Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Financier by Theodore Dreiser

Part 4 out of 11

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"Oh, yes," she replied intensely, "I want you to. I'm not afraid."

"I've taken a house in North Tenth Street," he said finally, as
they walked over to the horses and mounted them. "It isn't furnished
yet; but it will be soon. I know a woman who will take charge."

"Who is she?"

"An interesting widow of nearly fifty. Very intelligent--she is
attractive, and knows a good deal of life. I found her through
an advertisement. You might call on her some afternoon when
things are arranged, and look the place over. You needn't meet
her except in a casual way. Will you?"

She rode on, thinking, making no reply. He was so direct and
practical in his calculations.

"Will you? It will be all right. You might know her. She isn't
objectionable in any way. Will you?"

"Let me know when it is ready," was all she said finally.

Chapter XXI

The vagaries of passion! Subtleties! Risks! What sacrifices are
not laid willfully upon its altar! In a little while this more
than average residence to which Cowperwood had referred was
prepared solely to effect a satisfactory method of concealment.
The house was governed by a seemingly recently-bereaved widow,
and it was possible for Aileen to call without seeming strangely
out of place. In such surroundings, and under such circumstances,
it was not difficult to persuade her to give herself wholly to her
lover, governed as she was by her wild and unreasoning affection
and passion. In a way, there was a saving element of love, for
truly, above all others, she wanted this man. She had no thought
or feeling toward any other. All her mind ran toward visions of
the future, when, somehow, she and he might be together for all
time. Mrs. Cowperwood might die, or he might run away with her at
thirty-five when he had a million. Some adjustment would be made,
somehow. Nature had given her this man. She relied on him
implicitly. When he told her that he would take care of her so
that nothing evil should befall, she believed him fully. Such
sins are the commonplaces of the confessional.

It is a curious fact that by some subtlety of logic in the Christian
world, it has come to be believed that there can be no love outside
the conventional process of courtship and marriage. One life, one
love, is the Christian idea, and into this sluice or mold it has
been endeavoring to compress the whole world. Pagan thought held
no such belief. A writing of divorce for trivial causes was the
theory of the elders; and in the primeval world nature apparently
holds no scheme for the unity of two beyond the temporary care of
the young. That the modern home is the most beautiful of schemes,
when based upon mutual sympathy and understanding between two, need
not be questioned. And yet this fact should not necessarily carry
with it a condemnation of all love not so fortunate as to find so
happy a denouement. Life cannot be put into any mold, and the
attempt might as well be abandoned at once. Those so fortunate as
to find harmonious companionship for life should congratulate
themselves and strive to be worthy of it. Those not so blessed,
though they be written down as pariahs, have yet some justification.
And, besides, whether we will or not, theory or no theory, the
basic facts of chemistry and physics remain. Like is drawn to like.
Changes in temperament bring changes in relationship. Dogma may
bind some minds; fear, others. But there are always those in whom
the chemistry and physics of life are large, and in whom neither
dogma nor fear is operative. Society lifts its hands in horror;
but from age to age the Helens, the Messalinas, the Du Barrys,
the Pompadours, the Maintenons, and the Nell Gwyns flourish and
point a freer basis of relationship than we have yet been able to
square with our lives.

These two felt unutterably bound to each other. Cowperwood, once
he came to understand her, fancied that he had found the one person
with whom he could live happily the rest of his life. She was so
young, so confident, so hopeful, so undismayed. All these months
since they had first begun to reach out to each other he had been
hourly contrasting her with his wife. As a matter of fact, his
dissatisfaction, though it may be said to have been faint up to
this time, was now surely tending to become real enough. Still,
his children were pleasing to him; his home beautiful. Lillian,
phlegmatic and now thin, was still not homely. All these years
he had found her satisfactory enough; but now his dissatisfaction
with her began to increase. She was not like Aileen--not young,
not vivid, not as unschooled in the commonplaces of life. And
while ordinarily, he was not one who was inclined to be querulous,
still now on occasion, he could be. He began by asking questions
concerning his wife's appearance--irritating little whys which
are so trivial and yet so exasperating and discouraging to a
woman. Why didn't she get a mauve hat nearer the shade of her
dress? Why didn't she go out more? Exercise would do her good.
Why didn't she do this, and why didn't she do that? He scarcely
noticed that he was doing this; but she did, and she felt the
undertone--the real significance--and took umbrage.

"Oh, why--why?" she retorted, one day, curtly. "Why do you ask
so many questions? You don't care so much for me any more; that's
why. I can tell."

He leaned back startled by the thrust. It had not been based on
any evidence of anything save his recent remarks; but he was not
absolutely sure. He was just the least bit sorry that he had
irritated her, and he said so.

"Oh, it's all right," she replied. "I don't care. But I notice
that you don't pay as much attention to me as you used to. It's
your business now, first, last, and all the time. You can't get
your mind off of that."

He breathed a sigh of relief. She didn't suspect, then.

But after a little time, as he grew more and more in sympathy
with Aileen, he was not so disturbed as to whether his wife might
suspect or not. He began to think on occasion, as his mind followed
the various ramifications of the situation, that it would be better
if she did. She was really not of the contentious fighting sort.
He now decided because of various calculations in regard to her
character that she might not offer as much resistance to some
ultimate rearrangement, as he had originally imagined. She might
even divorce him. Desire, dreams, even in him were evoking
calculations not as sound as those which ordinarily generated in
his brain.

No, as he now said to himself, the rub was not nearly so much in
his own home, as it was in the Butler family. His relations with
Edward Malia Butler had become very intimate. He was now advising
with him constantly in regard to the handling of his securities,
which were numerous. Butler held stocks in such things as the
Pennsylvania Coal Company, the Delaware and Hudson Canal, the
Morris and Essex Canal, the Reading Railroad. As the old gentleman's
mind had broadened to the significance of the local street-railway
problem in Philadelphia, he had decided to close out his other
securities at such advantageous terms as he could, and reinvest
the money in local lines. He knew that Mollenhauer and Simpson
were doing this, and they were excellent judges of the significance
of local affairs. Like Cowperwood, he had the idea that if he
controlled sufficient of the local situation in this field, he
could at last effect a joint relationship with Mollenhauer and
Simpson. Political legislation, advantageous to the combined lines,
could then be so easily secured. Franchises and necessary extensions
to existing franchises could be added. This conversion of his
outstanding stock in other fields, and the picking up of odd lots
in the local street-railway, was the business of Cowperwood.
Butler, through his sons, Owen and Callum, was also busy planning
a new line and obtaining a franchise, sacrificing, of course, great
blocks of stock and actual cash to others, in order to obtain
sufficient influence to have the necessary legislation passed.
Yet it was no easy matter, seeing that others knew what the general
advantages of the situation were, and because of this Cowperwood,
who saw the great source of profit here, was able, betimes, to
serve himself--buying blocks, a part of which only went to Butler,
Mollenhauer or others. In short he was not as eager to serve Butler,
or any one else, as he was to serve himself if he could.

In this connection, the scheme which George W. Stener had brought
forward, representing actually in the background Strobik, Wycroft,
and Harmon, was an opening wedge for himself. Stener's plan was
to loan him money out of the city treasury at two per cent., or,
if he would waive all commissions, for nothing (an agent for
self-protective purposes was absolutely necessary), and with it
take over the North Pennsylvania Company's line on Front Street,
which, because of the shortness of its length, one mile and a
half, and the brevity of the duration of its franchise, was
neither doing very well nor being rated very high. Cowperwood in
return for his manipulative skill was to have a fair proportion
of the stock--twenty per cent. Strobik and Wycroft knew the parties
from whom the bulk of the stock could be secured if engineered
properly. Their plan was then, with this borrowed treasury money,
to extend its franchise and then the line itself, and then later
again, by issuing a great block of stock and hypothecating it with
a favored bank, be able to return the principal to the city
treasury and pocket their profits from the line as earned. There
was no trouble in this, in so far as Cowperwood was concerned,
except that it divided the stock very badly among these various
individuals, and left him but a comparatively small share--for
his thought and pains.

But Cowperwood was an opportunist. And by this time his
financial morality had become special and local in its character.
He did not think it was wise for any one to steal anything from
anybody where the act of taking or profiting was directly and
plainly considered stealing. That was unwise--dangerous--hence
wrong. There were so many situations wherein what one might do
in the way of taking or profiting was open to discussion and doubt.
Morality varied, in his mind at least, with conditions, if not
climates. Here, in Philadelphia, the tradition (politically, mind
you--not generally) was that the city treasurer might use the money
of the city without interest so long as he returned the principal
intact. The city treasury and the city treasurer were like a
honey-laden hive and a queen bee around which the drones--the
politicians--swarmed in the hope of profit. The one disagreeable
thing in connection with this transaction with Stener was that
neither Butler, Mollenhauer nor Simpson, who were the actual
superiors of Stener and Strobik, knew anything about it. Stener
and those behind him were, through him, acting for themselves.
If the larger powers heard of this, it might alienate them. He
had to think of this. Still, if he refused to make advantageous
deals with Stener or any other man influential in local affairs,
he was cutting off his nose to spite his face, for other bankers
and brokers would, and gladly. And besides it was not at all
certain that Butler, Mollenhauer, and Simpson would ever hear.

In this connection, there was another line, which he rode on
occasionally, the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Street line, which
he felt was a much more interesting thing for him to think about,
if he could raise the money. It had been originally capitalized
for five hundred thousand dollars; but there had been a series of
bonds to the value of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars
added for improvements, and the company was finding great difficulty
in meeting the interest. The bulk of the stock was scattered
about among small investors, and it would require all of two
hundred and fifty thousand dollars to collect it and have himself
elected president or chairman of the board of directors. Once in,
however, he could vote this stock as he pleased, hypothecating it
meanwhile at his father's bank for as much as he could get, and
issuing more stocks with which to bribe legislators in the matter
of extending the line, and in taking up other opportunities to
either add to it by purchase or supplement it by working agreements.
The word "bribe" is used here in this matter-of-fact American way,
because bribery was what was in every one's mind in connection with
the State legislature. Terrence Relihan--the small, dark-faced
Irishman, a dandy in dress and manners--who represented the financial
interests at Harrisburg, and who had come to Cowperwood after the
five million bond deal had been printed, had told him that nothing
could be done at the capital without money, or its equivalent,
negotiable securities. Each significant legislator, if he yielded
his vote or his influence, must be looked after. If he, Cowperwood,
had any scheme which he wanted handled at any time, Relihan had
intimated to him that he would be glad to talk with him. Cowperwood
had figured on this Seventeenth and Nineteenth Street line scheme
more than once, but he had never felt quite sure that he was willing
to undertake it. His obligations in other directions were so large.
But the lure was there, and he pondered and pondered.

