Part 5 out of 11
Leigh, of Drexel & Co., Avery Stone of Jay Cooke & Co., and
President Davison of the Girard National Bank. He wanted to see
what they thought of the situation and to negotiate a loan with
President Davison covering all his real and personal property.
"I can't tell you, Frank," Walter Leigh insisted, "I don't know
how things will be running by to-morrow noon. I'm glad to know
how you stand. I'm glad you're doing what you're doing--getting
all your affairs in shape. It will help a lot. I'll favor you
all I possibly can. But if the chief decides on a certain group
of loans to be called, they'll have to be called, that's all.
I'll do my best to make things look better. If the whole of
Chicago is wiped out, the insurance companies--some of them,
anyhow--are sure to go, and then look out. I suppose you'll call
in all your loans?"
"Not any more than I have to."
"Well, that's just the way it is here--or will be."
The two men shook hands. They liked each other. Leigh was of
the city's fashionable coterie, a society man to the manner born,
but with a wealth of common sense and a great deal of worldly
"I'll tell you, Frank," he observed at parting, "I've always
thought you were carrying too much street-railway. It's great
stuff if you can get away with it, but it's just in a pinch like
this that you're apt to get hurt. You've been making money pretty
fast out of that and city loans."
He looked directly into his long-time friend's eyes, and they smiled.
It was the same with Avery Stone, President Davison, and others.
They had all already heard rumors of disaster when he arrived.
They were not sure what the morrow would bring forth. It looked
Cowperwood decided to stop and see Butler again for he felt certain
his interview with Mollenhauer and Simpson was now over. Butler,
who had been meditating what he should say to Cowperwood, was not
unfriendly in his manner. "So you're back," he said, when Cowperwood
"Yes, Mr. Butler."
"Well, I'm not sure that I've been able to do anything for you.
I'm afraid not," Butler said, cautiously. "It's a hard job you
set me. Mollenhauer seems to think that he'll support the market,
on his own account. I think he will. Simpson has interests which
he has to protect. I'm going to buy for myself, of course."
He paused to reflect.
"I couldn't get them to call a conference with any of the big
moneyed men as yet," he added, warily. "They'd rather wait and
see what happens in the mornin'. Still, I wouldn't be down-hearted
if I were you. If things turn out very bad they may change their
minds. I had to tell them about Stener. It's pretty bad, but
they're hopin' you'll come through and straighten that out. I
hope so. About my own loan--well, I'll see how things are in the
mornin'. If I raisonably can I'll lave it with you. You'd better
see me again about it. I wouldn't try to get any more money out
of Stener if I were you. It's pretty bad as it is."
Cowperwood saw at once that he was to get no aid from the politicians.
The one thing that disturbed him was this reference to Stener.
Had they already communicated with him--warned him? If so, his
own coming to Butler had been a bad move; and yet from the point
of view of his possible failure on the morrow it had been advisable.
At least now the politicians knew where he stood. If he got in a
very tight corner he would come to Butler again--the politicians
could assist him or not, as they chose. If they did not help him
and he failed, and the election were lost, it was their own fault.
Anyhow, if he could see Stener first the latter would not be such
a fool as to stand in his own light in a crisis like this.
"Things look rather dark to-night, Mr. Butler," he said, smartly,
"but I still think I'll come through. I hope so, anyhow. I'm sorry
to have put you to so much trouble. I wish, of course, that you
gentlemen could see your way clear to assist me, but if you can't,
you can't. I have a number of things that I can do. I hope that
you will leave your loan as long as you can."
He went briskly out, and Butler meditated. "A clever young chap
that," he said. "It's too bad. But he may come out all right at
Cowperwood hurried to his own home only to find his father awake
and brooding. To him he talked with that strong vein of sympathy
and understanding which is usually characteristic of those drawn
by ties of flesh and blood. He liked his father. He sympathized
with his painstaking effort to get up in the world. He could not
forget that as a boy he had had the loving sympathy and interest
of his father. The loan which he had from the Third National,
on somewhat weak Union Street Railway shares he could probably
replace if stocks did not drop too tremendously. He must replace
this at all costs. But his father's investments in street-railways,
which had risen with his own ventures, and which now involved an
additional two hundred thousand--how could he protect those? The
shares were hypothecated and the money was used for other things.
Additional collateral would have to be furnished the several banks
carrying them. It was nothing except loans, loans, loans, and the
need of protecting them. If he could only get an additional deposit
of two or three hundred thousand dollars from Stener. But that, in
the face of possible financial difficulties, was rank criminality.
All depended on the morrow.
Monday, the ninth, dawned gray and cheerless. He was up with the
first ray of light, shaved and dressed, and went over, under the
gray-green pergola, to his father's house. He was up, also, and
stirring about, for he had not been able to sleep. His gray
eyebrows and gray hair looked rather shaggy and disheveled, and
his side-whiskers anything but decorative. The old gentleman's
eyes were tired, and his face was gray. Cowperwood could see that
he was worrying. He looked up from a small, ornate escritoire of
buhl, which Ellsworth had found somewhere, and where he was quietly
tabulating a list of his resources and liabilities. Cowperwood
winced. He hated to see his father worried, but he could not help
it. He had hoped sincerely, when they built their houses together,
that the days of worry for his father had gone forever.
"Counting up?" he asked, familiarly, with a smile. He wanted to
hearten the old gentleman as much as possible.
"I was just running over my affairs again to see where I stood
in case--" He looked quizzically at his son, and Frank smiled
"I wouldn't worry, father. I told you how I fixed it so that
Butler and that crowd will support the market. I have Rivers
and Targool and Harry Eltinge on 'change helping me sell out,
and they are the best men there. They'll handle the situation
carefully. I couldn't trust Ed or Joe in this case, for the
moment they began to sell everybody would know what was going on
with me. This way my men will seem like bears hammering the
market, but not hammering too hard. I ought to be able to unload
enough at ten points off to raise five hundred thousand. The
market may not go lower than that. You can't tell. It isn't
going to sink indefinitely. If I just knew what the big insurance
companies were going to do! The morning paper hasn't come yet,
He was going to pull a bell, but remembered that the servants
would scarcely be up as yet. He went to the front door himself.
There were the Press and the Public Ledger lying damp from the
presses. He picked them up and glanced at the front pages. His
countenance fell. On one, the Press, was spread a great black map
of Chicago, a most funereal-looking thing, the black portion
indicating the burned section. He had never seen a map of Chicago
before in just this clear, definite way. That white portion was
Lake Michigan, and there was the Chicago River dividing the city
into three almost equal portions--the north side, the west side,
the south side. He saw at once that the city was curiously arranged,
somewhat like Philadelphia, and that the business section was
probably an area of two or three miles square, set at the juncture
of the three sides, and lying south of the main stem of the river,
where it flowed into the lake after the southwest and northwest
branches had united to form it. This was a significant central
area; but, according to this map, it was all burned out. "Chicago
in Ashes" ran a great side-heading set in heavily leaded black
type. It went on to detail the sufferings of the homeless, the
number of the dead, the number of those whose fortunes had been
destroyed. Then it descanted upon the probable effect in the East.
Insurance companies and manufacturers might not be able to meet
the great strain of all this.
"Damn!" said Cowperwood gloomily. "I wish I were out of this
stock-jobbing business. I wish I had never gotten into it." He
returned to his drawing-room and scanned both accounts most carefully.
Then, though it was still early, he and his father drove to his
office. There were already messages awaiting him, a dozen or more,
to cancel or sell. While he was standing there a messenger-boy
brought him three more. One was from Stener and said that he would
be back by twelve o'clock, the very earliest he could make it.
Cowperwood was relieved and yet distressed. He would need large
sums of money to meet various loans before three. Every hour was
precious. He must arrange to meet Stener at the station and talk
to him before any one else should see him. Clearly this was going
to be a hard, dreary, strenuous day.
Third Street, by the time he reached there, was stirring with other
bankers and brokers called forth by the exigencies of the occasion.
There was a suspicious hurrying of feet--that intensity which makes
all the difference in the world between a hundred people placid and
a hundred people disturbed. At the exchange, the atmosphere was
feverish. At the sound of the gong, the staccato uproar began.
Its metallic vibrations were still in the air when the two hundred
men who composed this local organization at its utmost stress of
calculation, threw themselves upon each other in a gibbering struggle
to dispose of or seize bargains of the hour. The interests were
so varied that it was impossible to say at which pole it was best
to sell or buy.
Targool and Rivers had been delegated to stay at the center of
things, Joseph and Edward to hover around on the outside and to
pick up such opportunities of selling as might offer a reasonable
return on the stock. The "bears" were determined to jam things
down, and it all depended on how well the agents of Mollenhauer,
Simpson, Butler, and others supported things in the street-railway
world whether those stocks retained any strength or not. The last
thing Butler had said the night before was that they would do the
best they could. They would buy up to a certain point. Whether
they would support the market indefinitely he would not say. He
could not vouch for Mollenhauer and Simpson. Nor did he know the
condition of their affairs.
While the excitement was at its highest Cowperwood came in. As
he stood in the door looking to catch the eye of Rivers, the 'change
gong sounded, and trading stopped. All the brokers and traders
faced about to the little balcony, where the secretary of the
'change made his announcements; and there he stood, the door open
behind him, a small, dark, clerkly man of thirty-eight or forty,
whose spare figure and pale face bespoke the methodic mind that
knows no venturous thought. In his right hand he held a slip of
"The American Fire Insurance Company of Boston announces its
inability to meet its obligations." The gong sounded again.
Immediately the storm broke anew, more voluble than before,
because, if after one hour of investigation on this Monday morning
one insurance company had gone down, what would four or five hours
or a day or two bring forth? It meant that men who had been burned
out in Chicago would not be able to resume business. It meant that
all loans connected with this concern had been, or would be called
now. And the cries of frightened "bulls" offering thousand and
five thousand lot holdings in Northern Pacific, Illinois Central,
Reading, Lake Shore, Wabash; in all the local streetcar lines; and
in Cowperwood's city loans at constantly falling prices was
sufficient to take the heart out of all concerned. He hurried to
Arthur Rivers's side in the lull; but there was little he could
"It looks as though the Mollenhauer and Simpson crowds aren't
doing much for the market," he observed, gravely.
"They've had advices from New York," explained Rivers solemnly.
"It can't be supported very well. There are three insurance
companies over there on the verge of quitting, I understand. I
expect to see them posted any minute."
They stepped apart from the pandemonium, to discuss ways and means.
Under his agreement with Stener, Cowperwood could buy up to one
hundred thousand dollars of city loan, above the customary wash
sales, or market manipulation, by which they were making money.
