Part 3 out of 11
are outstanding," he explained. "I am carrying a large amount
of them, and there are others. We have helped the city a long
time by saying nothing; but now I think that something ought to
be done. Mr. Butler and Mr. Simpson feel the same way. Couldn't
these new loan certificates be listed on the stock exchange and
the money raised that way? Some clever broker could bring them
Stener was greatly flattered by the visit from Mollenhauer.
Rarely did he trouble to put in a personal appearance, and then
only for the weight and effect his presence would have. He called
on the mayor and the president of council, much as he called on
Stener, with a lofty, distant, inscrutable air. They were as
office-boys to him.
In order to understand exactly the motive for Mollenhauer's
interest in Stener, and the significance of this visit and Stener's
subsequent action in regard to it, it will be necessary to scan
the political horizon for some little distance back. Although
George W. Stener was in a way a political henchman and appointee
of Mollenhauer's, the latter was only vaguely acquainted with him.
He had seen him before; knew of him; had agreed that his name
should be put on the local slate largely because he had been
assured by those who were closest to him and who did his bidding
that Stener was "all right," that he would do as he was told, that
he would cause no one any trouble, etc. In fact, during several
previous administrations, Mollenhauer had maintained a subsurface
connection with the treasury, but never so close a one as could
easily be traced. He was too conspicuous a man politically and
financially for that. But he was not above a plan, in which Simpson
if not Butler shared, of using political and commercial stool-pigeons
to bleed the city treasury as much as possible without creating a
scandal. In fact, for some years previous to this, various agents
had already been employed--Edward Strobik, president of council,
Asa Conklin, the then incumbent of the mayor's chair, Thomas
Wycroft, alderman, Jacob Harmon, alderman, and others--to organize
dummy companies under various names, whose business it was to deal
in those things which the city needed--lumber, stone, steel, iron,
cement--a long list--and of course, always at a fat profit to
those ultimately behind the dummy companies, so organized. It saved
the city the trouble of looking far and wide for honest and
Since the action of at least three of these dummies will have
something to do with the development of Cowperwood's story, they
may be briefly described. Edward Strobik, the chief of them, and
the one most useful to Mollenhauer, in a minor way, was a very
spry person of about thirty-five at this time--lean and somewhat
forceful, with black hair, black eyes, and an inordinately large
black mustache. He was dapper, inclined to noticeable clothing--
a pair of striped trousers, a white vest, a black cutaway coat
and a high silk hat. His markedly ornamental shoes were always
polished to perfection, and his immaculate appearance gave him the
nickname of "The Dude" among some. Nevertheless he was quite able
on a small scale, and was well liked by many.
His two closest associates, Messrs. Thomas Wycroft and Jacob Harmon,
were rather less attractive and less brilliant. Jacob Harmon was
a thick wit socially, but no fool financially. He was big and
rather doleful to look upon, with sandy brown hair and brown
eyes, but fairly intelligent, and absolutely willing to approve
anything which was not too broad in its crookedness and which
would afford him sufficient protection to keep him out of the
clutches of the law. He was really not so cunning as dull and
anxious to get along.
Thomas Wycroft, the last of this useful but minor triumvirate,
was a tall, lean man, candle-waxy, hollow-eyed, gaunt of face,
pathetic to look at physically, but shrewd. He was an iron-molder
by trade and had gotten into politics much as Stener had--because
he was useful; and he had managed to make some money--via this
triumvirate of which Strobik was the ringleader, and which was
engaged in various peculiar businesses which will now be indicated.
The companies which these several henchmen had organized under
previous administrations, and for Mollenhauer, dealt in meat,
building material, lamp-posts, highway supplies, anything you
will, which the city departments or its institutions needed. A
city contract once awarded was irrevocable, but certain councilmen
had to be fixed in advance and it took money to do that. The
company so organized need not actually slaughter any cattle or
mold lamp-posts. All it had to do was to organize to do that,
obtain a charter, secure a contract for supplying such material
to the city from the city council (which Strobik, Harmon, and
Wycroft would attend to), and then sublet this to some actual
beef-slaughterer or iron-founder, who would supply the material
and allow them to pocket their profit which in turn was divided
or paid for to Mollenhauer and Simpson in the form of political
donations to clubs or organizations. It was so easy and in a way
so legitimate. The particular beef-slaughterer or iron-founder
thus favored could not hope of his own ability thus to obtain a
contract. Stener, or whoever was in charge of the city treasury
at the time, for his services in loaning money at a low rate of
interest to be used as surety for the proper performance of
contract, and to aid in some instances the beef-killer or
iron-founder to carry out his end, was to be allowed not only the
one or two per cent. which he might pocket (other treasurers had),
but a fair proportion of the profits. A complacent, confidential
chief clerk who was all right would be recommended to him. It did
not concern Stener that Strobik, Harmon, and Wycroft, acting for
Mollenhauer, were incidentally planning to use a little of the
money loaned for purposes quite outside those indicated. It was
his business to loan it.
However, to be going on. Some time before he was even nominated,
Stener had learned from Strobik, who, by the way, was one of his
sureties as treasurer (which suretyship was against the law, as
were those of Councilmen Wycroft and Harmon, the law of
Pennsylvania stipulating that one political servant might not
become surety for another), that those who had brought about this
nomination and election would by no means ask him to do anything
which was not perfectly legal, but that he must be complacent and
not stand in the way of big municipal perquisites nor bite the
hands that fed him. It was also made perfectly plain to him, that
once he was well in office a little money for himself was to be
made. As has been indicated, he had always been a poor man. He
had seen all those who had dabbled in politics to any extent about
him heretofore do very well financially indeed, while he pegged
along as an insurance and real-estate agent. He had worked hard
as a small political henchman. Other politicians were building
themselves nice homes in newer portions of the city. They were
going off to New York or Harrisburg or Washington on jaunting
parties. They were seen in happy converse at road-houses or
country hotels in season with their wives or their women favorites,
and he was not, as yet, of this happy throng. Naturally now that
he was promised something, he was interested and compliant. What
might he not get?
When it came to this visit from Mollenhauer, with its suggestion
in regard to bringing city loan to par, although it bore no obvious
relation to Mollenhauer's subsurface connection with Stener, through
Strobik and the others, Stener did definitely recognize his own
political subservience--his master's stentorian voice--and
immediately thereafter hurried to Strobik for information.
"Just what would you do about this?" he asked of Strobik, who
knew of Mollenhauer's visit before Stener told him, and was waiting
for Stener to speak to him. "Mr. Mollenhauer talks about having
this new loan listed on 'change and brought to par so that it
will sell for one hundred."
Neither Strobik, Harmon, nor Wycroft knew how the certificates of
city loan, which were worth only ninety on the open market, were
to be made to sell for one hundred on 'change, but Mollenhauer's
secretary, one Abner Sengstack, had suggested to Strobik that,
since Butler was dealing with young Cowperwood and Mollenhauer did
not care particularly for his private broker in this instance, it
might be as well to try Cowperwood.
So it was that Cowperwood was called to Stener's office. And once
there, and not as yet recognizing either the hand of Mollenhauer
or Simpson in this, merely looked at the peculiarly shambling,
heavy-cheeked, middle-class man before him without either interest
or sympathy, realizing at once that he had a financial baby to deal
with. If he could act as adviser to this man--be his sole counsel
for four years!
"How do you do, Mr. Stener?" he said in his soft, ingratiating voice,
as the latter held out his hand. "I am glad to meet you. I have
heard of you before, of course."
Stener was long in explaining to Cowperwood just what his difficulty
was. He went at it in a clumsy fashion, stumbling through the
difficulties of the situation he was suffered to meet.
"The main thing, as I see it, is to make these certificates sell
at par. I can issue them in any sized lots you like, and as often
as you like. I want to get enough now to clear away two hundred
thousand dollars' worth of the outstanding warrants, and as much
more as I can get later."
Cowperwood felt like a physician feeling a patient's pulse--a
patient who is really not sick at all but the reassurance of
whom means a fat fee. The abstrusities of the stock exchange
were as his A B C's to him. He knew if he could have this loan
put in his hands--all of it, if he could have the fact kept dark
that he was acting for the city, and that if Stener would allow
him to buy as a "bull" for the sinking-fund while selling
judiciously for a rise, he could do wonders even with a big issue.
He had to have all of it, though, in order that he might have
agents under him. Looming up in his mind was a scheme whereby
he could make a lot of the unwary speculators about 'change go
short of this stock or loan under the impression, of course, that
it was scattered freely in various persons' hands, and that they
could buy as much of it as they wanted. Then they would wake to
find that they could not get it; that he had it all. Only he would
not risk his secret that far. Not he, oh, no. But he would drive
the city loan to par and then sell. And what a fat thing for
himself among others in so doing. Wisely enough he sensed that
there was politics in all this--shrewder and bigger men above and
behind Stener. But what of that? And how slyly and shrewdly they
were sending Stener to him. It might be that his name was becoming
very potent in their political world here. And what might that
"I tell you what I'd like to do, Mr. Stener," he said, after he had
listened to his explanation and asked how much of the city loan he
would like to sell during the coming year. "I'll be glad to
undertake it. But I'd like to have a day or two in which to think
"Why, certainly, certainly, Mr. Cowperwood," replied Stener,
genially. "That's all right. Take your time. If you know how
it can be done, just show me when you're ready. By the way, what
do you charge?"
"Well, the stock exchange has a regular scale of charges which
we brokers are compelled to observe. It's one-fourth of one per
cent. on the par value of bonds and loans. Of course, I may hav
to add a lot of fictitious selling--I'll explain that to you later--
but I won't charge you anything for that so long as it is a secret
between us. I'll give you the best service I can, Mr. Stener.
You can depend on that. Let me have a day or two to think it over,
He shook hands with Stener, and they parted. Cowperwood was
satisfied that he was on the verge of a significant combination,
and Stener that he had found someone on whom he could lean.
The plan Cowperwood developed after a few days' meditation will
be plain enough to any one who knows anything of commercial and
financial manipulation, but a dark secret to those who do not. In
the first place, the city treasurer was to use his (Cowperwood's)
office as a bank of deposit. He was to turn over to him, actually,
or set over to his credit on the city's books, subject to his order,
certain amounts of city loans--two hundred thousand dollars at
first, since that was the amount it was desired to raise quickly--
and he would then go into the market and see what could be done to
have it brought to par. The city treasurer was to ask leave of
the stock exchange at once to have it listed as a security.