Stener's scheme of loaning him money wherewith to manipulate the
North Pennsylvania line deal put this Seventeenth and Nineteenth
Street dream in a more favorable light. As it was he was constantly
watching the certificates of loan issue, for the city treasury,
--buying large quantities when the market was falling to protect
it and selling heavily, though cautiously, when he saw it rising
and to do this he had to have a great deal of free money to permit
him to do it. He was constantly fearful of some break in the
market which would affect the value of all his securities and result
in the calling of his loans. There was no storm in sight. He did
not see that anything could happen in reason; but he did not want
to spread himself out too thin. As he saw it now, therefore if
he took one hundred and fifty thousand dollars of this city money
and went after this Seventeenth and Nineteenth Street matter it
would not mean that he was spreading himself out too thin, for
because of this new proposition could he not call on Stener for
more as a loan in connection with these other ventures? But if
anything should happen--well--

"Frank," said Stener, strolling into his office one afternoon
after four o'clock when the main rush of the day's work was over
--the relationship between Cowperwood and Stener had long since
reached the "Frank" and "George" period--"Strobik thinks he has
that North Pennsylvania deal arranged so that we can take it up
if we want to. The principal stockholder, we find, is a man by
the name of Coltan--not Ike Colton, but Ferdinand. How's that
for a name?" Stener beamed fatly and genially.

Things had changed considerably for him since the days when he
had been fortuitously and almost indifferently made city treasurer.
His method of dressing had so much improved since he had been
inducted into office, and his manner expressed so much more good
feeling, confidence, aplomb, that he would not have recognized
himself if he had been permitted to see himself as had those who
had known him before. An old, nervous shifting of the eyes had
almost ceased, and a feeling of restfulness, which had previously
been restlessness, and had sprung from a sense of necessity, had
taken its place. His large feet were incased in good, square-toed,
soft-leather shoes; his stocky chest and fat legs were made somewhat
agreeable to the eye by a well-cut suit of brownish-gray cloth;
and his neck was now surrounded by a low, wing-point white collar
and brown-silk tie. His ample chest, which spread out a little
lower in around and constantly enlarging stomach, was ornamented
by a heavy-link gold chain, and his white cuffs had large gold
cuff-buttons set with rubies of a very notable size. He was rosy
and decidedly well fed. In fact, he was doing very well indeed.

He had moved his family from a shabby two-story frame house in South
Ninth Street to a very comfortable brick one three stories in height,
and three times as large, on Spring Garden Street. His wife had a
few acquaintances--the wives of other politicians. His children
were attending the high school, a thing he had hardly hoped for
in earlier days. He was now the owner of fourteen or fifteen
pieces of cheap real estate in different portions of the city,
which might eventually become very valuable, and he was a silent
partner in the South Philadelphia Foundry Company and the American
Beef and Pork Company, two corporations on paper whose principal
business was subletting contracts secured from the city to the
humble butchers and foundrymen who would carry out orders as given
and not talk too much or ask questions.

"Well, that is an odd name," said Cowperwood, blandly. "So he has
it? I never thought that road would pay, as it was laid out. It's
too short. It ought to run about three miles farther out into the
Kensington section."

"You're right," said Stener, dully.

"Did Strobik say what Colton wants for his shares?"

"Sixty-eight, I think."

"The current market rate. He doesn't want much, does he? Well,
George, at that rate it will take about"--he calculated quickly
on the basis of the number of shares Cotton was holding--"one
hundred and twenty thousand to get him out alone. That isn't all.
There's Judge Kitchen and Joseph Zimmerman and Senator Donovan"--
he was referring to the State senator of that name. "You'll be
paying a pretty fair price for that stud when you get it. It will
cost considerable more to extend the line. It's too much, I think."

Cowperwood was thinking how easy it would be to combine this line
with his dreamed-of Seventeenth and Nineteenth Street line, and
after a time and with this in view he added:

"Say, George, why do you work all your schemes through Strobik
and Harmon and Wycroft? Couldn't you and I manage some of these
things for ourselves alone instead of for three or four? It seems
to me that plan would be much more profitable to you."

"It would, it would!" exclaimed Stener, his round eyes fixed on
Cowperwood in a rather helpless, appealing way. He liked
Cowperwood and had always been hoping that mentally as well as
financially he could get close to him. "I've thought of that. But
these fellows have had more experience in these matters than I
have had, Frank. They've been longer at the game. I don't know
as much about these things as they do."

Cowperwood smiled in his soul, though his face remained passive.

"Don't worry about them, George," he continued genially and
confidentially. "You and I together can know and do as much as
they ever could and more. I'm telling you. Take this railroad
deal you're in on now, George; you and I could manipulate that
just as well and better than it can be done with Wycroft, Strobik,
and Harmon in on it. They're not adding anything to the wisdom of
the situation. They're not putting up any money. You're doing
that. All they're doing is agreeing to see it through the
legislature and the council, and as far as the legislature is
concerned, they can't do any more with that than any one else
could--than I could, for instance. It's all a question of arranging
things with Relihan, anyhow, putting up a certain amount of money
for him to work with. Here in town there are other people who can
reach the council just as well as Strobik." He was thinking (once
he controlled a road of his own) of conferring with Butler and
getting him to use his influence. It would serve to quiet Strobik
and his friends. "I'm not asking you to change your plans on this
North Pennsylvania deal. You couldn't do that very well. But there
are other things. In the future why not let's see if you and I
can't work some one thing together? You'll be much better off, and
so will I. We've done pretty well on the city-loan proposition
so far, haven't we?"

The truth was, they had done exceedingly well. Aside from what
the higher powers had made, Stener's new house, his lots, his
bank-account, his good clothes, and his changed and comfortable
sense of life were largely due to Cowperwood's successful
manipulation of these city-loan certificates. Already there had
been four issues of two hundred thousand dollars each. Cowperwood
had bought and sold nearly three million dollars' worth of these
certificates, acting one time as a "bull" and another as a "bear."
Stener was now worth all of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

"There's a line that I know of here in the city which could be made
into a splendidly paying property," continued Cowperwood, meditatively,
"if the right things could be done with it. Just like this North
Pennsylvania line, it isn't long enough. The territory it serves
isn't big enough. It ought to be extended; but if you and I could
get it, it might eventually be worked with this North Pennsylvania
Company or some other as one company. That would save officers and
offices and a lot of things. There is always money to be made out
of a larger purchasing power."

He paused and looked out the window of his handsome little hardwood
office, speculating upon the future. The window gave nowhere save
into a back yard behind another office building which had formerly
been a residence. Some grass grew feebly there. The red wall and
old-fashioned brick fence which divided it from the next lot
reminded him somehow of his old home in New Market Street, to which
his Uncle Seneca used to come as a Cuban trader followed by his
black Portuguese servitor. He could see him now as he sat here
looking at the yard.

"Well," asked Stener, ambitiously, taking the bait, "why don't
we get hold of that--you and me? I suppose I could fix it so far
as the money is concerned. How much would it take?"

Cowperwood smiled inwardly again.

"I don't know exactly," he said, after a time. "I want to look
into it more carefully. The one trouble is that I'm carrying a
good deal of the city's money as it is. You see, I have that two
hundred thousand dollars against your city-loan deals. And this
new scheme will take two or three hundred thousand more. If that
were out of the way--"

He was thinking of one of the inexplicable stock panics--those
strange American depressions which had so much to do with the
temperament of the people, and so little to do with the basic
conditions of the country. "If this North Pennsylvania deal were
through and done with--"

He rubbed his chin and pulled at his handsome silky mustache.

"Don't ask me any more about it, George," he said, finally, as
he saw that the latter was beginning to think as to which line
it might be. "Don't say anything at all about it. I want to
get my facts exactly right, and then I'll talk to you. I think
you and I can do this thing a little later, when we get the North
Pennsylvania scheme under way. I'm so rushed just now I'm not
sure that I want to undertake it at once; but you keep quiet and
we'll see." He turned toward his desk, and Stener got up.

"I'll make any sized deposit with you that you wish, the moment
you think you're ready to act, Frank," exclaimed Stener, and with
the thought that Cowperwood was not nearly as anxious to do this
as he should be, since he could always rely on him (Stener) when
there was anything really profitable in the offing. Why should
not the able and wonderful Cowperwood be allowed to make the two
of them rich? "Just notify Stires, and he'll send you a check.
Strobik thought we ought to act pretty soon."

"I'll tend to it, George," replied Cowperwood, confidently. "It
will come out all right. Leave it to me."

Stener kicked his stout legs to straighten his trousers, and
extended his hand. He strolled out in the street thinking of
this new scheme. Certainly, if he could get in with Cowperwood
right he would be a rich man, for Cowperwood was so successful
and so cautious. His new house, this beautiful banking office,
his growing fame, and his subtle connections with Butler and others
put Stener in considerable awe of him. Another line! They would
control it and the North Pennsylvania! Why, if this went on, he
might become a magnate--he really might--he, George W. Stener,
once a cheap real-estate and insurance agent. He strolled up the
street thinking, but with no more idea of the importance of his
civic duties and the nature of the social ethics against which
he was offending than if they had never existed.

Chapter XXII

The services which Cowperwood performed during the ensuing year
and a half for Stener, Strobik, Butler, State Treasurer Van Nostrand,
State Senator Relihan, representative of "the interests," so-called,
at Harrisburg, and various banks which were friendly to these
gentlemen, were numerous and confidential. For Stener, Strobik,
Wycroft, Harmon and himself he executed the North Pennsylvania deal,
by which he became a holder of a fifth of the controlling stock.
Together he and Stener joined to purchase the Seventeenth and
Nineteenth Street line and in the concurrent gambling in stocks.

By the summer of 1871, when Cowperwood was nearly thirty-four
years of age, he had a banking business estimated at nearly two
million dollars, personal holdings aggregating nearly half a million,
and prospects which other things being equal looked to wealth which
might rival that of any American. The city, through its treasurer--
still Mr. Stener--was a depositor with him to the extent of nearly
five hundred thousand dollars. The State, through its State
treasurer, Van Nostrand, carried two hundred thousand dollars on
his books. Bode was speculating in street-railway stocks to the
extent of fifty thousand dollars. Relihan to the same amount. A
small army of politicians and political hangers-on were on his
books for various sums. And for Edward Malia Butler he occasionally
carried as high as one hundred thousand dollars in margins. His
own loans at the banks, varying from day to day on variously
hypothecated securities, were as high as seven and eight hundred
thousand dollars. Like a spider in a spangled net, every thread
of which he knew, had laid, had tested, he had surrounded and
entangled himself in a splendid, glittering network of connections,
and he was watching all the details.

