Part 2 out of 11
money now. His salary was fifty dollars a week, and he was certain
soon to get more. Some lots of his in West Philadelphia, bought
three years before, had increased notably in value. His street-car
holdings, augmented by still additional lots of fifty and one
hundred and one hundred and fifty shares in new lines incorporated,
were slowly rising, in spite of hard times, from the initiative
five dollars in each case to ten, fifteen, and twenty-five dollars
a share--all destined to go to par. He was liked in the financial
district and he was sure that he had a successful future. Because
of his analysis of the brokerage situation he had come to the
conclusion that he did not want to be a stock gambler. Instead,
he was considering the matter of engaging in bill-brokering, a
business which he had observed to be very profitable and which
involved no risk as long as one had capital. Through his work and
his father's connections he had met many people--merchants, bankers,
traders. He could get their business, or a part of it, he knew.
People in Drexel & Co. and Clark & Co. were friendly to him. Jay
Cooke, a rising banking personality, was a personal friend of his.
Meanwhile he called on Mrs. Semple, and the more he called the
better he liked her. There was no exchange of brilliant ideas
between them; but he had a way of being comforting and social when
he wished. He advised her about her business affairs in so
intelligent a way that even her relatives approved of it. She
came to like him, because he was so considerate, quiet, reassuring,
and so ready to explain over and over until everything was quite
plain to her. She could see that he was looking on her affairs
quite as if they were his own, trying to make them safe and secure.
"You're so very kind, Frank," she said to him, one night. "I'm
awfully grateful. I don't know what I would have done if it hadn't
been for you."
She looked at his handsome face, which was turned to hers, with
"Not at all. Not at all. I want to do it. I wouldn't have been
happy if I couldn't."
His eyes had a peculiar, subtle ray in them--not a gleam. She
felt warm toward him, sympathetic, quite satisfied that she could
lean on him.
"Well, I am very grateful just the same. You've been so good.
Come out Sunday again, if you want to, or any evening. I'll be
It was while he was calling on her in this way that his Uncle
Seneca died in Cuba and left him fifteen thousand dollars. This
money made him worth nearly twenty-five thousand dollars in his
own right, and he knew exactly what to do with it. A panic had
come since Mr. Semple had died, which had illustrated to him very
clearly what an uncertain thing the brokerage business was. There
was really a severe business depression. Money was so scarce that
it could fairly be said not to exist at all. Capital, frightened
by uncertain trade and money conditions, everywhere, retired to
its hiding-places in banks, vaults, tea-kettles, and stockings.
The country seemed to be going to the dogs. War with the South
or secession was vaguely looming up in the distance. The temper
of the whole nation was nervous. People dumped their holdings on
the market in order to get money. Tighe discharged three of his
clerks. He cut down his expenses in every possible way, and used
up all his private savings to protect his private holdings. He
mortgaged his house, his land holdings--everything; and in many
instances young Cowperwood was his intermediary, carrying blocks
of shares to different banks to get what he could on them.
"See if your father's bank won't loan me fifteen thousand on these,"
he said to Frank, one day, producing a bundle of Philadelphia &
Wilmington shares. Frank had heard his father speak of them in
times past as excellent.
"They ought to be good," the elder Cowperwood said, dubiously,
when shown the package of securities. "At any other time they
would be. But money is so tight. We find it awfully hard these
days to meet our own obligations. I'll talk to Mr. Kugel." Mr.
Kugel was the president.
There was a long conversation--a long wait. His father came back
to say it was doubtful whether they could make the loan. Eight
per cent., then being secured for money, was a small rate of
interest, considering its need. For ten per cent. Mr. Kugel might
make a call-loan. Frank went back to his employer, whose commercial
choler rose at the report.
"For Heaven's sake, is there no money at all in the town?" he
demanded, contentiously. "Why, the interest they want is ruinous!
I can't stand that. Well, take 'em back and bring me the money.
Good God, this'll never do at all, at all!"
Frank went back. "He'll pay ten per cent.," he said, quietly.
Tighe was credited with a deposit of fifteen thousand dollars,
with privilege to draw against it at once. He made out a check
for the total fifteen thousand at once to the Girard National
Bank to cover a shrinkage there. So it went.
During all these days young Cowperwood was following these financial
complications with interest. He was not disturbed by the cause of
slavery, or the talk of secession, or the general progress or
decline of the country, except in so far as it affected his immediate
interests. He longed to become a stable financier; but, now that
he saw the inside of the brokerage business, he was not so sure
that he wanted to stay in it. Gambling in stocks, according to
conditions produced by this panic, seemed very hazardous. A number
of brokers failed. He saw them rush in to Tighe with anguished
faces and ask that certain trades be canceled. Their very homes
were in danger, they said. They would be wiped out, their wives
and children put out on the street.
This panic, incidentally, only made Frank more certain as to what
he really wanted to do--now that he had this free money, he would
go into business for himself. Even Tighe's offer of a minor
partnership failed to tempt him.
"I think you have a nice business," he explained, in refusing,
"but I want to get in the note-brokerage business for myself. I
don't trust this stock game. I'd rather have a little business
of my own than all the floor work in this world."
"But you're pretty young, Frank," argued his employer. "You have
lots of time to work for yourself." In the end he parted friends
with both Tighe and Rivers. "That's a smart young fellow,"
observed Tighe, ruefully.
"He'll make his mark," rejoined Rivers. "He's the shrewdest boy
of his age I ever saw."
Cowperwood's world at this time was of roseate hue. He was in love
and had money of his own to start his new business venture. He
could take his street-car stocks, which were steadily increasing
in value, and raise seventy per cent. of their market value. He
could put a mortgage on his lots and get money there, if necessary.
He had established financial relations with the Girard National
Bank--President Davison there having taken a fancy to him--and he
proposed to borrow from that institution some day. All he wanted
was suitable investments--things in which he could realize surely,
quickly. He saw fine prospective profits in the street-car lines,
which were rapidly developing into local ramifications.
He purchased a horse and buggy about this time--the most
attractive-looking animal and vehicle he could find--the combination
cost him five hundred dollars--and invited Mrs. Semple to drive
with him. She refused at first, but later consented. He had told
her of his success, his prospects, his windfall of fifteen thousand
dollars, his intention of going into the note-brokerage business.
She knew his father was likely to succeed to the position of
vice-president in the Third National Bank, and she liked the
Cowperwoods. Now she began to realize that there was something
more than mere friendship here. This erstwhile boy was a man, and
he was calling on her. It was almost ridiculous in the face of
things--her seniority, her widowhood, her placid, retiring
disposition--but the sheer, quiet, determined force of this young
man made it plain that he was not to be balked by her sense of
Cowperwood did not delude himself with any noble theories of conduct
in regard to her. She was beautiful, with a mental and physical
lure for him that was irresistible, and that was all he desired to
know. No other woman was holding him like that. It never occurred
to him that he could not or should not like other women at the same
time. There was a great deal of palaver about the sanctity of the
home. It rolled off his mental sphere like water off the feathers
of a duck. He was not eager for her money, though he was well aware
of it. He felt that he could use it to her advantage. He wanted
her physically. He felt a keen, primitive interest in the children
they would have. He wanted to find out if he could make her love
him vigorously and could rout out the memory of her former life.
Strange ambition. Strange perversion, one might almost say.
In spite of her fears and her uncertainty, Lillian Semple accepted
his attentions and interest because, equally in spite of herself,
she was drawn to him. One night, when she was going to bed, she
stopped in front of her dressing table and looked at her face and
her bare neck and arms. They were very pretty. A subtle something
came over her as she surveyed her long, peculiarly shaded hair.
She thought of young Cowperwood, and then was chilled and shamed
by the vision of the late Mr. Semple and the force and quality of
"Why do you come to see me so often?" she asked him when he called
the following evening.
"Oh, don't you know?" he replied, looking at her in an interpretive
"Sure you don't?"
"Well, I know you liked Mr. Semple, and I always thought you liked
me as his wife. He's gone, though, now."
"And you're here," he replied.
"And I'm here?"
"Yes. I like you. I like to be with you. Don't you like me that
"Why, I've never thought of it. You're so much younger. I'm five
years older than you are."
"In years," he said, "certainly. That's nothing. I'm fifteen
years older than you are in other ways. I know more about life
in some ways than you can ever hope to learn--don't you think so?"
he added, softly, persuasively.
"Well, that's true. But I know a lot of things you don't know."
She laughed softly, showing her pretty teeth.
It was evening. They were on the side porch. The river was before
"Yes, but that's only because you're a woman. A man can't hope to
get a woman's point of view exactly. But I'm talking about practical
affairs of this world. You're not as old that way as I am."
"Well, what of it?"
"Nothing. You asked why I came to see you. That's why. Partly."
He relapsed into silence and stared at the water.
She looked at him. His handsome body, slowly broadening, was nearly
full grown. His face, because of its full, clear, big, inscrutable
eyes, had an expression which was almost babyish. She could not
have guessed the depths it veiled. His cheeks were pink, his hands
not large, but sinewy and strong. Her pale, uncertain, lymphatic
body extracted a form of dynamic energy from him even at this range.
"I don't think you ought to come to see me so often. People won't
think well of it." She ventured to take a distant, matronly air--
the air she had originally held toward him.
"People," he said, "don't worry about people. People think what
you want them to think. I wish you wouldn't take that distant air
"Because I like you."
"But you mustn't like me. It's wrong. I can't ever marry you.
You're too young. I'm too old."
"Don't say that!" he said, imperiously. "There's nothing to it.
I want you to marry me. You know I do. Now, when will it be?"
"Why, how silly! I never heard of such a thing!" she exclaimed.
"It will never be, Frank. It can't be!"
"Why can't it?" he asked.
"Because--well, because I'm older. People would think it strange.
I'm not long enough free."
"Oh, long enough nothing!" he exclaimed, irritably. "That's the one
thing I have against you--you are so worried about what people think.
They don't make your life. They certainly don't make mine. Think of
yourself first. You have your own life to make. Are you going to
let what other people think stand in the way of what you want to do?"
"But I don't want to," she smiled.
He arose and came over to her, looking into her eyes.
"Well?" she asked, nervously, quizzically.
He merely looked at her.
"Well?" she queried, more flustered.
He stooped down to take her arms, but she got up.
"Now you must not come near me," she pleaded, determinedly. "I'll
go in the house, and I'll not let you come any more. It's terrible!
You're silly! You mustn't interest yourself in me."