Cowperwood would then use his influence to have this application
acted upon quickly. Stener was then to dispose of all city loan
certificates through him, and him only. He was to allow him to
buy for the sinking-fund, supposedly, such amounts as he might
have to buy in order to keep the price up to par. To do this,
once a considerable number of the loan certificates had been
unloaded on the public, it might be necessary to buy back a great
deal. However, these would be sold again. The law concerning
selling only at par would have to be abrogated to this extent--
i.e., that the wash sales and preliminary sales would have to be
considered no sales until par was reached.
There was a subtle advantage here, as Cowperwood pointed out to
Stener. In the first place, since the certificates were going
ultimately to reach par anyway, there was no objection to Stener
or any one else buying low at the opening price and holding for
a rise. Cowperwood would be glad to carry him on his books for
any amount, and he would settle at the end of each month. He
would not be asked to buy the certificates outright. He could be
carried on the books for a certain reasonable margin, say ten
points. The money was as good as made for Stener now. In the
next place, in buying for the sinking-fund it would be possible
to buy these certificates very cheap, for, having the new and
reserve issue entirely in his hands, Cowperwood could throw such
amounts as he wished into the market at such times as he wished
to buy, and consequently depress the market. Then he could buy,
and, later, up would go the price. Having the issues totally in
his hands to boost or depress the market as he wished, there was
no reason why the city should not ultimately get par for all its
issues, and at the same time considerable money be made out of
the manufactured fluctuations. He, Cowperwood, would be glad to
make most of his profit that way. The city should allow him his
normal percentage on all his actual sales of certificates for the
city at par (he would have to have that in order to keep straight
with the stock exchange); but beyond that, and for all the other
necessary manipulative sales, of which there would be many, he
would depend on his knowledge of the stock market to reimburse him.
And if Stener wanted to speculate with him--well.
Dark as this transaction may seem to the uninitiated, it will
appear quite clear to those who know. Manipulative tricks have
always been worked in connection with stocks of which one man or
one set of men has had complete control. It was no different from
what subsequently was done with Erie, Standard Oil, Copper, Sugar,
Wheat, and what not. Cowperwood was one of the first and one of
the youngest to see how it could be done. When he first talked to
Stener he was twenty-eight years of age. When he last did business
with him he was thirty-four.
The houses and the bank-front of Cowperwood & Co. had been proceeding
apace. The latter was early Florentine in its decorations with
windows which grew narrower as they approached the roof, and a door
of wrought iron set between delicately carved posts, and a straight
lintel of brownstone. It was low in height and distinguished in
appearance. In the center panel had been hammered a hand, delicately
wrought, thin and artistic, holding aloft a flaming brand. Ellsworth
informed him that this had formerly been a money-changer's sign
used in old Venice, the significance of which had long been
The interior was finished in highly-polished hardwood, stained in
imitation of the gray lichens which infest trees. Large sheets of
clear, beveled glass were used, some oval, some oblong, some square,
and some circular, following a given theory of eye movement. The
fixtures for the gas-jets were modeled after the early Roman
flame-brackets, and the office safe was made an ornament, raised
on a marble platform at the back of the office and lacquered a
silver-gray, with Cowperwood & Co. lettered on it in gold. One
had a sense of reserve and taste pervading the place, and yet it
was also inestimably prosperous, solid and assuring. Cowperwood,
when he viewed it at its completion, complimented Ellsworth
cheerily. "I like this. It is really beautiful. It will be a
pleasure to work here. If those houses are going to be anything
like this, they will be perfect."
"Wait till you see them. I think you will be pleased, Mr.
Cowperwood. I am taking especial pains with yours because it is
smaller. It is really easier to treat your father's. But yours--"
He went off into a description of the entrance-hall, reception-room
and parlor, which he was arranging and decorating in such a way
as to give an effect of size and dignity not really conformable
to the actual space.
And when the houses were finished, they were effective and
arresting--quite different from the conventional residences of the
street. They were separated by a space of twenty feet, laid out
as greensward. The architect had borrowed somewhat from the Tudor
school, yet not so elaborated as later became the style in many of
the residences in Philadelphia and elsewhere. The most striking
features were rather deep-recessed doorways under wide, low,
slightly floriated arches, and three projecting windows of rich
form, one on the second floor of Frank's house, two on the facade
of his father's. There were six gables showing on the front of the
two houses, two on Frank's and four on his father's. In the front
of each house on the ground floor was a recessed window unconnected
with the recessed doorways, formed by setting the inner external
wall back from the outer face of the building. This window looked
out through an arched opening to the street, and was protected by
a dwarf parapet or balustrade. It was possible to set potted vines
and flowers there, which was later done, giving a pleasant sense
of greenery from the street, and to place a few chairs there,
which were reached via heavily barred French casements.
On the ground floor of each house was placed a conservatory of
flowers, facing each other, and in the yard, which was jointly used,
a pool of white marble eight feet in diameter, with a marble Cupid
upon which jets of water played. The yard which was enclosed by
a high but pierced wall of green-gray brick, especially burnt for
the purpose the same color as the granite of the house, and surmounted
by a white marble coping which was sown to grass and had a lovely,
smooth, velvety appearance. The two houses, as originally planned,
were connected by a low, green-columned pergola which could be
enclosed in glass in winter.
The rooms, which were now slowly being decorated and furnished in
period styles were very significant in that they enlarged and
strengthened Frank Cowperwood's idea of the world of art in general.
It was an enlightening and agreeable experience--one which made for
artistic and intellectual growth--to hear Ellsworth explain at length
the styles and types of architecture and furniture, the nature of
woods and ornaments employed, the qualities and peculiarities of
hangings, draperies, furniture panels, and door coverings. Ellsworth
was a student of decoration as well as of architecture, and interested
in the artistic taste of the American people, which he fancied would
some day have a splendid outcome. He was wearied to death of the
prevalent Romanesque composite combinations of country and suburban
villa. The time was ripe for something new. He scarcely knew what
it would be; but this that he had designed for Cowperwood and his
father was at least different, as he said, while at the same time
being reserved, simple, and pleasing. It was in marked contrast to
the rest of the architecture of the street. Cowperwood's dining-room,
reception-room, conservatory, and butler's pantry he had put on
the first floor, together with the general entry-hall, staircase,
and coat-room under the stairs. For the second floor he had reserved
the library, general living-room, parlor, and a small office for
Cowperwood, together with a boudoir for Lillian, connected with a
dressing-room and bath.
On the third floor, neatly divided and accommodated with baths and
dressing-rooms, were the nursery, the servants' quarters, and
Ellsworth showed Cowperwood books of designs containing furniture,
hangings, etageres, cabinets, pedestals, and some exquisite piano
forms. He discussed woods with him--rosewood, mahogany, walnut,
English oak, bird's-eye maple, and the manufactured effects such
as ormolu, marquetry, and Boule, or buhl. He explained the latter--
how difficult it was to produce, how unsuitable it was in some
respects for this climate, the brass and tortoise-shell inlay
coming to swell with the heat or damp, and so bulging or breaking.
He told of the difficulties and disadvantages of certain finishes,
but finally recommended ormolu furniture for the reception room,
medallion tapestry for the parlor, French renaissance for the
dining-room and library, and bird's-eye maple (dyed blue in one
instance, and left its natural color in another) and a rather
lightly constructed and daintily carved walnut for the other rooms.
The hangings, wall-paper, and floor coverings were to harmonize--
not match--and the piano and music-cabinet for the parlor, as well
as the etagere, cabinets, and pedestals for the reception-rooms,
were to be of buhl or marquetry, if Frank cared to stand the
Ellsworth advised a triangular piano--the square shapes were so
inexpressibly wearisome to the initiated. Cowperwood listened
fascinated. He foresaw a home which would be chaste, soothing,
and delightful to look upon. If he hung pictures, gilt frames
were to be the setting, large and deep; and if he wished a
picture-gallery, the library could be converted into that, and
the general living-room, which lay between the library and the
parlor on the second-floor, could be turned into a combination
library and living-room. This was eventually done; but not until
his taste for pictures had considerably advanced.
It was now that he began to take a keen interest in objects of
art, pictures, bronzes, little carvings and figurines, for his
cabinets, pedestals, tables, and etageres. Philadelphia did not
offer much that was distinguished in this realm--certainly not
in the open market. There were many private houses which were
enriched by travel; but his connection with the best families was
as yet small. There were then two famous American sculptors,
Powers and Hosmer, of whose work he had examples; but Ellsworth
told him that they were not the last word in sculpture and that
he should look into the merits of the ancients. He finally secured
a head of David, by Thorwaldsen, which delighted him, and some
landscapes by Hunt, Sully, and Hart, which seemed somewhat in the
spirit of his new world.
The effect of a house of this character on its owner is unmistakable.
We think we are individual, separate, above houses and material
objects generally; but there is a subtle connection which makes
them reflect us quite as much as we reflect them. They lend dignity,
subtlety, force, each to the other, and what beauty, or lack of
it, there is, is shot back and forth from one to the other as a
shuttle in a loom, weaving, weaving. Cut the thread, separate a
man from that which is rightfully his own, characteristic of him,
and you have a peculiar figure, half success, half failure, much
as a spider without its web, which will never be its whole self
again until all its dignities and emoluments are restored.
The sight of his new house going up made Cowperwood feel of more
weight in the world, and the possession of his suddenly achieved
connection with the city treasurer was as though a wide door had
been thrown open to the Elysian fields of opportunity. He rode
about the city those days behind a team of spirited bays, whose
glossy hides and metaled harness bespoke the watchful care of
hostler and coachman. Ellsworth was building an attractive stable
in the little side street back of the houses, for the joint use
of both families. He told Mrs. Cowperwood that he intended to buy
her a victoria--as the low, open, four-wheeled coach was then known--
as soon as they were well settled in their new home, and that they
were to go out more. There was some talk about the value of
entertaining--that he would have to reach out socially for certain
individuals who were not now known to him. Together with Anna,
his sister, and his two brothers, Joseph and Edward, they could
use the two houses jointly. There was no reason why Anna should
not make a splendid match. Joe and Ed might marry well, since they
were not destined to set the world on fire in commerce. At least
it would not hurt them to try.
"Don't you think you will like that?" he asked his wife, referring
to his plans for entertaining.
She smiled wanly. "I suppose so," she said.
It was not long after the arrangement between Treasurer Stener
and Cowperwood had been made that the machinery for the carrying
out of that political-financial relationship was put in motion.
The sum of two hundred and ten thousand dollars in six per cent.
interest-bearing certificates, payable in ten years, was set over
to the credit of Cowperwood & Co. on the books of the city, subject
to his order. Then, with proper listing, he began to offer it in
small amounts at more than ninety, at the same time creating the
impression that it was going to be a prosperous investment. The
certificates gradually rose and were unloaded in rising amounts
until one hundred was reached, when all the two hundred thousand
dollars' worth--two thousand certificates in all--was fed out in
small lots. Stener was satisfied. Two hundred shares had been
carried for him and sold at one hundred, which netted him two
thousand dollars. It was illegitimate gain, unethical; but his
conscience was not very much troubled by that. He had none, truly.
He saw visions of a halcyon future.
It is difficult to make perfectly clear what a subtle and significant
power this suddenly placed in the hands of Cowperwood. Consider
that he was only twenty-eight--nearing twenty-nine. Imagine yourself
by nature versed in the arts of finance, capable of playing with
sums of money in the forms of stocks, certificates, bonds, and cash,
as the ordinary man plays with checkers or chess. Or, better yet,
imagine yourself one of those subtle masters of the mysteries of
the higher forms of chess--the type of mind so well illustrated by
the famous and historic chess-players, who could sit with their
backs to a group of rivals playing fourteen men at once, calling
out all the moves in turn, remembering all the positions of all
the men on all the boards, and winning. This, of course, would be
an overstatement of the subtlety of Cowperwood at this time, and
yet it would not be wholly out of bounds. He knew instinctively
what could be done with a given sum of money--how as cash it could
be deposited in one place, and yet as credit and the basis of moving
checks, used in not one but many other places at the same time.
When properly watched and followed this manipulation gave him the
constructive and purchasing power of ten and a dozen times as much
as his original sum might have represented. He knew instinctively
the principles of "pyramiding" and "kiting." He could see exactly
not only how he could raise and lower the value of these certificates
of loan, day after day and year after year--if he were so fortunate
as to retain his hold on the city treasurer--but also how this would
give him a credit with the banks hitherto beyond his wildest dreams.
His father's bank was one of the first to profit by this and to
extend him loans. The various local politicians and bosses--
Mollenhauer, Butler, Simpson, and others--seeing the success of his
efforts in this direction, speculated in city loan. He became known
to Mollenhauer and Simpson, by reputation, if not personally, as
the man who was carrying this city loan proposition to a successful
issue. Stener was supposed to have done a clever thing in finding
him. The stock exchange stipulated that all trades were to be
compared the same day and settled before the close of the next;
but this working arrangement with the new city treasurer gave
Cowperwood much more latitude, and now he had always until the first
of the month, or practically thirty days at times, in which to
render an accounting for all deals connected with the loan issue.
And, moreover, this was really not an accounting in the sense of
removing anything from his hands. Since the issue was to be so
large, the sum at his disposal would always be large, and
so-called transfers and balancing at the end of the month would
be a mere matter of bookkeeping. He could use these city loan
certificates deposited with him for manipulative purposes,
deposit them at any bank as collateral for a loan, quite as if
they were his own, thus raising seventy per cent. of their actual
value in cash, and he did not hesitate to do so. He could take
this cash, which need not be accounted for until the end of the
month, and cover other stock transactions, on which he could
borrow again. There was no limit to the resources of which he
now found himself possessed, except the resources of his own energy,
ingenuity, and the limits of time in which he had to work. The
politicians did not realize what a bonanza he was making of it
all for himself, because they were as yet unaware of the subtlety
of his mind. When Stener told him, after talking the matter over
with the mayor, Strobik, and others that he would formally, during
the course of the year, set over on the city's books all of the
two millions in city loan, Cowperwood was silent--but with delight.
Two millions! His to play with! He had been called in as a
financial adviser, and he had given his advice and it had been
taken! Well. He was not a man who inherently was troubled with
conscientious scruples. At the same time he still believed himself
financially honest. He was no sharper or shrewder than any other
financier--certainly no sharper than any other would be if he
It should be noted here that this proposition of Stener's in regard
to city money had no connection with the attitude of the principal
leaders in local politics in regard to street-railway control, which
was a new and intriguing phase of the city's financial life. Many
of the leading financiers and financier-politicians were interested
in that. For instance, Messrs. Mollenhauer, Butler, and Simpson
were interested in street-railways separately on their own account.
There was no understanding between them on this score. If they had
thought at all on the matter they would have decided that they did
not want any outsider to interfere. As a matter of fact the
street-railway business in Philadelphia was not sufficiently developed
at this time to suggest to any one the grand scheme of union which
came later. Yet in connection with this new arrangement between
Stener and Cowperwood, it was Strobik who now came forward to
Stener with an idea of his own. All were certain to make money
through Cowperwood--he and Stener, especially. What was amiss,
therefore, with himself and Stener and with Cowperwood as their--
or rather Stener's secret representative, since Strobik did not
dare to appear in the matter--buying now sufficient street-railway
shares in some one line to control it, and then, if he, Strobik,
could, by efforts of his own, get the city council to set aside
certain streets for its extension, why, there you were--they would
own it. Only, later, he proposed to shake Stener out if he could.
But this preliminary work had to be done by some one, and it might
as well be Stener. At the same time, as he saw, this work had to
be done very carefully, because naturally his superiors were
watchful, and if they found him dabbling in affairs of this kind
to his own advantage, they might make it impossible for him to
continue politically in a position where he could help himself
just the same. Any outside organization such as a street-railway
company already in existence had a right to appeal to the city
council for privileges which would naturally further its and the
city's growth, and, other things being equal, these could not be
refused. It would not do for him to appear, however, both as a
shareholder and president of the council. But with Cowperwood
acting privately for Stener it would be another thing.
The interesting thing about this proposition as finally presented
by Stener for Strobik to Cowperwood, was that it raised, without
appearing to do so, the whole question of Cowperwood's attitude
toward the city administration. Although he was dealing privately
for Edward Butler as an agent, and with this same plan in mind,
and although he had never met either Mollenhauer or Simpson, he
nevertheless felt that in so far as the manipulation of the city
loan was concerned he was acting for them. On the other hand, in
this matter of the private street-railway purchase which Stener
now brought to him, he realized from the very beginning, by Stener's
attitude, that there was something untoward in it, that Stener felt
he was doing something which he ought not to do.
"Cowperwood," he said to him the first morning he ever broached
this matter--it was in Stener's office, at the old city hall at
Sixth and Chestnut, and Stener, in view of his oncoming prosperity,
was feeling very good indeed--"isn't there some street-railway
property around town here that a man could buy in on and get control
of if he had sufficient money?"
Cowperwood knew that there were such properties. His very alert
mind had long since sensed the general opportunities here. The
omnibuses were slowly disappearing. The best routes were already
preempted. Still, there were other streets, and the city was
growing. The incoming population would make great business in
the future. One could afford to pay almost any price for the
short lines already built if one could wait and extend the lines
into larger and better areas later. And already he had conceived
in his own mind the theory of the "endless chain," or "argeeable
formula," as it was later termed, of buying a certain property on
a long-time payment and issuing stocks or bonds sufficient not only
to pay your seller, but to reimburse you for your trouble, to say
nothing of giving you a margin wherewith to invest in other things--
allied properties, for instance, against which more bonds could be
issued, and so on, ad infinitum. It became an old story later,
but it was new at that time, and he kept the thought closely to
himself. None the less he was glad to have Stener speak of this,
since street-railways were his hobby, and he was convinced that
he would be a great master of them if he ever had an opportunity
to control them.
"Why, yes, George," he said, noncommittally, there are two or
three that offer a good chance if a man had money enough. I notice
blocks of stock being offered on 'change now and then by one person
and another. It would be good policy to pick these things up as
they're offered, and then to see later if some of the other
stockholders won't want to sell out. Green and Coates, now, looks
like a good proposition to me. If I had three or four hundred
thousand dollars that I thought I could put into that by degrees
I would follow it up. It only takes about thirty per cent. of the
stock of any railroad to control it. Most of the shares are
scattered around so far and wide that they never vote, and I think
two or three hundred thousand dollars would control that road."
He mentioned one other line that might be secured in the same way
in the course of time.
Stener meditated. "That's a good deal of money," he said,
thoughtfully. "I'll talk to you about that some more later."
And he was off to see Strobik none the less.
Cowperwood knew that Stener did not have any two or three hundred
thousand dollars to invest in anything. There was only one way
that he could get it--and that was to borrow it out of the city
treasury and forego the interest. But he would not do that on his
own initiative. Some one else must be behind him and who else
other than Mollenhauer, or Simpson, or possibly even Butler, though
he doubted that, unless the triumvirate were secretly working
together. But what of it? The larger politicians were always
using the treasury, and he was thinking now, only, of his own
attitude in regard to the use of this money. No harm could come
to him, if Stener's ventures were successful; and there was no
reason why they should not be. Even if they were not he would be
merely acting as an agent. In addition, he saw how in the
manipulation of this money for Stener he could probably eventually
control certain lines for himself.
There was one line being laid out to within a few blocks of his
new home--the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Street line it was called--
which interested him greatly. He rode on it occasionally when he
was delayed or did not wish to trouble about a vehicle. It ran
through two thriving streets of red-brick houses, and was destined
to have a great future once the city grew large enough. As yet it
was really not long enough. If he could get that, for instance,
and combine it with Butler's lines, once they were secured--or
Mollenhauer's, or Simpson's, the legislature could be induced to
give them additional franchises. He even dreamed of a combination
between Butler, Mollenhauer, Simpson, and himself. Between them,
politically, they could get anything. But Butler was not a
philanthropist. He would have to be approached with a very sizable
bird in hand. The combination must be obviously advisable.
Besides, he was dealing for Butler in street-railway stocks, and
if this particular line were such a good thing Butler might wonder
why it had not been brought to him in the first place. It would
be better, Frank thought, to wait until he actually had it as his
own, in which case it would be a different matter. Then he could
talk as a capitalist. He began to dream of a city-wide
street-railway system controlled by a few men, or preferably himself
The days that had been passing brought Frank Cowperwood and Aileen
Butler somewhat closer together in spirit. Because of the pressure
of his growing affairs he had not paid so much attention to her
as he might have, but he had seen her often this past year. She
was now nineteen and had grown into some subtle thoughts of her
own. For one thing, she was beginning to see the difference between
good taste and bad taste in houses and furnishings.
"Papa, why do we stay in this old barn?" she asked her father one
evening at dinner, when the usual family group was seated at the
"What's the matter with this house, I'd like to know?" demanded
Butler, who was drawn up close to the table, his napkin tucked
comfortably under his chin, for he insisted on this when company
was not present. "I don't see anything the matter with this house.
Your mother and I manage to live in it well enough."
"Oh, it's terrible, papa. You know it," supplemented Norah, who
was seventeen and quite as bright as her sister, though a little
less experienced. "Everybody says so. Look at all the nice
houses that are being built everywhere about here."
"Everybody! Everybody! Who is 'everybody,' I'd like to know?"
demanded Butler, with the faintest touch of choler and much humor.
"I'm somebody, and I like it. Those that don't like it don't
have to live in it. Who are they? What's the matter with it,
I'd like to know?"
The question in just this form had been up a number of times
before, and had been handled in just this manner, or passed over
entirely with a healthy Irish grin. To-night, however, it was
destined for a little more extended thought.
"You know it's bad, papa," corrected Aileen, firmly. "Now what's
the use getting mad about it? It's old and cheap and dingy. The
furniture is all worn out. That old piano in there ought to be
given away. I won't play on it any more. The Cowperwoods--"
"Old is it!" exclaimed Butler, his accent sharpening somewhat with
his self-induced rage. He almost pronounced it "owled." "Dingy,
hi! Where do you get that? At your convent, I suppose. And where
is it worn? Show me where it's worn."
He was coming to her reference to Cowperwood, but he hadn't reached
that when Mrs. Butler interfered. She was a stout, broad-faced
woman, smiling-mouthed most of the time, with blurry, gray Irish
eyes, and a touch of red in her hair, now modified by grayness.
Her cheek, below the mouth, on the left side, was sharply accented
by a large wen.
"Children! children!" (Mr. Butler, for all his commercial and
political responsibility, was as much a child to her as any.)
"Youse mustn't quarrel now. Come now. Give your father the
There was an Irish maid serving at table; but plates were passed
from one to the other just the same. A heavily ornamented
chandelier, holding sixteen imitation candles in white porcelain,
hung low over the table and was brightly lighted, another offense
"Mama, how often have I told you not to say 'youse'?" pleaded
Norah, very much disheartened by her mother's grammatical errors.
"You know you said you wouldn't."
"And who's to tell your mother what she should say?" called Butler,
more incensed than ever at this sudden and unwarranted rebellion
and assault. "Your mother talked before ever you was born, I'd
have you know. If it weren't for her workin' and slavin' you
wouldn't have any fine manners to be paradin' before her. I'd
have you know that. She's a better woman nor any you'll be
runnin' with this day, you little baggage, you!"
"Mama, do you hear what he's calling me?" complained Norah,
hugging close to her mother's arm and pretending fear and
"Eddie! Eddie!" cautioned Mrs. Butler, pleading with her husband.
"You know he don't mean that, Norah, dear. Don't you know he don't?"
She was stroking her baby's head. The reference to her grammar
had not touched her at all.
Butler was sorry that he had called his youngest a baggage; but
these children--God bless his soul--were a great annoyance. Why,
in the name of all the saints, wasn't this house good enough for
"Why don't you people quit fussing at the table?" observed Callum,
a likely youth, with black hair laid smoothly over his forehead in
a long, distinguished layer reaching from his left to close to his
right ear, and his upper lip carrying a short, crisp mustache. His
nose was short and retrousse, and his ears were rather prominent;
but he was bright and attractive. He and Owen both realized that
the house was old and poorly arranged; but their father and mother
liked it, and business sense and family peace dictated silence on
"Well, I think it's mean to have to live in this old place when
people not one-fourth as good as we are are living in better ones.
The Cowperwoods--why, even the Cowperwoods--"
"Yes, the Cowperwoods! What about the Cowperwoods?" demanded Butler,
turning squarely to Aileen--she was sitting beside him---his big,
red face glowing.
"Why, even they have a better house than we have, and he's merely
an agent of yours."
"The Cowperwoods! The Cowperwoods! I'll not have any talk about the
Cowperwoods. I'm not takin' my rules from the Cowperwoods. Suppose
they have a fine house, what of it? My house is my house. I want to
live here. I've lived here too long to be pickin' up and movin'
away. If you don't like it you know what else you can do. Move
if you want to. I'll not move."
It was Butler's habit when he became involved in these family
quarrels, which were as shallow as puddles, to wave his hands
rather antagonistically under his wife's or his children's noses.
"Oh, well, I will get out one of these days," Aileen replied.
"Thank heaven I won't have to live here forever."
There flashed across her mind the beautiful reception-room, library,
parlor, and boudoirs of the Cowperwoods, which were now being
arranged and about which Anna Cowperwood talked to her so much--
their dainty, lovely triangular grand piano in gold and painted
pink and blue. Why couldn't they have things like that? Her father
was unquestionably a dozen times as wealthy. But no, her father,
whom she loved dearly, was of the old school. He was just what
people charged him with being, a rough Irish contractor. He might
be rich. She flared up at the injustice of things--why couldn't
he have been rich and refined, too? Then they could have--but, oh,
what was the use of complaining? They would never get anywhere
with her father and mother in charge. She would just have to
wait. Marriage was the answer--the right marriage. But whom was
she to marry?
"You surely are not going to go on fighting about that now,"
pleaded Mrs. Butler, as strong and patient as fate itself. She
knew where Aileen's trouble lay.
"But we might have a decent house," insisted Aileen. "Or this
one done over," whispered Norah to her mother.
"Hush now! In good time," replied Mrs. Butler to Norah. "Wait.
We'll fix it all up some day, sure. You run to your lessons now.
You've had enough."
Norah arose and left. Aileen subsided. Her father was simply
stubborn and impossible. And yet he was sweet, too. She pouted
in order to compel him to apologize.
"Come now," he said, after they had left the table, and conscious
of the fact that his daughter was dissatisfied with him. He must
do something to placate her. "Play me somethin' on the piano,
somethin' nice." He preferred showy, clattery things which
exhibited her skill and muscular ability and left him wondering
how she did it. That was what education was for--to enable her
to play these very difficult things quickly and forcefully. "And
you can have a new piano any time you like. Go and see about it.
This looks pretty good to me, but if you don't want it, all right."
Aileen squeezed his arm. What was the use of arguing with her
father? What good would a lone piano do, when the whole house
and the whole family atmosphere were at fault? But she played
Schumann, Schubert, Offenbach, Chopin, and the old gentleman
strolled to and fro and mused, smiling. There was real feeling
and a thoughtful interpretation given to some of these things, for
Aileen was not without sentiment, though she was so strong,
vigorous, and withal so defiant; but it was all lost on him. He
looked on her, his bright, healthy, enticingly beautiful daughter,
and wondered what was going to become of her. Some rich man was
going to many her--some fine, rich young man with good business
instincts--and he, her father, would leave her a lot of money.
There was a reception and a dance to be given to celebrate the
opening of the two Cowperwood homes--the reception to be held in
Frank Cowperwood's residence, and the dance later at his father's.
The Henry Cowperwood domicile was much more pretentious, the
reception-room, parlor, music-room, and conservatory being in this
case all on the ground floor and much larger. Ellsworth had
arranged it so that those rooms, on occasion, could be thrown into
one, leaving excellent space for promenade, auditorium, dancing--
anything, in fact, that a large company might require. It had
been the intention all along of the two men to use these houses
jointly. There was, to begin with, a combination use of the
various servants, the butler, gardener, laundress, and maids.
Frank Cowperwood employed a governess for his children. The
butler was really not a butler in the best sense. He was Henry
Cowperwood's private servitor. But he could carve and preside,
and he could be used in either house as occasion warranted. There
was also a hostler and a coachman for the joint stable. When two
carriages were required at once, both drove. It made a very
agreeable and satisfactory working arrangement.
The preparation of this reception had been quite a matter of
importance, for it was necessary for financial reasons to make it
as extensive as possible, and for social reasons as exclusive.
It was therefore decided that the afternoon reception at Frank's
house, with its natural overflow into Henry W.'s, was to be for
all--the Tighes, Steners, Butlers, Mollenhauers, as well as the
more select groups to which, for instance, belonged Arthur Rivers,
Mrs. Seneca Davis, Mr. and Mrs. Trenor Drake, and some of the
younger Drexels and Clarks, whom Frank had met. It was not likely
that the latter would condescend, but cards had to be sent. Later
in the evening a less democratic group if possible was to be
entertained, albeit it would have to be extended to include the
friends of Anna, Mrs. Cowperwood, Edward, and Joseph, and any list
which Frank might personally have in mind. This was to be the
list. The best that could be persuaded, commanded, or influenced
of the young and socially elect were to be invited here.
It was not possible, however, not to invite the Butlers, parents
and children, particularly the children, for both afternoon and
evening, since Cowperwood was personally attracted to Aileen and
despite the fact that the presence of the parents would be most
unsatisfactory. Even Aileen as he knew was a little unsatisfactory
to Anna and Mrs. Frank Cowperwood; and these two, when they were
together supervising the list of invitations, often talked about
"She's so hoidenish," observed Anna, to her sister-in-law, when
they came to the name of Aileen. "She thinks she knows so much,
and she isn't a bit refined. Her father! Well, if I had her father
I wouldn't talk so smart."
Mrs. Cowperwood, who was before her secretaire in her new boudoir,
lifted her eyebrows.
"You know, Anna, I sometimes wish that Frank's business did not
compel me to have anything to do with them. Mrs. Butler is such
a bore. She means well enough, but she doesn't know anything.
And Aileen is too rough. She's too forward, I think. She comes
over here and plays upon the piano, particularly when Frank's
here. I wouldn't mind so much for myself, but I know it must
annoy him. All her pieces are so noisy. She never plays anything
really delicate and refined."
"I don't like the way she dresses," observed Anna, sympathetically.