This was in case the market had to be genuinely supported. He
decided to buy sixty thousand dollars worth now, and use this to
sustain his loans elsewhere. Stener would pay him for this
instantly, giving him more ready cash. It might help him in one
way and another; and, anyhow, it might tend to strengthen the
other securities long enough at least to allow him to realize a
little something now at better than ruinous rates. If only he had
the means "to go short" on this market! If only doing so did not
really mean ruin to his present position. It was characteristic
of the man that even in this crisis he should be seeing how the
very thing that of necessity, because of his present obligations,
might ruin him, might also, under slightly different conditions,
yield him a great harvest. He could not take advantage of it,
however. He could not be on both sides of this market. It was
either "bear" or "bull," and of necessity he was "bull." It was
strange but true. His subtlety could not avail him here. He
was about to turn and hurry to see a certain banker who might
loan him something on his house, when the gong struck again. Once
more trading ceased. Arthur Rivers, from his position at the
State securities post, where city loan was sold, and where he had
started to buy for Cowperwood, looked significantly at him.
Newton Targool hurried to Cowperwood's side.
"You're up against it," he exclaimed. "I wouldn't try to sell
against this market. It's no use. They're cutting the ground
from under you. The bottom's out. Things are bound to turn in
a few days. Can't you hold out? Here's more trouble."
He raised his eyes to the announcer's balcony.
"The Eastern and Western Fire Insurance Company of New York
announces that it cannot meet its obligations."
A low sound something like "Haw!" broke forth. The announcer's
gavel struck for order.
"The Erie Fire Insurance Company of Rochester announces that it
cannot meet its obligations."
Again that "H-a-a-a-w!"
Once more the gavel.
"The American Trust Company of New York has suspended payment."
The storm was on.
What do you think?" asked Targool. "You can't brave this storm.
Can't you quit selling and hold out for a few days? Why not sell
"They ought to close this thing up," Cowperwood said, shortly.
"It would be a splendid way out. Then nothing could be done."
He hurried to consult with those who, finding themselves in a
similar predicament with himself, might use their influence to
bring it about. It was a sharp trick to play on those who, now
finding the market favorable to their designs in its falling
condition, were harvesting a fortune. But what was that to him?
Business was business. There was no use selling at ruinous figures,
and he gave his lieutenants orders to stop. Unless the bankers
favored him heavily, or the stock exchange was closed, or Stener
could be induced to deposit an additional three hundred thousand
with him at once, he was ruined. He hurried down the street to
various bankers and brokers suggesting that they do this--close
the exchange. At a few minutes before twelve o'clock he drove
rapidly to the station to meet Stener; but to his great disappointment
the latter did not arrive. It looked as though he had missed his
train. Cowperwood sensed something, some trick; and decided to
go to the city hall and also to Stener's house. Perhaps he had
returned and was trying to avoid him.
Not finding him at his office, he drove direct to his house. Here
he was not surprised to meet Stener just coming out, looking very
pale and distraught. At the sight of Cowperwood he actually blanched.
"Why, hello, Frank," he exclaimed, sheepishly, "where do you come
"What's up, George?" asked Cowperwood. "I thought you were coming
into Broad Street."
"So I was," returned Stener, foolishly, "but I thought I would get
off at West Philadelphia and change my clothes. I've a lot of
things to 'tend to yet this afternoon. I was coming in to see
you." After Cowperwood's urgent telegram this was silly, but the
young banker let it pass.
"Jump in, George," he said. "I have something very important to
talk to you about. I told you in my telegram about the likelihood
of a panic. It's on. There isn't a moment to lose. Stocks are
'way down, and most of my loans are being called. I want to know
if you won't let me have three hundred and fifty thousand dollars
for a few days at four or five per cent. I'll pay it all back to
you. I need it very badly. If I don't get it I'm likely to fail.
You know what that means, George. It will tie up every dollar I
have. Those street-car holdings of yours will be tied up with me.
I won't be able to let you realize on them, and that will put those
loans of mine from the treasury in bad shape. You won't be able
to put the money back, and you know what that means. We're in
this thing together. I want to see you through safely, but I can't
do it without your help. I had to go to Butler last night to see
about a loan of his, and I'm doing my best to get money from other
sources. But I can't see my way through on this, I'm afraid,
unless you're willing to help me." Cowperwood paused. He wanted
to put the whole case clearly and succinctly to him before he had
a chance to refuse--to make him realize it as his own predicament.
As a matter of fact, what Cowperwood had keenly suspected was
literally true. Stener had been reached. The moment Butler and
Simpson had left him the night before, Mollenhauer had sent for
his very able secretary, Abner Sengstack, and despatched him to
learn the truth about Stener's whereabouts. Sengstack had then
sent a long wire to Strobik, who was with Stener, urging him to
caution the latter against Cowperwood. The state of the treasury
was known. Stener and Strobik were to be met by Sengstack at
Wilmington (this to forefend against the possibility of Cowperwood's
reaching Stener first)--and the whole state of affairs made
perfectly plain. No more money was to be used under penalty of
prosecution. If Stener wanted to see any one he must see
Mollenhauer. Sengstack, having received a telegram from Strobik
informing him of their proposed arrival at noon the next day, had
proceeded to Wilmington to meet them. The result was that Stener
did not come direct into the business heart of the city, but instead
got off at West Philadelphia, proposing to go first to his house
to change his clothes and then to see Mollenhauer before meeting
Cowperwood. He was very badly frightened and wanted time to think.
"I can't do it, Frank," he pleaded, piteously. "I'm in pretty
bad in this matter. Mollenhauer's secretary met the train out
at Wilmington just now to warn me against this situation, and
Strobik is against it. They know how much money I've got outstanding.
You or somebody has told them. I can't go against Mollenhauer.
I owe everything I've got to him, in a way. He got me this place."
"Listen, George. Whatever you do at this time, don't let this
political loyalty stuff cloud your judgment. You're in a very
serious position and so am I. If you don't act for yourself with
me now no one is going to act for you--now or later--no one. And
later will be too late. I proved that last night when I went to
Butler to get help for the two of us. They all know about this
business of our street-railway holdings and they want to shake us
out and that's the big and little of it--nothing more and nothing
less. It's a case of dog eat dog in this game and this particular
situation and it's up to us to save ourselves against everybody or
go down together, and that's just what I'm here to tell you.
Mollenhauer doesn't care any more for you to-day than he does for
that lamp-post. It isn't that money you've paid out to me that's
worrying him, but who's getting something for it and what. Well
they know that you and I are getting street-railways, don't you
see, and they don't want us to have them. Once they get those out
of our hands they won't waste another day on you or me. Can't you
see that? Once we've lost all we've invested, you're down and so
am I--and no one is going to turn a hand for you or me politically
or in any other way. I want you to understand that, George,
because it's true. And before you say you won't or you will do
anything because Mollenhauer says so, you want to think over what
I have to tell you."
He was in front of Stener now, looking him directly in the eye and
by the kinetic force of his mental way attempting to make Stener
take the one step that might save him--Cowperwood--however little
in the long run it might do for Stener. And, more interesting
still, he did not care. Stener, as he saw him now, was a pawn
in whosoever's hands he happened to be at the time, and despite
Mr. Mollenhauer and Mr. Simpson and Mr. Butler he proposed to
attempt to keep him in his own hands if possible. And so he
stood there looking at him as might a snake at a bird determined
to galvanize him into selfish self-interest if possible. But
Stener was so frightened that at the moment it looked as though
there was little to be done with him. His face was a grayish-blue:
his eyelids and eye rings puffy and his hands and lips moist. God,
what a hole he was in now!
"Say that's all right, Frank," he exclaimed desperately. "I know
what you say is true. But look at me and my position, if I do
give you this money. What can't they do to me, and won't. If
you only look at it from my point of view. If only you hadn't
gone to Butler before you saw me."
"As though I could see you, George, when you were off duck shooting
and when I was wiring everywhere I knew to try to get in touch with
you. How could I? The situation had to be met. Besides, I thought
Butler was more friendly to me than he proved. But there's no use
being angry with me now, George, for going to Butler as I did, and
anyhow you can't afford to be now. We're in this thing together.
It's a case of sink or swim for just us two--not any one else--just
us--don't you get that? Butler couldn't or wouldn't do what I
wanted him to do--get Mollenhauer and Simpson to support the market.
Instead of that they are hammering it. They have a game of their
own. It's to shake us out--can't you see that? Take everything that
you and I have gathered. It is up to you and me, George, to save
ourselves, and that's what I'm here for now. If you don't let me
have three hundred and fifty thousand dollars--three hundred
thousand, anyhow--you and I are ruined. It will be worse for you,
George, than for me, for I'm not involved in this thing in any
way--not legally, anyhow. But that's not what I'm thinking of.
What I want to do is to save us both--put us on easy street for
the rest of our lives, whatever they say or do, and it's in your
power, with my help, to do that for both of us. Can't you see
that? I want to save my business so then I can help you to save
your name and money." He paused, hoping this had convinced Stener,
but the latter was still shaking.
"But what can I do, Frank?" he pleaded, weakly. "I can't go against
Mollenhauer. They can prosecute me if I do that. They can do it,
anyhow. I can't do that. I'm not strong enough. If they didn't
know, if you hadn't told them, it might be different, but this way--"
He shook his head sadly, his gray eyes filled with a pale distress.
"George," replied Cowperwood, who realized now that only the sternest
arguments would have any effect here, "don't talk about what I did.
What I did I had to do. You're in danger of losing your head and
your nerve and making a serious mistake here, and I don't want to
see you make it. I have five hundred thousand of the city's money
invested for you--partly for me, and partly for you, but more for
you than for me"--which, by the way, was not true--"and here you
are hesitating in an hour like this as to whether you will protect
your interest or not. I can't understand it. This is a crisis,
George. Stocks are tumbling on every side--everybody's stocks.
You're not alone in this--neither am I. This is a panic, brought
on by a fire, and you can't expect to come out of a panic alive
unless you do something to protect yourself. You say you owe your
place to Mollenhauer and that you're afraid of what he'll do. If
you look at your own situation and mine, you'll see that it doesn't
make much difference what he does, so long as I don't fail. If
I fail, where are you? Who's going to save you from prosecution?