His one pet idea, the thing he put more faith in than anything
else, was his street-railway manipulations, and particularly his
actual control of the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Street line.
Through an advance to him, on deposit, made in his bank by Stener
at a time when the stock of the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Street
line was at a low ebb, he had managed to pick up fifty-one per
cent. of the stock for himself and Stener, by virtue of which he
was able to do as he pleased with the road. To accomplish this,
however, he had resorted to some very "peculiar" methods, as they
afterward came to be termed in financial circles, to get this stock
at his own valuation. Through agents he caused suits for damages
to be brought against the company for non-payment of interest due.
A little stock in the hands of a hireling, a request made to a
court of record to examine the books of the company in order to
determine whether a receivership were not advisable, a simultaneous
attack in the stock market, selling at three, five, seven, and
ten points off, brought the frightened stockholders into the market
with their holdings. The banks considered the line a poor risk,
and called their loans in connection with it. His father's bank
had made one loan to one of the principal stockholders, and that
was promptly called, of course. Then, through an agent, the
several heaviest shareholders were approached and an offer was
made to help them out. The stocks would be taken off their hands
at forty. They had not really been able to discover the source
of all their woes; and they imagined that the road was in bad
condition, which it was not. Better let it go. The money was
immediately forthcoming, and Cowperwood and Stener jointly
controlled fifty-one per cent. But, as in the case of the North
Pennsylvania line, Cowperwood had been quietly buying all of the
small minority holdings, so that he had in reality fifty-one per
cent. of the stock, and Stener twenty-five per cent. more.

This intoxicated him, for immediately he saw the opportunity of
fulfilling his long-contemplated dream--that of reorganizing the
company in conjunction with the North Pennsylvania line, issuing
three shares where one had been before and after unloading all
but a control on the general public, using the money secured to
buy into other lines which were to be boomed and sold in the same
way. In short, he was one of those early, daring manipulators who
later were to seize upon other and ever larger phases of American
natural development for their own aggrandizement.

In connection with this first consolidation, his plan was to
spread rumors of the coming consolidation of the two lines, to
appeal to the legislature for privileges of extension, to get up
an arresting prospectus and later annual reports, and to boom the
stock on the stock exchange as much as his swelling resources would
permit. The trouble is that when you are trying to make a market
for a stock--to unload a large issue such as his was (over five
hundred thousand dollars' worth)--while retaining five hundred
thousand for yourself, it requires large capital to handle it.
The owner in these cases is compelled not only to go on the market
and do much fictitious buying, thus creating a fictitious demand,
but once this fictitious demand has deceived the public and he has
been able to unload a considerable quantity of his wares, he is,
unless he rids himself of all his stock, compelled to stand behind
it. If, for instance, he sold five thousand shares, as was done
in this instance, and retained five thousand, he must see that the
public price of the outstanding five thousand shares did not fall
below a certain point, because the value of his private shares would
fall with it. And if, as is almost always the case, the private
shares had been hypothecated with banks and trust companies for
money wherewith to conduct other enterprises, the falling of their
value in the open market merely meant that the banks would call for
large margins to protect their loans or call their loans entirely.
This meant that his work was a failure, and he might readily fail.
He was already conducting one such difficult campaign in connection
with this city-loan deal, the price of which varied from day to day,
and which he was only too anxious to have vary, for in the main he
profited by these changes.

But this second burden, interesting enough as it was, meant that
he had to be doubly watchful. Once the stock was sold at a high
price, the money borrowed from the city treasurer could be returned;
his own holdings created out of foresight, by capitalizing the
future, by writing the shrewd prospectuses and reports, would be
worth their face value, or little less. He would have money to
invest in other lines. He might obtain the financial direction
of the whole, in which case he would be worth millions. One shrewd
thing he did, which indicated the foresight and subtlety of the man,
was to make a separate organization or company of any extension or
addition which he made to his line. Thus, if he had two or three
miles of track on a street, and he wanted to extend it two or three
miles farther on the same street, instead of including this extension
in the existing corporation, he would make a second corporation
to control the additional two or three miles of right of way.
This corporation he would capitalize at so much, and issue stocks
and bonds for its construction, equipment, and manipulation. Having
done this he would then take the sub-corporation over into the
parent concern, issuing more stocks and bonds of the parent company
wherewith to do it, and, of course, selling these bonds to the public.
Even his brothers who worked for him did not know the various
ramifications of his numerous deals, and executed his orders blindly.
Sometimes Joseph said to Edward, in a puzzled way, "Well, Frank
knows what he is about, I guess."

On the other hand, he was most careful to see that every current
obligation was instantly met, and even anticipated, for he wanted
to make a great show of regularity. Nothing was so precious as
reputation and standing. His forethought, caution, and promptness
pleased the bankers. They thought he was one of the sanest,
shrewdest men they had ever met.

However, by the spring and summer of 1871, Cowperwood had actually,
without being in any conceivable danger from any source, spread
himself out very thin. Because of his great success he had grown
more liberal--easier--in his financial ventures. By degrees, and
largely because of his own confidence in himself, he had induced
his father to enter upon his street-car speculations, to use the
resources of the Third National to carry a part of his loans and
to furnish capital at such times as quick resources were necessary.
In the beginning the old gentleman had been a little nervous and
skeptical, but as time had worn on and nothing but profit eventuated,
he grew bolder and more confident.

"Frank," he would say, looking up over his spectacles, "aren't you
afraid you're going a little too fast in these matters? You're
carrying a lot of loans these days."

"No more than I ever did, father, considering my resources. You
can't turn large deals without large loans. You know that as
well as I do."

"Yes, I know, but--now that Green and Coates--aren't you going
pretty strong there?"

"Not at all. I know the inside conditions there. The stock is
bound to go up eventually. I'll bull it up. I'll combine it with
my other lines, if necessary."

Cowperwood stared at his boy. Never was there such a defiant,
daring manipulator.

"You needn't worry about me, father. If you are going to do that,
call my loans. Other banks will loan on my stocks. I'd like to
see your bank have the interest."

So Cowperwood, Sr., was convinced. There was no gainsaying this
argument. His bank was loaning Frank heavily, but not more so
than any other. And as for the great blocks of stocks he was
carrying in his son's companies, he was to be told when to get
out should that prove necessary. Frank's brothers were being
aided in the same way to make money on the side, and their interests
were also now bound up indissolubly with his own.

With his growing financial opportunities, however, Cowperwood
had also grown very liberal in what might be termed his standard
of living. Certain young art dealers in Philadelphia, learning
of his artistic inclinations and his growing wealth, had followed
him up with suggestions as to furniture, tapestries, rugs, objects
of art, and paintings--at first the American and later the foreign
masters exclusively. His own and his father's house had not been
furnished fully in these matters, and there was that other house
in North Tenth Street, which he desired to make beautiful. Aileen
had always objected to the condition of her own home. Love of
distinguished surroundings was a basic longing with her, though
she had not the gift of interpreting her longings. But this place
where they were secretly meeting must be beautiful. She was as
keen for that as he was. So it became a veritable treasure-trove,
more distinguished in furnishings than some of the rooms of his
own home. He began to gather here some rare examples of altar
cloths, rugs, and tapestries of the Middle Ages. He bought
furniture after the Georgian theory--a combination of Chippendale,
Sheraton, and Heppelwhite modified by the Italian Renaissance and
the French Louis. He learned of handsome examples of porcelain,
statuary, Greek vase forms, lovely collections of Japanese ivories
and netsukes. Fletcher Gray, a partner in Cable & Gray, a local
firm of importers of art objects, called on him in connection with
a tapestry of the fourteenth century weaving. Gray was an enthusiast
and almost instantly he conveyed some of his suppressed and yet
fiery love of the beautiful to Cowperwood.

"There are fifty periods of one shade of blue porcelain alone,
Mr. Cowperwood," Gray informed him. "There are at least seven
distinct schools or periods of rugs--Persian, Armenian, Arabian,
Flemish, Modern Polish, Hungarian, and so on. If you ever went
into that, it would be a distinguished thing to get a complete--
I mean a representative--collection of some one period, or of all
these periods. They are beautiful. I have seen some of them,
others I've read about."

"You'll make a convert of me yet, Fletcher," replied Cowperwood.
"You or art will be the ruin of me. I'm inclined that way
temperamentally as it is, I think, and between you and Ellsworth
and Gordon Strake"--another young man intensely interested in
painting--"you'll complete my downfall. Strake has a splendid
idea. He wants me to begin right now--I'm using that word 'right'
in the sense of 'properly,'" he commented--"and get what examples
I can of just the few rare things in each school or period of art
which would properly illustrate each. He tells me the great
pictures are going to increase in value, and what I could get for
a few hundred thousand now will be worth millions later. He doesn't
want me to bother with American art."

"He's right," exclaimed Gray, "although it isn't good business for
me to praise another art man. It would take a great deal of money,

"Not so very much. At least, not all at once. It would be a
matter of years, of course. Strake thinks that some excellent
examples of different periods could be picked up now and later
replaced if anything better in the same held showed up."

His mind, in spite of his outward placidity, was tinged with a
great seeking. Wealth, in the beginning, had seemed the only
goal, to which had been added the beauty of women. And now art,
for art's sake--the first faint radiance of a rosy dawn--had begun
to shine in upon him, and to the beauty of womanhood he was
beginning to see how necessary it was to add the beauty of life--
the beauty of material background--how, in fact, the only background
for great beauty was great art. This girl, this Aileen Butler,
her raw youth and radiance, was nevertheless creating in him a
sense of the distinguished and a need for it which had never
existed in him before to the same degree. It is impossible to
define these subtleties of reaction, temperament on temperament,
for no one knows to what degree we are marked by the things which
attract us. A love affair such as this had proved to be was little
less or more than a drop of coloring added to a glass of clear
water, or a foreign chemical agent introduced into a delicate
chemical formula.

In short, for all her crudeness, Aileen Butler was a definite force
personally. Her nature, in a way, a protest against the clumsy
conditions by which she found herself surrounded, was almost
irrationally ambitious. To think that for so long, having been
born into the Butler family, she had been the subject, as well as
the victim of such commonplace and inartistic illusions and
conditions, whereas now, owing to her contact with, and mental
subordination to Cowperwood, she was learning so many wonderful
phases of social, as well as financial, refinement of which
previously she had guessed nothing. The wonder, for instance, of
a future social career as the wife of such a man as Frank Cowperwood.
The beauty and resourcefulness of his mind, which, after hours of
intimate contact with her, he was pleased to reveal, and which, so
definite were his comments and instructions, she could not fail
to sense. The wonder of his financial and artistic and future
social dreams. And, oh, oh, she was his, and he was hers. She
was actually beside herself at times with the glory, as well as
the delight of all this.

