot look at
it long without feeling that you are witnessing something spectral
and unnatural, so brilliant is its power to deceive. From being
black it can become instantly white; from being an earth-colored
brown it can fade into a delightful water-colored green. Its
markings change as the clouds of the sky. One marvels at the
variety and subtlety of its power.
Lying at the bottom of a bay, it can simulate the mud by which it
is surrounded. Hidden in the folds of glorious leaves, it is of
the same markings. Lurking in a flaw of light, it is like the
light itself shining dimly in water. Its power to elude or strike
unseen is of the greatest.
What would you say was the intention of the overruling, intelligent,
constructive force which gives to Mycteroperca this ability? To
fit it to be truthful? To permit it to present an unvarying
appearance which all honest life-seeking fish may know? Or would
you say that subtlety, chicanery, trickery, were here at work? An
implement of illusion one might readily suspect it to be, a living
lie, a creature whose business it is to appear what it is not, to
simulate that with which it has nothing in common, to get its
living by great subtlety, the power of its enemies to forefend
against which is little. The indictment is fair.
Would you say, in the face of this, that a beatific, beneficent
creative, overruling power never wills that which is either tricky
or deceptive? Or would you say that this material seeming in which
we dwell is itself an illusion? If not, whence then the Ten
Commandments and the illusion of justice? Why were the Beatitudes
dreamed of and how do they avail?
The Magic Crystal
If you had been a mystic or a soothsayer or a member of that
mysterious world which divines by incantations, dreams, the mystic
bowl, or the crystal sphere, you might have looked into their
mysterious depths at this time and foreseen a world of happenings
which concerned these two, who were now apparently so fortunately
placed. In the fumes of the witches' pot, or the depths of the
radiant crystal, might have been revealed cities, cities, cities;
a world of mansions, carriages, jewels, beauty; a vast metropolis
outraged by the power of one man; a great state seething with
indignation over a force it could not control; vast halls of
priceless pictures; a palace unrivaled for its magnificence; a
whole world reading with wonder, at times, of a given name. And
sorrow, sorrow, sorrow.
The three witches that hailed Macbeth upon the blasted heath might
in turn have called to Cowperwood, "Hail to you, Frank Cowperwood,
master of a great railway system! Hail to you, Frank Cowperwood,
builder of a priceless mansion! Hail to you, Frank Cowperwood,
patron of arts and possessor of endless riches! You shall be famed
hereafter." But like the Weird Sisters, they would have lied, for
in the glory was also the ashes of Dead Sea fruit--an understanding
that could neither be inflamed by desire nor satisfied by luxury;
a heart that was long since wearied by experience; a soul that was
as bereft of illusion as a windless moon. And to Aileen, as to
Macduff, they might have spoken a more pathetic promise, one that
concerned hope and failure. To have and not to have! All the
seeming, and yet the sorrow of not having! Brilliant society that
shone in a mirage, yet locked its doors; love that eluded as a
will-o'-the-wisp and died in the dark. "Hail to you, Frank
Cowperwood, master and no master, prince of a world of dreams whose
reality was disillusion!" So might the witches have called, the
bowl have danced with figures, the fumes with vision, and it would
have been true. What wise man might not read from such a beginning,
such an end?