Will Mollenhauer or any one else come forward and put five hundred
thousand dollars in the treasury for you? He will not. If
Mollenhauer and the others have your interests at heart, why aren't
they helping me on 'change today? I'll tell you why. They want
your street-railway holdings and mine, and they don't care whether
you go to jail afterward or not. Now if you're wise you will
listen to me. I've been loyal to you, haven't I? You've made money
through me--lots of it. If you're wise, George, you'll go to your
office and write me your check for three hundred thousand dollars,
anyhow, before you do a single other thing. Don't see anybody and
don't do anything till you've done that. You can't be hung any
more for a sheep than you can for a lamb. No one can prevent you
from giving me that check. You're the city treasurer. Once I
have that I can see my way out of this, and I'll pay it all back
to you next week or the week after--this panic is sure to end in
that time. With that put back in the treasury we can see them about
the five hundred thousand a little later. In three months, or
less, I can fix it so that you can put that back. As a matter of
fact, I can do it in fifteen days once I am on my feet again. Time
is all I want. You won't have lost your holdings and nobody will
cause you any trouble if you put the money back. They don't care
to risk a scandal any more than you do. Now what'll you do, George?
Mollenhauer can't stop you from doing this any more than I can make
you. Your life is in your own hands. What will you do?"
Stener stood there ridiculously meditating when, as a matter of
fact, his very financial blood was oozing away. Yet he was afraid
to act. He was afraid of Mollenhauer, afraid of Cowperwood, afraid
of life and of himself. The thought of panic, loss, was not so
much a definite thing connected with his own property, his money,
as it was with his social and political standing in the community.
Few people have the sense of financial individuality strongly
developed. They do not know what it means to be a controller of
wealth, to have that which releases the sources of social action--
its medium of exchange. They want money, but not for money's sake.
They want it for what it will buy in the way of simple comforts,
whereas the financier wants it for what it will control--for what
it will represent in the way of dignity, force, power. Cowperwood
wanted money in that way; Stener not. That was why he had been so
ready to let Cowperwood act for him; and now, when he should have
seen more clearly than ever the significance of what Cowperwood
was proposing, he was frightened and his reason obscured by such
things as Mollenhauer's probable opposition and rage, Cowperwood's
possible failure, his own inability to face a real crisis.
Cowperwood's innate financial ability did not reassure Stener in
this hour. The banker was too young, too new. Mollenhauer was
older, richer. So was Simpson; so was Butler. These men, with
their wealth, represented the big forces, the big standards in
his world. And besides, did not Cowperwood himself confess that
he was in great danger--that he was in a corner. That was the
worst possible confession to make to Stener--although under the
circumstances it was the only one that could be made--for he had
no courage to face danger.
So it was that now, Stener stood by Cowperwood meditating--pale,
flaccid; unable to see the main line of his interests quickly,
unable to follow it definitely, surely, vigorously--while they
drove to his office. Cowperwood entered it with him for the sake
of continuing his plea.
"Well, George," he said earnestly, "I wish you'd tell me. Time's
short. We haven't a moment to lose. Give me the money, won't
you, and I'll get out of this quick. We haven't a moment, I tell
you. Don't let those people frighten you off. They're playing
their own little game; you play yours."
"I can't, Frank," said Stener, finally, very weakly, his sense
of his own financial future, overcome for the time being by the
thought of Mollenhauer's hard, controlling face. "I'll have to
think. I can't do it right now. Strobik just left me before I
saw you, and--"
"Good God, George," exclaimed Cowperwood, scornfully, "don't talk
about Strobik! What's he got to do with it? Think of yourself.
Think of where you will be. It's your future--not Strobik's--that
you have to think of."
"I know, Frank," persisted Stener, weakly; "but, really, I don't
see how I can. Honestly I don't. You say yourself you're not
sure whether you can come out of things all right, and three
hundred thousand more is three hundred thousand more. I can't,
Frank. I really can't. It wouldn't be right. Besides, I want
to talk to Mollenhauer first, anyhow."
"Good God, how you talk!" exploded Cowperwood, angrily, looking
at him with ill-concealed contempt. "Go ahead! See Mollenhauer!
Let him tell you how to cut your own throat for his benefit. It
won't be right to loan me three hundred thousand dollars more,
but it will be right to let the five hundred thousand dollars you
have loaned stand unprotected and lose it. That's right, isn't
it? That's just what you propose to do--lose it, and everything
else besides. I want to tell you what it is, George--you've lost
your mind. You've let a single message from Mollenhauer frighten
you to death, and because of that you're going to risk your
fortune, your reputation, your standing--everything. Do you really
realize what this means if I fail? You will be a convict, I tell
you, George. You will go to prison. This fellow Mollenhauer, who
is so quick to tell you what not to do now, will be the last man
to turn a hand for you once you're down. Why, look at me--I've
helped you, haven't I? Haven't I handled your affairs satisfactorily
for you up to now? What in Heaven's name has got into you? What
have you to be afraid of?"
Stener was just about to make another weak rejoinder when the
door from the outer office opened, and Albert Stires, Stener's
chief clerk, entered. Stener was too flustered to really pay
any attention to Stires for the moment; but Cowperwood took
matters in his own hands.
"What is it, Albert?" he asked, familiarly.
"Mr. Sengstack from Mr. Mollenhauer to see Mr. Stener."
At the sound of this dreadful name Stener wilted like a leaf.
Cowperwood saw it. He realized that his last hope of getting
the three hundred thousand dollars was now probably gone. Still
he did not propose to give up as yet.
"Well, George," he said, after Albert had gone out with instructions
that Stener would see Sengstack in a moment. "I see how it is.
This man has got you mesmerized. You can't act for yourself now--
you're too frightened. I'll let it rest for the present; I'll
come back. But for Heaven's sake pull yourself together. Think
what it means. I'm telling you exactly what's going to happen if
you don't. You'll be independently rich if you do. You'll be a
convict if you don't."
And deciding he would make one more effort in the street before
seeing Butler again, he walked out briskly, jumped into his light
spring runabout waiting outside--a handsome little yellow-glazed
vehicle, with a yellow leather cushion seat, drawn by a young,
high-stepping bay mare--and sent her scudding from door to door,
throwing down the lines indifferently and bounding up the steps
of banks and into office doors.
But all without avail. All were interested, considerate; but
things were very uncertain. The Girard National Bank refused an
hour's grace, and he had to send a large bundle of his most valuable
securities to cover his stock shrinkage there. Word came from his
father at two that as president of the Third National he would have
to call for his one hundred and fifty thousand dollars due there.
The directors were suspicious of his stocks. He at once wrote a
check against fifty thousand dollars of his deposits in that bank,
took twenty-five thousand of his available office funds, called a
loan of fifty thousand against Tighe & Co., and sold sixty thousand
Green & Coates, a line he had been tentatively dabbling in, for
one-third their value--and, combining the general results, sent
them all to the Third National. His father was immensely relieved
from one point of view, but sadly depressed from another. He
hurried out at the noon-hour to see what his own holdings would
bring. He was compromising himself in a way by doing it, but his
parental heart, as well as is own financial interests, were involved.
By mortgaging his house and securing loans on his furniture,
carriages, lots, and stocks, he managed to raise one hundred thousand
in cash, and deposited it in his own bank to Frank's credit; but it
was a very light anchor to windward in this swirling storm, at that.
Frank had been counting on getting all of his loans extended three
or four days at least. Reviewing his situation at two o'clock of
this Monday afternoon, he said to himself thoughtfully but grimly:
"Well, Stener has to loan me three hundred thousand--that's all
there is to it. And I'll have to see Butler now, or he'll be
calling his loan before three."
He hurried out, and was off to Butler's house, driving like mad.
Things had changed greatly since last Cowperwood had talked with
Butler. Although most friendly at the time the proposition was
made that he should combine with Mollenhauer and Simpson to sustain
the market, alas, now on this Monday morning at nine o'clock, an
additional complication had been added to the already tangled
situation which had changed Butler's attitude completely. As he
was leaving his home to enter his runabout, at nine o'clock in the
morning of this same day in which Cowperwood was seeking Stener's
aid, the postman, coming up, had handed Butler four letters, all
of which he paused for a moment to glance at. One was from a
sub-contractor by the name of O'Higgins, the second was from Father
Michel, his confessor, of St. Timothy's, thanking him for a
contribution to the parish poor fund; a third was from Drexel & Co.
relating to a deposit, and the fourth was an anonymous communication,
on cheap stationery from some one who was apparently not very
literate--a woman most likely--written in a scrawling hand, which
DEAR SIR--This is to warn you that your daughter
Aileen is running around with a man that she shouldn't,
Frank A. Cowperwood, the banker. If you don't believe
it, watch the house at 931 North Tenth Street. Then you
can see for yourself.
There was neither signature nor mark of any kind to indicate from
whence it might have come. Butler got the impression strongly
that it might have been written by some one living in the vicinity
of the number indicated. His intuitions were keen at times. As
a matter of fact, it was written by a girl, a member of St. Timothy's
Church, who did live in the vicinity of the house indicated, and
who knew Aileen by sight and was jealous of her airs and her position.
She was a thin, anemic, dissatisfied creature who had the type of
brain which can reconcile the gratification of personal spite with
a comforting sense of having fulfilled a moral duty. Her home was
some five doors north of the unregistered Cowperwood domicile on
the opposite side of the street, and by degrees, in the course of
time, she made out, or imagined that she had, the significance of
this institution, piecing fact to fancy and fusing all with that
keen intuition which is so closely related to fact. The result
was eventually this letter which now spread clear and grim before
The Irish are a philosophic as well as a practical race. Their
first and strongest impulse is to make the best of a bad situation--
to put a better face on evil than it normally wears. On first
reading these lines the intelligence they conveyed sent a peculiar
chill over Butler's sturdy frame. His jaw instinctively closed,
and his gray eyes narrowed. Could this be true? If it were not,
would the author of the letter say so practically, "If you don't
believe it, watch the house at 931 North Tenth Street"? Wasn't
that in itself proof positive--the hard, matter-of-fact realism
of it? And this was the man who had come to him the night before
seeking aid--whom he had done so much to assist. There forced
itself into his naturally slow-moving but rather accurate mind a
sense of the distinction and charm of his daughter--a considerably
sharper picture than he had ever had before, and at the same time
a keener understanding of the personality of Frank Algernon
Cowperwood. How was it he had failed to detect the real subtlety
of this man? How was it he had never seen any sign of it, if there
had been anything between Cowperwood and Aileen?
Parents are frequently inclined, because of a time-flattered sense
of security, to take their children for granted. Nothing ever has
happened, so nothing ever will happen. They see their children
every day, and through the eyes of affection; and despite their
natural charm and their own strong parental love, the children
are apt to become not only commonplaces, but ineffably secure
against evil. Mary is naturally a good girl--a little wild, but
what harm can befall her? John is a straight-forward, steady-going
boy--how could he get into trouble? The astonishment of most
parents at the sudden accidental revelation of evil in connection
with any of their children is almost invariably pathetic. "My
John! My Mary! Impossible!" But it is possible. Very possible.
Decidedly likely. Some, through lack of experience or understanding,
or both, grow hard and bitter on the instant. They feel themselves
astonishingly abased in the face of notable tenderness and sacrifice.
Others collapse before the grave manifestation of the insecurity
and uncertainty of life--the mystic chemistry of our being. Still
others, taught roughly by life, or endowed with understanding or
intuition, or both, see in this the latest manifestation of that
incomprehensible chemistry which we call life and personality, and,
knowing that it is quite vain to hope to gainsay it, save by greater
subtlety, put the best face they can upon the matter and call a
truce until they can think. We all know that life is unsolvable--
we who think. The remainder imagine a vain thing, and are full of
sound and fury signifying nothing.
So Edward Butler, being a man of much wit and hard, grim experience,
stood there on his doorstep holding in his big, rough hand his thin
slip of cheap paper which contained such a terrific indictment of
his daughter. There came to him now a picture of her as she was
when she was a very little girl--she was his first baby girl--and
how keenly he had felt about her all these years. She had been a
beautiful child--her red-gold hair had been pillowed on his breast
many a time, and his hard, rough fingers had stroked her soft
cheeks, lo, these thousands of times. Aileen, his lovely, dashing
daughter of twenty-three! He was lost in dark, strange, unhappy
speculations, without any present ability to think or say or do the
right thing. He did not know what the right thing was, he finally
confessed to himself. Aileen! Aileen! His Aileen! If her mother
knew this it would break her heart. She mustn't! She mustn't! And
yet mustn't she?
The heart of a father! The world wanders into many strange by-paths
of affection. The love of a mother for her children is dominant,
leonine, selfish, and unselfish. It is concentric. The love of
a husband for his wife, or of a lover for his sweetheart, is a
sweet bond of agreement and exchange trade in a lovely contest.
The love of a father for his son or daughter, where it is love at
all, is a broad, generous, sad, contemplative giving without thought
of return, a hail and farewell to a troubled traveler whom he would
do much to guard, a balanced judgment of weakness and strength,
with pity for failure and pride in achievement. It is a lovely,
generous, philosophic blossom which rarely asks too much, and
seeks only to give wisely and plentifully. "That my boy may
succeed! That my daughter may be happy!" Who has not heard and
dwelt upon these twin fervors of fatherly wisdom and tenderness?
As Butler drove downtown his huge, slow-moving, in some respects
chaotic mind turned over as rapidly as he could all of the
possibilities in connection with this unexpected, sad, and disturbing
revelation. Why had Cowperwood not been satisfied with his wife?
Why should he enter into his (Butler's) home, of all places, to
establish a clandestine relationship of this character? Was Aileen
in any way to blame? She was not without mental resources of her
own. She must have known what she was doing. She was a good
Catholic, or, at least, had been raised so. All these years she
had been going regularly to confession and communion. True, of
late Butler had noticed that she did not care so much about going
to church, would sometimes make excuses and stay at home on Sundays;
but she had gone, as a rule. And now, now--his thoughts would
come to the end of a blind alley, and then he would start back,
as it were, mentally, to the center of things, and begin all over
He went up the stairs to his own office slowly. He went in and
sat down, and thought and thought. Ten o'clock came, and eleven.
His son bothered him with an occasional matter of interest, but,
finding him moody, finally abandoned him to his own speculations.
It was twelve, and then one, and he was still sitting there thinking,
when the presence of Cowperwood was announced.
Cowperwood, on finding Butler not at home, and not encountering
Aileen, had hurried up to the office of the Edward Butler Contracting
Company, which was also the center of some of Butler's street-railway
interests. The floor space controlled by the company was divided
into the usual official compartments, with sections for the
bookkeepers, the road-managers, the treasurer, and so on. Owen
Butler, and his father had small but attractively furnished offices
in the rear, where they transacted all the important business of the
During this drive, curiously, by reason of one of those strange
psychologic intuitions which so often precede a human difficulty
of one sort or another, he had been thinking of Aileen. He was
thinking of the peculiarity of his relationship with her, and of
the fact that now he was running to her father for assistance. As
he mounted the stairs he had a peculiar sense of the untoward; but
he could not, in his view of life, give it countenance. One glance
at Butler showed him that something had gone amiss. He was not
so friendly; his glance was dark, and there was a certain sternness
to his countenance which had never previously been manifested
there in Cowperwood's memory. He perceived at once that here was
something different from a mere intention to refuse him aid and
call his loan. What was it? Aileen? It must be that. Somebody
had suggested something. They had been seen together. Well, even
so, nothing could be proved. Butler would obtain no sign from him.
But his loan--that was to be called, surely. And as for an
additional loan, he could see now, before a word had been said,
that that thought was useless.
"I came to see you about that loan of yours, Mr. Butler," he
observed, briskly, with an old-time, jaunty air. You could not
have told from his manner or his face that he had observed anything
out of the ordinary.
Butler, who was alone in the room--Owen having gone into an
adjoining room--merely stared at him from under his shaggy brows.
"I'll have to have that money," he said, brusquely, darkly.
An old-time Irish rage suddenly welled up in his bosom as he
contemplated this jaunty, sophisticated undoer of his daughter's
virtue. He fairly glared at him as he thought of him and her.
"I judged from the way things were going this morning that you
might want it," Cowperwood replied, quietly, without sign of tremor.
"The bottom's out, I see."
"The bottom's out, and it'll not be put back soon, I'm thinkin'.
I'll have to have what's belongin' to me to-day. I haven't any
time to spare."
"Very well," replied Cowperwood, who saw clearly how treacherous
the situation was. The old man was in a dour mood. His presence
was an irritation to him, for some reason--a deadly provocation.
Cowperwood felt clearly that it must be Aileen, that he must know
or suspect something.
He must pretend business hurry and end this. "I'm sorry. I thought
I might get an extension; but that's all right. I can get the
money, though. I'll send it right over."
He turned and walked quickly to the door.
Butler got up. He had thought to manage this differently.
He had thought to denounce or even assault this man. He was about
to make some insinuating remark which would compel an answer, some
direct charge; but Cowperwood was out and away as jaunty as ever.
The old man was flustered, enraged, disappointed. He opened the
small office door which led into the adjoining room, and called,
"Send over to Cowperwood's office and get that money."
"You decided to call it, eh?"
Owen was puzzled by the old man's angry mood. He wondered what
it all meant, but thought he and Cowperwood might have had a few
words. He went out to his desk to write a note and call a clerk.
Butler went to the window and stared out. He was angry, bitter,
brutal in his vein.
"The dirty dog!" he suddenly exclaimed to himself, in a low voice.
"I'll take every dollar he's got before I'm through with him.
I'll send him to jail, I will. I'll break him, I will. Wait!"
He clinched his big fists and his teeth.
"I'll fix him. I'll show him. The dog! The damned scoundrel!"
Never in his life before had he been so bitter, so cruel, so
relentless in his mood.
He walked his office floor thinking what he could do. Question
Aileen--that was what he would do. If her face, or her lips, told
him that his suspicion was true, he would deal with Cowperwood
later. This city treasurer business, now. It was not a crime in
so far as Cowperwood was concerned; but it might be made to be.
So now, telling the clerk to say to Owen that he had gone down
the street for a few moments, he boarded a street-car and rode
out to his home, where he found his elder daughter just getting
ready to go out. She wore a purple-velvet street dress edged with
narrow, flat gilt braid, and a striking gold-and-purple turban.
She had on dainty new boots of bronze kid and long gloves of
lavender suede. In her ears was one of her latest affectations,
a pair of long jet earrings. The old Irishman realized on this
occasion, when he saw her, perhaps more clearly than he ever had
in his life, that he had grown a bird of rare plumage.
"Where are you going, daughter?" he asked, with a rather unsuccessful
attempt to conceal his fear, distress, and smoldering anger.
"To the library," she said easily, and yet with a sudden realization
that all was not right with her father. His face was too heavy
and gray. He looked tired and gloomy.
"Come up to my office a minute," he said. "I want to see you
before you go."
Aileen heard this with a strange feeling of curiosity and wonder.
It was not customary for her father to want to see her in his
office just when she was going out; and his manner indicated, in
this instance, that the exceptional procedure portended a strange
revelation of some kind. Aileen, like every other person who
offends against a rigid convention of the time, was conscious of
and sensitive to the possible disastrous results which would follow
exposure. She had often thought about what her family would think
if they knew what she was doing; she had never been able to satisfy
herself in her mind as to what they would do. Her father was a
very vigorous man. But she had never known him to be cruel or
cold in his attitude toward her or any other member of the family,
and especially not toward her. Always he seemed too fond of her
to be completely alienated by anything that might happen; yet she
could not be sure.
Butler led the way, planting his big feet solemnly on the steps
as he went up. Aileen followed with a single glance at herself
in the tall pier-mirror which stood in the hall, realizing at
once how charming she looked and how uncertain she was feeling
about what was to follow. What could her father want? It made
the color leave her cheeks for the moment, as she thought what he
Butler strolled into his stuffy room and sat down in the big leather
chair, disproportioned to everything else in the chamber, but which,
nevertheless, accompanied his desk. Before him, against the light,
was the visitor's chair, in which he liked to have those sit whose
faces he was anxious to study. When Aileen entered he motioned her
to it, which was also ominous to her, and said, "Sit down there."
She took the seat, not knowing what to make of his procedure. On
the instant her promise to Cowperwood to deny everything, whatever
happened, came back to her. If her father was about to attack her
on that score, he would get no satisfaction, she thought. She owed
it to Frank. Her pretty face strengthened and hardened on the
instant. Her small, white teeth set themselves in two even rows;
and her father saw quite plainly that she was consciously bracing
herself for an attack of some kind. He feared by this that she was
guilty, and he was all the more distressed, ashamed, outraged, made
wholly unhappy. He fumbled in the left-hand pocket of his coat and
drew forth from among the various papers the fatal communication
so cheap in its physical texture. His big fingers fumbled almost
tremulously as he fished the letter-sheet out of the small envelope
and unfolded it without saying a word. Aileen watched his face
and his hands, wondering what it could be that he had here. He
handed the paper over, small in his big fist, and said, "Read that."
Aileen took it, and for a second was relieved to be able to lower
her eyes to the paper. Her relief vanished in a second, when she
realized how in a moment she would have to raise them again and
look him in the face.
DEAR SIR--This is to warn you that your daughter
Aileen is running around with a man that she shouldn't,
Frank A. Cowperwood, the banker. If you don't believe
it, watch the house at 931 North Tenth Street. Then you
can see for yourself.
In spite of herself the color fled from her cheeks instantly,
only to come back in a hot, defiant wave.
"Why, what a lie!" she said, lifting her eyes to her father's.
"To think that any one should write such a thing of me! How dare
they! I think it's a shame!"