At the same time, her father's local reputation as a quondam garbage
contractor ("slop-collector" was the unfeeling comment of the
vulgarian cognoscenti); her own unavailing efforts to right a
condition of material vulgarity or artistic anarchy in her own
home; the hopelessness of ever being admitted to those distinguished
portals which she recognized afar off as the last sanctum sanctorum
of established respectability and social distinction, had bred in
her, even at this early age, a feeling of deadly opposition to her
home conditions as they stood. Such a house compared to Cowperwood's!
Her dear, but ignorant, father! And this great man, her lover, had
now condescended to love her--see in her his future wife. Oh,
God, that it might not fail! Through the Cowperwoods at first she
had hoped to meet a few people, young men and women--and particularly
men--who were above the station in which she found herself, and
to whom her beauty and prospective fortune would commend her; but
this had not been the case. The Cowperwoods themselves, in spite
of Frank Cowperwood's artistic proclivities and growing wealth,
had not penetrated the inner circle as yet. In fact, aside from
the subtle, preliminary consideration which they were receiving,
they were a long way off.

None the less, and instinctively in Cowperwood Aileen recognized
a way out--a door--and by the same token a subtle, impending
artistic future of great magnificence. This man would rise beyond
anything he now dreamed of--she felt it. There was in him, in
some nebulous, unrecognizable form, a great artistic reality which
was finer than anything she could plan for herself. She wanted
luxury, magnificence, social station. Well, if she could get this
man they would come to her. There were, apparently, insuperable
barriers in the way; but hers was no weakling nature, and neither
was his. They ran together temperamentally from the first like
two leopards. Her own thoughts--crude, half formulated, half
spoken--nevertheless matched his to a degree in the equality of
their force and their raw directness.

"I don't think papa knows how to do," she said to him, one day.
"It isn't his fault. He can't help it. He knows that he can't.
And he knows that I know it. For years I wanted him to move out
of that old house there. He knows that he ought to. But even that
wouldn't do much good."

She paused, looking at him with a straight, clear, vigorous glance.
He liked the medallion sharpness of her features--their smooth,
Greek modeling.

"Never mind, pet," he replied. "We will arrange all these things
later. I don't see my way out of this just now; but I think the
best thing to do is to confess to Lillian some day, and see if
some other plan can't be arranged. I want to fix it so the children
won't suffer. I can provide for them amply, and I wouldn't be at
all surprised if Lillian would be willing to let me go. She
certainly wouldn't want any publicity."

He was counting practically, and man-fashion, on her love for her

Aileen looked at him with clear, questioning, uncertain eyes. She
was not wholly without sympathy, but in a way this situation did
not appeal to her as needing much. Mrs. Cowperwood was not friendly
in her mood toward her. It was not based on anything save a
difference in their point of view. Mrs. Cowperwood could never
understand how a girl could carry her head so high and "put on
such airs," and Aileen could not understand how any one could be
so lymphatic and lackadaisical as Lillian Cowperwood. Life was
made for riding, driving, dancing, going. It was made for airs
and banter and persiflage and coquetry. To see this woman, the
wife of a young, forceful man like Cowperwood, acting, even though
she were five years older and the mother of two children, as though
life on its romantic and enthusiastic pleasurable side were all
over was too much for her. Of course Lillian was unsuited to
Frank; of course he needed a young woman like herself, and fate
would surely give him to her. Then what a delicious life they
would lead!

"Oh, Frank," she exclaimed to him, over and over, "if we could
only manage it. Do you think we can?"

"Do I think we can? Certainly I do. It's only a matter of time.
I think if I were to put the matter to her clearly, she wouldn't
expect me to stay. You look out how you conduct your affairs.
If your father or your brother should ever suspect me, there'd
be an explosion in this town, if nothing worse. They'd fight me
in all my money deals, if they didn't kill me. Are you thinking
carefully of what you are doing?"

"All the time. If anything happens I'll deny everything. They
can't prove it, if I deny it. I'll come to you in the long run,
just the same."

They were in the Tenth Street house at the time. She stroked his
cheeks with the loving fingers of the wildly enamored woman.

"I'll do anything for you, sweetheart," she declared. "I'd die for
you if I had to. I love you so."

"Well, pet, no danger. You won't have to do anything like that.
But be careful."

Chapter XXIII

Then, after several years of this secret relationship, in which
the ties of sympathy and understanding grew stronger instead of
weaker, came the storm. It burst unexpectedly and out of a clear
sky, and bore no relation to the intention or volition of any
individual. It was nothing more than a fire, a distant one--the
great Chicago fire, October 7th, 1871, which burned that city--
its vast commercial section--to the ground, and instantly and
incidentally produced a financial panic, vicious though of short
duration in various other cities in America. The fire began on
Saturday and continued apparently unabated until the following
Wednesday. It destroyed the banks, the commercial houses, the
shipping conveniences, and vast stretches of property. The heaviest
loss fell naturally upon the insurance companies, which instantly,
in many cases--the majority--closed their doors. This threw the
loss back on the manufacturers and wholesalers in other cities
who had had dealings with Chicago as well as the merchants of that
city. Again, very grievous losses were borne by the host of
eastern capitalists which had for years past partly owned, or
held heavy mortgages on, the magnificent buildings for business
purposes and residences in which Chicago was already rivaling
every city on the continent. Transportation was disturbed, and
the keen scent of Wall Street, and Third Street in Philadelphia,
and State Street in Boston, instantly perceived in the early
reports the gravity of the situation. Nothing could be done on
Saturday or Sunday after the exchange closed, for the opening
reports came too late. On Monday, however, the facts were pouring
in thick and fast; and the owners of railroad securities, government
securities, street-car securities, and, indeed, all other forms
of stocks and bonds, began to throw them on the market in order
to raise cash. The banks naturally were calling their loans, and
the result was a stock stampede which equaled the Black Friday of
Wall Street of two years before.

Cowperwood and his father were out of town at the time the fire
began. They had gone with several friends--bankers--to look at a
proposed route of extension of a local steam-railroad, on which a
loan was desired. In buggies they had driven over a good portion
of the route, and were returning to Philadelphia late Sunday evening
when the cries of newsboys hawking an "extra" reached their ears.

"Ho! Extra! Extra! All about the big Chicago fire!"

"Ho! Extra! Extra! Chicago burning down! Extra! Extra!"

The cries were long-drawn-out, ominous, pathetic. In the dusk of
the dreary Sunday afternoon, when the city had apparently retired
to Sabbath meditation and prayer, with that tinge of the dying year
in the foliage and in the air, one caught a sense of something
grim and gloomy.

"Hey, boy," called Cowperwood, listening, seeing a shabbily clothed
misfit of a boy with a bundle of papers under his arm turning a
corner. "What's that? Chicago burning!"

He looked at his father and the other men in a significant way as
he reached for the paper, and then, glancing at the headlines,
realized the worst.



"That looks rather serious," he said, calmly, to his companions,
a cold, commanding force coming into his eyes and voice. To his
father he said a little later, "It's panic, unless the majority
of the banks and brokerage firms stand together."

He was thinking quickly, brilliantly, resourcefully of his own
outstanding obligations. His father's bank was carrying one
hundred thousand dollars' worth of his street-railway securities
at sixty, and fifty thousand dollars' worth of city loan at
seventy. His father had "up with him" over forty thousand dollars
in cash covering market manipulations in these stocks. The banking
house of Drexel & Co. was on his books as a creditor for one hundred
thousand, and that loan would be called unless they were especially
merciful, which was not likely. Jay Cooke & Co. were his creditors
for another one hundred and fifty thousand. They would want their
money. At four smaller banks and three brokerage companies he
was debtor for sums ranging from fifty thousand dollars down. The
city treasurer was involved with him to the extent of nearly five
hundred thousand dollars, and exposure of that would create a
scandal; the State treasurer for two hundred thousand. There
were small accounts, hundreds of them, ranging from one hundred
dollars up to five and ten thousand. A panic would mean not only
a withdrawal of deposits and a calling of loans, but a heavy
depression of securities. How could he realize on his securities?
--that was the question--how without selling so many points off
that his fortune would be swept away and he would be ruined?

He figured briskly the while he waved adieu to his friends, who
hurried away, struck with their own predicament.

"You had better go on out to the house, father, and I'll send some
telegrams." (The telephone had not yet been invented.) "I'll be
right out and we'll go into this thing together. It looks like
black weather to me. Don't say anything to any one until after
we have had our talk; then we can decide what to do."

Cowperwood, Sr., was already plucking at his side-whiskers in a
confused and troubled way. He was cogitating as to what might
happen to him in case his son failed, for he was deeply involved
with him. He was a little gray in his complexion now, frightened,
for he had already strained many points in his affairs to accommodate
his son. If Frank should not be able promptly on the morrow to
meet the call which the bank might have to make for one hundred
and fifty thousand dollars, the onus and scandal of the situation
would be on him.

On the other hand, his son was meditating on the tangled relation
in which he now found himself in connection with the city treasurer
and the fact that it was not possible for him to support the market
alone. Those who should have been in a position to help him were
now as bad off as himself. There were many unfavorable points in
the whole situation. Drexel & Co. had been booming railway stocks--
loaning heavily on them. Jay Cooke & Co. had been backing Northern
Pacific--were practically doing their best to build that immense
transcontinental system alone. Naturally, they were long on that
and hence in a ticklish position. At the first word they would
throw over their surest securities--government bonds, and the like
--in order to protect their more speculative holdings. The bears
would see the point. They would hammer and hammer, selling short
all along the line. But he did not dare to do that. He would be
breaking his own back quickly, and what he needed was time. If he
could only get time--three days, a week, ten days--this storm would
surely blow over.

The thing that was troubling him most was the matter of the
half-million invested with him by Stener. A fall election was
drawing near. Stener, although he had served two terms, was slated
for reelection. A scandal in connection with the city treasury
would be a very bad thing. It would end Stener's career as an
official--would very likely send him to the penitentiary. It might
wreck the Republican party's chances to win. It would certainly
involve himself as having much to do with it. If that happened,
he would have the politicians to reckon with. For, if he were
hard pressed, as he would be, and failed, the fact that he had
been trying to invade the city street-railway preserves which they
held sacred to themselves, with borrowed city money, and that this
borrowing was liable to cost them the city election, would all
come out. They would not view all that with a kindly eye. It
would be useless to say, as he could, that he had borrowed the
money at two per cent. (most of it, to save himself, had been
covered by a protective clause of that kind), or that he had merely
acted as an agent for Stener. That might go down with the
unsophisticated of the outer world, but it would never be swallowed
by the politicians. They knew better than that.