"She gets herself up too conspicuously. Now, the other day I saw
her out driving, and oh, dear! you should have seen her! She had
on a crimson Zouave jacket heavily braided with black about the
edges, and a turban with a huge crimson feather, and crimson
ribbons reaching nearly to her waist. Imagine that kind of a hat
to drive in. And her hands! You should have seen the way she held
her hands--oh--just so--self-consciously. They were curved just
so"--and she showed how. "She had on yellow gauntlets, and she
held the reins in one hand and the whip in the other. She drives
just like mad when she drives, anyhow, and William, the footman,
was up behind her. You should just have seen her. Oh, dear! oh,
dear! she does think she is so much!" And Anna giggled, half in
reproach, half in amusement.
"I suppose we'll have to invite her; I don't see how we can get
out of it. I know just how she'll do, though. She'll walk about
and pose and hold her nose up."
"Really, I don't see how she can," commented Anna. "Now, I like
Norah. She's much nicer. She doesn't think she's so much."
"I like Norah, too," added Mrs. Cowperwood. "She's really very
sweet, and to me she's prettier."
"Oh, indeed, I think so, too."
It was curious, though, that it was Aileen who commanded nearly all
their attention and fixed their minds on her so-called
idiosyncrasies. All they said was in its peculiar way true; but
in addition the girl was really beautiful and much above the average
intelligence and force. She was running deep with ambition, and
she was all the more conspicuous, and in a way irritating to some,
because she reflected in her own consciousness her social defects,
against which she was inwardly fighting. She resented the fact
that people could justly consider her parents ineligible, and for
that reason her also. She was intrinsically as worth while as
any one. Cowperwood, so able, and rapidly becoming so distinguished,
seemed to realize it. The days that had been passing had brought
them somewhat closer together in spirit. He was nice to her and
liked to talk to her. Whenever he was at her home now, or she was
at his and he was present, he managed somehow to say a word. He
would come over quite near and look at her in a warm friendly
"Well, Aileen"--she could see his genial eyes--"how is it with you?
How are your father and mother? Been out driving? That's fine. I
saw you to-day. You looked beautiful."
"Oh, Mr. Cowperwood!"
"You did. You looked stunning. A black riding-habit becomes you.
I can tell your gold hair a long way off."
"Oh, now, you mustn't say that to me. You'll make me vain. My
mother and father tell me I'm too vain as it is."
"Never mind your mother and father. I say you looked stunning,
and you did. You always do."
She gave a little gasp of delight. The color mounted to her cheeks
and temples. Mr. Cowperwood knew of course. He was so informed
and intensely forceful. And already he was so much admired by so
many, her own father and mother included, and by Mr. Mollenhauer
and Mr. Simpson, so she heard. And his own home and office were
so beautiful. Besides, his quiet intensity matched her restless
Aileen and her sister were accordingly invited to the reception
but the Butlers mere and pere were given to understand, in as
tactful a manner as possible, that the dance afterward was
principally for young people.
The reception brought a throng of people. There were many, very
many, introductions. There were tactful descriptions of little
effects Mr. Ellsworth had achieved under rather trying circumstances;
walks under the pergola; viewings of both homes in detail. Many
of the guests were old friends. They gathered in the libraries
and dining-rooms and talked. There was much jesting, some slappings
of shoulders, some good story-telling, and so the afternoon waned
into evening, and they went away.
Aileen had created an impression in a street costume of dark blue
silk with velvet pelisse to match, and trimmed with elaborate
pleatings and shirrings of the same materials. A toque of blue
velvet, with high crown and one large dark-red imitation orchid,
had given her a jaunty, dashing air. Beneath the toque her
red-gold hair was arranged in an enormous chignon, with one long
curl escaping over her collar. She was not exactly as daring as
she seemed, but she loved to give that impression.
"You look wonderful," Cowperwood said as she passed him.
"I'll look different to-night," was her answer.
She had swung herself with a slight, swaggering stride into the
dining-room and disappeared. Norah and her mother stayed to chat
with Mrs. Cowperwood.
"Well, it's lovely now, isn't it?" breathed Mrs. Butler. "Sure
you'll be happy here. Sure you will. When Eddie fixed the house
we're in now, says I: 'Eddie, it's almost too fine for us altogether--
surely it is,' and he says, says 'e, 'Norah, nothin' this side o'
heavin or beyond is too good for ye'--and he kissed me. Now what
d'ye think of that fer a big, hulkin' gossoon?"
"It's perfectly lovely, I think, Mrs. Butler," commented Mrs.
Cowperwood, a little bit nervous because of others.
"Mama does love to talk so. Come on, mama. Let's look at the
dining-room." It was Norah talking.
"Well, may ye always be happy in it. I wish ye that. I've always
been happy in mine. May ye always be happy." And she waddled
The Cowperwood family dined hastily alone between seven and eight.
At nine the evening guests began to arrive, and now the throng was
of a different complexion--girls in mauve and cream-white and
salmon-pink and silver-gray, laying aside lace shawls and loose
dolmans, and the men in smooth black helping them. Outside in the
cold, the carriage doors were slamming, and new guests were arriving
constantly. Mrs. Cowperwood stood with her husband and Anna in
the main entrance to the reception room, while Joseph and Edward
Cowperwood and Mr. and Mrs. Henry W. Cowperwood lingered in the
background. Lillian looked charming in a train gown of old rose,
with a low, square neck showing a delicate chemisette of fine lace.
Her face and figure were still notable, though her face was not
as smoothly sweet as it had been years before when Cowperwood had
first met her. Anna Cowperwood was not pretty, though she could
not be said to be homely. She was small and dark, with a turned-up
nose, snapping black eyes, a pert, inquisitive, intelligent, and
alas, somewhat critical, air. She had considerable tact in the
matter of dressing. Black, in spite of her darkness, with shining
beads of sequins on it, helped her complexion greatly, as did a
red rose in her hair. She had smooth, white well-rounded arms and
shoulders. Bright eyes, a pert manner, clever remarks--these
assisted to create an illusion of charm, though, as she often said,
it was of little use. "Men want the dolly things."
In the evening inpour of young men and women came Aileen and Norah,
the former throwing off a thin net veil of black lace and a dolman
of black silk, which her brother Owen took from her. Norah was
with Callum, a straight, erect, smiling young Irishman, who looked
as though he might carve a notable career for himself. She wore a
short, girlish dress that came to a little below her shoe-tops, a
pale-figured lavender and white silk, with a fluffy hoop-skirt of
dainty laced-edged ruffles, against which tiny bows of lavender
stood out in odd places. There was a great sash of lavender about
her waist, and in her hair a rosette of the same color. She looked
exceedingly winsome--eager and bright-eyed.
But behind her was her sister in ravishing black satin, scaled as
a fish with glistening crimsoned-silver sequins, her round, smooth
arms bare to the shoulders, her corsage cut as low in the front
and back as her daring, in relation to her sense of the proprieties,
permitted. She was naturally of exquisite figure, erect,
full-breasted, with somewhat more than gently swelling hips, which,
nevertheless, melted into lovely, harmonious lines; and this
low-cut corsage, receding back and front into a deep V, above a
short, gracefully draped overskirt of black tulle and silver
tissue, set her off to perfection. Her full, smooth, roundly
modeled neck was enhanced in its cream-pink whiteness by an
inch-wide necklet of black jet cut in many faceted black squares.
Her complexion, naturally high in tone because of the pink of
health, was enhanced by the tiniest speck of black court-plaster
laid upon her cheekbone; and her hair, heightened in its reddish-gold
by her dress, was fluffed loosely and adroitly about her eyes.
The main mass of this treasure was done in two loose braids caught
up in a black spangled net at the back of her neck; and her
eyebrows had been emphasized by a pencil into something almost as
significant as her hair. She was, for the occasion, a little too
emphatic, perhaps, and yet more because of her burning vitality
than of her costume. Art for her should have meant subduing her
physical and spiritual significance. Life for her meant emphasizing
"Lillian!" Anna nudged her sister-in-law. She was grieved to think
that Aileen was wearing black and looked so much better than either
"I see," Lillian replied, in a subdued tone.
"So you're back again." She was addressing Aileen. "It's chilly
out, isn't it?"
"I don't mind. Don't the rooms look lovely?"
She was gazing at the softly lighted chambers and the throng before
Norah began to babble to Anna. "You know, I just thought I never
would get this old thing on." She was speaking of her dress.
"Aileen wouldn't help me--the mean thing!"
Aileen had swept on to Cowperwood and his mother, who was near
him. She had removed from her arm the black satin ribbon which
held her train and kicked the skirts loose and free. Her eyes
gleamed almost pleadingly for all her hauteur, like a spirited
collie's, and her even teeth showed beautifully.
Cowperwood understood her precisely, as he did any fine, spirited
"I can't tell you how nice you look," he whispered to her,
familiarly, as though there was an old understanding between them.
"You're like fire and song."
He did not know why he said this. He was not especially poetic.
He had not formulated the phrase beforehand. Since his first
glimpse of her in the hall, his feelings and ideas had been leaping
and plunging like spirited horses. This girl made him set his
teeth and narrow his eyes. Involuntarily he squared his jaw,
looking more defiant, forceful, efficient, as she drew near,
But Aileen and her sister were almost instantly surrounded by
young men seeking to be introduced and to write their names on
dance-cards, and for the time being she was lost to view.
The seeds of change--subtle, metaphysical--are rooted deeply.
From the first mention of the dance by Mrs. Cowperwood and Anna,
Aileen had been conscious of a desire toward a more effective
presentation of herself than as yet, for all her father's money,
she had been able to achieve. The company which she was to
encounter, as she well knew, was to be so much more impressive,
distinguished than anything she had heretofore known socially.
Then, too, Cowperwood appeared as something more definite in her
mind than he had been before, and to save herself she could not
get him out of her consciousness.
A vision of him had come to her but an hour before as she was
dressing. In a way she had dressed for him. She was never
forgetful of the times he had looked at her in an interested
way. He had commented on her hands once. To-day he had said
that she looked "stunning," and she had thought how easy it
would be to impress him to-night--to show him how truly beautiful
She had stood before her mirror between eight and nine--it was
nine-fifteen before she was really ready--and pondered over what
she should wear. There were two tall pier-glasses in her wardrobe--
an unduly large piece of furniture--and one in her closet door.
She stood before the latter, looking at her bare arms and shoulders,
her shapely figure, thinking of the fact that her left shoulder
had a dimple, and that she had selected garnet garters decorated
with heart-shaped silver buckles. The corset could not be made
quite tight enough at first, and she chided her maid, Kathleen
Kelly. She studied how to arrange her hair, and there was much
ado about that before it was finally adjusted. She penciled her
eyebrows and plucked at the hair about her forehead to make it
loose and shadowy. She cut black court-plaster with her nail-shears
and tried different-sized pieces in different places. Finally,
she found one size and one place that suited her. She turned her
head from side to side, looking at the combined effect of her
hair, her penciled brows, her dimpled shoulder, and the black
beauty-spot. If some one man could see her as she was now, some
time! Which man? That thought scurried back like a frightened rat
into its hole. She was, for all her strength, afraid of the
thought of the one--the very deadly--the man.
And then she came to the matter of a train-gown. Kathleen laid
out five, for Aileen had come into the joy and honor of these
things recently, and she had, with the permission of her mother
and father, indulged herself to the full. She studied a golden-yellow
silk, with cream-lace shoulder-straps, and some gussets of garnet
beads in the train that shimmered delightfully, but set it aside.
She considered favorably a black-and-white striped silk of odd
gray effect, and, though she was sorely tempted to wear it, finally
let it go. There was a maroon dress, with basque and overskirt
over white silk; a rich cream-colored satin; and then this black
sequined gown, which she finally chose. She tried on the
cream-colored satin first, however, being in much doubt about
it; but her penciled eyes and beauty-spot did not seem to
harmonize with it. Then she put on the black silk with its
glistening crimsoned-silver sequins, and, lo, it touched her.
She liked its coquettish drapery of tulle and silver about the
hips. The "overskirt," which was at that time just coming into
fashion, though avoided by the more conservative, had been adopted
by Aileen with enthusiasm. She thrilled a little at the rustle of
this black dress, and thrust her chin and nose forward to make it
set right. Then after having Kathleen tighten her corsets a
little more, she gathered the train over her arm by its train-band
and looked again. Something was wanting. Oh, yes, her neck!
What to wear--red coral? It did not look right. A string of
pearls? That would not do either. There was a necklace made of
small cameos set in silver which her mother had purchased, and
another of diamonds which belonged to her mother, but they were
not right. Finally, her jet necklet, which she did not value very
highly, came into her mind, and, oh, how lovely it looked! How
soft and smooth and glistening her chin looked above it. She
caressed her neck affectionately, called for her black lace
mantilla, her long, black silk dolman lined with red, and she
The ball-room, as she entered, was lovely enough. The young men
and young women she saw there were interesting, and she was not
wanting for admirers. The most aggressive of these youths--the
most forceful--recognized in this maiden a fillip to life, a sting
to existence. She was as a honey-jar surrounded by too hungry
But it occurred to her, as her dance-list was filling up, that
there was not much left for Mr. Cowperwood, if he should care to
dance with her.
Cowperwood was meditating, as he received the last of the guests,
on the subtlety of this matter of the sex arrangement of life.
Two sexes. He was not at all sure that there was any law governing
them. By comparison now with Aileen Butler, his wife looked rather
dull, quite too old, and when he was ten years older she would
look very much older.
"Oh, yes, Ellsworth had made quite an attractive arrangement out
of these two houses--better than we ever thought he could do."
He was talking to Henry Hale Sanderson, a young banker. "He had
the advantage of combining two into one, and I think he's done
more with my little one, considering the limitations of space,
than he has with this big one. Father's has the advantage of size.
I tell the old gentleman he's simply built a lean-to for me."
His father and a number of his cronies were over in the dining-room
of his grand home, glad to get away from the crowd. He would have
to stay, and, besides, he wanted to. Had he better dance with
Aileen? His wife cared little for dancing, but he would have to
dance with her at least once. There was Mrs. Seneca Davis smiling
at him, and Aileen. By George, how wonderful! What a girl!
"I suppose your dance-list is full to overflowing. Let me see."
He was standing before her and she was holding out the little
blue-bordered, gold-monogrammed booklet. An orchestra was playing
in the music room. The dance would begin shortly. There were
delicately constructed, gold-tinted chairs about the walls and
He looked down into her eyes--those excited, life-loving, eager
"You're quite full up. Let me see. Nine, ten, eleven. Well,
that will be enough. I don't suppose I shall want to dance very
much. It's nice to be popular."
"I'm not sure about number three. I think that's a mistake. You
might have that if you wish."
She was falsifying.
"It doesn't matter so much about him, does it?"
His cheeks flushed a little as he said this.
Her own flamed.
"Well, I'll see where you are when it's called. You're darling.
I'm afraid of you." He shot a level, interpretive glance into
her eyes, then left. Aileen's bosom heaved. It was hard to
breathe sometimes in this warm air.
While he was dancing first with Mrs. Cowperwood and later with
Mrs. Seneca Davis, and still later with Mrs. Martyn Walker,
Cowperwood had occasion to look at Aileen often, and each time
that he did so there swept over him a sense of great vigor there,
of beautiful if raw, dynamic energy that to him was irresistible
and especially so to-night. She was so young. She was beautiful,
this girl, and in spite of his wife's repeated derogatory comments
he felt that she was nearer to his clear, aggressive, unblinking
attitude than any one whom he had yet seen in the form of woman.
She was unsophisticated, in a way, that was plain, and yet in
another way it would take so little to make her understand so much.
Largeness was the sense he had of her--not physically, though
she was nearly as tall as himself--but emotionally. She seemed
so intensely alive. She passed close to him a number of times,
her eyes wide and smiling, her lips parted, her teeth agleam, and
he felt a stirring of sympathy and companionship for her which he
had not previously experienced. She was lovely, all of her--
"I'm wondering if that dance is open now," he said to her as he
drew near toward the beginning of the third set. She was seated
with her latest admirer in a far corner of the general living-room,
a clear floor now waxed to perfection. A few palms here and
there made embrasured parapets of green. "I hope you'll excuse me,"
he added, deferentially, to her companion.
"Surely," the latter replied, rising.
"Yes, indeed," she replied. "And you'd better stay here with me.
It's going to begin soon. You won't mind?" she added, giving her
companion a radiant smile.
"Not at all. I've had a lovely waltz." He strolled off.
Cowperwood sat down. "That's young Ledoux, isn't it? I thought
so. I saw you dancing. You like it, don't you?"
"I'm crazy about it."
"Well, I can't say that myself. It's fascinating, though. Your
partner makes such a difference. Mrs. Cowperwood doesn't like it
as much as I do."
His mention of Lillian made Aileen think of her in a faintly
derogative way for a moment.
"I think you dance very well. I watched you, too." She questioned
afterwards whether she should have said this. It sounded most
forward now--almost brazen.
"Oh, did you?"
He was a little keyed up because of her--slightly cloudy in his
thoughts--because she was generating a problem in his life, or
would if he let her, and so his talk was a little tame. He was
thinking of something to say--some words which would bring them
a little nearer together. But for the moment he could not. Truth
to tell, he wanted to say a great deal.
"Well, that was nice of you," he added, after a moment. "What
made you do it?"
He turned with a mock air of inquiry. The music was beginning
again. The dancers were rising. He arose.
He had not intended to give this particular remark a serious
turn; but, now that she was so near him, he looked into her eyes
steadily but with a soft appeal and said, "Yes, why?"
They had come out from behind the palms. He had put his hand
to her waist. His right arm held her left extended arm to arm,
palm to palm. Her right hand was on his shoulder, and she was
close to him, looking into his eyes. As they began the gay
undulations of the waltz she looked away and then down without
answering. Her movements were as light and airy as those of a
butterfly. He felt a sudden lightness himself, communicated as
by an invisible current. He wanted to match the suppleness of
her body with his own, and did. Her arms, the flash and glint
of the crimson sequins against the smooth, black silk of her
closely fitting dress, her neck, her glowing, radiant hair, all
combined to provoke a slight intellectual intoxication. She was
so vigorously young, so, to him, truly beautiful.
"But you didn't answer," he continued.
"Isn't this lovely music?"
He pressed her fingers.
She lifted shy eyes to him now, for, in spite of her gay,
aggressive force, she was afraid of him. His personality was
obviously so dominating. Now that he was so close to her,
dancing, she conceived of him as something quite wonderful, and
yet she experienced a nervous reaction--a momentary desire to
"Very well, if you won't tell me," he smiled, mockingly.
He thought she wanted him to talk to her so, to tease her with
suggestions of this concealed feeling of his--this strong liking.
He wondered what could come of any such understanding as this,
"Oh, I just wanted to see how you danced," she said, tamely, the
force of her original feeling having been weakened by a thought
of what she was doing. He noted the change and smiled. It was
lovely to be dancing with her. He had not thought mere dancing
could hold such charm.
"You like me?" he said, suddenly, as the music drew to its close.
She thrilled from head to toe at the question. A piece of ice
dropped down her back could not have startled her more. It was
apparently tactless, and yet it was anything but tactless. She
looked up quickly, directly, but his strong eyes were too much for
"Why, yes," she answered, as the music stopped, trying to keep an
even tone to her voice. She was glad they were walking toward a
"I like you so much," he said, "that I have been wondering if you
really like me." There was an appeal in his voice, soft and gentle.
His manner was almost sad.
"Why, yes," she replied, instantly, returning to her earlier mood
toward him. "You know I do."
"I need some one like you to like me," he continued, in the same
vein. "I need some one like you to talk to. I didn't think so
before--but now I do. You are beautiful--wonderful."
"We mustn't," she said. "I mustn't. I don't know what I'm doing."
She looked at a young man strolling toward her, and asked: "I have
to explain to him. He's the one I had this dance with."
Cowperwood understood. He walked away. He was quite warm and
tense now--almost nervous. It was quite clear to him that he had
done or was contemplating perhaps a very treacherous thing. Under
the current code of society he had no right to do it. It was
against the rules, as they were understood by everybody. Her
father, for instance--his father--every one in this particular
walk of life. However, much breaking of the rules under the
surface of things there might be, the rules were still there. As
he had heard one young man remark once at school, when some story
had been told of a boy leading a girl astray and to a disastrous
end, "That isn't the way at all."
Still, now that he had said this, strong thoughts of her were in
his mind. And despite his involved social and financial position,
which he now recalled, it was interesting to him to see how
deliberately and even calculatingly--and worse, enthusiastically--
he was pumping the bellows that tended only to heighten the flames
of his desire for this girl; to feed a fire that might ultimately
consume him--and how deliberately and resourcefully!
Aileen toyed aimlessly with her fan as a black-haired, thin-faced
young law student talked to her, and seeing Norah in the distance
she asked to be allowed to run over to her.
"Oh, Aileen," called Norah, "I've been looking for you everywhere.
Where have you been?"
"Dancing, of course. Where do you suppose I've been? Didn't you
see me on the floor?"
"No, I didn't," complained Norah, as though it were most essential
that she should. "How late are you going to stay?"
"Until it's over, I suppose. I don't know."
"Owen says he's going at twelve."
"Well, that doesn't matter. Some one will take me home. Are you
having a good time?"
"Fine. Oh, let me tell you. I stepped on a lady's dress over
there, last dance. She was terribly angry. She gave me such a
"Well, never mind, honey. She won't hurt you. Where are you going
Aileen always maintained a most guardian-like attitude toward her
"I want to find Callum. He has to dance with me next time. I
know what he's trying to do. He's trying to get away from me.
But he won't."
Aileen smiled. Norah looked very sweet. And she was so bright.
What would she think of her if she knew? She turned back, and her
fourth partner sought her. She began talking gayly, for she felt
that she had to make a show of composure; but all the while there
was ringing in her ears that definite question of his, "You like
me, don't you?" and her later uncertain but not less truthful
answer, "Yes, of course I do."
The growth of a passion is a very peculiar thing. In highly
organized intellectual and artistic types it is so often apt to
begin with keen appreciation of certain qualities, modified by
many, many mental reservations. The egoist, the intellectual,
gives but little of himself and asks much. Nevertheless, the
lover of life, male or female, finding himself or herself in
sympathetic accord with such a nature, is apt to gain much.
Cowperwood was innately and primarily an egoist and intellectual,
though blended strongly therewith, was a humane and democratic
spirit. We think of egoism and intellectualism as closely confined
to the arts. Finance is an art. And it presents the operations
of the subtlest of the intellectuals and of the egoists. Cowperwood
was a financier. Instead of dwelling on the works of nature, its
beauty and subtlety, to his material disadvantage, he found a happy
mean, owing to the swiftness of his intellectual operations,
whereby he could, intellectually and emotionally, rejoice in the
beauty of life without interfering with his perpetual material
and financial calculations. And when it came to women and morals,
which involved so much relating to beauty, happiness, a sense of
distinction and variety in living, he was but now beginning to
suspect for himself at least that apart from maintaining organized
society in its present form there was no basis for this one-life,
one-love idea. How had it come about that so many people agreed
on this single point, that it was good and necessary to marry one
woman and cleave to her until death? He did not know. It was not
for him to bother about the subtleties of evolution, which even
then was being noised abroad, or to ferret out the curiosities of
history in connection with this matter. He had no time. Suffice
it that the vagaries of temperament and conditions with which he
came into immediate contact proved to him that there was great
dissatisfaction with that idea. People did not cleave to each other
until death; and in thousands of cases where they did, they did not
want to. Quickness of mind, subtlety of idea, fortuitousness of
opportunity, made it possible for some people to right their
matrimonial and social infelicities; whereas for others, because of
dullness of wit, thickness of comprehension, poverty, and lack of
charm, there was no escape from the slough of their despond. They
were compelled by some devilish accident of birth or lack of force
or resourcefulness to stew in their own juice of wretchedness, or to
shuffle off this mortal coil--which under other circumstances had
such glittering possibilities--via the rope, the knife, the bullet,
or the cup of poison.
"I would die, too," he thought to himself, one day, reading of a
man who, confined by disease and poverty, had lived for twelve years
alone in a back bedroom attended by an old and probably decrepit
housekeeper. A darning-needle forced into his heart had ended his
earthly woes. "To the devil with such a life! Why twelve years?
Why not at the end of the second or third?"
Again, it was so very evident, in so many ways, that force was the
answer--great mental and physical force. Why, these giants of
commerce and money could do as they pleased in this life, and did.
He had already had ample local evidence of it in more than one
direction. Worse--the little guardians of so-called law and morality,
the newspapers, the preachers, the police, and the public moralists
generally, so loud in their denunciation of evil in humble places,
were cowards all when it came to corruption in high ones. They did
not dare to utter a feeble squeak until some giant had accidentally
fallen and they could do so without danger to themselves. Then, O
Heavens, the palaver! What beatings of tom-toms! What mouthings of
pharisaical moralities--platitudes! Run now, good people, for you
may see clearly how evil is dealt with in high places! It made him
smile. Such hypocrisy! Such cant! Still, so the world was organized,
and it was not for him to set it right. Let it wag as it would.
The thing for him to do was to get rich and hold his own--to build
up a seeming of virtue and dignity which would pass muster for the
genuine thing. Force would do that. Quickness of wit. And he had
these. "I satisfy myself," was his motto; and it might well have
been emblazoned upon any coat of arms which he could have contrived
to set forth his claim to intellectual and social nobility.
But this matter of Aileen was up for consideration and solution at
this present moment, and because of his forceful, determined
character he was presently not at all disturbed by the problem it
presented. It was a problem, like some of those knotty financial
complications which presented themselves daily; but it was not
insoluble. What did he want to do? He couldn't leave his wife and
fly with Aileen, that was certain. He had too many connections.
He had too many social, and thinking of his children and parents,
emotional as well as financial ties to bind him. Besides, he was
not at all sure that he wanted to. He did not intend to leave his
growing interests, and at the same time he did not intend to give
up Aileen immediately. The unheralded manifestation of interest
on her part was too attractive. Mrs. Cowperwood was no longer
what she should be physically and mentally, and that in itself
to him was sufficient to justify his present interest in this girl.
Why fear anything, if only he could figure out a way to achieve it
without harm to himself? At the same time he thought it might never
be possible for him to figure out any practical or protective
program for either himself or Aileen, and that made him silent and
reflective. For by now he was intensely drawn to her, as he could
feel--something chemic and hence dynamic was uppermost in him now
and clamoring for expression.
At the same time, in contemplating his wife in connection with
all this, he had many qualms, some emotional, some financial.
While she had yielded to his youthful enthusiasm for her after
her husband's death, he had only since learned that she was a
natural conservator of public morals--the cold purity of the
snowdrift in so far as the world might see, combined at times
with the murky mood of the wanton. And yet, as he had also
learned, she was ashamed of the passion that at times swept and
dominated her. This irritated Cowperwood, as it would always
irritate any strong, acquisitive, direct-seeing temperament.
While he had no desire to acquaint the whole world with his
feelings, why should there be concealment between them, or at
least mental evasion of a fact which physically she subscribed
to? Why do one thing and think another? To be sure, she was devoted
to him in her quiet way, not passionately (as he looked back he
could not say that she had ever been that), but intellectually.
Duty, as she understood it, played a great part in this. She was
dutiful. And then what people thought, what the time-spirit
demanded--these were the great things. Aileen, on the contrary,
was probably not dutiful, and it was obvious that she had no
temperamental connection with current convention. No doubt she
had been as well instructed as many another girl, but look at her.
She was not obeying her instructions.
In the next three months this relationship took on a more flagrant
form. Aileen, knowing full well what her parents would think, how
unspeakable in the mind of the current world were the thoughts
she was thinking, persisted, nevertheless, in so thinking and
longing. Cowperwood, now that she had gone thus far and compromised
herself in intention, if not in deed, took on a peculiar charm for
her. It was not his body--great passion is never that, exactly.
The flavor of his spirit was what attracted and compelled, like the
glow of a flame to a moth. There was a light of romance in his
eyes, which, however governed and controlled--was directive and
almost all-powerful to her.
When he touched her hand at parting, it was as though she had
received an electric shock, and she recalled that it was very
difficult for her to look directly into his eyes. Something akin
to a destructive force seemed to issue from them at times. Other
people, men particularly, found it difficult to face Cowperwood's
glazed stare. It was as though there were another pair of eyes
behind those they saw, watching through thin, obscuring curtains.
You could not tell what he was thinking.
And during the next few months she found herself coming closer
and closer to Cowperwood. At his home one evening, seated at the
piano, no one else being present at the moment, he leaned over and
kissed her. There was a cold, snowy street visible through the
interstices of the hangings of the windows, and gas-lamps flickering
outside. He had come in early, and hearing Aileen, he came to where
she was seated at the piano. She was wearing a rough, gray wool
cloth dress, ornately banded with fringed Oriental embroidery in
blue and burnt-orange, and her beauty was further enhanced by a gray
hat planned to match her dress, with a plume of shaded orange and
blue. On her fingers were four or five rings, far too many--an opal,
an emerald, a ruby, and a diamond--flashing visibly as she played.
She knew it was he, without turning. He came beside her, and she
looked up smiling, the reverie evoked by Schubert partly vanishing--
or melting into another mood. Suddenly he bent over and pressed
his lips firmly to hers. His mustache thrilled her with its silky
touch. She stopped playing and tried to catch her breath, for,
strong as she was, it affected her breathing. Her heart was beating
like a triphammer. She did not say, "Oh," or, "You mustn't," but
rose and walked over to a window, where she lifted a curtain,
pretending to look out. She felt as though she might faint, so
intensely happy was she.
Cowperwood followed her quickly. Slipping his arms about her
waist, he looked at her flushed cheeks, her clear, moist eyes and
"You love me?" he whispered, stern and compelling because of his
"Yes! Yes! You know I do."
He crushed her face to his, and she put up her hands and stroked
A thrilling sense of possession, mastery, happiness and understanding,
love of her and of her body, suddenly overwhelmed him.
"I love you," he said, as though he were surprised to hear himself
say it. "I didn't think I did, but I do. You're beautiful. I'm
wild about you."
"And I love you" she answered. "I can't help it. I know I shouldn't,
but--oh--" Her hands closed tight over his ears and temples. She
put her lips to his and dreamed into his eyes. Then she stepped
away quickly, looking out into the street, and he walked back into
the living-room. They were quite alone. He was debating whether
he should risk anything further when Norah, having been in to see
Anna next door, appeared and not long afterward Mrs. Cowperwood.
Then Aileen and Norah left.