Old Butler looked at her narrowly, solemnly. He was not deceived
to any extent by her bravado. If she were really innocent, he
knew she would have jumped to her feet in her defiant way. Protest
would have been written all over her. As it was, she only stared
haughtily. He read through her eager defiance to the guilty truth.
"How do ye know, daughter, that I haven't had the house watched?"
he said, quizzically. "How do ye know that ye haven't been seen
goin' in there?"
Only Aileen's solemn promise to her lover could have saved her
from this subtle thrust. As it was, she paled nervously; but she
saw Frank Cowperwood, solemn and distinguished, asking her what
she would say if she were caught.
"It's a lie!" she said, catching her breath. "I wasn't at any
house at that number, and no one saw me going in there. How can
you ask me that, father?"
In spite of his mixed feelings of uncertainty and yet unshakable
belief that his daughter was guilty, he could not help admiring
her courage--she was so defiant, as she sat there, so set in her
determination to lie and thus defend herself. Her beauty helped
her in his mood, raised her in his esteem. After all, what could
you do with a woman of this kind? She was not a ten-year-old girl
any more, as in a way he sometimes continued to fancy her.
"Ye oughtn't to say that if it isn't true, Aileen," he said. "Ye
oughtn't to lie. It's against your faith. Why would anybody write
a letter like that if it wasn't so?"
"But it's not so," insisted Aileen, pretending anger and outraged
feeling, "and I don't think you have any right to sit there and
say that to me. I haven't been there, and I'm not running around
with Mr. Cowperwood. Why, I hardly know the man except in a social
Butler shook his head solemnly.
"It's a great blow to me, daughter. It's a great blow to me," he
said. "I'm willing to take your word if ye say so; but I can't
help thinkin' what a sad thing it would be if ye were lyin' to me.
I haven't had the house watched. I only got this this mornin'.
And what's written here may not be so. I hope it isn't. But
we'll not say any more about that now. If there is anythin' in
it, and ye haven't gone too far yet to save yourself, I want ye
to think of your mother and your sister and your brothers, and be
a good girl. Think of the church ye was raised in, and the name
we've got to stand up for in the world. Why, if ye were doin'
anything wrong, and the people of Philadelphy got a hold of it,
the city, big as it is, wouldn't be big enough to hold us. Your
brothers have got a reputation to make, their work to do here.
You and your sister want to get married sometime. How could ye
expect to look the world in the face and do anythin' at all if ye
are doin' what this letter says ye are, and it was told about ye?"
The old man's voice was thick with a strange, sad, alien emotion.
He did not want to believe that his daughter was guilty, even
though he knew she was. He did not want to face what he considered
in his vigorous, religious way to be his duty, that of reproaching
her sternly. There were some fathers who would have turned her out,
he fancied. There were others who might possibly kill Cowperwood
after a subtle investigation. That course was not for him. If
vengeance he was to have, it must be through politics and finance--
he must drive him out. But as for doing anything desperate in
connection with Aileen, he could not think of it.
"Oh, father," returned Aileen, with considerable histrionic ability
in her assumption of pettishness, "how can you talk like this when
you know I'm not guilty? When I tell you so?"
The old Irishman saw through her make-believe with profound
sadness--the feeling that one of his dearest hopes had been
shattered. He had expected so much of her socially and matrimonially.
Why, any one of a dozen remarkable young men might have married her,
and she would have had lovely children to comfort him in his old age.
"Well, we'll not talk any more about it now, daughter," he said,
wearily. "Ye've been so much to me during all these years that
I can scarcely belave anythin' wrong of ye. I don't want to, God
knows. Ye're a grown woman, though, now; and if ye are doin'
anythin' wrong I don't suppose I could do so much to stop ye. I
might turn ye out, of course, as many a father would; but I wouldn't
like to do anythin' like that. But if ye are doin' anythin' wrong"--
and he put up his hand to stop a proposed protest on the part of
Aileen--"remember, I'm certain to find it out in the long run, and
Philadelphy won't be big enough to hold me and the man that's done
this thing to me. I'll get him," he said, getting up dramatically.
"I'll get him, and when I do--" He turned a livid face to the wall,
and Aileen saw clearly that Cowperwood, in addition to any other
troubles which might beset him, had her father to deal with. Was
this why Frank had looked so sternly at her the night before?
"Why, your mother would die of a broken heart if she thought there
was anybody could say the least word against ye," pursued Butler,
in a shaken voice. "This man has a family--a wife and children,
Ye oughtn't to want to do anythin' to hurt them. They'll have
trouble enough, if I'm not mistaken--facin' what's comin' to them
in the future," and Butler's jaw hardened just a little. "Ye're
a beautiful girl. Ye're young. Ye have money. There's dozens
of young men'd be proud to make ye their wife. Whatever ye may
be thinkin' or doin', don't throw away your life. Don't destroy
your immortal soul. Don't break my heart entirely."
Aileen, not ungenerous--fool of mingled affection and passion--
could now have cried. She pitied her father from her heart; but
her allegiance was to Cowperwood, her loyalty unshaken. She wanted
to say something, to protest much more; but she knew that it was
useless. Her father knew that she was lying.
"Well, there's no use of my saying anything more, father," she
said, getting up. The light of day was fading in the windows.
The downstairs door closed with a light slam, indicating that one
of the boys had come in. Her proposed trip to the library was
now without interest to her. "You won't believe me, anyhow. I
tell you, though, that I'm innocent just the same."
Butler lifted his big, brown hand to command silence. She saw
that this shameful relationship, as far as her father was concerned,
had been made quite clear, and that this trying conference was now
at an end. She turned and walked shamefacedly out. He waited
until he heard her steps fading into faint nothings down the hall
toward her room. Then he arose. Once more he clinched his big
"The scoundrel!" he said. "The scoundrel! I'll drive him out of
Philadelphy, if it takes the last dollar I have in the world."
For the first time in his life Cowperwood felt conscious of having
been in the presence of that interesting social phenomenon--the
outraged sentiment of a parent. While he had no absolute knowledge
as to why Butler had been so enraged, he felt that Aileen was the
contributing cause. He himself was a father. His boy, Frank, Jr.,
was to him not so remarkable. But little Lillian, with her dainty
little slip of a body and bright-aureoled head, had always appealed
to him. She was going to be a charming woman one day, he thought,
and he was going to do much to establish her safely. He used to
tell her that she had "eyes like buttons," "feet like a pussy-cat,"
and hands that were "just five cents' worth," they were so little.
The child admired her father and would often stand by his chair
in the library or the sitting-room, or his desk in his private
office, or by his seat at the table, asking him questions.
This attitude toward his own daughter made him see clearly how
Butler might feel toward Aileen. He wondered how he would feel if
it were his own little Lillian, and still he did not believe he
would make much fuss over the matter, either with himself or with
her, if she were as old as Aileen. Children and their lives were
more or less above the willing of parents, anyhow, and it would
be a difficult thing for any parent to control any child, unless
the child were naturally docile-minded and willing to be controlled.
It also made him smile, in a grim way, to see how fate was raining
difficulties on him. The Chicago fire, Stener's early absence,
Butler, Mollenhauer, and Simpson's indifference to Stener's fate
and his. And now this probable revelation in connection with
Aileen. He could not be sure as yet, but his intuitive instincts
told him that it must be something like this.
Now he was distressed as to what Aileen would do, say if suddenly
she were confronted by her father. If he could only get to her!
But if he was to meet Butler's call for his loan, and the others
which would come yet to-day or on the morrow, there was not a
moment to lose. If he did not pay he must assign at once. Butler's
rage, Aileen, his own danger, were brushed aside for the moment.
His mind concentrated wholly on how to save himself financially.
He hurried to visit George Waterman; David Wiggin, his wife's
brother, who was now fairly well to do; Joseph Zimmerman, the
wealthy dry-goods dealer who had dealt with him in the past; Judge
Kitchen, a private manipulator of considerable wealth; Frederick
Van Nostrand, the State treasurer, who was interested in local
street-railway stocks, and others. Of all those to whom he appealed
one was actually not in a position to do anything for him; another
was afraid; a third was calculating eagerly to drive a hard bargain;
a fourth was too deliberate, anxious to have much time. All
scented the true value of his situation, all wanted time to consider,
and he had no time to consider. Judge Kitchen did agree to lend
him thirty thousand dollars--a paltry sum. Joseph Zimmerman would
only risk twenty-five thousand dollars. He could see where, all
told, he might raise seventy-five thousand dollars by hypothecating
double the amount in shares; but this was ridiculously insufficient.
He had figured again, to a dollar, and he must have at least two
hundred and fifty thousand dollars above all his present holdings,
or he must close his doors. To-morrow at two o'clock he would
know. If he didn't he would be written down as "failed" on a score
of ledgers in Philadelphia.
What a pretty pass for one to come to whose hopes had so recently
run so high! There was a loan of one hundred thousand dollars from
the Girard National Bank which he was particularly anxious to clear
off. This bank was the most important in the city, and if he
retained its good will by meeting this loan promptly he might hope
for favors in the future whatever happened. Yet, at the moment,
he did not see how he could do it. He decided, however, after some
reflection, that he would deliver the stocks which Judge Kitchen,
Zimmerman, and others had agreed to take and get their checks or
cash yet this night. Then he would persuade Stener to let him
have a check for the sixty thousand dollars' worth of city loan
he had purchased this morning on 'change. Out of it he could take
twenty-five thousand dollars to make up the balance due the bank,
and still have thirty-five thousand for himself.
The one unfortunate thing about such an arrangement was that by
doing it he was building up a rather complicated situation in
regard to these same certificates. Since their purchase in the
morning, he had not deposited them in the sinking-fund, where
they belonged (they had been delivered to his office by half past
one in the afternoon), but, on the contrary, had immediately
hypothecated them to cover another loan. It was a risky thing to
have done, considering that he was in danger of failing and that
he was not absolutely sure of being able to take them up in time.
But, he reasoned, he had a working agreement with the city treasurer
(illegal of course), which would make such a transaction rather
plausible, and almost all right, even if he failed, and that was
that none of his accounts were supposed necessarily to be put
straight until the end of the month. If he failed, and the
certificates were not in the sinking-fund, he could say, as was
the truth, that he was in the habit of taking his time, and had
forgotten. This collecting of a check, therefore, for these as
yet undeposited certificates would be technically, if not legally
and morally, plausible. The city would be out only an additional
sixty thousand dollars--making five hundred and sixty thousand
dollars all told, which in view of its probable loss of five hundred
thousand did not make so much difference. But his caution clashed
with his need on this occasion, and he decided that he would not
call for the check unless Stener finally refused to aid him with
three hundred thousand more, in which case he would claim it as
his right. In all likelihood Stener would not think to ask whether
the certificates were in the sinking-fund or not. If he did, he
would have to lie--that was all.
He drove rapidly back to his office, and, finding Butler's note,
as he expected, wrote a check on his father's bank for the one
hundred thousand dollars which had been placed to his credit by
his loving parent, and sent it around to Butler's office. There
was another note, from Albert Stires, Stener's secretary, advising
him not to buy or sell any more city loan--that until further notice
such transactions would not be honored. Cowperwood immediately
sensed the source of this warning. Stener had been in conference
with Butler or Mollenhauer, and had been warned and frightened.
Nevertheless, he got in his buggy again and drove directly to the
city treasurer's office.
Since Cowperwood's visit Stener had talked still more with Sengstack,
Strobik, and others, all sent to see that a proper fear of things
financial had been put in his heart. The result was decidedly one
which spelled opposition to Cowperwood.
Strobik was considerably disturbed himself. He and Wycroft and
Harmon had also been using money out of the treasury--much smaller
sums, of course, for they had not Cowperwood's financial imagination--
and were disturbed as to how they would return what they owed before
the storm broke. If Cowperwood failed, and Stener was short in
his accounts, the whole budget might be investigated, and then
their loans would be brought to light. The thing to do was to
return what they owed, and then, at least, no charge of malfeasance
would lie against them.
"Go to Mollenhauer," Strobik had advised Stener, shortly after
Cowperwood had left the latter's office, "and tell him the whole
story. He put you here. He was strong for your nomination. Tell
him just where you stand and ask him what to do. He'll probably
be able to tell you. Offer him your holdings to help you out.
You have to. You can't help yourself. Don't loan Cowperwood
another damned dollar, whatever you do. He's got you in so deep
now you can hardly hope to get out. Ask Mollenhauer if he won't
help you to get Cowperwood to put that money back. He may be able
to influence him."
There was more in this conversation to the same effect, and then
Stener hurried as fast as his legs could carry him to Mollenhauer's
office. He was so frightened that he could scarcely breathe, and
he was quite ready to throw himself on his knees before the big
German-American financier and leader. Oh, if Mr. Mollenhauer would
only help him! If he could just get out of this without going to
"Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord!" he repeated, over and over to
himself, as he walked. "What shall I do?"
The attitude of Henry A. Mollenhauer, grim, political boss that
he was--trained in a hard school--was precisely the attitude of
every such man in all such trying circumstances.
He was wondering, in view of what Butler had told him, just how
much he could advantage himself in this situation. If he could,
he wanted to get control of whatever street-railway stock Stener
now had, without in any way compromising himself. Stener's shares
could easily be transferred on 'change through Mollenhauer's brokers
to a dummy, who would eventually transfer them to himself
(Mollenhauer). Stener must be squeezed thoroughly, though, this
afternoon, and as for his five hundred thousand dollars' indebtedness
to the treasury, Mollenhauer did not see what could be done about
that. If Cowperwood could not pay it, the city would have to lose
it; but the scandal must be hushed up until after election. Stener,
unless the various party leaders had more generosity than Mollenhauer
imagined, would have to suffer exposure, arrest, trial, confiscation
of his property, and possibly sentence to the penitentiary, though
this might easily be commuted by the governor, once public excitement
died down. He did not trouble to think whether Cowperwood was
criminally involved or not. A hundred to one he was not. Trust
a shrewd man like that to take care of himself. But if there was
any way to shoulder the blame on to Cowperwood, and so clear the
treasurer and the skirts of the party, he would not object to that.
He wanted to hear the full story of Stener's relations with the
broker first. Meanwhile, the thing to do was to seize what Stener
had to yield.
The troubled city treasurer, on being shown in Mr. Mollenhauer's
presence, at once sank feebly in a chair and collapsed. He was
entirely done for mentally. His nerve was gone, his courage
exhausted like a breath.
"Well, Mr. Stener?" queried Mr. Mollenhauer, impressively,
pretending not to know what brought him.
"I came about this matter of my loans to Mr. Cowperwood."
"Well, what about them?"
"Well, he owes me, or the city treasury rather, five hundred
thousand dollars, and I understand that he is going to fail and
that he can't pay it back."
"Who told you that?"
"Mr. Sengstack, and since then Mr. Cowperwood has been to see me.
He tells me he must have more money or he will fail and he wants
to borrow three hundred thousand dollars more. He says he must
"So!" said Mr. Mollenhauer, impressively, and with an air of
astonishment which he did not feel. "You would not think of doing
that, of course. You're too badly involved as it is. If he wants
to know why, refer him to me. Don't advance him another dollar.
If you do, and this case comes to trial, no court would have any
mercy on you. It's going to be difficult enough to do anything
for you as it is. However, if you don't advance him any more--we
will see. It may be possible, I can't say, but at any rate, no
more money must leave the treasury to bolster up this bad business.
It's much too difficult as it now is." He stared at Stener warningly.
And he, shaken and sick, yet because of the faint suggestion of
mercy involved somewhere in Mollenhauer's remarks, now slipped
from his chair to his knees and folded his hands in the uplifted
attitude of a devotee before a sacred image.
"Oh, Mr. Mollenhauer," he choked, beginning to cry, "I didn't
mean to do anything wrong. Strobik and Wycroft told me it was
all right. You sent me to Cowperwood in the first place. I only
did what I thought the others had been doing. Mr. Bode did it,
just like I have been doing. He dealt with Tighe and Company.
I have a wife and four children, Mr. Mollenhauer. My youngest boy
is only seven years old. Think of them, Mr. Mollenhauer! Think of
what my arrest will mean to them! I don't want to go to jail. I
didn't think I was doing anything very wrong--honestly I didn't.
I'll give up all I've got. You can have all my stocks and houses
and lots--anything--if you'll only get me out of this. You won't
let 'em send me to jail, will you?"
His fat, white lips were trembling--wabbling nervously--and big
hot tears were coursing down his previously pale but now flushed
cheeks. He presented one of those almost unbelievable pictures
which are yet so intensely human and so true. If only the great
financial and political giants would for once accurately reveal
the details of their lives!
Mollenhauer looked at him calmly, meditatively. How often had he
seen weaklings no more dishonest than himself, but without his
courage and subtlety, pleading to him in this fashion, not on their
knees exactly, but intellectually so! Life to him, as to every
other man of large practical knowledge and insight, was an
inexplicable tangle. What were you going to do about the so-called
morals and precepts of the world? This man Stener fancied that he
was dishonest, and that he, Mollenhauer, was honest. He was here,
self-convicted of sin, pleading to him, Mollenhauer, as he would
to a righteous, unstained saint. As a matter of fact, Mollenhauer
knew that he was simply shrewder, more far-seeing, more calculating,
not less dishonest. Stener was lacking in force and brains--not
morals. This lack was his principal crime. There were people who
believed in some esoteric standard of right--some ideal of conduct
absolutely and very far removed from practical life; but he had
never seen them practice it save to their own financial (not moral--
he would not say that) destruction. They were never significant,
practical men who clung to these fatuous ideals. They were always
poor, nondescript, negligible dreamers. He could not have made
Stener understand all this if he had wanted to, and he certainly
did not want to. It was too bad about Mrs. Stener and the little
Steners. No doubt she had worked hard, as had Stener, to get up
in the world and be something--just a little more than miserably
poor; and now this unfortunate complication had to arise to undo
them--this Chicago fire. What a curious thing that was! If any
one thing more than another made him doubt the existence of a kindly,
overruling Providence, it was the unheralded storms out of clear
skies--financial, social, anything you choose--that so often
brought ruin and disaster to so many.
"Get Up, Stener," he said, calmly, after a few moments. "You
mustn't give way to your feelings like this. You must not cry.
These troubles are never unraveled by tears. You must do a
little thinking for yourself. Perhaps your situation isn't so
As he was saying this Stener was putting himself back in his
chair, getting out his handkerchief, and sobbing hopelessly in it.
"I'll do what I can, Stener. I won't promise anything. I can't
tell you what the result will be. There are many peculiar political
forces in this city. I may not be able to save you, but I am
perfectly willing to try. You must put yourself absolutely under
my direction. You must not say or do anything without first
consulting with me. I will send my secretary to you from time to
time. He will tell you what to do. You must not come to me unless
I send for you. Do you understand that thoroughly?"
"Yes, Mr. Mollenhauer."
"Well, now, dry your eyes. I don't want you to go out of this
office crying. Go back to your office, and I will send Sengstack
to see you. He will tell you what to do. Follow him exactly.
And whenever I send for you come at once."
He got up, large, self-confident, reserved. Stener, buoyed up by
the subtle reassurance of his remarks, recovered to a degree his
equanimity. Mr. Mollenhauer, the great, powerful Mr. Mollenhauer
was going to help him out of his scrape. He might not have to go
to jail after all. He left after a few moments, his face a little
red from weeping, but otherwise free of telltale marks, and returned
to his office.
Three-quarters of an hour later, Sengstack called on him for the
second time that day--Abner Sengstack, small, dark-faced, club-footed,
a great sole of leather three inches thick under his short, withered
right leg, his slightly Slavic, highly intelligent countenance
burning with a pair of keen, piercing, inscrutable black eyes.
Sengstack was a fit secretary for Mollenhauer. You could see at
one glance that he would make Stener do exactly what Mollenhauer
suggested. His business was to induce Stener to part with his
street-railway holdings at once through Tighe & Co., Butler's
brokers, to the political sub-agent who would eventually transfer
them to Mollenhauer. What little Stener received for them might
well go into the treasury. Tighe & Co. would manage the "'change"
subtleties of this without giving any one else a chance to bid,
while at the same time making it appear an open-market transaction.
At the same time Sengstack went carefully into the state of the
treasurer's office for his master's benefit--finding out what it
was that Strobik, Wycroft, and Harmon had been doing with their
loans. Via another source they were ordered to disgorge at once
or face prosecution. They were a part of Mollenhauer's political
machine. Then, having cautioned Stener not to set over the remainder
of his property to any one, and not to listen to any one, most of
all to the Machiavellian counsel of Cowperwood, Sengstack left.
Needless to say, Mollenhauer was greatly gratified by this turn
of affairs. Cowperwood was now most likely in a position where he
would have to come and see him, or if not, a good share of the
properties he controlled were already in Mollenhauer's possession.
If by some hook or crook he could secure the remainder, Simpson
and Butler might well talk to him about this street-railway business.
His holdings were now as large as any, if not quite the largest.
It was in the face of this very altered situation that Cowperwood
arrived at Stener's office late this Monday afternoon.
Stener was quite alone, worried and distraught. He was anxious
to see Cowperwood, and at the same time afraid.
"George," began Cowperwood, briskly, on seeing him, "I haven't
much time to spare now, but I've come, finally, to tell you that
you'll have to let me have three hundred thousand more if you don't
want me to fail. Things are looking very bad today. They've
caught me in a corner on my loans; but this storm isn't going to
last. You can see by the very character of it that it can't."
He was looking at Stener's face, and seeing fear and a pained and
yet very definite necessity for opposition written there. "Chicago
is burning, but it will be built up again. Business will be all
the better for it later on. Now, I want you to be reasonable and
help me. Don't get frightened."
Stener stirred uneasily. "Don't let these politicians scare you
to death. It will all blow over in a few days, and then we'll be
better off than ever. Did you see Mollenhauer?"
"Well, what did he have to say?"
"He said just what I thought he'd say. He won't let me do this.
I can't, Frank, I tell you!" exclaimed Stener, jumping up. He was
so nervous that he had had a hard time keeping his seat during this
short, direct conversation. "I can't! They've got me in a corner!
They're after me! They all know what we've been doing. Oh, say,
Frank"--he threw up his arms wildly--"you've got to get me out of
this. You've got to let me have that five hundred thousand back
and get me out of this. If you don't, and you should fail, they'll
send me to the penitentiary. I've got a wife and four children,
Frank. I can't go on in this. It's too big for me. I never
should have gone in on it in the first place. I never would have
if you hadn't persuaded me, in a way. I never thought when I began
that I would ever get in as bad as all this. I can't go on, Frank.
I can't! I'm willing you should have all my stock. Only give me
back that five hundred thousand, and we'll call it even." His
voice rose nervously as he talked, and he wiped his wet forehead
with his hand and stared at Cowperwood pleadingly, foolishly.
Cowperwood stared at him in return for a few moments with a cold,
fishy eye. He knew a great deal about human nature, and he was
ready for and expectant of any queer shift in an individual's
attitude, particularly in time of panic; but this shift of Stener's
was quite too much. "Whom else have you been talking to, George,
since I saw you? Whom have you seen? What did Sengstack have to
"He says just what Mollenhauer does, that I mustn't loan any more
money under any circumstances, and he says I ought to get that
five hundred thousand back as quickly as possible."
"And you think Mollenhauer wants to help you, do you?" inquired
Cowperwood, finding it hard to efface the contempt which kept
forcing itself into his voice.
"I think he does, yes. I don't know who else will, Frank, if he
don't. He's one of the big political forces in this town."
"Listen to me," began Cowperwood, eyeing him fixedly. Then he
paused. "What did he say you should do about your holdings?"
"Sell them through Tighe & Company and put the money back in the
treasury, if you won't take them."
"Sell them to whom?" asked Cowperwood, thinking of Stener's last
"To any one on 'change who'll take them, I suppose. I don't know."
"I thought so," said Cowperwood, comprehendingly. "I might have
known as much. They're working you, George. They're simply trying
to get your stocks away from you. Mollenhauer is leading you on.
He knows I can't do what you want--give you back the five hundred
thousand dollars. He wants you to throw your stocks on the market
so that he can pick them up. Depend on it, that's all arranged for
already. When you do, he's got me in his clutches, or he thinks
he has--he and Butler and Simpson. They want to get together on
this local street-railway situation, and I know it, I feel it.
I've felt it coming all along. Mollenhauer hasn't any more intention
of helping you than he has of flying. Once you've sold your stocks
he's through with you--mark my word. Do you think he'll turn a
hand to keep you out of the penitentiary once you're out of this
street-railway situation? He will not. And if you think so, you're
a bigger fool than I take you to be, George. Don't go crazy.
Don't lose your head. Be sensible. Look the situation in the
face. Let me explain it to you. If you don't help me now--if
you don't let me have three hundred thousand dollars by to-morrow
noon, at the very latest, I'm through, and so are you. There is
not a thing the matter with our situation. Those stocks of ours
are as good to-day as they ever were. Why, great heavens, man,
the railways are there behind them. They're paying. The Seventeenth
and Nineteenth Street line is earning one thousand dollars a day
right now. What better evidence do you want than that? Green &
Coates is earning five hundred dollars. You're frightened, George.
These damned political schemers have scared you. Why, you've as
good a right to loan that money as Bode and Murtagh had before you.
They did it. You've been doing it for Mollenhauer and the others,
only so long as you do it for them it's all right. What's a
designated city depository but a loan?"
Cowperwood was referring to the system under which certain portions
of city money, like the sinking-fund, were permitted to be kept in
certain banks at a low rate of interest or no rate--banks in which
Mollenhauer and Butler and Simpson were interested. This was their
"Don't throw your chances away, George. Don't quit now. You'll
be worth millions in a few years, and you won't have to turn a hand.
All you will have to do will be to keep what you have. If you don't
help me, mark my word, they'll throw you over the moment I'm out
of this, and they'll let you go to the penitentiary. Who's going
to put up five hundred thousand dollars for you, George? Where is
Mollenhauer going to get it, or Butler, or anybody, in these times?
They can't. They don't intend to. When I'm through, you're
through, and you'll be exposed quicker than any one else. They
can't hurt me, George. I'm an agent. I didn't ask you to come
to me. You came to me in the first place of your own accord. If
you don't help me, you're through, I tell you, and you're going
to be sent to the penitentiary as sure as there are jails. Why
don't you take a stand, George? Why don't you stand your ground?
You have your wife and children to look after. You can't be any
worse off loaning me three hundred thousand more than you are right
now. What difference does it make--five hundred thousand or eight
hundred thousand? It's all one and the same thing, if you're going
to be tried for it. Besides, if you loan me this, there isn't
going to be any trial. I'm not going to fail. This storm will
blow over in a week or ten days, and we'll be rich again. For
Heaven's sake, George, don't go to pieces this way! Be sensible!
He paused, for Stener's face had become a jelly-like mass of woe.
"I can't, Frank," he wailed. "I tell you I can't. They'll
punish me worse than ever if I do that. They'll never let up on
me. You don't know these people."
In Stener's crumpling weakness Cowperwood read his own fate. What
could you do with a man like that? How brace him up? You couldn't!
And with a gesture of infinite understanding, disgust, noble
indifference, he threw up his hands and started to walk out. At
the door he turned.
"George," he said, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for you, not for myself.
I'll come out of things all right, eventually. I'll be rich. But,
George, you're making the one great mistake of your life. You'll
be poor; you'll be a convict, and you'll have only yourself to
blame. There isn't a thing the matter with this money situation
except the fire. There isn't a thing wrong with my affairs except
this slump in stocks--this panic. You sit there, a fortune in your
hands, and you allow a lot of schemers, highbinders, who don't know
any more of your affairs or mine than a rabbit, and who haven't
any interest in you except to plan what they can get out of you,
to frighten you and prevent you from doing the one thing that will
save your life. Three hundred thousand paltry dollars that in
three or four weeks from now I can pay back to you four and five
times over, and for that you will see me go broke and yourself to
the penitentiary. I can't understand it, George. You're out of
your mind. You're going to rue this the longest day that you live."
He waited a few moments to see if this, by any twist of chance,
would have any effect; then, noting that Stener still remained a
wilted, helpless mass of nothing, he shook his head gloomily and
It was the first time in his life that Cowperwood had ever shown
the least sign of weakening or despair. He had felt all along as
though there were nothing to the Greek theory of being pursued by
the furies. Now, however, there seemed an untoward fate which was
pursuing him. It looked that way. Still, fate or no fate, he did
not propose to be daunted. Even in this very beginning of a
tendency to feel despondent he threw back his head, expanded his
chest, and walked as briskly as ever.
In the large room outside Stener's private office he encountered
Albert Stires, Stener's chief clerk and secretary. He and Albert
had exchanged many friendly greetings in times past, and all the
little minor transactions in regard to city loan had been discussed
between them, for Albert knew more of the intricacies of finance
and financial bookkeeping than Stener would ever know.
At the sight of Stires the thought in regard to the sixty thousand
dollars' worth of city loan certificates, previously referred to,
flashed suddenly through his mind. He had not deposited them in
the sinking-fund, and did not intend to for the present--could not,
unless considerable free money were to reach him shortly--for he
had used them to satisfy other pressing demands, and had no free
money to buy them back--or, in other words, release them. And he
did not want to just at this moment. Under the law governing
transactions of this kind with the city treasurer, he was supposed
to deposit them at once to the credit of the city, and not to draw
his pay therefor from the city treasurer until he had. To be very
exact, the city treasurer, under the law, was not supposed to pay
him for any transaction of this kind until he or his agents presented
a voucher from the bank or other organization carrying the
sinking-fund for the city showing that the certificates so purchased
had actually been deposited there. As a matter of fact, under the
custom which had grown up between him and Stener, the law had long
been ignored in this respect. He could buy certificates of city
loan for the sinking-fund up to any reasonable amount, hypothecate
them where he pleased, and draw his pay from the city without
presenting a voucher. At the end of the month sufficient certificates
of city loan could usually be gathered from one source and another
to make up the deficiency, or the deficiency could actually be
ignored, as had been done on more than one occasion, for long
periods of time, while he used money secured by hypothecating the
shares for speculative purposes. This was actually illegal; but
neither Cowperwood nor Stener saw it in that light or cared.
The trouble with this particular transaction was the note that he
had received from Stener ordering him to stop both buying and
selling, which put his relations with the city treasury on a very
formal basis. He had bought these certificates before receiving
this note, but had not deposited them. He was going now to collect
his check; but perhaps the old, easy system of balancing matters
at the end of the month might not be said to obtain any longer.
Stires might ask him to present a voucher of deposit. If so, he
could not now get this check for sixty thousand dollars, for he
did not have the certificates to deposit. If not, he might get
the money; but, also, it might constitute the basis of some subsequent
legal action. If he did not eventually deposit the certificates
before failure, some charge such as that of larceny might be brought
against him. Still, he said to himself, he might not really fail
even yet. If any of his banking associates should, for any reason,
modify their decision in regard to calling his loans, he would not.
Would Stener make a row about this if he so secured this check? Would
the city officials pay any attention to him if he did? Could you
get any district attorney to take cognizance of such a transaction,
if Stener did complain? No, not in all likelihood; and, anyhow,
nothing would come of it. No jury would punish him in the face of
the understanding existing between him and Stener as agent or broker
and principal. And, once he had the money, it was a hundred to
one Stener would think no more about it. It would go in among the
various unsatisfied liabilities, and nothing more would be thought
about it. Like lightning the entire situation hashed through his
mind. He would risk it. He stopped before the chief clerk's desk.
"Albert," he said, in a low voice, "I bought sixty thousand dollars'
worth of city loan for the sinking-fund this morning. Will you
give my boy a check for it in the morning, or, better yet, will
you give it to me now? I got your note about no more purchases.