There was another phase to this situation, however, that encouraged
him, and that was his knowledge of how city politics were going
in general. It was useless for any politician, however loftly,
to take a high and mighty tone in a crisis like this. All of them,
great and small, were profiting in one way and another through
city privileges. Butler, Mollenhauer, and Simpson, he knew, made
money out of contracts--legal enough, though they might be looked
upon as rank favoritism--and also out of vast sums of money collected
in the shape of taxes--land taxes, water taxes, etc.--which were
deposited in the various banks designated by these men and others
as legal depositories for city money. The banks supposedly carried
the city's money in their vaults as a favor, without paying interest
of any kind, and then reinvested it--for whom? Cowperwood had no
complaint to make, for he was being well treated, but these men
could scarcely expect to monopolize all the city's benefits. He
did not know either Mollenhauer or Simpson personally--but he knew
they as well as Butler had made money out of his own manipulation
of city loan. Also, Butler was most friendly to him. It was not
unreasonable for him to think, in a crisis like this, that if worst
came to worst, he could make a clean breast of it to Butler and
receive aid. In case he could not get through secretly with
Stener's help, Cowperwood made up his mind that he would do this.

His first move, he decided, would be to go at once to Stener's
house and demand the loan of an additional three or four hundred
thousand dollars. Stener had always been very tractable, and in
this instance would see how important it was that his shortage of
half a million should not be made public. Then he must get as
much more as possible. But where to get it? Presidents of banks
and trust companies, large stock jobbers, and the like, would have
to be seen. Then there was a loan of one hundred thousand dollars
he was carrying for Butler. The old contractor might be induced
to leave that. He hurried to his home, secured his runabout, and
drove rapidly to Stener's.

As it turned out, however, much to his distress and confusion,
Stener was out of town--down on the Chesapeake with several friends
shooting ducks and fishing, and was not expected back for several
days. He was in the marshes back of some small town. Cowperwood
sent an urgent wire to the nearest point and then, to make assurance
doubly sure, to several other points in the same neighborhood,
asking him to return immediately. He was not at all sure, however,
that Stener would return in time and was greatly nonplussed and
uncertain for the moment as to what his next step would be. Aid
must be forthcoming from somewhere and at once.

Suddenly a helpful thought occurred to him. Butler and Mollenhauer
and Simpson were long on local street-railways. They must combine
to support the situation and protect their interests. They could
see the big bankers, Drexel & Co. and Cooke & Co., and others and
urge them to sustain the market. They could strengthen things
generally by organizing a buying ring, and under cover of their
support, if they would, he might sell enough to let him out, and
even permit him to go short and make something--a whole lot. It
was a brilliant thought, worthy of a greater situation, and its
only weakness was that it was not absolutely certain of fulfillment.

He decided to go to Butler at once, the only disturbing thought
being that he would now be compelled to reveal his own and Stener's
affairs. So reentering his runabout he drove swiftly to the Butler

When he arrived there the famous contractor was at dinner. He
had not heard the calling of the extras, and of course, did not
understand as yet the significance of the fire. The servant's
announcement of Cowperwood brought him smiling to the door.

"Won't you come in and join us? We're just havin' a light supper.
Have a cup of coffee or tea, now--do."

"I can't," replied Cowperwood. "Not to-night, I'm in too much of
a hurry. I want to see you for just a few moments, and then I'll
be off again. I won't keep you very long."

"Why, if that's the case, I'll come right out." And Butler
returned to the dining-room to put down his napkin. Aileen, who
was also dining, had heard Cowperwood's voice, and was on the qui
vive to see him. She wondered what it was that brought him at
this time of night to see her father. She could not leave the
table at once, but hoped to before he went. Cowperwood was thinking
of her, even in the face of this impending storm, as he was of his
wife, and many other things. If his affairs came down in a heap
it would go hard with those attached to him. In this first
clouding of disaster, he could not tell how things would eventuate.
He meditated on this desperately, but he was not panic-stricken.
His naturally even-molded face was set in fine, classic lines;
his eyes were as hard as chilled steel.

"Well, now," exclaimed Butler, returning, his countenance manifesting
a decidedly comfortable relationship with the world as at present
constituted. "What's up with you to-night? Nawthin' wrong, I hope.
It's been too fine a day."

"Nothing very serious, I hope myself," replied Cowperwood, "But I
want to talk with you a few minutes, anyhow. Don't you think we
had better go up to your room?"

"I was just going to say that," replied Butler--"the cigars are
up there."

They started from the reception-room to the stairs, Butler preceding
and as the contractor mounted, Aileen came out from the dining-room
in a frou-frou of silk. Her splendid hair was drawn up from the
base of the neck and the line of the forehead into some quaint
convolutions which constituted a reddish-gold crown. Her complexion
was glowing, and her bare arms and shoulders shone white against
the dark red of her evening gown. She realized there was something

"Oh, Mr. Cowperwood, how do you do?" she exclaimed, coming forward
and holding out her hand as her father went on upstairs. She was
delaying him deliberately in order to have a word with him and
this bold acting was for the benefit of the others.

"What's the trouble, honey?" she whispered, as soon as her father
was out of hearing. "You look worried."

"Nothing much, I hope, sweet," he said. "Chicago is burning up
and there's going to be trouble to-morrow. I have to talk to your

She had time only for a sympathetic, distressed "Oh," before he
withdrew his hand and followed Butler upstairs. She squeezed his
arm, and went through the reception-room to the parlor. She sat
down, thinking, for never before had she seen Cowperwood's face
wearing such an expression of stern, disturbed calculation. It
was placid, like fine, white wax, and quite as cold; and those
deep, vague, inscrutable eyes! So Chicago was burning. What would
happen to him? Was he very much involved? He had never told her
in detail of his affairs. She would not have understood fully
any more than would have Mrs. Cowperwood. But she was worried,
nevertheless, because it was her Frank, and because she was bound
to him by what to her seemed indissoluble ties.

Literature, outside of the masters, has given us but one idea of
the mistress, the subtle, calculating siren who delights to prey
on the souls of men. The journalism and the moral pamphleteering
of the time seem to foster it with almost partisan zeal. It would
seem that a censorship of life had been established by divinity,
and the care of its execution given into the hands of the utterly
conservative. Yet there is that other form of liaison which has
nothing to do with conscious calculation. In the vast majority
of cases it is without design or guile. The average woman,
controlled by her affections and deeply in love, is no more capable
than a child of anything save sacrificial thought--the desire to
give; and so long as this state endures, she can only do this. She
may change--Hell hath no fury, etc.--but the sacrificial, yielding,
solicitous attitude is more often the outstanding characteristic
of the mistress; and it is this very attitude in contradistinction
to the grasping legality of established matrimony that has caused
so many wounds in the defenses of the latter. The temperament of
man, either male or female, cannot help falling down before and
worshiping this nonseeking, sacrificial note. It approaches vast
distinction in life. It appears to be related to that last word
in art, that largeness of spirit which is the first characteristic
of the great picture, the great building, the great sculpture, the
great decoration--namely, a giving, freely and without stint, of
itself, of beauty. Hence the significance of this particular
mood in Aileen.

All the subtleties of the present combination were troubling
Cowperwood as he followed Butler into the room upstairs.

"Sit down, sit down. You won't take a little somethin'? You never
do. I remember now. Well, have a cigar, anyhow. Now, what's
this that's troublin' you to-night?"

Voices could be heard faintly in the distance, far off toward the
thicker residential sections.

"Extra! Extra! All about the big Chicago fire! Chicago burning down!"

"Just that," replied Cowperwood, hearkening to them. "Have you
heard the news?"

"No. What's that they're calling?"

"It's a big fire out in Chicago."

"Oh," replied Butler, still not gathering the significance of it.

"It's burning down the business section there, Mr. Butler," went
on Cowperwood ominously, "and I fancy it's going to disturb financial
conditions here to-morrow. That is what I have come to see you
about. How are your investments? Pretty well drawn in?"

Butler suddenly gathered from Cowperwood's expression that there
was something very wrong. He put up his large hand as he leaned
back in his big leather chair, and covered his mouth and chin
with it. Over those big knuckles, and bigger nose, thick and
cartilaginous, his large, shaggy-eyebrowed eyes gleamed. His gray,
bristly hair stood up stiffly in a short, even growth all over
his head.

"So that's it," he said. "You're expectin' trouble to-morrow.
How are your own affairs?"

"I'm in pretty good shape, I think, all told, if the money element
of this town doesn't lose its head and go wild. There has to be
a lot of common sense exercised to-morrow, or to-night, even. You
know we are facing a real panic. Mr. Butler, you may as well know
that. It may not last long, but while it does it will be bad.
Stocks are going to drop to-morrow ten or fifteen points on the
opening. The banks are going to call their loans unless some
arrangement can be made to prevent them. No one man can do that.
It will have to be a combination of men. You and Mr. Simpson and
Mr. Mollenhauer might do it--that is, you could if you could
persuade the big banking people to combine to back the market.
There is going to be a raid on local street-railways--all of them.
Unless they are sustained the bottom is going to drop out. I have
always known that you were long on those. I thought you and Mr.
Mollenhauer and some of the others might want to act. If you don't
I might as well confess that it is going to go rather hard with me.
I am not strong enough to face this thing alone."

He was meditating on how he should tell the whole truth in regard
to Stener.

"Well, now, that's pretty bad," said Butler, calmly and meditatively.
He was thinking of his own affairs. A panic was not good for him
either, but he was not in a desperate state. He could not fail.
He might lose some money, but not a vast amount--before he could
adjust things. Still he did not care to lose any money.

"How is it you're so bad off?" he asked, curiously. He was wondering
how the fact that the bottom was going to drop out of local
street-railways would affect Cowperwood so seriously. "You're not
carryin' any of them things, are you?" he added.

It was now a question of lying or telling the truth, and Cowperwood
was literally afraid to risk lying in this dilemma. If he did not
gain Butler's comprehending support he might fail, and if he failed
the truth would come out, anyhow.

"I might as well make a clean breast of this, Mr. Butler," he said,
throwing himself on the old man's sympathies and looking at him
with that brisk assurance which Butler so greatly admired. He
felt as proud of Cowperwood at times as he did of his own sons.
He felt that he had helped to put him where he was.