She did show a good deal of determination, and he desisted. But
for the time being only. He called again and again. Then one
night, when they had gone inside because of the mosquitoes, and
when she had insisted that he must stop coming to see her, that
his attentions were noticeable to others, and that she would be
disgraced, he caught her, under desperate protest, in his arms.
"Now, see here!" she exclaimed. "I told you! It's silly! You
mustn't kiss me! How dare you! Oh! oh! oh!--"
She broke away and ran up the near-by stairway to her room.
Cowperwood followed her swiftly. As she pushed the door to he
forced it open and recaptured her. He lifted her bodily from her
feet and held her crosswise, lying in his arms.
"Oh, how could you!" she exclaimed. "I will never speak to you
any more. I will never let you come here any more if you don't
put me down this minute. Put me down!"
"I'll put you down, sweet," he said. "I'll take you down," at
the same time pulling her face to him and kissing her. He was
very much aroused, excited.
While she was twisting and protesting, he carried her down the
stairs again into the living-room, and seated himself in the great
armchair, still holding her tight in his arms.
"Oh!" she sighed, falling limp on his shoulder when he refused to
let her go. Then, because of the set determination of his face,
some intense pull in him, she smiled. "How would I ever explain
if I did marry you?" she asked, weakly. "Your father! Your mother!"
"You don't need to explain. I'll do that. And you needn't worry
about my family. They won't care."
"But mine," she recoiled.
"Don't worry about yours. I'm not marrying your family. I'm
marrying you. We have independent means."
She relapsed into additional protests; but he kissed her the more.
There was a deadly persuasion to his caresses. Mr. Semple had
never displayed any such fire. He aroused a force of feeling in
her which had not previously been there. She was afraid of it and
"Will you marry me in a month?" he asked, cheerfully, when she paused.
"You know I won't!" she exclaimed, nervously. "The idea! Why do
"What difference does it make? We're going to get married eventually."
He was thinking how attractive he could make her look in other
surroundings. Neither she nor his family knew how to live.
"Well, not in a month. Wait a little while. I will marry you after
a while--after you see whether you want me."
He caught her tight. "I'll show you," he said.
"Please stop. You hurt me."
"How about it? Two months?"
"No maybe in that case. We marry."
"But you're only a boy."
"Don't worry about me. You'll find out how much of a boy I am."
He seemed of a sudden to open up a new world to her, and she
realized that she had never really lived before. This man
represented something bigger and stronger than ever her husband
had dreamed of. In his young way he was terrible, irresistible.
"Well, in three months then," she whispered, while he rocked her
cozily in his arms.
Cowperwood started in the note brokerage business with a small
office at No. 64 South Third Street, where he very soon had the
pleasure of discovering that his former excellent business
connections remembered him. He would go to one house, where he
suspected ready money might be desirable, and offer to negotiate
their notes or any paper they might issue bearing six per cent.
interest for a commission and then he would sell the paper for a
small commission to some one who would welcome a secure investment.
Sometimes his father, sometimes other people, helped him with
suggestions as to when and how. Between the two ends he might
make four and five per cent. on the total transaction. In the
first year he cleared six thousand dollars over and above all
expenses. That wasn't much, but he was augmenting it in another
way which he believed would bring great profit in the future.
Before the first street-car line, which was a shambling affair,
had been laid on Front Street, the streets of Philadelphia had
been crowded with hundreds of springless omnibuses rattling over
rough, hard, cobblestones. Now, thanks to the idea of John
Stephenson, in New York, the double rail track idea had come, and
besides the line on Fifth and Sixth Streets (the cars running out
one street and back on another) which had paid splendidly from the
start, there were many other lines proposed or under way. The
city was as eager to see street-cars replace omnibuses as it was
to see railroads replace canals. There was opposition, of course.
There always is in such cases. The cry of probable monopoly was
raised. Disgruntled and defeated omnibus owners and drivers groaned
Cowperwood had implicit faith in the future of the street railway.
In support of this belief he risked all he could spare on new
issues of stock shares in new companies. He wanted to be on the
inside wherever possible, always, though this was a little difficult
in the matter of the street-railways, he having been so young when
they started and not having yet arranged his financial connections
to make them count for much. The Fifth and Sixth Street line,
which had been but recently started, was paying six hundred dollars
a day. A project for a West Philadelphia line (Walnut and Chestnut)
was on foot, as were lines to occupy Second and Third Streets,
Race and Vine, Spruce and Pine, Green and Coates, Tenth and
Eleventh, and so forth. They were engineered and backed by some
powerful capitalists who had influence with the State legislature
and could, in spite of great public protest, obtain franchises.
Charges of corruption were in the air. It was argued that the
streets were valuable, and that the companies should pay a road tax
of a thousand dollars a mile. Somehow, however, these splendid
grants were gotten through, and the public, hearing of the Fifth
and Sixth Street line profits, was eager to invest. Cowperwood
was one of these, and when the Second and Third Street line was
engineered, he invested in that and in the Walnut and Chestnut
Street line also. He began to have vague dreams of controlling a
line himself some day, but as yet he did not see exactly how it
was to be done, since his business was far from being a bonanza.
In the midst of this early work he married Mrs. Semple. There was
no vast to-do about it, as he did not want any and his bride-to-be
was nervous, fearsome of public opinion. His family did not
entirely approve. She was too old, his mother and father thought,
and then Frank, with his prospects, could have done much better.
His sister Anna fancied that Mrs. Semple was designing, which was,
of course, not true. His brothers, Joseph and Edward, were
interested, but not certain as to what they actually thought,
since Mrs. Semple was good-looking and had some money.
It was a warm October day when he and Lillian went to the altar,
in the First Presbyterian Church of Callowhill Street. His bride,
Frank was satisfied, looked exquisite in a trailing gown of cream
lace--a creation that had cost months of labor. His parents, Mrs.
Seneca Davis, the Wiggin family, brothers and sisters, and some
friends were present. He was a little opposed to this idea, but
Lillian wanted it. He stood up straight and correct in black
broadcloth for the wedding ceremony--because she wished it, but
later changed to a smart business suit for traveling. He had
arranged his affairs for a two weeks' trip to New York and Boston.
They took an afternoon train for New York, which required five
hours to reach. When they were finally alone in the Astor House,
New York, after hours of make-believe and public pretense of
indifference, he gathered her in his arms.
"Oh, it's delicious," he exclaimed, "to have you all to myself."
She met his eagerness with that smiling, tantalizing passivity
which he had so much admired but which this time was tinged strongly
with a communicated desire. He thought he should never have enough
of her, her beautiful face, her lovely arms, her smooth, lymphatic
body. They were like two children, billing and cooing, driving,
dining, seeing the sights. He was curious to visit the financial
sections of both cities. New York and Boston appealed to him as
commercially solid. He wondered, as he observed the former, whether
he should ever leave Philadelphia. He was going to be very happy
there now, he thought, with Lillian and possibly a brood of young
Cowperwoods. He was going to work hard and make money. With his
means and hers now at his command, he might become, very readily,
The home atmosphere which they established when they returned
from their honeymoon was a great improvement in taste over that
which had characterized the earlier life of Mrs. Cowperwood as
Mrs. Semple. They had decided to occupy her house, on North Front
Street, for a while at least. Cowperwood, aggressive in his
current artistic mood, had objected at once after they were engaged
to the spirit of the furniture and decorations, or lack of them,
and had suggested that he be allowed to have it brought more in
keeping with his idea of what was appropriate. During the years
in which he had been growing into manhood he had come instinctively
into sound notions of what was artistic and refined. He had seen
so many homes that were more distinguished and harmonious than his
own. One could not walk or drive about Philadelphia without seeing
and being impressed with the general tendency toward a more
cultivated and selective social life. Many excellent and expensive
houses were being erected. The front lawn, with some attempt at
floral gardening, was achieving local popularity. In the homes of
the Tighes, the Leighs, Arthur Rivers, and others, he had noticed
art objects of some distinction--bronzes, marbles, hangings,
pictures, clocks, rugs.
It seemed to him now that his comparatively commonplace house could
be made into something charming and for comparatively little money.
The dining-room for instance which, through two plain windows set
in a hat side wall back of the veranda, looked south over a stretch
of grass and several trees and bushes to a dividing fence where
the Semple property ended and a neighbor's began, could be made
so much more attractive. That fence--sharp-pointed, gray palings--
could be torn away and a hedge put in its place. The wall which
divided the dining-room from the parlor could be knocked through
and a hanging of some pleasing character put in its place. A
bay-window could be built to replace the two present oblong
windows--a bay which would come down to the floor and open out on
the lawn via swiveled, diamond-shaped, lead-paned frames. All this
shabby, nondescript furniture, collected from heaven knows where--
partly inherited from the Semples and the Wiggins and partly
bought--could be thrown out or sold and something better and more
harmonious introduced. He knew a young man by the name of Ellsworth,
an architect newly graduated from a local school, with whom he had
struck up an interesting friendship--one of those inexplicable
inclinations of temperament. Wilton Ellsworth was an artist in
spirit, quiet, meditative, refined. From discussing the quality
of a certain building on Chestnut Street which was then being
erected, and which Ellsworth pronounced atrocious, they had fallen
to discussing art in general, or the lack of it, in America. And
it occurred to him that Ellsworth was the man to carry out his
decorative views to a nicety. When he suggested the young man to
Lillian, she placidly agreed with him and also with his own ideas
of how the house could be revised.
So while they were gone on their honeymoon Ellsworth began the
revision on an estimated cost of three thousand dollars, including
the furniture. It was not completed for nearly three weeks after
their return; but when finished made a comparatively new house.
The dining-room bay hung low over the grass, as Frank wished, and
the windows were diamond-paned and leaded, swiveled on brass rods.
The parlor and dining-room were separated by sliding doors; but
the intention was to hang in this opening a silk hanging depicting
a wedding scene in Normandy. Old English oak was used in the
dining-room, an American imitation of Chippendale and Sheraton for
the sitting-room and the bedrooms. There were a few simple
water-colors hung here and there, some bronzes of Hosmer and Powers,
a marble venus by Potter, a now forgotten sculptor, and other
objects of art--nothing of any distinction. Pleasing, appropriately
colored rugs covered the floor. Mrs. Cowperwood was shocked by
the nudity of the Venus which conveyed an atmosphere of European
freedom not common to America; but she said nothing. It was all
harmonious and soothing, and she did not feel herself capable to
judge. Frank knew about these things so much better than she did.
Then with a maid and a man of all work installed, a program of
entertaining was begun on a small scale.
Those who recall the early years of their married life can best
realize the subtle changes which this new condition brought to
Frank, for, like all who accept the hymeneal yoke, he was influenced
to a certain extent by the things with which he surrounded himself.