This definite and final understanding having been reached, it
was but natural that this liaison should proceed to a closer and
closer relationship. Despite her religious upbringing, Aileen was
decidedly a victim of her temperament. Current religious feeling
and belief could not control her. For the past nine or ten years
there had been slowly forming in her mind a notion of what her
lover should be like. He should be strong, handsome, direct,
successful, with clear eyes, a ruddy glow of health, and a certain
native understanding and sympathy--a love of life which matched
her own. Many young men had approached her. Perhaps the nearest
realization of her ideal was Father David, of St. Timothy's, and
he was, of course, a priest and sworn to celibacy. No word had
ever passed between them but he had been as conscious of her as
she of him. Then came Frank Cowperwood, and by degrees, because
of his presence and contact, he had been slowly built up in her
mind as the ideal person. She was drawn as planets are drawn to
It is a question as to what would have happened if antagonistic
forces could have been introduced just at this time. Emotions and
liaisons of this character can, of course, occasionally be broken
up and destroyed. The characters of the individuals can be modified
or changed to a certain extent, but the force must be quite
sufficient. Fear is a great deterrent--fear of material loss where
there is no spiritual dread--but wealth and position so often tend
to destroy this dread. It is so easy to scheme with means. Aileen
had no spiritual dread whatever. Cowperwood was without spiritual
or religious feeling. He looked at this girl, and his one thought
was how could he so deceive the world that he could enjoy her love
and leave his present state undisturbed. Love her he did surely.
Business necessitated his calling at the Butlers' quite frequently,
and on each occasion he saw Aileen. She managed to slip forward
and squeeze his hand the first time he came--to steal a quick,
vivid kiss; and another time, as he was going out, she suddenly
appeared from behind the curtains hanging at the parlor door.
The voice was soft and coaxing. He turned, giving her a warning
nod in the direction of her father's room upstairs.
She stood there, holding out one hand, and he stepped forward for
a second. Instantly her arms were about his neck, as he slipped
his about her waist.
"I long to see you so."
"I, too. I'll fix some way. I'm thinking."
He released her arms, and went out, and she ran to the window and
looked out after him. He was walking west on the street, for his
house was only a few blocks away, and she looked at the breadth
of his shoulders, the balance of his form. He stepped so briskly,
so incisively. Ah, this was a man! He was her Frank. She thought
of him in that light already. Then she sat down at the piano and
played pensively until dinner.
And it was so easy for the resourceful mind of Frank Cowperwood,
wealthy as he was, to suggest ways and means. In his younger
gallivantings about places of ill repute, and his subsequent
occasional variations from the straight and narrow path, he had
learned much of the curious resources of immorality. Being a city
of five hundred thousand and more at this time, Philadelphia had
its nondescript hotels, where one might go, cautiously and fairly
protected from observation; and there were houses of a conservative,
residential character, where appointments might be made, for a
consideration. And as for safeguards against the production of
new life--they were not mysteries to him any longer. He knew all
about them. Care was the point of caution. He had to be cautious,
for he was so rapidly coming to be an influential and a distinguished
man. Aileen, of course, was not conscious, except in a vague way,
of the drift of her passion; the ultimate destiny to which this
affection might lead was not clear to her. Her craving was for
love--to be fondled and caressed--and she really did not think so
much further. Further thoughts along this line were like rats that
showed their heads out of dark holes in shadowy corners and scuttled
back at the least sound. And, anyhow, all that was to be connected
with Cowperwood would be beautiful. She really did not think that
he loved her yet as he should; but he would. She did not know that
she wanted to interfere with the claims of his wife. She did not
think she did. But it would not hurt Mrs. Cowperwood if Frank
How shall we explain these subtleties of temperament and desire?
Life has to deal with them at every turn. They will not down, and
the large, placid movements of nature outside of man's little
organisms would indicate that she is not greatly concerned. We
see much punishment in the form of jails, diseases, failures, and
wrecks; but we also see that the old tendency is not visibly
lessened. Is there no law outside of the subtle will and power of
the individual to achieve? If not, it is surely high time that we
knew it--one and all. We might then agree to do as we do; but
there would be no silly illusion as to divine regulation. Vox
populi, vox Dei.
So there were other meetings, lovely hours which they soon began
to spend the moment her passion waxed warm enough to assure
compliance, without great fear and without thought of the deadly
risk involved. From odd moments in his own home, stolen when
there was no one about to see, they advanced to clandestine
meetings beyond the confines of the city. Cowperwood was not one
who was temperamentally inclined to lose his head and neglect his
business. As a matter of fact, the more he thought of this rather
unexpected affectional development, the more certain he was that
he must not let it interfere with his business time and judgment.
His office required his full attention from nine until three,
anyhow. He could give it until five-thirty with profit; but he
could take several afternoons off, from three-thirty until
five-thirty or six, and no one would be the wiser. It was
customary for Aileen to drive alone almost every afternoon a
spirited pair of bays, or to ride a mount, bought by her father
for her from a noted horse-dealer in Baltimore. Since Cowperwood
also drove and rode, it was not difficult to arrange meeting-places
far out on the Wissahickon or the Schuylkill road. There were
many spots in the newly laid-out park, which were as free from
interruption as the depths of a forest. It was always possible
that they might encounter some one; but it was also always
possible to make a rather plausible explanation, or none at all,
since even in case of such an encounter nothing, ordinarily, would
So, for the time being there was love-making, the usual billing
and cooing of lovers in a simple and much less than final fashion;
and the lovely horseback rides together under the green trees of
the approaching spring were idyllic. Cowperwood awakened to a
sense of joy in life such as he fancied, in the blush of this
new desire, he had never experienced before. Lillian had been
lovely in those early days in which he had first called on her
in North Front Street, and he had fancied himself unspeakably
happy at that time; but that was nearly ten years since, and he
had forgotten. Since then he had had no great passion, no notable
liaison; and then, all at once, in the midst of his new, great
business prosperity, Aileen. Her young body and soul, her
passionate illusions. He could see always, for all her daring,
that she knew so little of the calculating, brutal world with
which he was connected. Her father had given her all the toys
she wanted without stint; her mother and brothers had coddled her,
particularly her mother. Her young sister thought she was adorable.
No one imagined for one moment that Aileen would ever do anything
wrong. She was too sensible, after all, too eager to get up in
the world. Why should she, when her life lay open and happy before
her--a delightful love-match, some day soon, with some very eligible
and satisfactory lover?
"When you marry, Aileen," her mother used to say to her, "we'll
have a grand time here. Sure we'll do the house over then, if
we don't do it before. Eddie will have to fix it up, or I'll do
it meself. Never fear."
"Yes--well, I'd rather you'd fix it now," was her reply.
Butler himself used to strike her jovially on the shoulder in a
rough, loving way, and ask, "Well, have you found him yet?" or
"Is he hanging around the outside watchin' for ye?"
If she said, "No," he would reply: "Well, he will be, never
fear--worse luck. I'll hate to see ye go, girlie! You can stay
here as long as ye want to, and ye want to remember that you can
always come back."
Aileen paid very little attention to this bantering. She loved
her father, but it was all such a matter of course. It was the
commonplace of her existence, and not so very significant, though
But how eagerly she yielded herself to Cowperwood under the spring
trees these days! She had no sense of that ultimate yielding that
was coming, for now he merely caressed and talked to her. He was
a little doubtful about himself. His growing liberties for
himself seemed natural enough, but in a sense of fairness to her
he began to talk to her about what their love might involve. Would
she? Did she understand? This phase of it puzzled and frightened
Aileen a little at first. She stood before him one afternoon in
her black riding-habit and high silk riding-hat perched jauntily
on her red-gold hair; and striking her riding-skirt with her short
whip, pondering doubtfully as she listened. He had asked her
whether she knew what she was doing? Whither they were drifting?
If she loved him truly enough? The two horses were tethered in a
thicket a score of yards away from the main road and from the bank
of a tumbling stream, which they had approached. She was trying
to discover if she could see them. It was pretense. There was no
interest in her glance. She was thinking of him and the smartness
of his habit, and the exquisiteness of this moment. He had such
a charming calico pony. The leaves were just enough developed to
make a diaphanous lacework of green. It was like looking through
a green-spangled arras to peer into the woods beyond or behind.
The gray stones were already faintly messy where the water rippled
and sparkled, and early birds were calling--robins and blackbirds
"Baby mine," he said, "do you understand all about this? Do you
know exactly what you're doing when you come with me this way?"
"I think I do."
She struck her boot and looked at the ground, and then up through
the trees at the blue sky.
"Look at me, honey."
"I don't want to."
"But look at me, sweet. I want to ask you something."
"Don't make me, Frank, please. I can't."
"Oh yes, you can look at me."
She backed away as he took her hands, but came forward again,
"Now look in my eyes."
"I can't. Don't ask me. I'll answer you, but don't make me look
His hand stole to her cheek and fondled it. He petted her shoulder,
and she leaned her head against him.
"Sweet, you're so beautiful," he said finally, "I can't give you
up. I know what I ought to do. You know, too, I suppose; but I
can't. I must have you. If this should end in exposure, it would
be quite bad for you and me. Do you understand?"
"I don't know your brothers very well; but from looking at them I
judge they're pretty determined people. They think a great deal
"Indeed, they do." Her vanity prinked slightly at this.
"They would probably want to kill me, and very promptly, for just
this much. What do you think they would want to do if--well, if
anything should happen, some time?"
He waited, watching her pretty face.
"But nothing need happen. We needn't go any further."
"I won't look at you. You needn't ask. I can't."
"Aileen! Do you mean that?"
"I don't know. Don't ask me, Frank."
"You know it can't stop this way, don't you? You know it. This
isn't the end. Now, if--" He explained the whole theory of
illicit meetings, calmly, dispassionately. "You are perfectly
safe, except for one thing, chance exposure. It might just so
happen; and then, of course, there would be a great deal to settle
for. Mrs. Cowperwood would never give me a divorce; she has no
reason to. If I should clean up in the way I hope to--if I should
make a million--I wouldn't mind knocking off now. I don't expect
to work all my days. I have always planned to knock off at
thirty-five. I'll have enough by that time. Then I want to travel.
It will only be a few more years now. If you were free--if your
father and mother were dead"--curiously she did not wince at this
practical reference--"it would be a different matter."
He paused. She still gazed thoughtfully at the water below, her
mind running out to a yacht on the sea with him, a palace somewhere--
just they two. Her eyes, half closed, saw this happy world; and,
listening to him, she was fascinated.
"Hanged if I see the way out of this, exactly. But I love you!"
He caught her to him. "I love you--love you!"