"The fact is that I have been buying street-railway stocks, but
not for myself exactly. I am going to do something now which I
think I ought not to do, but I cannot help myself. If I don't do
it, it will injure you and a lot of people whom I do not wish to
injure. I know you are naturally interested in the outcome of
the fall election. The truth is I have been carrying a lot of
stocks for Mr. Stener and some of his friends. I do not know that
all the money has come from the city treasury, but I think that
most of it has. I know what that means to Mr. Stener and the
Republican party and your interests in case I fail. I don't
think Mr. Stener started this of his own accord in the first
place--I think I am as much to blame as anybody--but it grew out
of other things. As you know, I handled that matter of city loan
for him and then some of his friends wanted me to invest in
street-railways for them. I have been doing that ever since.
Personally I have borrowed considerable money from Mr. Stener at
two per cent. In fact, originally the transactions were covered
in that way. Now I don't want to shift the blame on any one. It
comes back to me and I am willing to let it stay there, except that
if I fail Mr. Stener will be blamed and that will reflect on the
administration. Naturally, I don't want to fail. There is no
excuse for my doing so. Aside from this panic I have never been
in a better position in my life. But I cannot weather this storm
without assistance, and I want to know if you won't help me. If
I pull through I will give you my word that I will see that the
money which has been taken from the treasury is put back there.
Mr. Stener is out of town or I would have brought him here with me."

Cowperwood was lying out of the whole cloth in regard to bringing
Stener with him, and he had no intention of putting the money back
in the city treasury except by degrees and in such manner as suited
his convenience; but what he had said sounded well and created a
great seeming of fairness.

"How much money is it Stener has invested with you?" asked Butler.
He was a little confused by this curious development. It put
Cowperwood and Stener in an odd light.

"About five hundred thousand dollars," replied Cowperwood.

The old man straightened up. "Is it as much as that?" he said.

"Just about--a little more or a little less; I'm not sure which."

The old contractor listened solemnly to all Cowperwood had to say
on this score, thinking of the effect on the Republican party and
his own contracting interests. He liked Cowperwood, but this was
a rough thing the latter was telling him--rough, and a great deal
to ask. He was a slow-thinking and a slow-moving man, but he did
well enough when he did think. He had considerable money invested
in Philadelphia street-railway stocks--perhaps as much as eight
hundred thousand dollars. Mollenhauer had perhaps as much more.
Whether Senator Simpson had much or little he could not tell.
Cowperwood had told him in the past that he thought the Senator
had a good deal. Most of their holdings, as in the case of
Cowperwood's, were hypothecated at the various banks for loans and
these loans invested in other ways. It was not advisable or
comfortable to have these loans called, though the condition of
no one of the triumvirate was anything like as bad as that of
Cowperwood. They could see themselves through without much trouble,
though not without probable loss unless they took hurried action
to protect themselves.

He would not have thought so much of it if Cowperwood had told him
that Stener was involved, say, to the extent of seventy-five or a
hundred thousand dollars. That might be adjusted. But five hundred
thousand dollars!

"That's a lot of money," said Butler, thinking of the amazing
audacity of Stener, but failing at the moment to identify it with
the astute machinations of Cowperwood. "That's something to think
about. There's no time to lose if there's going to be a panic in
the morning. How much good will it do ye if we do support the

"A great deal," returned Cowperwood, "although of course I have to
raise money in other ways. I have that one hundred thousand
dollars of yours on deposit. Is it likely that you'll want that
right away?"

"It may be," said Butler.

"It's just as likely that I'll need it so badly that I can't give
it up without seriously injuring myself," added Cowperwood. "That's
just one of a lot of things. If you and Senator Simpson and Mr.
Mollenhauer were to get together--you're the largest holders of
street-railway stocks--and were to see Mr. Drexel and Mr. Cooke,
you could fix things so that matters would be considerably easier.
I will be all right if my loans are not called, and my loans will
not be called if the market does not slump too heavily. If it
does, all my securities are depreciated, and I can't hold out."

Old Butler got up. "This is serious business," he said. "I wish
you'd never gone in with Stener in that way. It don't look
quite right and it can't be made to. It's bad, bad business," he
added dourly. "Still, I'll do what I can. I can't promise much,
but I've always liked ye and I'll not be turning on ye now unless
I have to. But I'm sorry--very. And I'm not the only one that
has a hand in things in this town." At the same time he was
thinking it was right decent of Cowperwood to forewarn him this
way in regard to his own affairs and the city election, even though
he was saving his own neck by so doing. He meant to do what he

"I don't suppose you could keep this matter of Stener and the city
treasury quiet for a day or two until I see how I come out?"
suggested Cowperwood warily.

"I can't promise that," replied Butler. "I'll have to do the best
I can. I won't lave it go any further than I can help--you can
depend on that." He was thinking how the effect of Stener's crime
could be overcome if Cowperwood failed.


He stepped to the door, and, opening it, called down over the

"Yes, father."

"Have Dan hitch up the light buggy and bring it around to the
door. And you get your hat and coat. I want you to go along with

"Yes, father."

He came back.

"Sure that's a nice little storm in a teapot, now, isn't it?
Chicago begins to burn, and I have to worry here in Philadelphia.
Well, well--" Cowperwood was up now and moving to the door. "And
where are you going?"

"Back to the house. I have several people coming there to see me.
But I'll come back here later, if I may."

"Yes, yes," replied Butler. "To be sure I'll be here by midnight,
anyhow. Well, good night. I'll see you later, then, I suppose.
I'll tell you what I find out."

He went back in his room for something, and Cowperwood descended
the stair alone. From the hangings of the reception-room entryway
Aileen signaled him to draw near.

"I hope it's nothing serious, honey?" she sympathized, looking
into his solemn eyes.

It was not time for love, and he felt it.

"No," he said, almost coldly, "I think not."

"Frank, don't let this thing make you forget me for long, please.
You won't, will you? I love you so."

"No, no, I won't!" he replied earnestly, quickly and yet absently.

"I can't! Don't you know I won't?" He had started to kiss her, but
a noise disturbed him. "Sh!"

He walked to the door, and she followed him with eager, sympathetic

What if anything should happen to her Frank? What if anything could?
What would she do? That was what was troubling her. What would,
what could she do to help him? He looked so pale--strained.

Chapter XXIV

The condition of the Republican party at this time in Philadelphia,
its relationship to George W. Stener, Edward Malia Butler, Henry
A. Mollenhauer, Senator Mark Simpson, and others, will have to be
briefly indicated here, in order to foreshadow Cowperwood's actual
situation. Butler, as we have seen, was normally interested in and
friendly to Cowperwood. Stener was Cowperwood's tool. Mollenhauer
and Senator Simpson were strong rivals of Butler for the control of
city affairs. Simpson represented the Republican control of the
State legislature, which could dictate to the city if necessary,
making new election laws, revising the city charter, starting
political investigations, and the like. He had many influential
newspapers, corporations, banks, at his beck and call. Mollenhauer
represented the Germans, some Americans, and some large stable
corporations--a very solid and respectable man. All three were
strong, able, and dangerous politically. The two latter counted
on Butler's influence, particularly with the Irish, and a certain
number of ward leaders and Catholic politicians and laymen, who
were as loyal to him as though he were a part of the church itself.
Butler's return to these followers was protection, influence, aid,
and good-will generally. The city's return to him, via Mollenhauer
and Simpson, was in the shape of contracts--fat ones--street-paving,
bridges, viaducts, sewers. And in order for him to get these
contracts the affairs of the Republican party, of which he was a
beneficiary as well as a leader, must be kept reasonably straight.
At the same time it was no more a part of his need to keep the
affairs of the party straight than it was of either Mollenhauer's
or Simpson's, and Stener was not his appointee. The latter was
more directly responsible to Mollenhauer than to any one else.

As Butler stepped into the buggy with his son he was thinking
about this, and it was puzzling him greatly.

"Cowperwood's just been here," he said to Owen, who had been
rapidly coming into a sound financial understanding of late, and
was already a shrewder man politically and socially than his father,
though he had not the latter's magnetism. "He's been tellin' me
that he's in a rather tight place. You hear that?" he continued,
as some voice in the distance was calling "Extra! Extra!" "That's
Chicago burnin', and there's goin' to be trouble on the stock
exchange to-morrow. We have a lot of our street-railway stocks
around at the different banks. If we don't look sharp they'll be
callin' our loans. We have to 'tend to that the first thing in
the mornin'. Cowperwood has a hundred thousand of mine with him
that he wants me to let stay there, and he has some money that
belongs to Stener, he tells me."

"Stener?" asked Owen, curiously. "Has he been dabbling in stocks?"
Owen had heard some rumors concerning Stener and others only very
recently, which he had not credited nor yet communicated to his
father. "How much money of his has Cowperwood?" he asked.

Butler meditated. "Quite a bit, I'm afraid," he finally said.
"As a matter of fact, it's a great deal--about five hundred thousand
dollars. If that should become known, it would be makin' a good
deal of noise, I'm thinkin'."

"Whew!" exclaimed Owen in astonishment. "Five hundred thousand
dollars! Good Lord, father! Do you mean to say Stener has got away
with five hundred thousand dollars? Why, I wouldn't think he was
clever enough to do that. Five hundred thousand dollars! It will
make a nice row if that comes out."

"Aisy, now! Aisy, now!" replied Butler, doing his best to keep
all phases of the situation in mind. "We can't tell exactly what
the circumstances were yet. He mayn't have meant to take so much.
It may all come out all right yet. The money's invested. Cowperwood
hasn't failed yet. It may be put back. The thing to be settled
on now is whether anything can be done to save him. If he's tellin'
me the truth--and I never knew him to lie--he can get out of this
if street-railway stocks don't break too heavy in the mornin'.
I'm going over to see Henry Mollenhauer and Mark Simpson. They're
in on this. Cowperwood wanted me to see if I couldn't get them
to get the bankers together and have them stand by the market. He
thought we might protect our loans by comin' on and buyin' and
holdin' up the price."

Owen was running swiftly in his mind over Cowperwood's affairs--as
much as he knew of them. He felt keenly that the banker ought to
be shaken out. This dilemma was his fault, not Stener's--he felt.
It was strange to him that his father did not see it and resent it.

"You see what it is, father," he said, dramatically, after a time.
"Cowperwood's been using this money of Stener's to pick up stocks,
and he's in a hole. If it hadn't been for this fire he'd have got
away with it; but now he wants you and Simpson and Mollenhauer and
the others to pull him out. He's a nice fellow, and I like him
fairly well; but you're a fool if you do as he wants you to. He
has more than belongs to him already. I heard the other day that
he has the Front Street line, and almost all of Green and Coates;
and that he and Stener own the Seventeenth and Nineteenth; but I
didn't believe it. I've been intending to ask you about it. I
think Cowperwood has a majority for himself stowed away somewhere
in every instance. Stener is just a pawn. He moves him around
where he pleases."