Primarily, from certain traits of his character, one would have
imagined him called to be a citizen of eminent respectability and
worth. He appeared to be an ideal home man. He delighted to return
to his wife in the evenings, leaving the crowded downtown section
where traffic clamored and men hurried. Here he could feel that he
was well-stationed and physically happy in life. The thought of
the dinner-table with candles upon it (his idea); the thought of
Lillian in a trailing gown of pale-blue or green silk--he liked her
in those colors; the thought of a large fireplace flaming with
solid lengths of cord-wood, and Lillian snuggling in his arms,
gripped his immature imagination. As has been said before, he
cared nothing for books, but life, pictures, trees, physical
contact--these, in spite of his shrewd and already gripping
financial calculations, held him. To live richly, joyously,
fully--his whole nature craved that.
And Mrs. Cowperwood, in spite of the difference in their years,
appeared to be a fit mate for him at this time. She was once
awakened, and for the time being, clinging, responsive, dreamy.
His mood and hers was for a baby, and in a little while that
happy expectation was whispered to him by her. She had half
fancied that her previous barrenness was due to herself, and was
rather surprised and delighted at the proof that it was not so.
It opened new possibilities--a seemingly glorious future of which
she was not afraid. He liked it, the idea of self-duplication.
It was almost acquisitive, this thought. For days and weeks and
months and years, at least the first four or five, he took a keen
satisfaction in coming home evenings, strolling about the yard,
driving with his wife, having friends in to dinner, talking over
with her in an explanatory way the things he intended to do. She
did not understand his financial abstrusities, and he did not
trouble to make them clear.
But love, her pretty body, her lips, her quiet manner--the lure
of all these combined, and his two children, when they came--two
in four years--held him. He would dandle Frank, Jr., who was the
first to arrive, on his knee, looking at his chubby feet, his
kindling eyes, his almost formless yet bud-like mouth, and wonder
at the process by which children came into the world. There was
so much to think of in this connection--the spermatozoic beginning,
the strange period of gestation in women, the danger of disease
and delivery. He had gone through a real period of strain when
Frank, Jr., was born, for Mrs. Cowperwood was frightened. He
feared for the beauty of her body--troubled over the danger of
losing her; and he actually endured his first worry when he stood
outside the door the day the child came. Not much--he was too
self-sufficient, too resourceful; and yet he worried, conjuring
up thoughts of death and the end of their present state. Then
word came, after certain piercing, harrowing cries, that all was
well, and he was permitted to look at the new arrival. The
experience broadened his conception of things, made him more solid
in his judgment of life. That old conviction of tragedy underlying
the surface of things, like wood under its veneer, was emphasized.
Little Frank, and later Lillian, blue-eyed and golden-haired,
touched his imagination for a while. There was a good deal to
this home idea, after all. That was the way life was organized,
and properly so--its cornerstone was the home.
It would be impossible to indicate fully how subtle were the
material changes which these years involved--changes so gradual
that they were, like the lap of soft waters, unnoticeable.
Considerable--a great deal, considering how little he had to
begin with--wealth was added in the next five years. He came, in
his financial world, to know fairly intimately, as commercial
relationships go, some of the subtlest characters of the steadily
enlarging financial world. In his days at Tighe's and on the
exchange, many curious figures had been pointed out to him--State
and city officials of one grade and another who were "making
something out of politics," and some national figures who came
from Washington to Philadelphia at times to see Drexel & Co.,
Clark & Co., and even Tighe & Co. These men, as he learned, had
tips or advance news of legislative or economic changes which were
sure to affect certain stocks or trade opportunities. A young
clerk had once pulled his sleeve at Tighe's.
"See that man going in to see Tighe?"
"That's Murtagh, the city treasurer. Say, he don't do anything
but play a fine game. All that money to invest, and he don't have
to account for anything except the principal. The interest goes
Cowperwood understood. All these city and State officials
speculated. They had a habit of depositing city and State funds
with certain bankers and brokers as authorized agents or designated
State depositories. The banks paid no interest--save to the
officials personally. They loaned it to certain brokers on the
officials' secret order, and the latter invested it in "sure winners."
The bankers got the free use of the money a part of the time, the
brokers another part: the officials made money, and the brokers
received a fat commission. There was a political ring in
Philadelphia in which the mayor, certain members of the council,
the treasurer, the chief of police, the commissioner of public
works, and others shared. It was a case generally of "You scratch
my back and I'll scratch yours." Cowperwood thought it rather
shabby work at first, but many men were rapidly getting rich and no
one seemed to care. The newspapers were always talking about
civic patriotism and pride but never a word about these things.
And the men who did them were powerful and respected.
There were many houses, a constantly widening circle, that found
him a very trustworthy agent in disposing of note issues or note
payment. He seemed to know so quickly where to go to get the
money. From the first he made it a principle to keep twenty
thousand dollars in cash on hand in order to be able to take up a
proposition instantly and without discussion. So, often he was
able to say, "Why, certainly, I can do that," when otherwise, on
the face of things, he would not have been able to do so. He was
asked if he would not handle certain stock transactions on 'change.
He had no seat, and he intended not to take any at first; but now
he changed his mind, and bought one, not only in Philadelphia, but
in New York also. A certain Joseph Zimmerman, a dry-goods man for
whom he had handled various note issues, suggested that he
undertake operating in street-railway shares for him, and this was
the beginning of his return to the floor.
In the meanwhile his family life was changing--growing, one might
have said, finer and more secure. Mrs. Cowperwood had, for
instance, been compelled from time to time to make a subtle
readjustment of her personal relationship with people, as he had
with his. When Mr. Semple was alive she had been socially connected
with tradesmen principally--retailers and small wholesalers--a
very few. Some of the women of her own church, the First
Presbyterian, were friendly with her. There had been church teas
and sociables which she and Mr. Semple attended, and dull visits
to his relatives and hers. The Cowperwoods, the Watermans, and a
few families of that caliber, had been the notable exceptions.
Now all this was changed. Young Cowperwood did not care very much
for her relatives, and the Semples had been alienated by her second,
and to them outrageous, marriage. His own family was closely
interested by ties of affection and mutual prosperity, but, better
than this, he was drawing to himself some really significant
personalities. He brought home with him, socially--not to talk
business, for he disliked that idea--bankers, investors, customers
and prospective customers. Out on the Schuylkill, the Wissahickon,
and elsewhere, were popular dining places where one could drive on
Sunday. He and Mrs. Cowperwood frequently drove out to Mrs. Seneca
Davis's, to Judge Kitchen's, to the home of Andrew Sharpless, a
lawyer whom he knew, to the home of Harper Steger, his own lawyer,
and others. Cowperwood had the gift of geniality. None of these
men or women suspected the depth of his nature--he was thinking,
thinking, thinking, but enjoyed life as he went.
One of his earliest and most genuine leanings was toward paintings.
He admired nature, but somehow, without knowing why, he fancied
one could best grasp it through the personality of some interpreter,
just as we gain our ideas of law and politics through individuals.
Mrs. Cowperwood cared not a whit one way or another, but she
accompanied him to exhibitions, thinking all the while that Frank
was a little peculiar. He tried, because he loved her, to interest
her in these things intelligently, but while she pretended slightly,
she could not really see or care, and it was very plain that she
The children took up a great deal of her time. However, Cowperwood
was not troubled about this. It struck him as delightful and
exceedingly worth while that she should be so devoted. At the same
time, her lethargic manner, vague smile and her sometimes seeming
indifference, which sprang largely from a sense of absolute
security, attracted him also. She was so different from him! She
took her second marriage quite as she had taken her first--a solemn
fact which contained no possibility of mental alteration. As for
himself, however, he was bustling about in a world which, financially
at least, seemed all alteration--there were so many sudden and
almost unheard-of changes. He began to look at her at times, with
a speculative eye--not very critically, for he liked her--but with
an attempt to weigh her personality. He had known her five years
and more now. What did he know about her? The vigor of youth--those
first years--had made up for so many things, but now that he had
There came in this period the slow approach, and finally the
declaration, of war between the North and the South, attended
with so much excitement that almost all current minds were
notably colored by it. It was terrific. Then came meetings,
public and stirring, and riots; the incident of John Brown's body;
the arrival of Lincoln, the great commoner, on his way from
Springfield, Illinois, to Washington via Philadelphia, to take
the oath of office; the battle of Bull Run; the battle of Vicksburg;
the battle of Gettysburg, and so on. Cowperwood was only
twenty-five at the time, a cool, determined youth, who thought the
slave agitation might be well founded in human rights--no doubt was
--but exceedingly dangerous to trade. He hoped the North would win;
but it might go hard with him personally and other financiers. He
did not care to fight. That seemed silly for the individual man
to do. Others might--there were many poor, thin-minded, half-baked
creatures who would put themselves up to be shot; but they were
only fit to be commanded or shot down. As for him, his life was
sacred to himself and his family and his personal interests. He
recalled seeing, one day, in one of the quiet side streets, as
the working-men were coming home from their work, a small enlisting
squad of soldiers in blue marching enthusiastically along, the
Union flag flying, the drummers drumming, the fifes blowing, the
idea being, of course, to so impress the hitherto indifferent or
wavering citizen, to exalt him to such a pitch, that he would lose
his sense of proportion, of self-interest, and, forgetting all--
wife, parents, home, and children--and seeing only the great need
of the country, fall in behind and enlist. He saw one workingman
swinging his pail, and evidently not contemplating any such
denouement to his day's work, pause, listen as the squad approached,
hesitate as it drew close, and as it passed, with a peculiar look
of uncertainty or wonder in his eyes, fall in behind and march
solemnly away to the enlisting quarters. What was it that had
caught this man, Frank asked himself. How was he overcome so
easily? He had not intended to go. His face was streaked with
the grease and dirt of his work--he looked like a foundry man or
machinist, say twenty-five years of age. Frank watched the little
squad disappear at the end of the street round the corner under
This current war-spirit was strange. The people seemed to him
to want to hear nothing but the sound of the drum and fife, to
see nothing but troops, of which there were thousands now passing
through on their way to the front, carrying cold steel in the
shape of guns at their shoulders, to hear of war and the rumors
of war. It was a thrilling sentiment, no doubt, great but
unprofitable. It meant self-sacrifice, and he could not see that.
If he went he might be shot, and what would his noble emotion
amount to then? He would rather make money, regulate current
political, social and financial affairs. The poor fool who fell
in behind the enlisting squad--no, not fool, he would not call
him that--the poor overwrought working-man--well, Heaven pity him!