I'm going back to the office. You can just credit the sinking-fund
with eight hundred certificates at from seventy-five to eighty.
I'll send you the itemized list later."
"Certainly, Mr. Cowperwood, certainly," replied Albert, with
alacrity. "Stocks are getting an awful knock, aren't they? I
hope you're not very much troubled by it?"
"Not very, Albert," replied Cowperwood, smiling, the while the
chief clerk was making out his check. He was wondering if by any
chance Stener would appear and attempt to interfere with this. It
was a legal transaction. He had a right to the check provided he
deposited the certificates, as was his custom, with the trustee of
the fund. He waited tensely while Albert wrote, and finally, with
the check actually in his hand, breathed a sigh of relief. Here,
at least, was sixty thousand dollars, and to-night's work would
enable him to cash the seventy-five thousand that had been promised
him. To-morrow, once more he must see Leigh, Kitchen, Jay Cooke &
Co., Edward Clark & Co.--all the long list of people to whom he
owed loans and find out what could be done. If he could only get
time! If he could get just a week!
But time was not a thing to be had in this emergency. With the
seventy-five thousand dollars his friends had extended to him,
and sixty thousand dollars secured from Stires, Cowperwood met
the Girard call and placed the balance, thirty-five thousand
dollars, in a private safe in his own home. He then made a final
appeal to the bankers and financiers, but they refused to help
him. He did not, however, commiserate himself in this hour. He
looked out of his office window into the little court, and sighed.
What more could he do? He sent a note to his father, asking him
to call for lunch. He sent a note to his lawyer, Harper Steger,
a man of his own age whom he liked very much, and asked him to
call also. He evolved in his own mind various plans of delay,
addresses to creditors and the like, but alas! he was going to
fail. And the worst of it was that this matter of the city
treasurer's loans was bound to become a public, and more than a
public, a political, scandal. And the charge of conniving, if
not illegally, at least morally, at the misuse of the city's money
was the one thing that would hurt him most.
How industriously his rivals would advertise this fact! He might
get on his feet again if he failed; but it would be uphill work.
And his father! His father would be pulled down with him. It was
probable that he would be forced out of the presidency of his bank.
With these thoughts Cowperwood sat there waiting. As he did so
Aileen Butler was announced by his office-boy, and at the same
time Albert Stires.
"Show in Miss Butler," he said, getting up. "Tell Mr. Stires to
wait." Aileen came briskly, vigorously in, her beautiful body
clothed as decoratively as ever. The street suit that she wore
was of a light golden-brown broadcloth, faceted with small,
dark-red buttons. Her head was decorated with a brownish-red
shake of a type she had learned was becoming to her, brimless and
with a trailing plume, and her throat was graced by a three-strand
necklace of gold beads. Her hands were smoothly gloved as usual,
and her little feet daintily shod. There was a look of girlish
distress in her eyes, which, however, she was trying hard to
"Honey," she exclaimed, on seeing him, her arms extended--"what
is the trouble? I wanted so much to ask you the other night.
You're not going to fail, are you? I heard father and Owen talking
about you last night."
"What did they say?" he inquired, putting his arm around her and
looking quietly into her nervous eyes.
"Oh, you know, I think papa is very angry with you. He suspects.
Some one sent him an anonymous letter. He tried to get it out of
me last night, but he didn't succeed. I denied everything. I was
in here twice this morning to see you, but you were out. I was
so afraid that he might see you first, and that you might say
"Well, no, not exactly. I didn't think that. I don't know what
I thought. Oh, honey, I've been so worried. You know, I didn't
sleep at all. I thought I was stronger than that; but I was so
worried about you. You know, he put me in a strong light by his
desk, where he could see my face, and then he showed me the letter.
I was so astonished for a moment I hardly know what I said or how
"What did you say?"
"Why, I said: 'What a shame! It isn't so!' But I didn't say it
right away. My heart was going like a trip-hammer. I'm afraid
he must have been able to tell something from my face. I could
hardly get my breath."
"He's a shrewd man, your father," he commented. "He knows something
about life. Now you see how difficult these situations are. It's
a blessing he decided to show you the letter instead of watching
the house. I suppose he felt too bad to do that. He can't prove
anything now. But he knows. You can't deceive him."
"How do you know he knows?"
"I saw him yesterday."
"Did he talk to you about it?"
"No; I saw his face. He simply looked at me."
"Honey! I'm so sorry for him!"
"I know you are. So am I. But it can't be helped now. We should
have thought of that in the first place."
"But I love you so. Oh, honey, he will never forgive me. He loves
me so. He mustn't know. I won't admit anything. But, oh, dear!"
She put her hands tightly together on his bosom, and he looked
consolingly into her eyes. Her eyelids, were trembling, and her
lips. She was sorry for her father, herself, Cowperwood. Through
her he could sense the force of Butler's parental affection; the
volume and danger of his rage. There were so many, many things
as he saw it now converging to make a dramatic denouement.
"Never mind," he replied; "it can't be helped now. Where is my
strong, determined Aileen? I thought you were going to be so brave?
Aren't you going to be? I need to have you that way now."
"Are you in trouble?"
"I think I am going to fail, dear."
"Yes, honey. I'm at the end of my rope. I don't see any way out
just at present. I've sent for my father and my lawyer. You
mustn't stay here, sweet. Your father may come in here at any time.
We must meet somewhere--to-morrow, say--to-morrow afternoon. You
remember Indian Rock, out on the Wissahickon?"
"Could you be there at four?"
"Look out for who's following. If I'm not there by four-thirty,
don't wait. You know why. It will be because I think some one
is watching. There won't be, though, if we work it right. And
now you must run, sweet. We can't use Nine-thirty-one any more.
I'll have to rent another place somewhere else."
"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry."
"Aren't you going to be strong and brave? You see, I need you to
He was almost, for the first time, a little sad in his mood.
"Yes, dear, yes," she declared, slipping her arms under his and
pulling him tight. "Oh, yes! You can depend on me. Oh, Frank,
I love you so! I'm so sorry. Oh, I do hope you don't fail! But
it doesn't make any difference, dear, between you and me, whatever
happens, does it? We will love each other just the same. I'll do
anything for you, honey! I'll do anything you say. You can trust
me. They sha'n't know anything from me."
She looked at his still, pale face, and a sudden strong determination
to fight for him welled up in her heart. Her love was unjust,
illegal, outlawed; but it was love, just the same, and had much
of the fiery daring of the outcast from justice.
"I love you! I love you! I love you, Frank!" she declared. He
unloosed her hands.
"Run, sweet. To-morrow at four. Don't fail. And don't talk.
And don't admit anything, whatever you do."
"And don't worry about me. I'll be all right."
He barely had time to straighten his tie, to assume a nonchalant
attitude by the window, when in hurried Stener's chief clerk--pale,
disturbed, obviously out of key with himself.
"Mr. Cowperwood! You know that check I gave you last night? Mr.
Stener says it's illegal, that I shouldn't have given it to you,
that he will hold me responsible. He says I can be arrested for
compounding a felony, and that he will discharge me and have me
sent to prison if I don't get it back. Oh, Mr. Cowperwood, I am
only a young man! I'm just really starting out in life. I've got
my wife and little boy to look after. You won't let him do that
to me? You'll give me that check back, won't you? I can't go back
to the office without it. He says you're going to fail, and that
you knew it, and that you haven't any right to it."
Cowperwood looked at him curiously. He was surprised at the variety
and character of these emissaries of disaster. Surely, when
troubles chose to multiply they had great skill in presenting
themselves in rapid order. Stener had no right to make any such
statement. The transaction was not illegal. The man had gone wild.
True, he, Cowperwood, had received an order after these securities
were bought not to buy or sell any more city loan, but that did
not invalidate previous purchases. Stener was browbeating and
frightening his poor underling, a better man than himself, in
order to get back this sixty-thousand-dollar check. What a petty
creature he was! How true it was, as somebody had remarked, that
you could not possibly measure the petty meannesses to which a
fool could stoop!
"You go back to Mr. Stener, Albert, and tell him that it can't be
done. The certificates of loan were purchased before his order
arrived, and the records of the exchange will prove it. There is
no illegality here. I am entitled to that check and could have
collected it in any qualified court of law. The man has gone out
of his head. I haven't failed yet. You are not in any danger of
any legal proceedings; and if you are, I'll help defend you. I
can't give you the check back because I haven't it to give; and
if I had, I wouldn't. That would be allowing a fool to make a
fool of me. I'm sorry, very, but I can't do anything for you."
"Oh, Mr. Cowperwood!" Tears were in Stires's eyes. "He'll discharge
me! He'll forfeit my sureties. I'll be turned out into the street.
I have only a little property of my own--outside of my salary!"
He wrung his hands, and Cowperwood shook his head sadly.
"This isn't as bad as you think, Albert. He won't do what he
says. He can't. It's unfair and illegal. You can bring suit
and recover your salary. I'll help you in that as much as I'm
able. But I can't give you back this sixty-thousand-dollar check,
because I haven't it to give. I couldn't if I wanted to. It isn't
here any more. I've paid for the securities I bought with it.
The securities are not here. They're in the sinking-fund, or will
He paused, wishing he had not mentioned that fact. It was a slip
of the tongue, one of the few he ever made, due to the peculiar
pressure of the situation. Stires pleaded longer. It was no use,
Cowperwood told him. Finally he went away, crestfallen, fearsome,
broken. There were tears of suffering in his eyes. Cowperwood was
very sorry. And then his father was announced.
The elder Cowperwood brought a haggard face. He and Frank had had
a long conversation the evening before, lasting until early morning,
but it had not been productive of much save uncertainty.
"Hello, father!" exclaimed Cowperwood, cheerfully, noting his
father's gloom. He was satisfied that there was scarcely a coal
of hope to be raked out of these ashes of despair, but there was
no use admitting it.
"Well?" said his father, lifting his sad eyes in a peculiar way.
"Well, it looks like stormy weather, doesn't it? I've decided to
call a meeting of my creditors, father, and ask for time. There
isn't anything else to do. I can't realize enough on anything to
make it worth while talking about. I thought Stener might change
his mind, but he's worse rather than better. His head bookkeeper
just went out of here."
"What did he want?" asked Henry Cowperwood.
"He wanted me to give him back a check for sixty thousand that he
paid me for some city loan I bought yesterday morning." Frank did
not explain to his father, however, that he had hypothecated the
certificates this check had paid for, and used the check itself
to raise money enough to pay the Girard National Bank and to give
himself thirty-five thousand in cash besides.
"Well, I declare!" replied the old man. "You'd think he'd have
better sense than that. That's a perfectly legitimate transaction.
When did you say he notified you not to buy city loan?"
"He's out of his mind," Cowperwood, Sr., commented, laconically.