Owen's eyes gleamed avariciously, opposingly. Cowperwood ought
to be punished, sold out, driven out of the street-railway business
in which Owen was anxious to rise.

"Now you know," observed Butler, thickly and solemnly, "I always
thought that young felly was clever, but I hardly thought he was
as clever as all that. So that's his game. You're pretty shrewd
yourself, aren't you? Well, we can fix that, if we think well of
it. But there's more than that to all this. You don't want to
forget the Republican party. Our success goes with the success
of that, you know"--and he paused and looked at his son. "If
Cowperwood should fail and that money couldn't be put back--" He
broke off abstractedly. "The thing that's troublin' me is this
matter of Stener and the city treasury. If somethin' ain't done
about that, it may go hard with the party this fall, and with some
of our contracts. You don't want to forget that an election is
comin' along in November. I'm wonderin' if I ought to call in
that one hundred thousand dollars. It's goin' to take considerable
money to meet my loans in the mornin'."

It is a curious matter of psychology, but it was only now that
the real difficulties of the situation were beginning to dawn on
Butler. In the presence of Cowperwood he was so influenced by
that young man's personality and his magnetic presentation of his
need and his own liking for him that he had not stopped to consider
all the phases of his own relationship to the situation. Out here
in the cool night air, talking to Owen, who was ambitious on his
own account and anything but sentimentally considerate of Cowperwood,
he was beginning to sober down and see things in their true light.
He had to admit that Cowperwood had seriously compromised the city
treasury and the Republican party, and incidentally Butler's own
private interests. Nevertheless, he liked Cowperwood. He was in
no way prepared to desert him. He was now going to see Mollenhauer
and Simpson as much to save Cowperwood really as the party and his
own affairs. And yet a scandal. He did not like that--resented
it. This young scalawag! To think he should be so sly. None the
less he still liked him, even here and now, and was feeling that
he ought to do something to help the young man, if anything could
help him. He might even leave his hundred-thousand-dollar loan
with him until the last hour, as Cowperwood had requested, if the
others were friendly.

"Well, father," said Owen, after a time, "I don't see why you need
to worry any more than Mollenhauer or Simpson. If you three want
to help him out, you can; but for the life of me I don't see why
you should. I know this thing will have a bad effect on the
election, if it comes out before then; but it could be hushed up
until then, couldn't it? Anyhow, your street-railway holdings are
more important than this election, and if you can see your way
clear to getting the street-railway lines in your hands you won't
need to worry about any elections. My advice to you is to call
that one-hundred-thousand-dollar loan of yours in the morning, and
meet the drop in your stocks that way. It may make Cowperwood
fail, but that won't hurt you any. You can go into the market
and buy his stocks. I wouldn't be surprised if he would run to
you and ask you to take them. You ought to get Mollenhauer and
Simpson to scare Stener so that he won't loan Cowperwood any more
money. If you don't, Cowperwood will run there and get more.
Stener's in too far now. If Cowperwood won't sell out, well and
good; the chances are he will bust, anyhow, and then you can pick
up as much on the market as any one else. I think he'll sell.
You can't afford to worry about Stener's five hundred thousand
dollars. No one told him to loan it. Let him look out for himself.
It may hurt the party, but you can look after that later. You and
Mollenhauer can fix the newspapers so they won't talk about it till
after election."

"Aisy! Aisy!" was all the old contractor would say. He was
thinking hard.

Chapter XXV

The residence of Henry A. Mollenhauer was, at that time, in a
section of the city which was almost as new as that in which Butler
was living. It was on South Broad Street, near a handsome library
building which had been recently erected. It was a spacious house
of the type usually affected by men of new wealth in those days--a
structure four stories in height of yellow brick and white stone
built after no school which one could readily identify, but not
unattractive in its architectural composition. A broad flight of
steps leading to a wide veranda gave into a decidedly ornate door,
which was set on either side by narrow windows and ornamented to
the right and left with pale-blue jardinieres of considerable
charm of outline. The interior, divided into twenty rooms, was
paneled and parqueted in the most expensive manner for homes of
that day. There was a great reception-hall, a large parlor or
drawing-room, a dining-room at least thirty feet square paneled
in oak; and on the second floor were a music-room devoted to the
talents of Mollenhauer's three ambitious daughters, a library and
private office for himself, a boudoir and bath for his wife, and
a conservatory.

Mollenhauer was, and felt himself to be, a very important man. His
financial and political judgment was exceedingly keen. Although he
was a German, or rather an American of German parentage, he was a
man of a rather impressive American presence. He was tall and heavy
and shrewd and cold. His large chest and wide shoulders supported
a head of distinguished proportions, both round and long when seen
from different angles. The frontal bone descended in a protruding
curve over the nose, and projected solemnly over the eyes, which
burned with a shrewd, inquiring gaze. And the nose and mouth and
chin below, as well as his smooth, hard cheeks, confirmed the
impression that he knew very well what he wished in this world,
and was very able without regard to let or hindrance to get it. It
was a big face, impressive, well modeled. He was an excellent
friend of Edward Malia Butler's, as such friendships go, and his
regard for Mark Simpson was as sincere as that of one tiger for
another. He respected ability; he was willing to play fair when
fair was the game. When it was not, the reach of his cunning was
not easily measured.

When Edward Butler and his son arrived on this Sunday evening,
this distinguished representative of one-third of the city's
interests was not expecting them. He was in his library reading
and listening to one of his daughters playing the piano. His wife
and his other two daughters had gone to church. He was of a domestic
turn of mind. Still, Sunday evening being an excellent one for
conference purposes generally in the world of politics, he was not
without the thought that some one or other of his distinguished
confreres might call, and when the combination footman and butler
announced the presence of Butler and his son, he was well pleased.

"So there you are," he remarked to Butler, genially, extending his
hand. "I'm certainly glad to see you. And Owen! How are you, Owen?
What will you gentlemen have to drink, and what will you smoke? I
know you'll have something. John"--to the servitor---"see if you
can find something for these gentlemen. I have just been listening
to Caroline play; but I think you've frightened her off for the
time being."

He moved a chair into position for Butler, and indicated to Owen
another on the other side of the table. In a moment his servant
had returned with a silver tray of elaborate design, carrying
whiskies and wines of various dates and cigars in profusion. Owen
was the new type of young financier who neither smoked nor drank.
His father temperately did both.

"It's a comfortable place you have here," said Butler, without any
indication of the important mission that had brought him. "I don't
wonder you stay at home Sunday evenings. What's new in the city?"

"Nothing much, so far as I can see," replied Mollenhauer, pacifically.
"Things seem to be running smooth enough. You don't know anything
that we ought to worry about, do you?"

"Well, yes," said Butler, draining off the remainder of a brandy
and soda that had been prepared for him. "One thing. You haven't
seen an avenin' paper, have you?"

"No, I haven't," said Mollenhauer, straightening up. "Is there
one out? What's the trouble anyhow?"

"Nothing--except Chicago's burning, and it looks as though we'd
have a little money-storm here in the morning."

"You don't say! I didn't hear that. There's a paper out, is there?
Well, well--is it much of a fire?"

"The city is burning down, so they say," put in Owen, who was
watching the face of the distinguished politician with considerable

"Well, that is news. I must send out and get a paper. John!" he
called. His man-servant appeared. "See if you can get me a paper
somewhere." The servant disappeared. "What makes you think that
would have anything to do with us?" observed Mollenhauer, returning
to Butler.

"Well, there's one thing that goes with that that I didn't know
till a little while ago and that is that our man Stener is apt to
be short in his accounts, unless things come out better than some
people seem to think," suggested Butler, calmly. "That might not
look so well before election, would it?" His shrewd gray Irish
eyes looked into Mollenhauer's, who returned his gaze.

"Where did you get that?" queried Mr. Mollenhauer icily. "He
hasn't deliberately taken much money, has he? How much has he
taken--do you know?"

"Quite a bit," replied Butler, quietly. "Nearly five hundred
thousand, so I understand. Only I wouldn't say that it has been
taken as yet. It's in danger of being lost."

"Five hundred thousand!" exclaimed Mollenhauer in amazement, and
yet preserving his usual calm. "You don't tell me! How long has
this been going on? What has he been doing with the money?"

"He's loaned a good deal--about five hundred thousand dollars to
this young Cowperwood in Third Street, that's been handlin' city
loan. They've been investin' it for themselves in one thing and
another--mostly in buyin' up street-railways." (At the mention
of street-railways Mollenhauer's impassive countenance underwent
a barely perceptible change.) "This fire, accordin' to Cowperwood,
is certain to produce a panic in the mornin', and unless he gets
considerable help he doesn't see how he's to hold out. If he
doesn't hold out, there'll be five hundred thousand dollars missin'
from the city treasury which can't be put back. Stener's out of
town and Cowperwood's come to me to see what can be done about it.
As a matter of fact, he's done a little business for me in times
past, and he thought maybe I could help him now--that is, that I
might get you and the Senator to see the big bankers with me and
help support the market in the mornin'. If we don't he's goin'
to fail, and he thought the scandal would hurt us in the election.
He doesn't appear to me to be workin' any game--just anxious to
save himself and do the square thing by me--by us, if he can."
Butler paused.

Mollenhauer, sly and secretive himself, was apparently not at all
moved by this unexpected development. At the same time, never
having thought of Stener as having any particular executive or
financial ability, he was a little stirred and curious. So his
treasurer was using money without his knowing it, and now stood
in danger of being prosecuted! Cowperwood he knew of only indirectly,
as one who had been engaged to handle city loan. He had profited
by his manipulation of city loan. Evidently the banker had made
a fool of Stener, and had used the money for street-railway shares!
He and Stener must have quite some private holdings then. That
did interest Mollenhauer greatly.

"Five hundred thousand dollars!" he repeated, when Butler had
finished. "That is quite a little money. If merely supporting
the market would save Cowperwood we might do that, although if
it's a severe panic I do not see how anything we can do will be
of very much assistance to him. If he's in a very tight place
and a severe slump is coming, it will take a great deal more than
our merely supporting the market to save him. I've been through
that before. You don't know what his liabilities are?"

"I do not," said Butler.

"He didn't ask for money, you say?"

"He wants me to l'ave a hundred thousand he has of mine until he
sees whether he can get through or not."

"Stener is really out of town, I suppose?" Mollenhauer was innately

"So Cowperwood says. We can send and find out."