Heaven pity all of them! They really did not know what they were
One day he saw Lincoln--a tall, shambling man, long, bony, gawky,
but tremendously impressive. It was a raw, slushy morning of a
late February day, and the great war President was just through
with his solemn pronunciamento in regard to the bonds that might
have been strained but must not be broken. As he issued from the
doorway of Independence Hall, that famous birthplace of liberty,
his face was set in a sad, meditative calm. Cowperwood looked
at him fixedly as he issued from the doorway surrounded by chiefs
of staff, local dignitaries, detectives, and the curious,
sympathetic faces of the public. As he studied the strangely
rough-hewn countenance a sense of the great worth and dignity of
the man came over him.
"A real man, that," he thought; "a wonderful temperament." His
every gesture came upon him with great force. He watched him enter
his carriage, thinking "So that is the railsplitter, the country
lawyer. Well, fate has picked a great man for this crisis."
For days the face of Lincoln haunted him, and very often during
the war his mind reverted to that singular figure. It seemed to
him unquestionable that fortuitously he had been permitted to
look upon one of the world's really great men. War and statesmanship
were not for him; but he knew how important those things were--at
It was while the war was on, and after it was perfectly plain
that it was not to be of a few days' duration, that Cowperwood's
first great financial opportunity came to him. There was a
strong demand for money at the time on the part of the nation,
the State, and the city. In July, 1861, Congress had authorized
a loan of fifty million dollars, to be secured by twenty-year
bonds with interest not to exceed seven per cent., and the State
authorized a loan of three millions on much the same security,
the first being handled by financiers of Boston, New York, and
Philadelphia, the second by Philadelphia financiers alone.
Cowperwood had no hand in this. He was not big enough. He read
in the papers of gatherings of men whom he knew personally or by
reputation, "to consider the best way to aid the nation or the
State"; but he was not included. And yet his soul yearned to be
of them. He noticed how often a rich man's word sufficed--no
money, no certificates, no collateral, no anything--just his word.
If Drexel & Co., or Jay Cooke & Co., or Gould & Fiske were rumored
to be behind anything, how secure it was! Jay Cooke, a young man
in Philadelphia, had made a great strike taking this State loan
in company with Drexel & Co., and selling it at par. The general
opinion was that it ought to be and could only be sold at ninety.
Cooke did not believe this. He believed that State pride and
State patriotism would warrant offering the loan to small banks
and private citizens, and that they would subscribe it fully and
more. Events justified Cooke magnificently, and his public
reputation was assured. Cowperwood wished he could make some
such strike; but he was too practical to worry over anything save
the facts and conditions that were before him.
His chance came about six months later, when it was found that the
State would have to have much more money. Its quota of troops
would have to be equipped and paid. There were measures of defense
to be taken, the treasury to be replenished. A call for a loan
of twenty-three million dollars was finally authorized by the
legislature and issued. There was great talk in the street as to
who was to handle it--Drexel & Co. and Jay Cooke & Co., of course.
Cowperwood pondered over this. If he could handle a fraction of
this great loan now--he could not possibly handle the whole of
it, for he had not the necessary connections--he could add
considerably to his reputation as a broker while making a tidy
sum. How much could he handle? That was the question. Who would
take portions of it? His father's bank? Probably. Waterman & Co.?
A little. Judge Kitchen? A small fraction. The Mills-David
Company? Yes. He thought of different individuals and concerns
who, for one reason and another--personal friendship, good-nature,
gratitude for past favors, and so on--would take a percentage of
the seven-percent. bonds through him. He totaled up his
possibilities, and discovered that in all likelihood, with a
little preliminary missionary work, he could dispose of one million
dollars if personal influence, through local political figures,
could bring this much of the loan his way.
One man in particular had grown strong in his estimation as having
some subtle political connection not visible on the surface, and
this was Edward Malia Butler. Butler was a contractor, undertaking
the construction of sewers, water-mains, foundations for buildings,
street-paving, and the like. In the early days, long before
Cowperwood had known him, he had been a garbage-contractor on his
own account. The city at that time had no extended street-cleaning
service, particularly in its outlying sections and some of the
older, poorer regions. Edward Butler, then a poor young Irishman,
had begun by collecting and hauling away the garbage free of
charge, and feeding it to his pigs and cattle. Later he discovered
that some people were willing to pay a small charge for this
service. Then a local political character, a councilman friend of
his--they were both Catholics--saw a new point in the whole thing.
Butler could be made official garbage-collector. The council could
vote an annual appropriation for this service. Butler could employ
more wagons than he did now--dozens of them, scores. Not only
that, but no other garbage-collector would be allowed. There were
others, but the official contract awarded him would also,
officially, be the end of the life of any and every disturbing
rival. A certain amount of the profitable proceeds would have to be
set aside to assuage the feelings of those who were not contractors.
Funds would have to be loaned at election time to certain individuals
and organizations--but no matter. The amount would be small. So
Butler and Patrick Gavin Comiskey, the councilman (the latter
silently) entered into business relations. Butler gave up driving
a wagon himself. He hired a young man, a smart Irish boy of his
neighborhood, Jimmy Sheehan, to be his assistant, superintendent,
stableman, bookkeeper, and what not. Since he soon began to make
between four and five thousand a year, where before he made two
thousand, he moved into a brick house in an outlying section of
the south side, and sent his children to school. Mrs. Butler gave
up making soap and feeding pigs. And since then times had been
exceedingly good with Edward Butler.
He could neither read nor write at first; but now he knew how, of
course. He had learned from association with Mr. Comiskey that
there were other forms of contracting--sewers, water-mains,
gas-mains, street-paving, and the like. Who better than Edward
Butler to do it? He knew the councilmen, many of them. Het met
them in the back rooms of saloons, on Sundays and Saturdays at
political picnics, at election councils and conferences, for as a
beneficiary of the city's largess he was expected to contribute
not only money, but advice. Curiously he had developed a strange
political wisdom. He knew a successful man or a coming man when
he saw one. So many of his bookkeepers, superintendents,
time-keepers had graduated into councilmen and state legislators.
His nominees--suggested to political conferences--were so often
known to make good. First he came to have influence in his
councilman's ward, then in his legislative district, then in the
city councils of his party--Whig, of course--and then he was
supposed to have an organization.
Mysterious forces worked for him in council. He was awarded
significant contracts, and he always bid. The garbage business
was now a thing of the past. His eldest boy, Owen, was a member
of the State legislature and a partner in his business affairs.
His second son, Callum, was a clerk in the city water department
and an assistant to his father also. Aileen, his eldest daughter,
fifteen years of age, was still in St. Agatha's, a convent school
in Germantown. Norah, his second daughter and youngest child,
thirteen years old, was in attendance at a local private school
conducted by a Catholic sisterhood. The Butler family had moved
away from South Philadelphia into Girard Avenue, near the twelve
hundreds, where a new and rather interesting social life was
beginning. They were not of it, but Edward Butler, contractor,
now fifty-five years of age, worth, say, five hundred thousand
dollars, had many political and financial friends. No longer a
"rough neck," but a solid, reddish-faced man, slightly tanned,
with broad shoulders and a solid chest, gray eyes, gray hair, a
typically Irish face made wise and calm and undecipherable by
much experience. His big hands and feet indicated a day when he
had not worn the best English cloth suits and tanned leather, but
his presence was not in any way offensive--rather the other way
about. Though still possessed of a brogue, he was soft-spoken,
winning, and persuasive.
He had been one of the first to become interested in the development
of the street-car system and had come to the conclusion, as had
Cowperwood and many others, that it was going to be a great thing.
The money returns on the stocks or shares he had been induced to
buy had been ample evidence of that, He had dealt through one
broker and another, having failed to get in on the original
corporate organizations. He wanted to pick up such stock as he
could in one organization and another, for he believed they all
had a future, and most of all he wanted to get control of a line
or two. In connection with this idea he was looking for some
reliable young man, honest and capable, who would work under his
direction and do what he said. Then he learned of Cowperwood,
and one day sent for him and asked him to call at his house.
Cowperwood responded quickly, for he knew of Butler, his rise, his
connections, his force. He called at the house as directed, one
cold, crisp February morning. He remembered the appearance of the
street afterward--broad, brick-paved sidewalks, macadamized
roadway, powdered over with a light snow and set with young,
leafless, scrubby trees and lamp-posts. Butler's house was not
new--he had bought and repaired it--but it was not an unsatisfactory
specimen of the architecture of the time. It was fifty feet wide,
four stories tall, of graystone and with four wide, white stone
steps leading up to the door. The window arches, framed in white,
had U-shaped keystones. There were curtains of lace and a glimpse
of red plush through the windows, which gleamed warm against the
cold and snow outside. A trim Irish maid came to the door and he
gave her his card and was invited into the house.
"Is Mr. Butler home?"
"I'm not sure, sir. I'll find out. He may have gone out."
In a little while he was asked to come upstairs, where he found
Butler in a somewhat commercial-looking room. It had a desk, an
office chair, some leather furnishings, and a bookcase, but no
completeness or symmetry as either an office or a living room.
There were several pictures on the wall--an impossible oil painting,
for one thing, dark and gloomy; a canal and barge scene in pink
and nile green for another; some daguerreotypes of relatives and
friends which were not half bad. Cowperwood noticed one of two
girls, one with reddish-gold hair, another with what appeared to be
silky brown. The beautiful silver effect of the daguerreotype
had been tinted. They were pretty girls, healthy, smiling, Celtic,
their heads close together, their eyes looking straight out at you.
He admired them casually, and fancied they must be Butler's daughters.
"Mr. Cowperwood?" inquired Butler, uttering the name fully with a
peculiar accent on the vowels. (He was a slow-moving man, solemn
and deliberate.) Cowperwood noticed that his body was hale and
strong like seasoned hickory, tanned by wind and rain. The flesh
of his cheeks was pulled taut and there was nothing soft or flabby
"I'm that man."
"I have a little matter of stocks to talk over with you" ("matter"
almost sounded like "mather"), "and I thought you'd better come
here rather than that I should come down to your office. We can
be more private-like, and, besides, I'm not as young as I used to
He allowed a semi-twinkle to rest in his eye as he looked his
"Well, I hope I can be of service to you," he said, genially.
"I happen to be interested just at present in pickin' up certain
street-railway stocks on 'change. I'll tell you about them
later. Won't you have somethin' to drink? It's a cold morning."
"No, thanks; I never drink."
"Never? That's a hard word when it comes to whisky. Well, no
matter. It's a good rule. My boys don't touch anything, and I'm
glad of it. As I say, I'm interested in pickin' up a few stocks
on 'change; but, to tell you the truth, I'm more interested in
findin' some clever young felly like yourself through whom I can
work. One thing leads to another, you know, in this world." And
he looked at his visitor non-committally, and yet with a genial
show of interest.
"Quite so," replied Cowperwood, with a friendly gleam in return.
"Well," Butler meditated, half to himself, half to Cowperwood,
"there are a number of things that a bright young man could do
for me in the street if he were so minded. I have two bright
boys of my own, but I don't want them to become stock-gamblers,
and I don't know that they would or could if I wanted them to.
But this isn't a matter of stock-gambling. I'm pretty busy as
it is, and, as I said awhile ago, I'm getting along. I'm not
as light on my toes as I once was. But if I had the right sort
of a young man--I've been looking into your record, by the way,
never fear--he might handle a number of little things--investments
and loans--which might bring us each a little somethin'. Sometimes
the young men around town ask advice of me in one way and another--
they have a little somethin' to invest, and so--"
He paused and looked tantalizingly out of the window, knowing full
well Cowperwood was greatly interested, and that this talk of
political influence and connections could only whet his appetite.
Butler wanted him to see clearly that fidelity was the point in
this case--fidelity, tact, subtlety, and concealment.
"Well, if you have been looking into my record," observed Cowperwood,
with his own elusive smile, leaving the thought suspended.
Butler felt the force of the temperament and the argument. He
liked the young man's poise and balance. A number of people had
spoken of Cowperwood to him. (It was now Cowperwood & Co. The
company was fiction purely.) He asked him something about the
street; how the market was running; what he knew about
street-railways. Finally he outlined his plan of buying all he
could of the stock of two given lines--the Ninth and Tenth and
the Fifteenth and Sixteenth--without attracting any attention,
if possible. It was to be done slowly, part on 'change, part
from individual holders. He did not tell him that there was a
certain amount of legislative pressure he hoped to bring to bear
to get him franchises for extensions in the regions beyond where
the lines now ended, in order that when the time came for them to
extend their facilities they would have to see him or his sons,
who might be large minority stockholders in these very concerns.
It was a far-sighted plan, and meant that the lines would eventually
drop into his or his sons' basket.
"I'll be delighted to work with you, Mr. Butler, in any way that
you may suggest," observed Cowperwood. "I can't say that I have
so much of a business as yet--merely prospects. But my connections
are good. I am now a member of the New York and Philadelphia
exchanges. Those who have dealt with me seem to like the results
"I know a little something about your work already," reiterated
"Very well, then; whenever you have a commission you can call at
my office, or write, or I will call here. I will give you my secret
operating code, so that anything you say will be strictly confidential."
"Well, we'll not say anything more now. In a few days I'll have
somethin' for you. When I do, you can draw on my bank for what you
need, up to a certain amount." He got up and looked out into the
street, and Cowperwood also arose.
"It's a fine day now, isn't it?"
"It surely is."
"Well, we'll get to know each other better, I'm sure."
He held out his hand.
"I hope so."
Cowperwood went out, Butler accompanying him to the door. As he
did so a young girl bounded in from the street, red-cheeked,
blue-eyed, wearing a scarlet cape with the peaked hood thrown over
her red-gold hair.
"Oh, daddy, I almost knocked you down."
She gave her father, and incidentally Cowperwood, a gleaming,
radiant, inclusive smile. Her teeth were bright and small, and
her lips bud-red.
"You're home early. I thought you were going to stay all day?"
"I was, but I changed my mind."
She passed on in, swinging her arms.
"Yes, well--" Butler continued, when she had gone. "Then well
leave it for a day or two. Good day."
Cowperwood, warm with this enhancing of his financial prospects,
went down the steps; but incidentally he spared a passing thought
for the gay spirit of youth that had manifested itself in this
red-cheeked maiden. What a bright, healthy, bounding girl! Her
voice had the subtle, vigorous ring of fifteen or sixteen. She
was all vitality. What a fine catch for some young fellow some
day, and her father would make him rich, no doubt, or help to.
It was to Edward Malia Butler that Cowperwood turned now, some
nineteen months later when he was thinking of the influence that
might bring him an award of a portion of the State issue of bonds.
Butler could probably be interested to take some of them himself,
or could help him place some. He had come to like Cowperwood very
much and was now being carried on the latter's books as a
prospective purchaser of large blocks of stocks. And Cowperwood
liked this great solid Irishman. He liked his history. He had
met Mrs. Butler, a rather fat and phlegmatic Irish woman with a
world of hard sense who cared nothing at all for show and who still
liked to go into the kitchen and superintend the cooking. He had
met Owen and Callum Butler, the boys, and Aileen and Norah, the
girls. Aileen was the one who had bounded up the steps the first
day he had called at the Butler house several seasons before.
There was a cozy grate-fire burning in Butler's improvised
private office when Cowperwood called. Spring was coming on, but
the evenings were cool. The older man invited Cowperwood to make
himself comfortable in one of the large leather chairs before the
fire and then proceeded to listen to his recital of what he hoped
"Well, now, that isn't so easy," he commented at the end. "You
ought to know more about that than I do. I'm not a financier, as
you well know." And he grinned apologetically.
"It's a matter of influence," went on Cowperwood. "And favoritism.
That I know. Drexel & Company and Cooke & Company have connections
at Harrisburg. They have men of their own looking after their
interests. The attorney-general and the State treasurer are hand
in glove with them. Even if I put in a bid, and can demonstrate
that I can handle the loan, it won't help me to get it. Other
people have done that. I have to have friends--influence. You
know how it is."
"Them things," Butler said, "is easy enough if you know the right
parties to approach. Now there's Jimmy Oliver--he ought to know
something about that." Jimmy Oliver was the whilom district
attorney serving at this time, and incidentally free adviser to Mr.
Butler in many ways. He was also, accidentally, a warm personal
friend of the State treasurer.
"How much of the loan do you want?"
"Five million!" Butler sat up. "Man, what are you talking about?
That's a good deal of money. Where are you going to sell all that?"
"I want to bid for five million," assuaged Cowperwood, softly. "I
only want one million but I want the prestige of putting in a bona
fide bid for five million. It will do me good on the street."
Butler sank back somewhat relieved.
"Five million! Prestige! You want one million. Well, now, that's
different. That's not such a bad idea. We ought to be able to
He rubbed his chin some more and stared into the fire.
And Cowperwood felt confident when he left the house that evening
that Butler would not fail him but would set the wheels working.
Therefore, he was not surprised, and knew exactly what it meant,
when a few days later he was introduced to City Treasurer Julian
Bode, who promised to introduce him to State Treasurer Van Nostrand
and to see that his claims to consideration were put before the
people. "Of course, you know," he said to Cowperwood, in the
presence of Butler, for it was at the latter's home that the
conference took place, "this banking crowd is very powerful. You
know who they are. They don't want any interference in this bond
issue business. I was talking to Terrence Relihan, who represents
them up there"--meaning Harrisburg, the State capital--"and he
says they won't stand for it at all. You may have trouble right
here in Philadelphia after you get it--they're pretty powerful,
you know. Are you sure just where you can place it?"
"Yes, I'm sure," replied Cowperwood.
"Well, the best thing in my judgment is not to say anything at
all. Just put in your bid. Van Nostrand, with the governor's
approval, will make the award. We can fix the governor, I think.
After you get it they may talk to you personally, but that's your
Cowperwood smiled his inscrutable smile. There were so many ins
and outs to this financial life. It was an endless network of
underground holes, along which all sorts of influences were moving.
A little wit, a little nimbleness, a little luck-time and
opportunity--these sometimes availed. Here he was, through his
ambition to get on, and nothing else, coming into contact with the
State treasurer and the governor. They were going to consider his
case personally, because he demanded that it be considered--nothing
more. Others more influential than himself had quite as much right
to a share, but they didn't take it. Nerve, ideas, aggressiveness,
how these counted when one had luck!
He went away thinking how surprised Drexel & Co. and Cooke & Co.
would be to see him appearing in the field as a competitor. In
his home, in a little room on the second floor next his bedroom,
which he had fixed up as an office with a desk, a safe, and a
leather chair, he consulted his resources. There were so many
things to think of. He went over again the list of people whom
he had seen and whom he could count on to subscribe, and in so
far as that was concerned--the award of one million dollars--he
was safe. He figured to make two per cent. on the total
transaction, or twenty thousand dollars. If he did he was going
to buy a house out on Girard Avenue beyond the Butlers', or, better
yet, buy a piece of ground and erect one; mortgaging house and
property so to do. His father was prospering nicely. He might
want to build a house next to him, and they could live side by
side. His own business, aside from this deal, would yield him ten
thousand dollars this year. His street-car investments, aggregating
fifty thousand, were paying six per cent. His wife's property,
represented by this house, some government bonds, and some real
estate in West Philadelphia amounted to forty thousand more.
Between them they were rich; but he expected to be much richer.
All he needed now was to keep cool. If he succeeded in this
bond-issue matter, he could do it again and on a larger scale.
There would be more issues. He turned out the light after a while
and went into his wife's boudoir, where she was sleeping. The
nurse and the children were in a room beyond.
"Well, Lillian," he observed, when she awoke and turned over toward
him, "I think I have that bond matter that I was telling you about
arranged at last. I think I'll get a million of it, anyhow.
That'll mean twenty thousand. If I do we'll build out on Girard
Avenue. That's going to be the street. The college is making that
"That'll be fine, won't it, Frank!" she observed, and rubbed his
arm as he sat on the side of the bed.
Her remark was vaguely speculative.
"We'll have to show the Butlers some attention from now on. He's
been very nice to me and he's going to be useful--I can see that.
He asked me to bring you over some time. We must go. Be nice to
his wife. He can do a lot for me if he wants to. He has two
daughters, too. We'll have to have them over here."
"I'll have them to dinner sometime," she agreed cheerfully and
helpfully, "and I'll stop and take Mrs. Butler driving if she'll
go, or she can take me."
She had already learned that the Butlers were rather showy--the
younger generation--that they were sensitive as to their lineage,
and that money in their estimation was supposed to make up for
any deficiency in any other respect. "Butler himself is a very
presentable man," Cowperwood had once remarked to her, "but Mrs.
Butler--well, she's all right, but she's a little commonplace.
She's a fine woman, though, I think, good-natured and good-hearted."
He cautioned her not to overlook Aileen and Norah, because the
Butlers, mother and father, were very proud of them.
Mrs. Cowperwood at this time was thirty-two years old; Cowperwood
twenty-seven. The birth and care of two children had made some
difference in her looks. She was no longer as softly pleasing,
more angular. Her face was hollow-cheeked, like so many of
Rossetti's and Burne-Jones's women. Her health was really not
as good as it had been--the care of two children and a late
undiagnosed tendency toward gastritis having reduced her. In
short she was a little run down nervously and suffered from fits
of depression. Cowperwood had noticed this. He tried to be
gentle and considerate, but he was too much of a utilitarian and
practical-minded observer not to realize that he was likely to
have a sickly wife on his hands later. Sympathy and affection
were great things, but desire and charm must endure or one was
compelled to be sadly conscious of their loss. So often now he
saw young girls who were quite in his mood, and who were exceedingly
robust and joyous. It was fine, advisable, practical, to adhere
to the virtues as laid down in the current social lexicon, but if
you had a sickly wife-- And anyhow, was a man entitled to only
one wife? Must he never look at another woman? Supposing he found
some one? He pondered those things between hours of labor, and
concluded that it did not make so much difference. If a man could,
and not be exposed, it was all right. He had to be careful,
though. Tonight, as he sat on the side of his wife's bed, he was
thinking somewhat of this, for he had seen Aileen Butler again,
playing and singing at her piano as he passed the parlor door.
She was like a bright bird radiating health and enthusiasm--a
reminder of youth in general.
"It's a strange world," he thought; but his thoughts were his own,
and he didn't propose to tell any one about them.
The bond issue, when it came, was a curious compromise; for,
although it netted him his twenty thousand dollars and more and
served to introduce him to the financial notice of Philadelphia
and the State of Pennsylvania, it did not permit him to manipulate
the subscriptions as he had planned. The State treasurer was seen
by him at the office of a local lawyer of great repute, where he
worked when in the city. He was gracious to Cowperwood, because
he had to be. He explained to him just how things were regulated
at Harrisburg. The big financiers were looked to for campaign
funds. They were represented by henchmen in the State assembly
and senate. The governor and the treasurer were foot-free; but
there were other influences--prestige, friendship, social power,
political ambitions, etc. The big men might constitute a close
corporation, which in itself was unfair; but, after all, they were
the legitimate sponsors for big money loans of this kind. The State
had to keep on good terms with them, especially in times like these.
Seeing that Mr. Cowperwood was so well able to dispose of the
million he expected to get, it would be perfectly all right to award
it to him; but Van Nostrand had a counter-proposition to make.
Would Cowperwood, if the financial crowd now handling the matter so
desired, turn over his award to them for a consideration--a sum
equal to what he expected to make--in the event the award was made
to him? Certain financiers desired this. It was dangerous to oppose
them. They were perfectly willing he should put in a bid for five
million and get the prestige of that; to have him awarded one
million and get the prestige of that was well enough also, but
they desired to handle the twenty-three million dollars in an
unbroken lot. It looked better. He need not be advertised as
having withdrawn. They would be content to have him achieve the
glory of having done what he started out to do. Just the same the
example was bad. Others might wish to imitate him. If it were known
in the street privately that he had been coerced, for a consideration,
into giving up, others would be deterred from imitating him in the
future. Besides, if he refused, they could cause him trouble. His
loans might be called. Various banks might not be so friendly in
the future. His constituents might be warned against him in one
way or another.
Cowperwood saw the point. He acquiesced. It was something to have
brought so many high and mighties to their knees. So they knew of
him! They were quite well aware of him! Well and good. He would
take the award and twenty thousand or thereabouts and withdraw.
The State treasurer was delighted. It solved a ticklish proposition
"I'm glad to have seen you," he said. "I'm glad we've met. I'll
drop in and talk with you some time when I'm down this way. We'll
have lunch together."
The State treasurer, for some odd reason, felt that Mr. Cowperwood
was a man who could make him some money. His eye was so keen;
his expression was so alert, and yet so subtle. He told the
governor and some other of his associates about him.
So the award was finally made; Cowperwood, after some private
negotiations in which he met the officers of Drexel & Co., was
paid his twenty thousand dollars and turned his share of the
award over to them. New faces showed up in his office now from
time to time--among them that of Van Nostrand and one Terrence
Relihan, a representative of some other political forces at
Harrisburg. He was introduced to the governor one day at lunch.
His name was mentioned in the papers, and his prestige grew rapidly.
Immediately he began working on plans with young Ellsworth for his
new house. He was going to build something exceptional this time,
he told Lillian. They were going to have to do some entertaining--
entertaining on a larger scale than ever. North Front Street was
becoming too tame. He put the house up for sale, consulted with
his father and found that he also was willing to move. The son's
prosperity had redounded to the credit of the father. The
directors of the bank were becoming much more friendly to the old
man. Next year President Kugel was going to retire. Because of
his son's noted coup, as well as his long service, he was going to
be made president. Frank was a large borrower from his father's
bank. By the same token he was a large depositor. His connection
with Edward Butler was significant. He sent his father's bank
certain accounts which it otherwise could not have secured. The
city treasurer became interested in it, and the State treasurer.
Cowperwood, Sr., stood to earn twenty thousand a year as president,
and he owed much of it to his son. The two families were now on
the best of terms. Anna, now twenty-one, and Edward and Joseph
frequently spent the night at Frank's house. Lillian called almost
daily at his mother's. There was much interchange of family gossip,
and it was thought well to build side by side. So Cowperwood, Sr.,
bought fifty feet of ground next to his son's thirty-five, and
together they commenced the erection of two charming, commodious
homes, which were to be connected by a covered passageway, or
pergola, which could be inclosed with glass in winter.
The most popular local stone, a green granite was chosen; but
Mr. Ellsworth promised to present it in such a way that it would
be especially pleasing. Cowperwood, Sr., decided that he could
afford to spent seventy-five thousand dollars--he was now worth
two hundred and fifty thousand; and Frank decided that he could
risk fifty, seeing that he could raise money on a mortgage. He
planned at the same time to remove his office farther south on
Third Street and occupy a building of his own. He knew where an
option was to be had on a twenty-five-foot building, which, though
old, could be given a new brownstone front and made very significant.
He saw in his mind's eye a handsome building, fitted with an immense
plate-glass window; inside his hardwood fixtures visible; and over
the door, or to one side of it, set in bronze letters, Cowperwood
& Co. Vaguely but surely he began to see looming before him, like
a fleecy tinted cloud on the horizon, his future fortune. He was
to be rich, very, very rich.
During all the time that Cowperwood had been building himself up
thus steadily the great war of the rebellion had been fought
almost to its close. It was now October, 1864. The capture of
Mobile and the Battle of the Wilderness were fresh memories.
Grant was now before Petersburg, and the great general of the
South, Lee, was making that last brilliant and hopeless display
of his ability as a strategist and a soldier. There had been
times--as, for instance, during the long, dreary period in which
the country was waiting for Vicksburg to fall, for the Army of
the Potomac to prove victorious, when Pennsylvania was invaded
by Lee--when stocks fell and commercial conditions were very bad
generally. In times like these Cowperwood's own manipulative
ability was taxed to the utmost, and he had to watch every hour
to see that his fortune was not destroyed by some unexpected and
destructive piece of news.
His personal attitude toward the war, however, and aside from
his patriotic feeling that the Union ought to be maintained, was
that it was destructive and wasteful. He was by no means so
wanting in patriotic emotion and sentiment but that he could
feel that the Union, as it had now come to be, spreading its great
length from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the snows of
Canada to the Gulf, was worth while. Since his birth in 1837 he
had seen the nation reach that physical growth--barring Alaska--
which it now possesses. Not so much earlier than his youth Florida
had been added to the Union by purchase from Spain; Mexico, after
the unjust war of 1848, had ceded Texas and the territory to the
West. The boundary disputes between England and the United States
in the far Northwest had been finally adjusted. To a man with
great social and financial imagination, these facts could not help
but be significant; and if they did nothing more, they gave him
a sense of the boundless commercial possibilities which existed
potentially in so vast a realm. His was not the order of speculative
financial enthusiasm which, in the type known as the "promoter,"
sees endless possibilities for gain in every unexplored rivulet
and prairie reach; but the very vastness of the country suggested
possibilities which he hoped might remain undisturbed. A territory
covering the length of a whole zone and between two seas, seemed
to him to possess potentialities which it could not retain if the
States of the South were lost.
At the same time, the freedom of the negro was not a significant
point with him. He had observed that race from his boyhood with
considerable interest, and had been struck with virtues and
defects which seemed inherent and which plainly, to him, conditioned
He was not at all sure, for instance, that the negroes could be
made into anything much more significant than they were. At any
rate, it was a long uphill struggle for them, of which many future
generations would not witness the conclusion. He had no particular
quarrel with the theory that they should be free; he saw no
particular reason why the South should not protest vigorously
against the destruction of their property and their system. It
was too bad that the negroes as slaves should be abused in some
instances. He felt sure that that ought to be adjusted in some
way; but beyond that he could not see that there was any great
ethical basis for the contentions of their sponsors. The vast
majority of men and women, as he could see, were not essentially
above slavery, even when they had all the guarantees of a
constitution formulated to prevent it. There was mental slavery,
the slavery of the weak mind and the weak body. He followed the
contentions of such men as Sumner, Garrison, Phillips, and Beecher,
with considerable interest; but at no time could he see that the
problem was a vital one for him. He did not care to be a soldier
or an officer of soldiers; he had no gift for polemics; his mind
was not of the disputatious order--not even in the realm of finance.
He was concerned only to see what was of vast advantage to him,
and to devote all his attention to that. This fratricidal war in
the nation could not help him. It really delayed, he thought,
the true commercial and financial adjustment of the country, and
he hoped that it would soon end. He was not of those who complained
bitterly of the excessive war taxes, though he knew them to be
trying to many. Some of the stories of death and disaster moved
him greatly; but, alas, they were among the unaccountable fortunes
of life, and could not be remedied by him. So he had gone his way
day by day, watching the coming in and the departing of troops,
seeing the bands of dirty, disheveled, gaunt, sickly men returning
from the fields and hospitals; and all he could do was to feel
sorry. This war was not for him. He had taken no part in it,
and he felt sure that he could only rejoice in its conclusion--not
as a patriot, but as a financier. It was wasteful, pathetic,
The months proceeded apace. A local election intervened and there
was a new city treasurer, a new assessor of taxes, and a new mayor;
but Edward Malia Butler continued to have apparently the same
influence as before. The Butlers and the Cowperwoods had become
quite friendly. Mrs. Butler rather liked Lillian, though they
were of different religious beliefs; and they went driving or
shopping together, the younger woman a little critical and ashamed
of the elder because of her poor grammar, her Irish accent, her
plebeian tastes--as though the Wiggins had not been as plebeian
as any. On the other hand the old lady, as she was compelled to
admit, was good-natured and good-hearted. She loved to give,
since she had plenty, and sent presents here and there to Lillian,
the children, and others. "Now youse must come over and take
dinner with us"--the Butlers had arrived at the evening-dinner
period--or "Youse must come drive with me to-morrow."
"Aileen, God bless her, is such a foine girl," or "Norah, the
darlin', is sick the day."
But Aileen, her airs, her aggressive disposition, her love of
attention, her vanity, irritated and at times disgusted Mrs.
Cowperwood. She was eighteen now, with a figure which was subtly
provocative. Her manner was boyish, hoydenish at times, and
although convent-trained, she was inclined to balk at restraint
in any form. But there was a softness lurking in her blue eyes
that was most sympathetic and human.
St. Timothy's and the convent school in Germantown had been the
choice of her parents for her education--what they called a good
Catholic education. She had learned a great deal about the theory
and forms of the Catholic ritual, but she could not understand
them. The church, with its tall, dimly radiant windows, its high,
white altar, its figure of St. Joseph on one side and the Virgin
Mary on the other, clothed in golden-starred robes of blue, wearing
haloes and carrying scepters, had impressed her greatly. The
church as a whole--any Catholic church--was beautiful to look at--
soothing. The altar, during high mass, lit with a half-hundred
or more candles, and dignified and made impressive by the rich,
lacy vestments of the priests and the acolytes, the impressive
needlework and gorgeous colorings of the amice, chasuble, cope,
stole, and maniple, took her fancy and held her eye. Let us say
there was always lurking in her a sense of grandeur coupled with
a love of color and a love of love. From the first she was
somewhat sex-conscious. She had no desire for accuracy, no desire
for precise information. Innate sensuousness rarely has. It
basks in sunshine, bathes in color, dwells in a sense of the
impressive and the gorgeous, and rests there. Accuracy is not
necessary except in the case of aggressive, acquisitive natures,
when it manifests itself in a desire to seize. True controlling
sensuousness cannot be manifested in the most active dispositions,
nor again in the most accurate.
There is need of defining these statements in so far as they apply
to Aileen. It would scarcely be fair to describe her nature as
being definitely sensual at this time. It was too rudimentary.
Any harvest is of long growth. The confessional, dim on Friday
and Saturday evenings, when the church was lighted by but a few
lamps, and the priest's warnings, penances, and ecclesiastical
forgiveness whispered through the narrow lattice, moved her as
something subtly pleasing. She was not afraid of her sins. Hell,
so definitely set forth, did not frighten her. Really, it had
not laid hold on her conscience. The old women and old men
hobbling into church, bowed in prayer, murmuring over their beads,
were objects of curious interest like the wood-carvings in the
peculiar array of wood-reliefs emphasizing the Stations of the
Cross. She herself had liked to confess, particularly when she
was fourteen and fifteen, and to listen to the priest's voice as
he admonished her with, "Now, my dear child." A particularly old
priest, a French father, who came to hear their confessions at
school, interested her as being kind and sweet. His forgiveness
and blessing seemed sincere--better than her prayers, which she
went through perfunctorily. And then there was a young priest
at St. Timothy's, Father David, hale and rosy, with a curl of
black hair over his forehead, and an almost jaunty way of wearing
his priestly hat, who came down the aisle Sundays sprinkling holy
water with a definite, distinguished sweep of the hand, who took
her fancy. He heard confessions and now and then she liked to
whisper her strange thoughts to him while she actually speculated
on what he might privately be thinking. She could not, if she
tried, associate him with any divine authority. He was too young,
too human. There was something a little malicious, teasing, in
the way she delighted to tell him about herself, and then walk
demurely, repentantly out. At St. Agatha's she had been rather a
difficult person to deal with. She was, as the good sisters of
the school had readily perceived, too full of life, too active,
to be easily controlled. "That Miss Butler," once observed Sister
Constantia, the Mother Superior, to Sister Sempronia, Aileen's
immediate mentor, "is a very spirited girl, you may have a great
deal of trouble with her unless you use a good deal of tact. You
may have to coax her with little gifts. You will get on better."
So Sister Sempronia had sought to find what Aileen was most
interested in, and bribe her therewith. Being intensely conscious
of her father's competence, and vain of her personal superiority,
it was not so easy to do. She had wanted to go home occasionally,
though; she had wanted to be allowed to wear the sister's rosary
of large beads with its pendent cross of ebony and its silver
Christ, and this was held up as a great privilege. For keeping
quiet in class, walking softly, and speaking softly--as much as
it was in her to do--for not stealing into other girl's rooms
after lights were out, and for abandoning crushes on this and
that sympathetic sister, these awards and others, such as walking
out in the grounds on Saturday afternoons, being allowed to have
all the flowers she wanted, some extra dresses, jewels, etc.,
were offered. She liked music and the idea of painting, though
she had no talent in that direction; and books, novels, interested
her, but she could not get them. The rest--grammar, spelling,
sewing, church and general history--she loathed. Deportment--well,
there was something in that. She had liked the rather exaggerated
curtsies they taught her, and she had often reflected on how she
would use them when she reached home.
When she came out into life the little social distinctions which
have been indicated began to impress themselves on her, and she
wished sincerely that her father would build a better home--a
mansion--such as those she saw elsewhere, and launch her properly
in society. Failing in that, she could think of nothing save
clothes, jewels, riding-horses, carriages, and the appropriate
changes of costume which were allowed her for these. Her family
could not entertain in any distinguished way where they were, and
so already, at eighteen, she was beginning to feel the sting of a
blighted ambition. She was eager for life. How was she to get it?
Her room was a study in the foibles of an eager and ambitious mind.
It was full of clothes, beautiful things for all occasions--
jewelry--which she had small opportunity to wear--shoes, stockings,
lingerie, laces. In a crude way she had made a study of perfumes
and cosmetics, though she needed the latter not at all, and these
were present in abundance. She was not very orderly, and she loved
lavishness of display; and her curtains, hangings, table ornaments,
and pictures inclined to gorgeousness, which did not go well with
the rest of the house.
Aileen always reminded Cowperwood of a high-stepping horse without
a check-rein. He met her at various times, shopping with her
mother, out driving with her father, and he was always interested
and amused at the affected, bored tone she assumed before him--the
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Life is so tiresome, don't you know," when,
as a matter of fact, every moment of it was of thrilling interest
to her. Cowperwood took her mental measurement exactly. A girl
with a high sense of life in her, romantic, full of the thought
of love and its possibilities. As he looked at her he had the
sense of seeing the best that nature can do when she attempts to
produce physical perfection. The thought came to him that some
lucky young dog would marry her pretty soon and carry her away;
but whoever secured her would have to hold her by affection and
subtle flattery and attention if he held her at all.
"The little snip"--she was not at all--"she thinks the sun rises
and sets in her father's pocket," Lillian observed one day to her
husband. "To hear her talk, you'd think they were descended from
Irish kings. Her pretended interest in art and music amuses me."
"Oh, don't be too hard on her," coaxed Cowperwood diplomatically.
He already liked Aileen very much. "She plays very well, and she
has a good voice."
"Yes, I know; but she has no real refinement. How could she have?
Look at her father and mother."
"I don't see anything so very much the matter with her," insisted
Cowperwood. "She's bright and good-looking. Of course, she's
only a girl, and a little vain, but she'll come out of that. She
isn't without sense and force, at that."
Aileen, as he knew, was most friendly to him. She liked him. She
made a point of playing the piano and singing for him in his home,
and she sang only when he was there. There was something about
his steady, even gait, his stocky body and handsome head, which
attracted her. In spite of her vanity and egotism, she felt a
little overawed before him at times--keyed up. She seemed to
grow gayer and more brilliant in his presence.
The most futile thing in this world is any attempt, perhaps, at
exact definition of character. All individuals are a bundle of
contradictions--none more so than the most capable.
In the case of Aileen Butler it would be quite impossible to give
an exact definition. Intelligence, of a raw, crude order she had
certainly--also a native force, tamed somewhat by the doctrines
and conventions of current society, still showed clear at times
in an elemental and not entirely unattractive way. At this time
she was only eighteen years of age--decidedly attractive from the
point of view of a man of Frank Cowperwood's temperament. She
supplied something he had not previously known or consciously
craved. Vitality and vivacity. No other woman or girl whom he
had ever known had possessed so much innate force as she. Her
red-gold hair--not so red as decidedly golden with a suggestion
of red in it--looped itself in heavy folds about her forehead
and sagged at the base of her neck. She had a beautiful nose,
not sensitive, but straight-cut with small nostril openings, and
eyes that were big and yet noticeably sensuous. They were, to
him, a pleasing shade of blue-gray-blue, and her toilet, due to
her temperament, of course, suggested almost undue luxury, the
bangles, anklets, ear-rings, and breast-plates of the odalisque,
and yet, of course, they were not there. She confessed to him
years afterward that she would have loved to have stained her
nails and painted the palms of her hands with madder-red. Healthy
and vigorous, she was chronically interested in men--what they
would think of her--and how she compared with other women.
The fact that she could ride in a carriage, live in a fine home
on Girard Avenue, visit such homes as those of the Cowperwoods
and others, was of great weight; and yet, even at this age, she
realized that life was more than these things. Many did not have
them and lived.
But these facts of wealth and advantage gripped her; and when she
sat at the piano and played or rode in her carriage or walked or
stood before her mirror, she was conscious of her figure, her
charms, what they meant to men, how women envied her. Sometimes
she looked at poor, hollow-chested or homely-faced girls and felt
sorry for them; at other times she flared into inexplicable
opposition to some handsome girl or woman who dared to brazen her
socially or physically. There were such girls of the better
families who, in Chestnut Street, in the expensive shops, or on
the drive, on horseback or in carriages, tossed their heads and
indicated as well as human motions can that they were better-bred
and knew it. When this happened each stared defiantly at the
other. She wanted ever so much to get up in the world, and yet
namby-pamby men of better social station than herself did not
attract her at all. She wanted a man. Now and then there was
one "something like," but not entirely, who appealed to her, but
most of them were politicians or legislators, acquaintances of her
father, and socially nothing at all--and so they wearied and
disappointed her. Her father did not know the truly elite. But
Mr. Cowperwood--he seemed so refined, so forceful, and so reserved.
She often looked at Mrs. Cowperwood and thought how fortunate she
The development of Cowperwood as Cowperwood & Co. following his
arresting bond venture, finally brought him into relationship with
one man who was to play an important part in his life, morally,
financially, and in other ways. This was George W. Stener, the
new city treasurer-elect, who, to begin with, was a puppet in the
hands of other men, but who, also in spite of this fact, became a
personage of considerable importance, for the simple reason that
he was weak. Stener had been engaged in the real estate and
insurance business in a small way before he was made city treasurer.
He was one of those men, of whom there are so many thousands in
every large community, with no breadth of vision, no real subtlety,
no craft, no great skill in anything. You would never hear a new
idea emanating from Stener. He never had one in his life. On the
other hand, he was not a bad fellow. He had a stodgy, dusty,
commonplace look to him which was more a matter of mind than of
body. His eye was of vague gray-blue; his hair a dusty light-brown
and thin. His mouth--there was nothing impressive there. He was
quite tall, nearly six feet, with moderately broad shoulders, but
his figure was anything but shapely. He seemed to stoop a little,
his stomach was the least bit protuberant, and he talked commonplaces
--the small change of newspaper and street and business gossip.
People liked him in his own neighborhood. He was thought to be
honest and kindly; and he was, as far as he knew. His wife and
four children were as average and insignificant as the wives and
children of such men usually are.
Just the same, and in spite of, or perhaps, politically speaking,
because of all this, George W. Stener was brought into temporary
public notice by certain political methods which had existed in
Philadelphia practically unmodified for the previous half hundred
years. First, because he was of the same political faith as the
dominant local political party, he had become known to the local
councilman and ward-leader of his ward as a faithful soul--one
useful in the matter of drumming up votes. And next--although
absolutely without value as a speaker, for he had no ideas--you
could send him from door to door, asking the grocer and the
blacksmith and the butcher how he felt about things and he would
make friends, and in the long run predict fairly accurately the
probable vote. Furthermore, you could dole him out a few platitudes
and he would repeat them. The Republican party, which was the
new-born party then, but dominant in Philadelphia, needed your
vote; it was necessary to keep the rascally Democrats out--he could
scarcely have said why. They had been for slavery. They were for
free trade. It never once occurred to him that these things had
nothing to do with the local executive and financial administration
of Philadelphia. Supposing they didn't? What of it?
In Philadelphia at this time a certain United States Senator, one
Mark Simpson, together with Edward Malia Butler and Henry A.
Mollenhauer, a rich coal dealer and investor, were supposed to,
and did, control jointly the political destiny of the city. They
had representatives, benchmen, spies, tools--a great company. Among
them was this same Stener--a minute cog in the silent machinery of
In scarcely any other city save this, where the inhabitants were
of a deadly average in so far as being commonplace was concerned,
could such a man as Stener have been elected city treasurer. The
rank and file did not, except in rare instances, make up their
political program. An inside ring had this matter in charge.
Certain positions were allotted to such and such men or to such
and such factions of the party for such and such services rendered
--but who does not know politics?
In due course of time, therefore, George W. Stener had become
persona grata to Edward Strobik, a quondam councilman who afterward
became ward leader and still later president of council, and who,
in private life was a stone-dealer and owner of a brickyard.
Strobik was a benchman of Henry A. Mollenhauer, the hardest and
coldest of all three of the political leaders. The latter had
things to get from council, and Strobik was his tool. He had Stener
elected; and because he was faithful in voting as he was told the
latter was later made an assistant superintendent of the highways
Here he came under the eyes of Edward Malia Butler, and was slightly
useful to him. Then the central political committee, with Butler
in charge, decided that some nice, docile man who would at the
same time be absolutely faithful was needed for city treasurer, and
Stener was put on the ticket. He knew little of finance, but was
an excellent bookkeeper; and, anyhow, was not corporation counsel
Regan, another political tool of this great triumvirate, there to
advise him at all times? He was. It was a very simple matter.
Being put on the ticket was equivalent to being elected, and so,
after a few weeks of exceedingly trying platform experiences, in
which he had stammered through platitudinous declarations that the
city needed to be honestly administered, he was inducted into
office; and there you were.
Now it wouldn't have made so much difference what George W.
Stener's executive and financial qualifications for the position
were, but at this time the city of Philadelphia was still hobbling
along under perhaps as evil a financial system, or lack of it, as
any city ever endured--the assessor and the treasurer being
allowed to collect and hold moneys belonging to the city, outside
of the city's private vaults, and that without any demand on the
part of anybody that the same be invested by them at interest for
the city's benefit. Rather, all they were expected to do,
apparently, was to restore the principal and that which was with
them when they entered or left office. It was not understood or
publicly demanded that the moneys so collected, or drawn from any
source, be maintained intact in the vaults of the city treasury.
They could be loaned out, deposited in banks or used to further
private interests of any one, so long as the principal was returned,
and no one was the wiser. Of course, this theory of finance was
not publicly sanctioned, but it was known politically and
journalistically, and in high finance. How were you to stop it?
Cowperwood, in approaching Edward Malia Butler, had been
unconsciously let in on this atmosphere of erratic and unsatisfactory
speculation without really knowing it. When he had left the
office of Tighe & Co., seven years before, it was with the idea
that henceforth and forever he would have nothing to do with the
stock-brokerage proposition; but now behold him back in it again,
with more vim than he had ever displayed, for now he was working
for himself, the firm of Cowperwood & Co., and he was eager to
satisfy the world of new and powerful individuals who by degrees
were drifting to him. All had a little money. All had tips, and
they wanted him to carry certain lines of stock on margin for them,
because he was known to other political men, and because he was
safe. And this was true. He was not, or at least up to this time
had not been, a speculator or a gambler on his own account. In
fact he often soothed himself with the thought that in all these
years he had never gambled for himself, but had always acted
strictly for others instead. But now here was George W. Stener
with a proposition which was not quite the same thing as
stock-gambling, and yet it was.
During a long period of years preceding the Civil War, and through
it, let it here be explained and remembered, the city of Philadelphia
had been in the habit, as a corporation, when there were no available
funds in the treasury, of issuing what were known as city warrants,
which were nothing more than notes or I.O.U.'s bearing six per cent.
interest, and payable sometimes in thirty days, sometimes in three,
sometimes in six months--all depending on the amount and how soon
the city treasurer thought there would be sufficient money in the
treasury to take them up and cancel them. Small tradesmen and
large contractors were frequently paid in this way; the small
tradesman who sold supplies to the city institutions, for instance,
being compelled to discount his notes at the bank, if he needed
ready money, usually for ninety cents on the dollar, while the
large contractor could afford to hold his and wait. It can readily
be seen that this might well work to the disadvantage of the small
dealer and merchant, and yet prove quite a fine thing for a large
contractor or note-broker, for the city was sure to pay the warrants
at some time, and six per cent. interest was a fat rate, considering
the absolute security. A banker or broker who gathered up these
things from small tradesmen at ninety cents on the dollar made a
fine thing of it all around if he could wait.
Originally, in all probability, there was no intention on the part
of the city treasurer to do any one an injustice, and it is likely
that there really were no funds to pay with at the time. However
that may have been, there was later no excuse for issuing the
warrants, seeing that the city might easily have been managed much
more economically. But these warrants, as can readily be imagined,
had come to be a fine source of profit for note-brokers, bankers,
political financiers, and inside political manipulators generally
and so they remained a part of the city's fiscal policy.
There was just one drawback to all this. In order to get the full
advantage of this condition the large banker holding them must be
an "inside banker," one close to the political forces of the city,
for if he was not and needed money and he carried his warrants to
the city treasurer, he would find that he could not get cash for
them. But if he transferred them to some banker or note-broker
who was close to the political force of the city, it was quite
another matter. The treasury would find means to pay. Or, if so
desired by the note-broker or banker--the right one--notes which
were intended to be met in three months, and should have been
settled at that time, were extended to run on years and years,
drawing interest at six per cent. even when the city had ample
funds to meet them. Yet this meant, of course, an illegal
interest drain on the city, but that was all right also. "No
funds" could cover that. The general public did not know. It
could not find out. The newspapers were not at all vigilant,
being pro-political. There were no persistent, enthusiastic
reformers who obtained any political credence. During the war,
warrants outstanding in this manner arose in amount to much over
two million dollars, all drawing six per cent. interest, but
then, of course, it began to get a little scandalous. Besides,
at least some of the investors began to want their money back.
In order, therefore, to clear up this outstanding indebtedness
and make everything shipshape again, it was decided that the city
must issue a loan, say for two million dollars--no need to be
exact about the amount. And this loan must take the shape of
interest-bearing certificates of a par value of one hundred dollars,
redeemable in six, twelve, or eighteen months, as the case may be.
These certificates of loan were then ostensibly to be sold in the
open market, a sinking-fund set aside for their redemption, and the
money so obtained used to take up the long-outstanding warrants
which were now such a subject of public comment.
It is obvious that this was merely a case of robbing Peter to pay
Paul. There was no real clearing up of the outstanding debt. It
was the intention of the schemers to make it possible for the
financial politicians on the inside to reap the same old harvest
by allowing the certificates to be sold to the right parties for
ninety or less, setting up the claim that there was no market for
them, the credit of the city being bad. To a certain extent this
was true. The war was just over. Money was high. Investors
could get more than six per cent. elsewhere unless the loan was
sold at ninety. But there were a few watchful politicians not in
the administration, and some newspapers and non-political financiers
who, because of the high strain of patriotism existing at the time,
insisted that the loan should be sold at par. Therefore a clause
to that effect had to be inserted in the enabling ordinance.
This, as one might readily see, destroyed the politicians' little
scheme to get this loan at ninety. Nevertheless since they
desired that the money tied up in the old warrants and now not
redeemable because of lack of funds should be paid them, the only
way this could be done would be to have some broker who knew the
subtleties of the stock market handle this new city loan on 'change
in such a way that it would be made to seem worth one hundred and
to be sold to outsiders at that figure. Afterward, if, as it was
certain to do, it fell below that, the politicians could buy as
much of it as they pleased, and eventually have the city redeem it
George W. Stener, entering as city treasurer at this time, and
bringing no special financial intelligence to the proposition,
was really troubled. Henry A. Mollenhauer, one of the men who
had gathered up a large amount of the old city warrants, and who
now wanted his money, in order to invest it in bonanza offers in
the West, called on Stener, and also on the mayor. He with
Simpson and Butler made up the Big Three.
"I think something ought to be done about these warrants that