Mollenhauer was thinking of the various aspects of the case.
Supporting the market would be all very well if that would save
Cowperwood, and the Republican party and his treasurer. At the
same time Stener could then be compelled to restore the five
hundred thousand dollars to the city treasury, and release his
holdings to some one--preferably to him--Mollenhauer. But here
was Butler also to be considered in this matter. What might he
not want? He consulted with Butler and learned that Cowperwood
had agreed to return the five hundred thousand in case he could
get it together. The various street-car holdings were not asked
after. But what assurance had any one that Cowperwood could be
so saved? And could, or would get the money together? And if he
were saved would he give the money back to Stener? If he required
actual money, who would loan it to him in a time like this--in case
a sharp panic was imminent? What security could he give? On the
other hand, under pressure from the right parties he might be made
to surrender all his street-railway holdings for a song--his and
Stener's. If he (Mollenhauer) could get them he would not
particularly care whether the election was lost this fall or not,
although he felt satisfied, as had Owen, that it would not be lost.
It could be bought, as usual. The defalcation--if Cowperwood's
failure made Stener's loan into one--could be concealed long enough,
Mollenhauer thought, to win. Personally as it came to him now he
would prefer to frighten Stener into refusing Cowperwood additional
aid, and then raid the latter's street-railway stock in combination
with everybody else's, for that matter--Simpson's and Butler's
included. One of the big sources of future wealth in Philadelphia
lay in these lines. For the present, however, he had to pretend
an interest in saving the party at the polls.

"I can't speak for the Senator, that's sure," pursued Mollenhauer,
reflectively. "I don't know what he may think. As for myself, I
am perfectly willing to do what I can to keep up the price of
stocks, if that will do any good. I would do so naturally in
order to protect my loans. The thing that we ought to be thinking
about, in my judgment, is how to prevent exposure, in case Mr.
Cowperwood does fail, until after election. We have no assurance,
of course, that however much we support the market we will be able
to sustain it."

"We have not," replied Butler, solemnly.

Owen thought he could see Cowperwood's approaching doom quite
plainly. At that moment the door-bell rang. A maid, in the absence
of the footman, brought in the name of Senator Simpson.

"Just the man," said Mollenhauer. "Show him up. You can see what
he thinks."

"Perhaps I had better leave you alone now," suggested Owen to his
father. "Perhaps I can find Miss Caroline, and she will sing for
me. I'll wait for you, father," he added.

Mollenhauer cast him an ingratiating smile, and as he stepped out
Senator Simpson walked in.

A more interesting type of his kind than Senator Mark Simpson never
flourished in the State of Pennsylvania, which has been productive
of interesting types. Contrasted with either of the two men who
now greeted him warmly and shook his hand, he was physically
unimpressive. He was small--five feet nine inches, to Mollenhauer's
six feet and Butler's five feet eleven inches and a half, and then
his face was smooth, with a receding jaw. In the other two this
feature was prominent. Nor were his eyes as frank as those of Butler,
nor as defiant as those of Mollenhauer; but for subtlety they were
unmatched by either--deep, strange, receding, cavernous eyes which
contemplated you as might those of a cat looking out of a dark hole,
and suggesting all the artfulness that has ever distinguished the
feline family. He had a strange mop of black hair sweeping down
over a fine, low, white forehead, and a skin as pale and bluish
as poor health might make it; but there was, nevertheless, resident
here a strange, resistant, capable force that ruled men--the
subtlety with which he knew how to feed cupidity with hope and
gain and the ruthlessness with which he repaid those who said him
nay. He was a still man, as such a man might well have been--feeble
and fish-like in his handshake, wan and slightly lackadaisical in
his smile, but speaking always with eyes that answered for every

"Av'nin', Mark, I'm glad to see you," was Butler's greeting.

"How are you, Edward?" came the quiet reply.

"Well, Senator, you're not looking any the worse for wear. Can I
pour you something?"

"Nothing to-night, Henry," replied Simpson. "I haven't long to
stay. I just stopped by on my way home. My wife's over here at
the Cavanaghs', and I have to stop by to fetch her."

"Well, it's a good thing you dropped in, Senator, just when you
did," began Mollenhauer, seating himself after his guest. "Butler
here has been telling me of a little political problem that has
arisen since I last saw you. I suppose you've heard that Chicago
is burning?"

"Yes; Cavanagh was just telling me. It looks to be quite serious.
I think the market will drop heavily in the morning."

"I wouldn't be surprised myself," put in Mollenhauer, laconically.

"Here's the paper now," said Butler, as John, the servant, came
in from the street bearing the paper in his hand. Mollenhauer
took it and spread it out before them. It was among the earliest
of the "extras" that were issued in this country, and contained a
rather impressive spread of type announcing that the conflagration
in the lake city was growing hourly worse since its inception the
day before.

"Well, that is certainly dreadful," said Simpson. "I'm very sorry
for Chicago. I have many friends there. I shall hope to hear
that it is not so bad as it seems."

The man had a rather grandiloquent manner which he never abandoned
under any circumstances.

"The matter that Butler was telling me about," continued Mollenhauer,
"has something to do with this in a way. You know the habit our
city treasurers have of loaning out their money at two per cent.?"

"Yes?" said Simpson, inquiringly.

"Well, Mr. Stener, it seems, has been loaning out a good deal of
the city's money to this young Cowperwood, in Third Street, who
has been handling city loans."

"You don't say!" said Simpson, putting on an air of surprise. "Not
much, I hope?" The Senator, like Butler and Mollenhauer, was
profiting greatly by cheap loans from the same source to various
designated city depositories.

"Well, it seems that Stener has loaned him as much as five hundred
thousand dollars, and if by any chance Cowperwood shouldn't be
able to weather this storm, Stener is apt to be short that amount,
and that wouldn't look so good as a voting proposition to the
people in November, do you think? Cowperwood owes Mr. Butler here
one hundred thousand dollars, and because of that he came to see
him to-night. He wanted Butler to see if something couldn't be
done through us to tide him over. If not"--he waved one hand
suggestively--"well, he might fail."

Simpson fingered his strange, wide mouth with his delicate hand.
"What have they been doing with the five hundred thousand dollars?"
he asked.

"Oh, the boys must make a little somethin' on the side," said
Butler, cheerfully. "I think they've been buyin' up street-railways,
for one thing." He stuck his thumbs in the armholes of his vest.
Both Mollenhauer and Simpson smiled wan smiles.

"Quite so," said Mollenhauer. Senator Simpson merely looked the
deep things that he thought.

He, too, was thinking how useless it was for any one to approach
a group of politicians with a proposition like this, particularly
in a crisis such as bid fair to occur. He reflected that if he
and Butler and Mollenhauer could get together and promise Cowperwood
protection in return for the surrender of his street-railway holdings
it would be a very different matter. It would be very easy in this
case to carry the city treasury loan along in silence and even
issue more money to support it; but it was not sure, in the first
place, that Cowperwood could be made to surrender his stocks, and
in the second place that either Butler or Mollenhauer would enter
into any such deal with him, Simpson. Butler had evidently come
here to say a good word for Cowperwood. Mollenhauer and himself
were silent rivals. Although they worked together politically it
was toward essentially different financial ends. They were allied
in no one particular financial proposition, any more than Mollenhauer
and Butler were. And besides, in all probability Cowperwood was
no fool. He was not equally guilty with Stener; the latter had
loaned him money. The Senator reflected on whether he should
broach some such subtle solution of the situation as had occurred
to him to his colleagues, but he decided not. Really Mollenhauer
was too treacherous a man to work with on a thing of this kind.
It was a splendid chance but dangerous. He had better go it alone.
For the present they should demand of Stener that he get Cowperwood
to return the five hundred thousand dollars if he could. If not,
Stener could be sacrificed for the benefit of the party, if need be.
Cowperwood's stocks, with this tip as to his condition, would,
Simpson reflected, offer a good opportunity for a little stock-exchange
work on the part of his own brokers. They could spread rumors as
to Cowperwood's condition and then offer to take his shares off his
hands--for a song, of course. It was an evil moment that led
Cowperwood to Butler.

"Well, now," said the Senator, after a prolonged silence, "I might
sympathize with Mr. Cowperwood in his situation, and I certainly
don't blame him for buying up street-railways if he can; but I
really don't see what can be done for him very well in this crisis.
I don't know about you, gentlemen, but I am rather certain that I
am not in a position to pick other people's chestnuts out of the
fire if I wanted to, just now. It all depends on whether we feel
that the danger to the party is sufficient to warrant our going
down into our pockets and assisting him."

At the mention of real money to be loaned Mollenhauer pulled a
long face. "I can't see that I will be able to do very much for
Mr. Cowperwood," he sighed.

"Begad," said Buler, with a keen sense of humor, "it looks to me
as if I'd better be gettin' in my one hundred thousand dollars.
That's the first business of the early mornin'." Neither Simpson
nor Mollenhauer condescended on this occasion to smile even the
wan smile they had smiled before. They merely looked wise and

"But this matter of the city treasury, now," said Senator Simpson,
after the atmosphere had been allowed to settle a little, "is
something to which we shall have to devote a little thought. If
Mr. Cowperwood should fail, and the treasury lose that much money,
it would embarrass us no little. What lines are they," he added,
as an afterthought, "that this man has been particularly interested

"I really don't know," replied Butler, who did not care to say
what Owen had told him on the drive over.

"I don't see," said Mollenhauer, "unless we can make Stener get
the money back before this man Cowperwood fails, how we can save
ourselves from considerable annoyance later; but if we did anything
which would look as though we were going to compel restitution,
he would probably shut up shop anyhow. So there's no remedy in
that direction. And it wouldn't be very kind to our friend Edward
here to do it until we hear how he comes out on his affair." He
was referring to Butler's loan.

"Certainly not," said Senator Simpson, with true political sagacity
and feeling.

"I'll have that one hundred thousand dollars in the mornin'," said
Butler, "and never fear."

"I think," said Simpson, "if anything comes of this matter that we
will have to do our best to hush it up until after the election.
The newspapers can just as well keep silent on that score as not.
There's one thing I would suggest"--and he was now thinking of the
street-railway properties which Cowperwood had so judiciously
collected--"and that is that the city treasurer be cautioned against
advancing any more money in a situation of this kind. He might
readily be compromised into advancing much more. I suppose a word
from you, Henry, would prevent that."

"Yes; I can do that," said Mollenhauer, solemnly.

"My judgement would be," said Butler, in a rather obscure manner,
thinking of Cowperwood's mistake in appealing to these noble
protectors of the public, "that it's best to let sleepin' dogs
run be thimselves."

Thus ended Frank Cowperwood's dreams of what Butler and his
political associates might do for him in his hour of distress.

The energies of Cowperwood after leaving Butler were devoted to
the task of seeing others who might be of some assistance to him.
He had left word with Mrs. Stener that if any message came from
her husband he was to be notified at once. He hunted up Walter

Book of the day: