Part 6 out of 11
"It's Mollenhauer and Simpson and Butler, I know. They want my
street-railway lines. Well, they won't get them. They'll get
them through a receivership, and after the panic's all over. Our
creditors will have first chance at these. If they buy, they'll
buy from them. If it weren't for that five-hundred-thousand-dollar
loan I wouldn't think a thing of this. My creditors would sustain
me nicely. But the moment that gets noised around!... And this
election! I hypothecated those city loan certificates because I
didn't want to get on the wrong side of Davison. I expected to
take in enough by now to take them up. They ought to be in the
The old gentleman saw the point at once, and winced.
"They might cause you trouble, there, Frank."
"It's a technical question," replied his son. "I might have been
intending to take them up. As a matter of fact, I will if I can
before three. I've been taking eight and ten days to deposit them
in the past. In a storm like this I'm entitled to move my pawns
as best I can."
Cowperwood, the father, put his hand over his mouth again. He felt
very disturbed about this. He saw no way out, however. He was
at the end of his own resources. He felt the side-whiskers on his
left cheek. He looked out of the window into the little green
court. Possibly it was a technical question, who should say. The
financial relations of the city treasury with other brokers before
Frank had been very lax. Every banker knew that. Perhaps precedent
would or should govern in this case. He could not say. Still, it
was dangerous--not straight. If Frank could get them out and
deposit them it would be so much better.
"I'd take them up if I were you and I could," he added.
"I will if I can."
"How much money have you?"
"Oh, twenty thousand, all told. If I suspend, though, I'll have
to have a little ready cash."
"I have eight or ten thousand, or will have by night, I hope."
He was thinking of some one who would give him a second mortgage
on his house.
Cowperwood looked quietly at him. There was nothing more to be
said to his father. "I'm going to make one more appeal to Stener
after you leave here," be said. "I'm going over there with Harper
Steger when he comes. If he won't change I'll send out notice to
my creditors, and notify the secretary of the exchange. I want
you to keep a stiff upper lip, whatever happens. I know you will,
though. I'm going into the thing head down. If Stener had any
sense--" He paused. "But what's the use talking about a damn fool?"
He turned to the window, thinking of how easy it would have been,
if Aileen and he had not been exposed by this anonymous note, to
have arranged all with Butler. Rather than injure the party,
Butler, in extremis, would have assisted him. Now...!
His father got up to go. He was as stiff with despair as though
he were suffering from cold.
"Well," he said, wearily.
Cowperwood suffered intensely for him. What a shame! His father!
He felt a great surge of sorrow sweep over him but a moment later
mastered it, and settled to his quick, defiant thinking. As the
old man went out, Harper Steger was brought in. They shook hands,
and at once started for Stener's office. But Stener had sunk in
on himself like an empty gas-bag, and no efforts were sufficient
to inflate him. They went out, finally, defeated.
"I tell you, Frank," said Steger, "I wouldn't worry. We can tie
this thing up legally until election and after, and that will
give all this row a chance to die down. Then you can get your
people together and talk sense to them. They're not going to
give up good properties like this, even if Stener does go to jail."
Steger did not know of the sixty thousand dollars' worth of
hypothecated securities as yet. Neither did he know of Aileen
Butler and her father's boundless rage.
There was one development in connection with all of this of which
Cowperwood was as yet unaware. The same day that brought Edward
Butler the anonymous communication in regard to his daughter,
brought almost a duplicate of it to Mrs. Frank Algernon Cowperwood,
only in this case the name of Aileen Butler had curiously been
Perhaps you don't know that your husband is running with
another woman. If you don't believe it, watch the house at
931 North Tenth Street.
Mrs. Cowperwood was in the conservatory watering some plants when
this letter was brought by her maid Monday morning. She was most
placid in her thoughts, for she did not know what all the conferring
of the night before meant. Frank was occasionally troubled by
financial storms, but they did not see to harm him.
"Lay it on the table in the library, Annie. I'll get it."
She thought it was some social note.
In a little while (such was her deliberate way), she put down
her sprinkling-pot and went into the library. There it was lying
on the green leather sheepskin which constituted a part of the
ornamentation of the large library table. She picked it up,
glanced at it curiously because it was on cheap paper, and then
opened it. Her face paled slightly as she read it; and then her
hand trembled--not much. Hers was not a soul that ever loved
passionately, hence she could not suffer passionately. She was
hurt, disgusted, enraged for the moment, and frightened; but she
was not broken in spirit entirely. Thirteen years of life with
Frank Cowperwood had taught her a number of things. He was selfish,
she knew now, self-centered, and not as much charmed by her as he
had been. The fear she had originally felt as to the effect of
her preponderance of years had been to some extent justified by
the lapse of time. Frank did not love her as he had--he had not
for some time; she had felt it. What was it?--she had asked
herself at times--almost, who was it? Business was engrossing him
Finance was his master. Did this mean the end of her regime,
she queried. Would he cast her off? Where would she go? What
would she do? She was not helpless, of course, for she had money
of her own which he was manipulating for her. Who was this other
woman? Was she young, beautiful, of any social position? Was it--?
Suddenly she stopped. Was it? Could it be, by any chance--her
mouth opened--Aileen Butler?
She stood still, staring at this letter, for she could scarcely
countenance her own thought. She had observed often, in spite of
all their caution, how friendly Aileen had been to him and he to
her. He liked her; he never lost a chance to defend her. Lillian
had thought of them at times as being curiously suited to each
other temperamentally. He liked young people. But, of course, he
was married, and Aileen was infinitely beneath him socially, and
he had two children and herself. And his social and financial
position was so fixed and stable that he did not dare trifle with
it. Still she paused; for forty years and two children, and some
slight wrinkles, and the suspicion that we may be no longer loved
as we once were, is apt to make any woman pause, even in the face
of the most significant financial position. Where would she go
if she left him? What would people think? What about the children?
Could she prove this liaison? Could she entrap him in a compromising
situation? Did she want to?
She saw now that she did not love him as some women love their
husbands. She was not wild about him. In a way she had been
taking him for granted all these years, had thought that he loved
her enough not to be unfaithful to her; at least fancied that he
was so engrossed with the more serious things of life that no
petty liaison such as this letter indicated would trouble him or
interrupt his great career. Apparently this was not true. What
should she do? What say? How act? Her none too brilliant mind
was not of much service in this crisis. She did not know very
well how either to plan or to fight.
The conventional mind is at best a petty piece of machinery. It
is oyster-like in its functioning, or, perhaps better, clam-like.
It has its little siphon of thought-processes forced up or down
into the mighty ocean of fact and circumstance; but it uses so
little, pumps so faintly, that the immediate contiguity of the
vast mass is not disturbed. Nothing of the subtlety of life is
perceived. No least inkling of its storms or terrors is ever
discovered except through accident. When some crude, suggestive
fact, such as this letter proved to be, suddenly manifests itself
in the placid flow of events, there is great agony or disturbance
and clogging of the so-called normal processes. The siphon does
not work right. It sucks in fear and distress. There is great
grinding of maladjusted parts--not unlike sand in a machine--and
life, as is so often the case, ceases or goes lamely ever after.
Mrs. Cowperwood was possessed of a conventional mind. She really
knew nothing about life. And life could not teach her. Reaction
in her from salty thought-processes was not possible. She was not
alive in the sense that Aileen Butler was, and yet she thought
that she was very much alive. All illusion. She wasn't. She was
charming if you loved placidity. If you did not, she was not.
She was not engaging, brilliant, or forceful. Frank Cowperwood
might well have asked himself in the beginning why he married her.
He did not do so now because he did not believe it was wise to
question the past as to one's failures and errors. It was,
according to him, most unwise to regret. He kept his face and
thoughts to the future.
But Mrs. Cowperwood was truly distressed in her way, and she
went about the house thinking, feeling wretchedly. She decided,
since the letter asked her to see for herself, to wait. She must
think how she would watch this house, if at all. Frank must not
know. If it were Aileen Butler by any chance--but surely not--she
thought she would expose her to her parents. Still, that meant
exposing herself. She determined to conceal her mood as best she
could at dinner-time--but Cowperwood was not able to be there.
He was so rushed, so closeted with individuals, so closely in
conference with his father and others, that she scarcely saw him
this Monday night, nor the next day, nor for many days.
For on Tuesday afternoon at two-thirty he issued a call for a
meeting of his creditors, and at five-thirty he decided to go into
the hands of a receiver. And yet, as he stood before his
principal creditors--a group of thirty men--in his office, he did
not feel that his life was ruined. He was temporarily embarrassed.
Certainly things looked very black. The city-treasurership deal
would make a great fuss. Those hypothecated city loan certificates,
to the extent of sixty thousand, would make another, if Stener
chose. Still, he did not feel that he was utterly destroyed.
"Gentlemen," he said, in closing his address of explanation at the
meeting, quite as erect, secure, defiant, convincing as he had
ever been, "you see how things are. These securities are worth
just as much as they ever were. There is nothing the matter with
the properties behind them. If you will give me fifteen days or
twenty, I am satisfied that I can straighten the whole matter out.
I am almost the only one who can, for I know all about it. The
market is bound to recover. Business is going to be better than
ever. It's time I want. Time is the only significant factor in
this situation. I want to know if you won't give me fifteen or
twenty days--a month, if you can. That is all I want."
He stepped aside and out of the general room, where the blinds
were drawn, into his private office, in order to give his creditors
an opportunity to confer privately in regard to his situation.
He had friends in the meeting who were for him. He waited one,
two, nearly three hours while they talked. Finally Walter Leigh,
Judge Kitchen, Avery Stone, of Jay Cooke & Co., and several others
came in. They were a committee appointed to gather further
"Nothing more can be done to-day, Frank," Walter Leigh informed
him, quietly. "The majority want the privilege of examining the
books. There is some uncertainty about this entanglement with
the city treasurer which you say exists. They feel that you'd
better announce a temporary suspension, anyhow; and if they want
to let you resume later they can do so."
"I'm sorry for that, gentlemen," replied Cowperwood, the least bit
depressed. "I would rather do anything than suspend for one hour,
if I could help it, for I know just what it means. You will find
assets here far exceeding the liabilities if you will take the
stocks at their normal market value; but that won't help any if
I close my doors. The public won't believe in me. I ought to keep
"Sorry, Frank, old boy," observed Leigh, pressing his hand
affectionately. "If it were left to me personally, you could have
all the time you want. There's a crowd of old fogies out there
that won't listen to reason. They're panic-struck. I guess
they're pretty hard hit themselves. You can scarcely blame them.
You'll come out all right, though I wish you didn't have to shut
up shop. We can't do anything with them, however. Why, damn it,
man, I don't see how you can fail, really. In ten days these
stocks will be all right."
Judge Kitchen commiserated with him also; but what good did that
do? He was being compelled to suspend. An expert accountant would
have to come in and go over his books. Butler might spread the
news of this city-treasury connection. Stener might complain of
this last city-loan transaction. A half-dozen of his helpful
friends stayed with him until four o'clock in the morning; but he
had to suspend just the same. And when he did that, he knew he
was seriously crippled if not ultimately defeated in his race for
wealth and fame.
When he was really and finally quite alone in his private bedroom
he stared at himself in the mirror. His face was pale and tired,
he thought, but strong and effective. "Pshaw!" he said to himself,
"I'm not whipped. I'm still young. I'll get out of this in some
way yet. Certainly I will. I'll find some way out."
And so, cogitating heavily, wearily, he began to undress. Finally
he sank upon his bed, and in a little while, strange as it may seem,
with all the tangle of trouble around him, slept. He could do
that--sleep and gurgle most peacefully, the while his father paced
the floor in his room, refusing to be comforted. All was dark
before the older man--the future hopeless. Before the younger man
was still hope.
And in her room Lillian Cowperwood turned and tossed in the face
of this new calamity. For it had suddenly appeared from news from
her father and Frank and Anna and her mother-in-law that Frank was
about to fail, or would, or had--it was almost impossible to say
just how it was. Frank was too busy to explain. The Chicago fire
was to blame. There was no mention as yet of the city treasurership.
Frank was caught in a trap, and was fighting for his life.
In this crisis, for the moment, she forgot about the note as to his
infidelity, or rather ignored it. She was astonished, frightened,
dumbfounded, confused. Her little, placid, beautiful world was
going around in a dizzy ring. The charming, ornate ship of their
fortune was being blown most ruthlessly here and there. She felt
it a sort of duty to stay in bed and try to sleep; but her eyes
were quite wide, and her brain hurt her. Hours before Frank had
insisted that she should not bother about him, that she could do
nothing; and she had left him, wondering more than ever what and
where was the line of her duty. To stick by her husband, convention
told her; and so she decided. Yes, religion dictated that, also
custom. There were the children. They must not be injured. Frank
must be reclaimed, if possible. He would get over this. But what
The suspension of the banking house of Frank A. Cowperwood & Co.
created a great stir on 'change and in Philadelphia generally. It
was so unexpected, and the amount involved was comparatively so
large. Actually he failed for one million two hundred and fifty
thousand dollars; and his assets, under the depressed condition of
stock values, barely totaled seven hundred and fifty thousand
dollars. There had been considerable work done on the matter of
his balance-sheet before it was finally given to the public; but
when it was, stocks dropped an additional three points generally,
and the papers the next day devoted notable headlines to it.
Cowperwood had no idea of failing permanently; he merely wished
to suspend temporarily, and later, if possible, to persuade his
creditors to allow him to resume. There were only two things which
stood in the way of this: the matter of the five hundred thousand
dollars borrowed from the city treasury at a ridiculously low rate
of interest, which showed plainer than words what had been going
on, and the other, the matter of the sixty-thousand-dollar check.
His financial wit had told him there were ways to assign his
holdings in favor of his largest creditors, which would tend to
help him later to resume; and he had been swift to act. Indeed,
Harper Steger had drawn up documents which named Jay Cooke & Co.,
Edward Clark & Co., Drexel & Co., and others as preferred. He
knew that even though dissatisfied holders of smaller shares in
his company brought suit and compelled readjustment or bankruptcy
later, the intention shown to prefer some of his most influential
aids was important. They would like it, and might help him later
when all this was over. Besides, suits in plenty are an excellent
way of tiding over a crisis of this kind until stocks and common
sense are restored, and he was for many suits. Harper Steger
smiled once rather grimly, even in the whirl of the financial
chaos where smiles were few, as they were figuring it out.
"Frank," he said, "you're a wonder. You'll have a network of
suits spread here shortly, which no one can break through. They'll
all be suing each other."
"I only want a little time, that's all," he replied. Nevertheless,
for the first time in his life he was a little depressed; for now
this business, to which he had devoted years of active work and
thought, was ended.
The thing that was troubling him most in all of this was not the
five hundred thousand dollars which was owing the city treasury,
and which he knew would stir political and social life to the center
once it was generally known--that was a legal or semi-legal
transaction, at least--but rather the matter of the sixty thousand
dollars' worth of unrestored city loan certificates which he had
not been able to replace in the sinking-fund and could not now
even though the necessary money should fall from heaven. The fact
of their absence was a matter of source. He pondered over the
situation a good deal. The thing to do, he thought, if he went to
Mollenhauer or Simpson, or both (he had never met either of them,
but in view of Butler's desertion they were his only recourse),
was to say that, although he could not at present return the five
hundred thousand dollars, if no action were taken against him now,
which would prevent his resuming his business on a normal scale a
little later, he would pledge his word that every dollar of the
involved five hundred thousand dollars would eventually be returned
to the treasury. If they refused, and injury was done him, he
proposed to let them wait until he was "good and ready," which in
all probability would be never. But, really, it was not quite
clear how action against him was to be prevented--even by them.
The money was down on his books as owing the city treasury, and
it was down on the city treasury's books as owing from him. Besides,
there was a local organization known as the Citizens' Municipal
Reform Association which occasionally conducted investigations in
connection with public affairs. His defalcation would be sure to
come to the ears of this body and a public investigation might
well follow. Various private individuals knew of it already. His
creditors, for instance, who were now examining his books.
This matter of seeing Mollenhauer or Simpson, or both, was important,
anyhow, he thought; but before doing so he decided to talk it all
over with Harper Steger. So several days after he had closed his
doors, he sent for Steger and told him all about the transaction,
except that he did not make it clear that he had not intended to
put the certificates in the sinking-fund unless he survived quite
Harper Steger was a tall, thin, graceful, rather elegant man, of
gentle voice and perfect manners, who walked always as though he
were a cat, and a dog were prowling somewhere in the offing. He
had a longish, thin face of a type that is rather attractive to
women. His eyes were blue, his hair brown, with a suggestion of
sandy red in it. He had a steady, inscrutable gaze which sometimes
came to you over a thin, delicate hand, which he laid meditatively
over his mouth. He was cruel to the limit of the word, not
aggressively but indifferently; for he had no faith in anything.
He was not poor. He had not even been born poor. He was just
innately subtle, with the rather constructive thought, which was
about the only thing that compelled him to work, that he ought to
be richer than he was--more conspicuous. Cowperwood was an excellent
avenue toward legal prosperity. Besides, he was a fascinating
customer. Of all his clients, Steger admired Cowperwood most.
"Let them proceed against you," he said on this occasion, his
brilliant legal mind taking in all the phases of the situation at
once. "I don't see that there is anything more here than a
technical charge. If it ever came to anything like that, which I
don't think it will, the charge would be embezzlement or perhaps
larceny as bailee. In this instance, you were the bailee. And the
only way out of that would be to swear that you had received the
check with Stener's knowledge and consent. Then it would only be
a technical charge of irresponsibility on your part, as I see it,
and I don't believe any jury would convict you on the evidence of
how this relationship was conducted. Still, it might; you never
can tell what a jury is going to do. All this would have to come
out at a trial, however. The whole thing, it seems to me, would
depend on which of you two--yourself or Stener--the jury would be
inclined to believe, and on how anxious this city crowd is to find
a scapegoat for Stener. This coming election is the rub. If this
panic had come at any other time--"
Cowperwood waved for silence. He knew all about that. "It all
depends on what the politicians decide to do. I'm doubtful. The
situation is too complicated. It can't be hushed up." They were
in his private office at his house. "What will be will be," he
"What would that mean, Harper, legally, if I were tried on a charge
of larceny as bailee, as you put it, and convicted? How many years
in the penitentiary at the outside?"
Steger thought a minute, rubbing his chin with his hand. "Let me
see," he said, "that is a serious question, isn't it? The law says
one to five years at the outside; but the sentences usually average
from one to three years in embezzlement cases. Of course, in this
"I know all about that," interrupted Cowperwood, irritably. "My
case isn't any different from the others, and you know it.
Embezzlement is embezzlement if the politicians want to have it
so." He fell to thinking, and Steger got up and strolled about
leisurely. He was thinking also.
"And would I have to go to jail at any time during the proceedings--
before a final adjustment of the case by the higher courts?"
Cowperwood added, directly, grimly, after a time.
"Yes, there is one point in all legal procedure of the kind,"
replied Steger, cautiously, now rubbing his ear and trying to put
the matter as delicately as possible. "You can avoid jail sentences
all through the earlier parts of a case like this; but if you are
once tried and convicted it's pretty hard to do anything--as a
matter of fact, it becomes absolutely necessary then to go to jail
for a few days, five or so, pending the motion for a new trial and
the obtaining of a certificate of reasonable doubt. It usually
takes that long."
The young banker sat there staring out of the window, and Steger
observed, "It is a bit complicated, isn't it?"
"Well, I should say so," returned Frank, and he added to himself:
"Jail! Five days in prison!" That would be a terrific slap, all
things considered. Five days in jail pending the obtaining of a
certificate of reasonable doubt, if one could be obtained! He must
avoid this! Jail! The penitentiary! His commercial reputation
would never survive that.
The necessity of a final conferencee between Butler, Mollenhauer,
and Simpson was speedily reached, for this situation was hourly
growing more serious. Rumors were floating about in Third Street
that in addition to having failed for so large an amount as to
have further unsettled the already panicky financial situation
induced by the Chicago fire, Cowperwood and Stener, or Stener
working with Cowperwood, or the other way round, had involved the
city treasury to the extent of five hundred thousand dollars. And
the question was how was the matter to be kept quiet until after
election, which was still three weeks away. Bankers and brokers
were communicating odd rumors to each other about a check that
had been taken from the city treasury after Cowperwood knew he
was to fail, and without Stener's consent. Also that there was
danger that it would come to the ears of that very uncomfortable
political organization known as the Citizens' Municipal Reform
Association, of which a well-known iron-manufacturer of great
probity and moral rectitude, one Skelton C. Wheat, was president.
Wheat had for years been following on the trail of the dominant
Republican administration in a vain attempt to bring it to a sense
of some of its political iniquities. He was a serious and austere
man---one of those solemn, self-righteous souls who see life through
a peculiar veil of duty, and who, undisturbed by notable animal
passions of any kind, go their way of upholding the theory of the
Ten Commandments over the order of things as they are.
The committee in question had originally been organized to protest
against some abuses in the tax department; but since then, from
election to election, it had been drifting from one subject to
another, finding an occasional evidence of its worthwhileness in
some newspaper comment and the frightened reformation of some minor
political official who ended, usually, by taking refuge behind the
skirts of some higher political power--in the last reaches, Messrs.
Butler, Mollenhauer, and Simpson. Just now it was without important
fuel or ammunition; and this assignment of Cowperwood, with its
attendant crime, so far as the city treasury was concerned,
threatened, as some politicians and bankers saw it, to give it
just the club it was looking for.
However, the decisive conference took place between Cowperwood and
the reigning political powers some five days after Cowperwood's
failure, at the home of Senator Simpson, which was located in
Rittenhouse Square--a region central for the older order of wealth
in Philadelphia. Simpson was a man of no little refinement
artistically, of Quaker extraction, and of great wealth-breeding
judgment which he used largely to satisfy his craving for political
predominance. He was most liberal where money would bring him a
powerful or necessary political adherent. He fairly showered
offices--commissionerships, trusteeships, judgeships, political
nominations, and executive positions generally--on those who did
his bidding faithfully and without question. Compared with Butler
and Mollenhauer he was more powerful than either, for he represented
the State and the nation. When the political authorities who were
trying to swing a national election were anxious to discover what
the State of Pennsylvania would do, so far as the Republican party
was concerned, it was to Senator Simpson that they appealed. In
the literal sense of the word, he knew. The Senator had long since
graduated from State to national politics, and was an interesting
figure in the United States Senate at Washington, where his voice
in all the conservative and moneyed councils of the nation was of
The house that he occupied, of Venetian design, and four stories
in height, bore many architectural marks of distinction, such as
the floriated window, the door with the semipointed arch, and
medallions of colored marble set in the walls. The Senator was a
great admirer of Venice. He had been there often, as he had to
Athens and Rome, and had brought back many artistic objects
representative of the civilizations and refinements of older days.
He was fond, for one thing, of the stern, sculptured heads of the
Roman emperors, and the fragments of gods and goddesses which are
the best testimony of the artistic aspirations of Greece. In the
entresol of this house was one of his finest treasures--a carved
and floriated base bearing a tapering monolith some four feet high,
crowned by the head of a peculiarly goatish Pan, by the side of
which were the problematic remains of a lovely nude nymph--just
the little feet broken off at the ankles. The base on which the
feet of the nymph and the monolith stood was ornamented with carved
ox-skulls intertwined with roses. In his reception hall were
replicas of Caligula, Nero, and other Roman emperors; and on his
stair-walls reliefs of dancing nymphs in procession, and priests
bearing offerings of sheep and swine to the sacrificial altars.
There was a clock in some corner of the house which chimed the
quarter, the half, the three-quarters, and the hour in strange,
euphonious, and pathetic notes. On the walls of the rooms were
tapestries of Flemish origin, and in the reception-hall, the
library, the living-room, and the drawing-room, richly carved
furniture after the standards of the Italian Renaissance. The
Senator's taste in the matter of paintings was inadequate, and he
mistrusted it; but such as he had were of distinguished origin and
authentic. He cared more for his curio-cases filled with smaller
imported bronzes, Venetian glass, and Chinese jade. He was not a
collector of these in any notable sense--merely a lover of a few
choice examples. Handsome tiger and leopard skin rugs, the fur
of a musk-ox for his divan, and tanned and brown-stained goat and
kid skins for his tables, gave a sense of elegance and reserved
profusion. In addition the Senator had a dining-room done after
the Jacobean idea of artistic excellence, and a wine-cellar which
the best of the local vintners looked after with extreme care. He
was a man who loved to entertain lavishly; and when his residence
was thrown open for a dinner, a reception, or a ball, the best of
local society was to be found there.
The conference was in the Senator's library, and he received his
colleagues with the genial air of one who has much to gain and
little to lose. There were whiskies, wines, cigars on the table,
and while Mollenhauer and Simpson exchanged the commonplaces of
the day awaiting the arrival of Butler, they lighted cigars and
kept their inmost thoughts to themselves.
It so happened that upon the previous afternoon Butler had learned
from Mr. David Pettie, the district attorney, of the
sixty-thousand-dollar-check transaction. At the same time the
matter had been brought to Mollenhauer's attention by Stener himself.
It was Mollenhauer, not Butler who saw that by taking advantage of
Cowperwood's situation, he might save the local party from blame,
and at the same time most likely fleece Cowperwood out of his
street-railway shares without letting Butler or Simpson know
anything about it. The thing to do was to terrorize him with a
private threat of prosecution.
Butler was not long in arriving, and apologized for the delay.
Concealing his recent grief behind as jaunty an air as possible,
he began with:
"It's a lively life I'm leadin', what with every bank in the city
wantin' to know how their loans are goin' to be taken care of." He
took a cigar and struck a match.
"It does look a little threatening," said Senator Simpson, smiling.
"Sit down. I have just been talking with Avery Stone, of Jay Cooke
& Company, and he tells me that the talk in Third Street about
Stener's connection with this Cowperwood failure is growing very
strong, and that the newspapers are bound to take up the matter
shortly, unless something is done about it. I am sure that the
news will also reach Mr. Wheat, of the Citizens' Reform Association,
very shortly. We ought to decide now, gentlemen, what we propose
to do. One thing, I am sure, is to eliminate Stener from the
ticket as quietly as possible. This really looks to me as if it
might become a very serious issue, and we ought to be doing what
we can now to offset its effect later."
Mollenhauer pulled a long breath through his cigar, and blew it
out in a rolling steel-blue cloud. He studied the tapestry on the
opposite wall but said nothing.
"There is one thing sure," continued Senator Simpson, after a time,
seeing that no one else spoke, "and that is, if we do not begin a
prosecution on our own account within a reasonable time, some one
else is apt to; and that would put rather a bad face on the matter.
My own opinion would be that we wait until it is very plain that
prosecution is going to be undertaken by some one else--possibly
the Municipal Reform Association--but that we stand ready to step
in and act in such a way as to make it look as though we had been
planning to do it all the time. The thing to do is to gain time;
and so I would suggest that it be made as difficult as possible
to get at the treasurer's books. An investigation there, if it
begins at all--as I think is very likely--should be very slow in
producing the facts."
The Senator was not at all for mincing words with his important
confreres, when it came to vital issues. He preferred, in his
grandiloquent way, to call a spade a spade.
"Now that sounds like very good sense to me," said Butler, sinking
a little lower in his chair for comfort's sake, and concealing his
true mood in regard to all this. "The boys could easily make that
investigation last three weeks, I should think. They're slow
enough with everything else, if me memory doesn't fail me." At
the same time he was cogitating as to how to inject the personality
of Cowperwood and his speedy prosecution without appearing to be
neglecting the general welfare of the local party too much.
"Yes, that isn't a bad idea," said Mollenhauer, solemnly, blowing
a ring of smoke, and thinking how to keep Cowperwood's especial
offense from coming up at this conference and until after he had
"We ought to map out our program very carefully," continued
Senator Simpson, "so that if we are compelled to act we can do so
very quickly. I believe myself that this thing is certain to come
to an issue within a week, if not sooner, and we have no time to
lose. If my advice were followed now, I should have the mayor
write the treasurer a letter asking for information, and the
treasurer write the mayor his answer, and also have the mayor,
with the authority of the common council, suspend the treasurer
for the time being--I think we have the authority to do that--or,
at least, take over his principal duties but without for the time
being, anyhow, making any of these transactions public--until we
have to, of course. We ought to be ready with these letters to
show to the newspapers at once, in case this action is forced
"I could have those letters prepared, if you gentlemen have no
objection," put in Mollenhauer, quietly, but quickly.
"Well, that strikes me as sinsible," said Butler, easily. "It's
about the only thing we can do under the circumstances, unless we
could find some one else to blame it on, and I have a suggestion
to make in that direction. Maybe we're not as helpless as we might
be, all things considered."
There was a slight gleam of triumph in his eye as he said this,
at the same time that there was a slight shadow of disappointment
in Mollenhauer's. So Butler knew, and probably Simpson, too.
"Just what do you mean?" asked the Senator, looking at Butler
interestedly. He knew nothing of the sixty-thousand-dollar check
transaction. He had not followed the local treasury dealings very
closely, nor had he talked to either of his confreres since the
original conference between them. "There haven't been any outside
parties mixed up with this, have there?" His own shrewd, political
mind was working.
"No-o. I wouldn't call him an outside party, exactly, Senator,"
went on Butler suavely. "It's Cowperwood himself I'm thinkin' of.
There's somethin' that has come up since I saw you gentlemen last
that makes me think that perhaps that young man isn't as innocent
as he might be. It looks to me as though he was the ringleader
in this business, as though he had been leadin' Stener on against
his will. I've been lookin' into the matter on me own account,
and as far as I can make out this man Stener isn't as much to blame
as I thought. From all I can learn, Cowperwood's been threatenin'
Stener with one thing and another if he didn't give him more money,
and only the other day he got a big sum on false pretinses, which
might make him equally guilty with Stener. There's sixty-thousand
dollars of city loan certificates that has been paid for that aren't
in the sinking-fund. And since the reputation of the party's in
danger this fall, I don't see that we need to have any particular
consideration for him." He paused, strong in the conviction that
he had sent a most dangerous arrow flying in the direction of
Cowperwood, as indeed he had. Yet at this moment, both the Senator
and Mollenhauer were not a little surprised, seeing at their last
meeting he had appeared rather friendly to the young banker, and
this recent discovery seemed scarcely any occasion for a vicious
attitude on his part. Mollenhauer in particular was surprised,
for he had been looking on Butler's friendship for Cowperwood as
a possible stumbling block.
"Um-m, you don't tell me," observed Senator Simpson, thoughtfully,
stroking his mouth with his pale hand.
"Yes, I can confirm that," said Mollenhauer, quietly, seeing his
own little private plan of browbeating Cowperwood out of his
street-railway shares going glimmering. "I had a talk with Stener
the other day about this very matter, and he told me that Cowperwood
had been trying to force him to give him three hundred thousand
dollars more, and that when he refused Cowperwood managed to get
sixty thousand dollars further without his knowledge or consent."
"How could he do that?" asked Senator Simpson, incredulously.
Mollenhauer explained the transaction.
Oh," said the Senator, when Mollenhauer had finished, "that
indicates a rather sharp person, doesn't it? And the certificates
are not in the sinking-fund, eh?"
"They're not," chimed in Butler, with considerable enthusiasm.
"Well, I must say," said Simpson, rather relieved in his manner,
"this looks like a rather good thing than not to me. A scapegoat
possibly. We need something like this. I see no reason under
the circumstances for trying to protect Mr. Cowperwood. We might
as well try to make a point of that, if we have to. The newspapers
might just as well talk loud about that as anything else. They
are bound to talk; and if we give them the right angle, I think
that the election might well come and go before the matter could
be reasonably cleared up, even though Mr. Wheat does interfere.
I will be glad to undertake to see what can be done with the papers."
"Well, that bein' the case," said Butler, "I don't see that there's
so much more we can do now; but I do think it will be a mistake
if Cowperwood isn't punished with the other one. He's equally
guilty with Stener, if not more so, and I for one want to see
him get what he deserves. He belongs in the penitentiary, and
that's where he'll go if I have my say." Both Mollenhauer and
Simpson turned a reserved and inquiring eye on their usually
genial associate. What could be the reason for his sudden
determination to have Cowperwood punished? Cowperwood, as Mollenhauer
and Simpson saw it, and as Butler would ordinarily have seen it,
was well within his human, if not his strictly legal rights. They
did not blame him half as much for trying to do what he had done
as they blamed Stener for letting him do it. But, since Butler
felt as he did, and there was an actual technical crime here,
they were perfectly willing that the party should have the advantage
of it, even if Cowperwood went to the penitentiary.
"You may be right," said Senator Simpson, cautiously. "You might
have those letters prepared, Henry; and if we have to bring any
action at all against anybody before election, it would, perhaps,
be advisable to bring it against Cowperwood. Include Stener if
you have to but not unless you have to. I leave it to you two,
as I am compelled to start for Pittsburg next Friday; but I know
you will not overlook any point."
The Senator arose. His time was always valuable. Butler was
highly gratified by what he had accomplished. He had succeeded
in putting the triumvirate on record against Cowperwood as the
first victim, in case of any public disturbance or demonstration
against the party. All that was now necessary was for that
disturbance to manifest itself; and, from what he could see of
local conditions, it was not far off. There was now the matter
of Cowperwood's disgruntled creditors to look into; and if by
buying in these he should succeed in preventing the financier from
resuming business, he would have him in a very precarious condition
indeed. It was a sad day for Cowperwood, Butler thought--the day
he had first tried to lead Aileen astray--and the time was not
far off when he could prove it to him.
In the meantime Cowperwood, from what he could see and hear, was
becoming more and more certain that the politicians would try to
make a scapegoat of him, and that shortly. For one thing, Stires
had called only a few days after he closed his doors and imparted
a significant bit of information. Albert was still connected with
the city treasury, as was Stener, and engaged with Sengstack and
another personal appointee of Mollenhauer's in going over the
treasurer's books and explaining their financial significance.
Stires had come to Cowperwood primarily to get additional advice
in regard to the sixty-thousand-dollar check and his personal
connection with it. Stener, it seemed, was now threatening to
have his chief clerk prosecuted, saying that he was responsible
for the loss of the money and that his bondsmen could be held
responsible. Cowperwood had merely laughed and assured Stires
that there was nothing to this.
"Albert," he had said, smilingly, "I tell you positively, there's
nothing in it. You're not responsible for delivering that check
to me. I'll tell you what you do, now. Go and consult my lawyer--
Steger. It won't cost you a cent, and he'll tell you exactly what
to do. Now go on back and don't worry any more about it. I am
sorry this move of mine has caused you so much trouble, but it's
a hundred to one you couldn't have kept your place with a new city
treasurer, anyhow, and if I see any place where you can possibly
fit in later, I'll let you know."
Another thing that made Cowperwood pause and consider at this time
was a letter from Aileen, detailing a conversation which had taken
place at the Butler dinner table one evening when Butler, the elder,
was not at home. She related how her brother Owen in effect had
stated that they--the politicians--her father, Mollenhauer, and
Simpson, were going to "get him yet" (meaning Cowperwood), for some
criminal financial manipulation of something--she could not explain
what--a check or something. Aileen was frantic with worry. Could
they mean the penitentiary, she asked in her letter? Her dear lover!
Her beloved Frank! Could anything like this really happen to him?
His brow clouded, and he set his teeth with rage when he read her
letter. He would have to do something about this--see Mollenhauer
or Simpson, or both, and make some offer to the city. He could
not promise them money for the present--only notes--but they might
take them. Surely they could not be intending to make a scapegoat
of him over such a trivial and uncertain matter as this check
transaction! When there was the five hundred thousand advanced by
Stener, to say nothing of all the past shady transactions of former
city treasurers! How rotten! How political, but how real and
But Simpson was out of the city for a period of ten days, and
Mollenhauer, having in mind the suggestion made by Butler in regard
to utilizing Cowperwood's misdeed for the benefit of the party,
had already moved as they had planned. The letters were ready and
waiting. Indeed, since the conference, the smaller politicians,
taking their cue from the overlords, had been industriously
spreading the story of the sixty-thousand-dollar check, and insisting
that the burden of guilt for the treasury defalcation, if any, lay
on the banker. The moment Mollenhauer laid eyes on Cowperwood he
realized, however, that he had a powerful personality to deal with.
Cowperwood gave no evidence of fright. He merely stated, in his
bland way, that he had been in the habit of borrowing money from
the city treasury at a low rate of interest, and that this panic
had involved him so that he could not possibly return it at present.
"I have heard rumors, Mr. Mollenhauer," he said, "to the effect that
some charge is to be brought against me as a partner with Mr. Stener
in this matter; but I am hoping that the city will not do that, and
I thought I might enlist your influence to prevent it. My affairs
are not in a bad way at all, if I had a little time to arrange
matters. I am making all of my creditors an offer of fifty cents
on the dollar now, and giving notes at one, two, and three years;
but in this matter of the city treasury loans, if I could come to
terms, I would be glad to make it a hundred cents--only I would
want a little more time. Stocks are bound to recover, as you know,
and, barring my losses at this time, I will be all right. I
realize that the matter has gone pretty far already. The newspapers
are likely to start talking at any time, unless they are stopped
by those who can control them." (He looked at Mollenhauer in a
complimentary way.) "But if I could be kept out of the general
proceedings as much as possible, my standing would not be injured,
and I would have a better chance of getting on my feet. It would
be better for the city, for then I could certainly pay it what I
owe it." He smiled his most winsome and engaging smile. And
Mollenhauer seeing him for the first time, was not unimpressed.
Indeed he looked at this young financial David with an interested
eye. If he could have seen a way to accept this proposition of
Cowperwood's, so that the money offered would have been eventually
payable to him, and if Cowperwood had had any reasonable prospect
of getting on his feet soon, he would have considered carefully
what he had to say. For then Cowperwood could have assigned his
recovered property to him. As it was, there was small likelihood
of this situation ever being straightened out. The Citizens'
Municipal Reform Association, from all he could hear, was already
on the move--investigating, or about to, and once they had set
their hands to this, would unquestionably follow it closely to the
"The trouble with this situation, Mr. Cowperwood," he said, affably,
"is that it has gone so far that it is practically out of my hands.
I really have very little to do with it. I don't suppose, though,
really, it is this matter of the five-hundred-thousand-dollar loan
that is worrying you so much, as it is this other matter of the
sixty-thousand-dollar check you received the other day. Mr. Stener
insists that you secured that illegally, and he is very much wrought
up about it. The mayor and the other city officials know of it
now, and they may force some action. I don't know."
Mollenhauer was obviously not frank in his attitude--a little bit
evasive in his sly reference to his official tool, the mayor; and
Cowperwood saw it. It irritated him greatly, but he was tactful
enough to be quite suave and respectful.
"I did get a check for sixty thousand dollars, that's true," he
replied, with apparent frankness, "the day before I assigned. It
was for certificates I had purchased, however, on Mr. Stener's
order, and was due me. I needed the money, and asked for it. I
don't see that there is anything illegal in that."
"Not if the transaction was completed in all its details," replied
Mollenhauer, blandly. "As I understand it, the certificates were
bought for the sinking-fund, and they are not there. How do you
"An oversight, merely," replied Cowperwood, innocently, and quite
as blandly as Mollenhauer. "They would have been there if I had
not been compelled to assign so unexpectedly. It was not possible
for me to attend to everything in person. It has not been our
custom to deposit them at once. Mr. Stener will tell you that,
if you ask him."
"You don't say," replied Mollenhauer. "He did not give me that
impression. However, they are not there, and I believe that that
makes some difference legally. I have no interest in the matter
one way or the other, more than that of any other good Republican.
I don't see exactly what I can do for you. What did you think I
"I don't believe you can do anything for me, Mr. Mollenhauer,"
replied Cowperwood, a little tartly, "unless you are willing to
deal quite frankly with me. I am not a beginner in politics in
Philadelphia. I know something about the powers in command. I
thought that you could stop any plan to prosecute me in this matter,
and give me time to get on my feet again. I am not any more
criminally responsible for that sixty thousand dollars than I am
for the five hundred thousand dollars that I had as loan before
it--not as much so. I did not create this panic. I did not set
Chicago on fire. Mr. Stener and his friends have been reaping some
profit out of dealing with me. I certainly was entitled to make
some effort to save myself after all these years of service, and
I can't understand why I should not receive some courtesy at the
hands of the present city administration, after I have been so
useful to it. I certainly have kept city loan at par; and as for
Mr. Stener's money, he has never wanted for his interest on that,
and more than his interest."
"Quite so," replied Mollenhauer, looking Cowperwood in the eye
steadily and estimating the force and accuracy of the man at their
real value. "I understand exactly how it has all come about, Mr.
Cowperwood. No doubt Mr. Stener owes you a debt of gratitude, as
does the remainder of the city administration. I'm not saying
what the city administration ought or ought not do. All I know is
that you find yourself wittingly or unwittingly in a dangerous
situation, and that public sentiment in some quarters is already
very strong against you. I personally have no feeling one way or
the other, and if it were not for the situation itself, which looks
to be out of hand, would not be opposed to assisting you in any
reasonable way. But how? The Republican party is in a very bad
position, so far as this election is concerned. In a way, however
innocently, you have helped to put it there, Mr, Cowperwood. Mr.
Butler, for some reason to which I am not a party, seems deeply
and personally incensed. And Mr. Butler is a great power here--"
(Cowperwood began to wonder whether by any chance Butler had
indicated the nature of his social offense against himself, but
he could not bring himself to believe that. It was not probable.)
"I sympathize with you greatly, Mr. Cowperwood, but what I suggest
is that you first See Mr. Butler and Mr. Simpson. If they agree
to any program of aid, I will not be opposed to joining. But apart
from that I do not know exactly what I can do. I am only one of
those who have a slight say in the affairs of Philadelphia."
At this point, Mollenhauer rather expected Cowperwood to make an
offer of his own holdings, but he did not. Instead he said, "I'm
very much obliged to you, Mr. Mollenhauer, for the courtesy of
this interview. I believe you would help me if you could. I shall
just have to fight it out the best way I can. Good day."
And he bowed himself out. He saw clearly how hopeless was his
In the meanwhile, finding that the rumors were growing in volume
and that no one appeared to be willing to take steps to straighten
the matter out, Mr. Skelton C. Wheat, President of the Citizens'
Municipal Reform Association, was, at last and that by no means
against his will, compelled to call together the committee of ten
estimable Philadelphians of which he was chairman, in a local
committee-hall on Market Street, and lay the matter of the Cowperwood
failure before it.
"It strikes me, gentlemen," he announced, "that this is an occasion
when this organization can render a signal service to the city and
the people of Philadelphia, and prove the significance and the
merit of the title originally selected for it, by making such a
thoroughgoing investigation as will bring to light all the facts
in this case, and then by standing vigorously behind them insist
that such nefarious practices as we are informed were indulged in
in this case shall cease. I know it may prove to be a difficult
task. The Republican party and its local and State interests are
certain to be against us. Its leaders are unquestionably most
anxious to avoid comment and to have their ticket go through
undisturbed, and they will not contemplate with any equanimity our
opening activity in this matter; but if we persevere, great good
will surely come of it. There is too much dishonesty in public
life as it is. There is a standard of right in these matters which
cannot permanently be ignored, and which must eventually be fulfilled.
I leave this matter to your courteous consideration."
Mr. Wheat sat down, and the body before him immediately took the
matter which he proposed under advisement. It was decided to
appoint a subcommittee "to investigate" (to quote the statement
eventually given to the public) "the peculiar rumors now affecting
one of the most important and distinguished offices of our municipal
government," and to report at the next meeting, which was set for
the following evening at nine o'clock. The meeting adjourned, and
the following night at nine reassembled, four individuals of very
shrewd financial judgment having meantime been about the task
assigned them. They drew up a very elaborate statement, not wholly
in accordance with the facts, but as nearly so as could be
ascertained in so short a space of time.
"It appears [read the report, after a preamble which explained
why the committee had been appointed] that it has been the custom
of city treasurers for years, when loans have been authorized
by councils, to place them in the hands of some favorite broker
for sale, the broker accounting to the treasurer for the moneys
received by such sales at short periods, generally the first of
each month. In the present case Frank A. Cowperwood has been
acting as such broker for the city treasurer. But even this
vicious and unbusiness-like system appears not to have been
adhered to in the case of Mr. Cowperwood. The accident of the
Chicago fire, the consequent depression of stock values, and the
subsequent failure of Mr. Frank A. Cowperwood have so involved
matters temporarily that the committee has not been able to
ascertain with accuracy that regular accounts have been rendered;
but from the manner in which Mr. Cowperwood has had possession
of bonds (city loan) for hypothecation, etc., it would appear
that he has been held to no responsibility in these matters, and
that there have always been under his control several hundred
thousand dollars of cash or securities belonging to the city,
which he has manipulated for various purposes; but the details
of the results of these transactions are not easily available.
"Some of the operations consisted of hypothecation of large
amounts of these loans before the certificates were issued, the
lender seeing that the order for the hypothecated securities
was duly made to him on the books of the treasurer. Such
methods appear to have been occurring for a long time, and it
being incredible that the city treasurer could be unaware of
the nature of the business, there is indication of a complicity
between him and Mr. Cowperwood to benefit by the use of the city
credit, in violation of the law.
"Furthermore, at the very time these hypothecations were being
made, and the city paying interest upon such loans, the money
representing them was in the hands of the treasurer's broker
and bearing no interest to the city. The payment of municipal
warrants was postponed, and they were being purchased at a
discount in large amounts by Mr. Cowperwood with the very money
that should have been in the city treasury. The bona fide
holders of the orders for certificates of loans are now unable
to obtain them, and thus the city's credit is injured to a
greater extent than the present defalcation, which amounts to
over five hundred thousand dollars. An accountant is now at
work on the treasurer's books, and a few days should make clear
the whole modus operandi. It is hoped that the publicity thus
obtained will break up such vicious practices."
There was appended to this report a quotation from the law governing
the abuse of a public trust; and the committee went on to say that,
unless some taxpayer chose to initiate proceedings for the
prosecution of those concerned, the committee itself would be called
upon to do so, although such action hardly came within the object
for which it was formed.
This report was immediately given to the papers. Though some sort
of a public announcement had been anticipated by Cowperwood and
the politicians, this was, nevertheless, a severe blow. Stener
was beside himself with fear. He broke into a cold sweat when he
saw the announcement which was conservatively headed, "Meeting of
the Municipal Reform Association." All of the papers were so closely
identified with the political and financial powers of the city that
they did not dare to come out openly and say what they thought.
The chief facts had already been in the hands of the various
editors and publishers for a week and more, but word had gone
around from Mollenhauer, Simpson, and Butler to use the soft pedal
for the present. It was not good for Philadelphia, for local
commerce, etc., to make a row. The fair name of the city would
be smirched. It was the old story.
At once the question was raised as to who was really guilty, the
city treasurer or the broker, or both. How much money had actually
been lost? Where had it gone? Who was Frank Algernon Cowperwood,
anyway? Why was he not arrested? How did he come to be identified
so closely with the financial administration of the city? And
though the day of what later was termed "yellow journalism" had
not arrived, and the local papers were not given to such vital
personal comment as followed later, it was not possible, even bound
as they were, hand and foot, by the local political and social
magnates, to avoid comment of some sort. Editorials had to be
written. Some solemn, conservative references to the shame and
disgrace which one single individual could bring to a great city
and a noble political party had to be ventured upon.
That desperate scheme to cast the blame on Cowperwood temporarily,
which had been concocted by Mollenhauer, Butler, and Simpson, to
get the odium of the crime outside the party lines for the time
being, was now lugged forth and put in operation. It was interesting
and strange to note how quickly the newspapers, and even the
Citizens' Municipal Reform Association, adopted the argument that
Cowperwood was largely, if not solely, to blame. Stener had loaned
him the money, it is true--had put bond issues in his hands for
sale, it is true, but somehow every one seemed to gain the impression
that Cowperwood had desperately misused the treasurer. The fact
that he had taken a sixty-thousand-dollar check for certificates
which were not in the sinking-fund was hinted at, though until
they could actually confirm this for themselves both the newspapers
and the committee were too fearful of the State libel laws to say
In due time there were brought forth several noble municipal
letters, purporting to be a stern call on the part of the mayor,
Mr. Jacob Borchardt, on Mr. George W. Stener for an immediate
explanation of his conduct, and the latter's reply, which were at
once given to the newspapers and the Citizens' Municipal Reform
Association. These letters were enough to show, so the politicians
figured, that the Republican party was anxious to purge itself of
any miscreant within its ranks, and they also helped to pass the
time until after election.
OFFICE OF THE MAYOR OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA
GEORGE W. STENER, ESQ., October 18, 1871.
DEAR SIR,--Information has been given me that certificates of
city loan to a large amount, issued by you for sale on account of
the city, and, I presume, after the usual requisition from the
mayor of the city, have passed out of your custody, and that the
proceeds of the sale of said certificates have not been paid
into the city treasury.
I have also been informed that a large amount of the city's
money has been permitted to pass into the hands of some one or
more brokers or bankers doing business on Third Street, and that
said brokers or bankers have since met with financial difficulties,
whereby, and by reason of the above generally, the interests of
the city are likely to be very seriously affected.
I have therefore to request that you will promptly advise me of
the truth or falsity of these statements, so that such duties as
devolve upon me as the chief magistrate of the city, in view of
such facts, if they exist, may be intelligently discharged.
Mayor of Philadelphia.
OFFICE OF THE TREASURER OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA
HON. JACOB BORCHARDT. October 19, 1871.
DEAR SIR,--I have to acknowledge the receipt of your
communication of the 21st instant, and to express my regret that I
cannot at this time give you the information you ask. There is
undoubtedly an embarrassment in the city treasury, owing to the
delinquency of the broker who for several years past has negotiated
the city loans, and I have been, since the discovery of this fact,
and still am occupied in endeavoring to avert or lessen the loss
with which the city is threatened.
I am, very respectfully,
GEORGE W. STENER.
OFFICE OF THE MAYOR OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA
GEORGE W. STENER, ESQ., October 21, 1871.
DEAR SIR--Under the existing circumstances you will consider
this as a notice of withdrawal and revocation of any requisition
or authority by me for the sale of loan, so far as the same
has not been fulfilled. Applications for loans may for the
present be made at this office.
Mayor of Philadelphia.
And did Mr. Jacob Borchardt write the letters to which his name
was attached? He did not. Mr. Abner Sengstack wrote them in Mr.
Mollenhauer's office, and Mr. Mollenhauer's comment when he saw
them was that he thought they would do--that they were very good,
in fact. And did Mr. George W. Stener, city treasurer of Philadelphia,
write that very politic reply? He did not. Mr. Stener was in a
state of complete collapse, even crying at one time at home in his
bathtub. Mr. Abner Sengstack wrote that also, and had Mr. Stener
sign it. And Mr. Mollenhauer's comment on that, before it was sent,
was that he thought it was "all right." It was a time when all the
little rats and mice were scurrying to cover because of the presence
of a great, fiery-eyed public cat somewhere in the dark, and only
the older and wiser rats were able to act.
Indeed, at this very time and for some days past now, Messrs.
Mollenhauer, Butler, and Simpson were, and had been, considering
with Mr. Pettie, the district attorney, just what could be done
about Cowperwood, if anything, and in order to further emphasize
the blame in that direction, and just what defense, if any, could
be made for Stener. Butler, of course, was strong for Cowperwood's
prosecution. Pettie did not see that any defense could be made
for Stener, since various records of street-car stocks purchased
for him were spread upon Cowperwood's books; but for Cowperwood--
"Let me see," he said. They were speculating, first of all, as
to whether it might not be good policy to arrest Cowperwood, and
if necessary try him, since his mere arrest would seem to the
general public, at least, positive proof of his greater guilt, to
say nothing of the virtuous indignation of the administration, and
in consequence might tend to divert attention from the evil nature
of the party until after election.
So finally, on the afternoon of October 26, 1871, Edward Strobik,
president of the common council of Philadelphia, appeared before
the mayor, as finally ordered by Mollenhauer, and charged by
affidavit that Frank A. Cowperwood, as broker, employed by the
treasurer to sell the bonds of the city, had committed embezzlement
and larceny as bailee. It did not matter that he charged George
W. Stener with embezzlement at the same time. Cowperwood was the
scapegoat they were after.
The contrasting pictures presented by Cowperwood and Stener at this
time are well worth a moment's consideration. Stener's face was
grayish-white, his lips blue. Cowperwood, despite various solemn
thoughts concerning a possible period of incarceration which this
hue and cry now suggested, and what that meant to his parents,
his wife and children, his business associates, and his friends,
was as calm and collected as one might assume his great mental
resources would permit him to be. During all this whirl of disaster
he had never once lost his head or his courage. That thing
conscience, which obsesses and rides some people to destruction,
did not trouble him at all. He had no consciousness of what is
currently known as sin. There were just two faces to the shield
of life from the point of view of his peculiar mind-strength and
weakness. Right and wrong? He did not know about those. They were
bound up in metaphysical abstrusities about which he did not care
to bother. Good and evil? Those were toys of clerics, by which
they made money. And as for social favor or social ostracism which,
on occasion, so quickly followed upon the heels of disaster of any
kind, well, what was social ostracism? Had either he or his parents
been of the best society as yet? And since not, and despite this
present mix-up, might not the future hold social restoration and
position for him? It might. Morality and immorality? He never
considered them. But strength and weakness--oh, yes! If you had
strength you could protect yourself always and be something. If
you were weak--pass quickly to the rear and get out of the range
of the guns. He was strong, and he knew it, and somehow he always
believed in his star. Something--he could not say what--it was
the only metaphysics he bothered about--was doing something for
him. It had always helped him. It made things come out right at
times. It put excellent opportunities in his way. Why had he
been given so fine a mind? Why always favored financially,
personally? He had not deserved it--earned it. Accident, perhaps,
but somehow the thought that he would always be protected--these
intuitions, the "hunches" to act which he frequently had--could
not be so easily explained. Life was a dark, insoluble mystery,
but whatever it was, strength and weakness were its two constituents.
Strength would win--weakness lose. He must rely on swiftness of
thought, accuracy, his judgment, and on nothing else. He was really
a brilliant picture of courage and energy--moving about briskly in
a jaunty, dapper way, his mustaches curled, his clothes pressed,
his nails manicured, his face clean-shaven and tinted with health.
In the meantime, Cowperwood had gone personally to Skelton C. Wheat
and tried to explain his side of the situation, alleging that he
had done no differently from many others before him, but Wheat was
dubious. He did not see how it was that the sixty thousand dollars'
worth of certificates were not in the sinking-fund. Cowperwood's
explanation of custom did not avail. Nevertheless, Mr. Wheat saw
that others in politics had been profiting quite as much as
Cowperwood in other ways and he advised Cowperwood to turn state's
evidence. This, however, he promptly refused to do--he was no
"squealer," and indicated as much to Mr. Wheat, who only smiled
Butler, Sr., was delighted (concerned though he was about party
success at the polls), for now he had this villain in the toils
and he would have a fine time getting out of this. The incoming
district attorney to succeed David Pettie if the Republican party
won would be, as was now planned, an appointee of Butler's--a young
Irishman who had done considerable legal work for him--one Dennis
Shannon. The other two party leaders had already promised Butler
that. Shannon was a smart, athletic, good-looking fellow, all of
five feet ten inches in height, sandy-haired, pink-cheeked, blue-eyed,
considerable of an orator and a fine legal fighter. He was very
proud to be in the old man's favor--to be promised a place on the
ticket by him--and would, he said, if elected, do his bidding to
the best of his knowledge and ability.
There was only one fly in the ointment, so far as some of the
politicians were concerned, and that was that if Cowperwood were
convicted, Stener must needs be also. There was no escape in so
far as any one could see for the city treasurer. If Cowperwood
was guilty of securing by trickery sixty thousand dollars' worth
of the city money, Stener was guilty of securing five hundred
thousand dollars. The prison term for this was five years. He
might plead not guilty, and by submitting as evidence that what
he did was due to custom save himself from the odious necessity
of pleading guilty; but he would be convicted nevertheless. No
jury could get by the fact in regard to him. In spite of public
opinion, when it came to a trial there might be considerable doubt
in Cowperwood's case. There was none in Stener's.
The practical manner in which the situation was furthered, after
Cowperwood and Stener were formally charged may be quickly noted.
Steger, Cowperwood's lawyer, learned privately beforehand that
Cowperwood was to be prosecuted. He arranged at once to have his
client appear before any warrant could be served, and to forestall
the newspaper palaver which would follow it if he had to be searched
The mayor issued a warrant for Cowperwood's arrest, and, in
accordance with Steger's plan, Cowperwood immediately appeared
before Borchardt in company with his lawyer and gave bail in twenty
thousand dollars (W. C. Davison, president of the Girard National
Bank, being his surety), for his appearance at the central police
station on the following Saturday for a hearing. Marcus Oldslaw,
a lawyer, had been employed by Strobik as president of the common
council, to represent him in prosecuting the case for the city.
The mayor looked at Cowperwood curiously, for he, being comparatively
new to the political world of Philadelphia, was not so familiar
with him as others were; and Cowperwood returned the look pleasantly
"This is a great dumb show, Mr. Mayor," he observed once to Borchardt,
quietly, and the latter replied, with a smile and a kindly eye,
that as far as he was concerned, it was a form of procedure which
was absolutely unavoidable at this time.
"You know how it is, Mr. Cowperwood," he observed. The latter
smiled. "I do, indeed," he said.
Later there followed several more or less perfunctory appearances
in a local police court, known as the Central Court, where when
arraigned he pleaded not guilty, and finally his appearance before
the November grand jury, where, owing to the complicated nature
of the charge drawn up against him by Pettie, he thought it wise
to appear. He was properly indicted by the latter body (Shannon,
the newly elected district attorney, making a demonstration in
force), and his trial ordered for December 5th before a certain
Judge Payderson in Part I of Quarter Sessions, which was the local
branch of the State courts dealing with crimes of this character.
His indictment did not occur, however, before the coming and going
of the much-mooted fall election, which resulted, thanks to the
clever political manipulations of Mollenhauer and Simpson (ballot-box
stuffing and personal violence at the polls not barred), in another
victory, by, however, a greatly reduced majority. The Citizens'
Municipal Reform Association, in spite of a resounding defeat at
the polls, which could not have happened except by fraud, continued
to fire courageously away at those whom it considered to be the
Aileen Butler, during all this time, was following the trend of
Cowperwood's outward vicissitudes as heralded by the newspapers
and the local gossip with as much interest and bias and enthusiasm
for him as her powerful physical and affectional nature would permit.
She was no great reasoner where affection entered in, but shrewd
enough without it; and, although she saw him often and he told her
much--as much as his natural caution would permit--she yet gathered
from the newspapers and private conversation, at her own family's
table and elsewhere, that, as bad as they said he was, he was not
as bad as he might be. One item only, clipped from the Philadelphia
Public Ledger soon after Cowperwood had been publicly accused of
embezzlement, comforted and consoled her. She cut it out and
carried it in her bosom; for, somehow, it seemed to show that her
adored Frank was far more sinned against than sinning. It was a
part of one of those very numerous pronunciamientos or reports
issued by the Citizens' Municipal Reform Association, and it ran:
"The aspects of the case are graver than have yet been allowed
to reach the public. Five hundred thousand dollars of the
deficiency arises not from city bonds sold and not accounted
for, but from loans made by the treasurer to his broker. The
committee is also informed, on what it believes to be good
authority, that the loans sold by the broker were accounted
for in the monthly settlements at the lowest prices current
during the month, and that the difference between this rate
and that actually realized was divided between the treasurer
and the broker, thus making it to the interest of both parties
to 'bear' the market at some time during the month, so as to
obtain a low quotation for settlement. Nevertheless, the
committee can only regard the prosecution instituted against
the broker, Mr. Cowperwood, as an effort to divert public
attention from more guilty parties while those concerned may
be able to 'fix' matters to suit themselves."
"There," thought Aileen, when she read it, "there you have it."
These politicians--her father among them as she gathered after
his conversation with her--were trying to put the blame of their
own evil deeds on her Frank. He was not nearly as bad as he was
painted. The report said so. She gloated over the words "an
effort to divert public attention from more guilty parties." That
was just what her Frank had been telling her in those happy,
private hours when they had been together recently in one place
and another, particularly the new rendezvous in South Sixth Street
which he had established, since the old one had to be abandoned.
He had stroked her rich hair, caressed her body, and told her it
was all a prearranged political scheme to cast the blame as much
as possible on him and make it as light as possible for Stener and
the party generally. He would come out of it all right, he said,
but he cautioned her not to talk. He did not deny his long and
profitable relations with Stener. He told her exactly how it was.
She understood, or thought she did. Anyhow, her Frank was telling
her, and that was enough.
As for the two Cowperwood households, so recently and pretentiously
joined in success, now so gloomily tied in failure, the life was
going out of them. Frank Algernon was that life. He was the
courage and force of his father: the spirit and opportunity of his
brothers, the hope of his children, the estate of his wife, the
dignity and significance of the Cowperwood name. All that meant
opportunity, force, emolument, dignity, and happiness to those
connected with him, he was. And his marvelous sun was waning
apparently to a black eclipse.
Since the fatal morning, for instance, when Lillian Cowperwood had
received that utterly destructive note, like a cannonball ripping
through her domestic affairs, she had been walking like one in a
trance. Each day now for weeks she had been going about her duties
placidly enough to all outward seeming, but inwardly she was
running with a troubled tide of thought. She was so utterly unhappy.
Her fortieth year had come for her at a time when life ought
naturally to stand fixed and firm on a solid base, and here she was
about to be torn bodily from the domestic soil in which she was
growing and blooming, and thrown out indifferently to wither in
the blistering noonday sun of circumstance.
As for Cowperwood, Senior, his situation at his bank and elsewhere
was rapidly nearing a climax. As has been said, he had had
tremendous faith in his son; but he could not help seeing that
an error had been committed, as he thought, and that Frank was
suffering greatly for it now. He considered, of course, that Frank
had been entitled to try to save himself as he had; but he so
regretted that his son should have put his foot into the trap of
any situation which could stir up discussion of the sort that was
now being aroused. Frank was wonderfully brilliant. He need never
have taken up with the city treasurer or the politicians to have
succeeded marvelously. Local street-railways and speculative
politicians were his undoing. The old man walked the floor all
of the days, realizing that his sun was setting, that with Frank's
failure he failed, and that this disgrace--these public charges--
meant his own undoing. His hair had grown very gray in but a few
weeks, his step slow, his face pallid, his eyes sunken. His rather
showy side-whiskers seemed now like flags or ornaments of a better
day that was gone. His only consolation through it all was that
Frank had actually got out of his relationship with the Third
National Bank without owing it a single dollar. Still as he knew
the directors of that institution could not possibly tolerate the
presence of a man whose son had helped loot the city treasury,
and whose name was now in the public prints in this connection.
Besides, Cowperwood, Sr., was too old. He ought to retire.
The crisis for him therefore came on the day when Frank was arrested
on the embezzlement charge. The old man, through Frank, who had it
from Steger, knew it was coming, still had the courage to go to
the bank but it was like struggling under the weight of a heavy
stone to do it. But before going, and after a sleepless night,
he wrote his resignation to Frewen Kasson, the chairman of the
board of directors, in order that he should be prepared to hand
it to him, at once. Kasson, a stocky, well-built, magnetic man of
fifty, breathed an inward sigh of relief at the sight of it.
"I know it's hard, Mr. Cowperwood," he said, sympathetically.
"We--and I can speak for the other members of the board--we feel
keenly the unfortunate nature of your position. We know exactly
how it is that your son has become involved in this matter. He
is not the only banker who has been involved in the city's affairs.
By no means. It is an old system. We appreciate, all of us,
keenly, the services you have rendered this institution during the
past thirty-five years. If there were any possible way in which
we could help to tide you over the difficulties at this time, we
would be glad to do so, but as a banker yourself you must realize
just how impossible that would be. Everything is in a turmoil.
If things were settled--if we knew how soon this would blow over--"
He paused, for he felt that he could not go on and say that he or
the bank was sorry to be forced to lose Mr. Cowperwood in this way
at present. Mr. Cowperwood himself would have to speak.
During all this Cowperwood, Sr., had been doing his best to pull
himself together in order to be able to speak at all. He had
gotten out a large white linen handkerchief and blown his nose,
and had straightened himself in his chair, and laid his hands
rather peacefully on his desk. Still he was intensely wrought up.
"I can't stand this!" he suddenly exclaimed. "I wish you would
leave me alone now."
Kasson, very carefully dressed and manicured, arose and walked
out of the room for a few moments. He appreciated keenly the
intensity of the strain he had just witnessed. The moment the
door was closed Cowperwood put his head in his hands and shook
convulsively. "I never thought I'd come to this," he muttered.
"I never thought it." Then he wiped away his salty hot tears,
and went to the window to look out and to think of what else to
do from now on.
As time went on Butler grew more and more puzzled and restive as
to his duty in regard to his daughter. He was sure by her furtive
manner and her apparent desire to avoid him, that she was still
in touch with Cowperwood in some way, and that this would bring
about a social disaster of some kind. He thought once of going
to Mrs. Cowperwood and having her bring pressure to bear on her
husband, but afterwards he decided that that would not do. He
was not really positive as yet that Aileen was secretly meeting
Cowperwood, and, besides, Mrs. Cowperwood might not know of her
husband's duplicity. He thought also of going to Cowperwood
personally and threatening him, but that would be a severe measure,
and again, as in the other case, he lacked proof. He hesitated
to appeal to a detective agency, and he did not care to take the
other members of the family into his confidence. He did go out
and scan the neighborhood of 931 North Tenth Street once, looking
at the house; but that helped him little. The place was for rent,
Cowperwood having already abandoned his connection with it.
Finally he hit upon the plan of having Aileen invited to go somewhere
some distance off--Boston or New Orleans, where a sister of his
wife lived. It was a delicate matter to engineer, and in such
matters he was not exactly the soul of tact; but he undertook it.
He wrote personally to his wife's sister at New Orleans, and asked
her if she would, without indicating in any way that she had heard
from him, write his wife and ask if she would not permit Aileen
to come and visit her, writing Aileen an invitation at the same
time; but he tore the letter up. A little later he learned
accidentally that Mrs. Mollenhauer and her three daughters, Caroline,
Felicia, and Alta, were going to Europe early in December to visit
Paris, the Riviera, and Rome; and he decided to ask Mollenhauer
to persuade his wife to invite Norah and Aileen, or Aileen only,
to go along, giving as an excuse that his own wife would not leave
him, and that the girls ought to go. It would be a fine way of
disposing of Aileen for the present. The party was to be gone
six months. Mollenhauer was glad to do so, of course. The two
families were fairly intimate. Mrs. Mollenhauer was willing--
delighted from a politic point of view--and the invitation was
extended. Norah was overjoyed. She wanted to see something of
Europe, and had always been hoping for some such opportunity.
Aileen was pleased from the point of view that Mrs. Mollenhauer
should invite her. Years before she would have accepted in a
flash. But now she felt that it only came as a puzzling
interruption, one more of the minor difficulties that were tending
to interrupt her relations with Cowperwood. She immediately threw
cold water on the proposition, which was made one evening at dinner
by Mrs. Butler, who did not know of her husband's share in the
matter, but had received a call that afternoon from Mrs. Mollenhauer,
when the invitation had been extended.
"She's very anxious to have you two come along, if your father
don't mind," volunteered the mother, "and I should think ye'd have
a fine time. They're going to Paris and the Riveera."
"Oh, fine!" exclaimed Norah. "I've always wanted to go to Paris.
Haven't you, Ai? Oh, wouldn't that be fine?"
"I don't know that I want to go," replied Aileen. She did not care
to compromise herself by showing any interest at the start. "It's
coming on winter, and I haven't any clothes. I'd rather wait and
go some other time."
"Oh, Aileen Butler!" exclaimed Norah. "How you talk! I've heard
you say a dozen times you'd like to go abroad some winter. Now
when the chance comes--besides you can get your clothes made over
"Couldn't you get somethin' over there?" inquired Mrs. Butler.
"Besides, you've got two or three weeks here yet."
"They wouldn't want a man around as a sort of guide and adviser,
would they, mother?" put in Callum.
"I might offer my services in that capacity myself," observed
"I'm sure I don't know," returned Mrs. Butler, smiling, and at
the same time chewing a lusty mouthful. "You'll have to ast 'em,
Aileen still persisted. She did not want to go. It was too sudden.
It was this. It was that. Just then old Butler came in and took
his seat at the head of the table. Knowing all about it, he was
most anxious to appear not to.
"You wouldn't object, Edward, would you?" queried his wife, explaining
the proposition in general.
"Object!" he echoed, with a well simulated but rough attempt at
gayety. "A fine thing I'd be doing for meself--objectin'. I'd
be glad if I could get shut of the whole pack of ye for a time."
"What talk ye have!" said his wife. "A fine mess you'd make of
it livin' alone."
"I'd not be alone, belave me," replied Butler. "There's many a
place I'd be welcome in this town--no thanks to ye."
"And there's many a place ye wouldn't have been if it hadn't been
for me. I'm tellin' ye that," retorted Mrs. Butler, genially.
"And that's not stretchin' the troot much, aither," he answered,
Aileen was adamant. No amount of argument both on the part of
Norah and her mother had any effect whatever. Butler witnessed
the failure of his plan with considerable dissatisfaction, but
he was not through. When he was finally convinced that there was
no hope of persuading her to accept the Mollenhauer proposition,
he decided, after a while, to employ a detective.
At that time, the reputation of William A. Pinkerton, of detective
fame, and of his agency was great. The man had come up from poverty
through a series of vicissitudes to a high standing in his peculiar
and, to many, distasteful profession; but to any one in need of
such in themselves calamitous services, his very famous and decidedly
patriotic connection with the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln was a
recommendation. He, or rather his service, had guarded the latter
all his stormy incumbency at the executive mansion. There were
offices for the management of the company's business in Philadelphia,
Washington, and New York, to say nothing of other places. Butler
was familiar with the Philadelphia sign, but did not care to go
to the office there. He decided, once his mind was made up on
this score, that he would go over to New York, where he was told
the principal offices were.
He made the simple excuse one day of business, which was common
enough in his case, and journeyed to New York--nearly five hours
away as the trains ran then--arriving at two o'clock. At the
offices on lower Broadway, he asked to see the manager, whom he
found to be a large, gross-featured, heavy-bodied man of fifty,
gray-eyed, gray-haired, puffily outlined as to countenance, but
keen and shrewd, and with short, fat-fingered hands, which drummed
idly on his desk as he talked. He was dressed in a suit of
dark-brown wool cloth, which struck Butler as peculiarly showy,
and wore a large horseshoe diamond pin. The old man himself
invariably wore conservative gray.
"How do you do?" said Butler, when a boy ushered him into the
presence of this worthy, whose name was Martinson--Gilbert Martinson,
of American and Irish extraction. The latter nodded and looked
at Butler shrewdly, recognizing him at once as a man of force and
probably of position. He therefore rose and offered him a chair.
"Sit down," he said, studying the old Irishman from under thick,
bushy eyebrows. "What can I do for you?"
"You're the manager, are you?" asked Butler, solemnly, eyeing the
man with a shrewd, inquiring eye.
"Yes, sir," replied Martinson, simply. "That's my position here."
"This Mr. Pinkerton that runs this agency--he wouldn't be about
this place, now, would he?" asked Butler, carefully. "I'd like to
talk to him personally, if I might, meaning no offense to you."
"Mr. Pinkerton is in Chicago at present," replied Mr. Martinson.
"I don't expect him back for a week or ten days. You can talk to
me, though, with the same confidence that you could to him. I'm
the responsible head here. However, you're the best judge of that."
Butler debated with himself in silence for a few moments, estimating
the man before him. "Are you a family man yourself?" he asked,
"Yes, sir, I'm married," replied Martinson, solemnly. "I have a
wife and two children."
Martinson, from long experience conceived that this must be a
matter of family misconduct--a son, daughter, wife. Such cases
were not infrequent.
"I thought I would like to talk to Mr. Pinkerton himself, but if
you're the responsible head--" Butler paused.
"I am," replied Martinson. "You can talk to me with the same
freedom that you could to Mr. Pinkerton. Won't you come into my
private office? We can talk more at ease in there."
He led the way into an adjoining room which had two windows looking
down into Broadway; an oblong table, heavy, brown, smoothly polished;
four leather-backed chairs; and some pictures of the Civil War
battles in which the North had been victorious. Butler followed
doubtfully. He hated very much to take any one into his confidence
in regard to Aileen. He was not sure that he would, even now.
He wanted to "look these fellys over," as he said in his mind. He
would decide then what he wanted to do. He went to one of the
windows and looked down into the street, where there was a perfect
swirl of omnibuses and vehicles of all sorts. Mr. Martinson quietly
closed the door.
"Now then, if there's anything I can do for you," Mr. Martinson
paused. He thought by this little trick to elicit Buder's real
name--it often "worked"-- but in this instance the name was not
forthcoming. Butler was too shrewd.
"I'm not so sure that I want to go into this," said the old man
solemnly. "Certainly not if there's any risk of the thing not
being handled in the right way. There's somethin' I want to find
out about--somethin' that I ought to know; but it's a very private
matter with me, and--" He paused to think and conjecture, looking
at Mr. Martinson the while. The latter understood his peculiar
state of mind. He had seen many such cases.
"Let me say right here, to begin with, Mr.--"
"Scanlon," interpolated Butler, easily; "that's as good a name as
any if you want to use one. I'm keepin' me own to meself for the
"Scanlon," continued Martinson, easily. "I really don't care whether
it's your right name or not. I was just going to say that it might
not be necessary to have your right name under any circumstances--
it all depends upon what you want to know. But, so far as your
private affairs are concerned, they are as safe with us, as if you
had never told them to any one. Our business is built upon confidence,
and we never betray it. We wouldn't dare. We have men and women
who have been in our employ for over thirty years, and we never
retire any one except for cause, and we don't pick people who are
likely to need to be retired for cause. Mr. Pinkerton is a good
judge of men. There are others here who consider that they are.
We handle over ten thousand separate cases in all parts of the
United States every year. We work on a case only so long as we
are wanted. We try to find out only such things as our customers
want. We do not pry unnecessarily into anybody's affairs. If we
decide that we cannot find out what you want to know, we are the
first to say so. Many cases are rejected right here in this office
before we ever begin. Yours might be such a one. We don't want
cases merely for the sake of having them, and we are frank to say
so. Some matters that involve public policy, or some form of small
persecution, we don't touch at all--we won't be a party to them.
You can see how that is. You look to me to be a man of the world.
I hope I am one. Does it strike you that an organization like ours
would be likely to betray any one's confidence?" He paused and
looked at Butler for confirmation of what he had just said.
"It wouldn't seem likely," said the latter; "that's the truth.
It's not aisy to bring your private affairs into the light of day,
though," added the old man, sadly.
They both rested.
"Well," said Butler, finally, "you look to me to be all right, and
I'd like some advice. Mind ye, I'm willing to pay for it well
enough; and it isn't anything that'll be very hard to find out. I
want to know whether a certain man where I live is goin' with a
certain woman, and where. You could find that out aisy enough, I
"Nothing easier," replied Martinson. "We are doing it all the
time. Let me see if I can help you just a moment, Mr. Scanlon,
in order to make it easier for you. It is very plain to me that
you don't care to tell any more than you can help, and we don't
care to have you tell any more than we absolutely need. We will
have to have the name of the city, of course, and the name of either
the man or the woman; but not necessarily both of them, unless you
want to help us in that way. Sometimes if you give us the name of
one party--say the man, for illustration--and the description of
the woman--an accurate one--or a photograph, we can tell you after
a little while exactly what you want to know. Of course, it's
always better if we have full information. You suit yourself about
that. Tell me as much or as little as you please, and I'll guarantee
that we will do our best to serve you, and that you will be satisfied
He smiled genially.
"Well, that bein' the case," said Butler, finally taking the leap,
with many mental reservations, however, "I'll be plain with you.
My name's not Scanlon. It's Butler. I live in Philadelphy. There's
a man there, a banker by the name of Cowperwood--Frank A. Cowperwood--"
"Wait a moment," said Martinson, drawing an ample pad out of his
pocket and producing a lead-pencil; "I want to get that. How do
you spell it?"
Butler told him.
"Yes; now go on."
"He has a place in Third Street--Frank A. Cowperwood--any one can
show you where it is. He's just failed there recently."
"Oh, that's the man," interpolated Martinson. "I've heard of him.
He's mixed up in some city embezzlement case over there. I suppose
the reason you didn't go to our Philadelphia office is because you
didn't want our local men over there to know anything about it.
Isn't that it?"
"That's the man, and that's the reason," said Butler. "I don't care
to have anything of this known in Philadelphy. That's why I'm here.
This man has a house on Girard Avenue--Nineteen-thirty-seven. You
can find that out, too, when you get over there."
"Yes," agreed Mr. Martinson.
"Well, it's him that I want to know about--him--and a certain woman,
or girl, rather." The old man paused and winced at this necessity
of introducing Aileen into the case. He could scarcely think of
it--he was so fond of her. He had been so proud of Aileen. A dark,
smoldering rage burned in his heart against Cowperwood.
"A relative of yours--possibly, I suppose," remarked Martinson,
tactfully. "You needn't tell me any more--just give me a description
if you wish. We may be able to work from that." He saw quite
clearly what a fine old citizen in his way he was dealing with here,
and also that the man was greatly troubled. Butler's heavy,
meditative face showed it. "You can be quite frank with me, Mr.
Butler," he added; "I think I understand. We only want such
information as we must have to help you, nothing more."
"Yes," said the old man, dourly. "She is a relative. She's me
daughter, in fact. You look to me like a sensible, honest man.
I'm her father, and I wouldn't do anything for the world to harm
her. It's tryin' to save her I am. It's him I want." He suddenly
closed one big fist forcefully.
Martinson, who had two daughters of his own, observed the suggestive
"I understand how you feel, Mr. Butler," he observed. "I am a
father myself. We'll do all we can for you. If you can give me
an accurate description of her, or let one of my men see her at
your house or office, accidentally, of course, I think we can tell
you in no time at all if they are meeting with any regularity.
That's all you want to know, is it--just that?"
"That's all," said Butler, solemnly.
"Well, that oughtn't to take any time at all, Mr. Butler--three
or four days possibly, if we have any luck--a week, ten days, two
weeks. It depends on how long you want us to shadow him in case
there is no evidence the first few days."
"I want to know, however long it takes," replied Butler, bitterly.
"I want to know, if it takes a month or two months or three to find
out. I want to know." The old man got up as he said this, very
positive, very rugged. "And don't send me men that haven't sinse--
lots of it, plase. I want men that are fathers, if you've got
'em--and that have sinse enough to hold their tongues--not b'ys."
"I understand, Mr. Butler," Martinson replied. "Depend on it,
you'll have the best we have, and you can trust them. They'll
be discreet. You can depend on that. The way I'll do will be
to assign just one man to the case at first, some one you can see
for yourself whether you like or not. I'll not tell him anything.
You can talk to him. If you like him, tell him, and he'll do the
rest. Then, if he needs any more help, he can get it. What is
Butler gave it to him.
"And there'll be no talk about this?"
"None whatever--I assure you."
"And when'll he be comin' along?"
"To-morrow, if you wish. I have a man I could send to-night. He
isn't here now or I'd have him talk with you. I'll talk to him,
though, and make everything clear. You needn't worry about anything.
Your daughter's reputation will be safe in his hands."
"Thank you kindly," commented Butler, softening the least bit in
a gingerly way. "I'm much obliged to you. I'll take it as a great
favor, and pay you well."
"Never mind about that, Mr. Butler," replied Martinson. "You're
welcome to anything this concern can do for you at its ordinary rates."
He showed Butler to the door, and the old man went out. He was
feeling very depressed over this--very shabby. To think he should
have to put detectives on the track of his Aileen, his daughter!
The very next day there called at Butler's office a long,
preternaturally solemn man of noticeable height and angularity,
dark-haired, dark-eyed, sallow, with a face that was long and
leathery, and particularly hawk-like, who talked with Butler for
over an hour and then departed. That evening he came to the
Butler house around dinner-time, and, being shown into Butler's
room, was given a look at Aileen by a ruse. Butler sent for her,
standing in the doorway just far enough to one side to yield a
good view of her. The detective stood behind one of the heavy
curtains which had already been put up for the winter, pretending
to look out into the street.
"Did any one drive Sissy this mornin'?" asked Butler of Aileen,
inquiring after a favorite family horse. Butler's plan, in case
the detective was seen, was to give the impression that he was a
horseman who had come either to buy or to sell. His name was Jonas
Alderson, and be looked sufficiently like a horsetrader to be one.
"I don't think so, father," replied Aileen. "I didn't. I'll find
"Never mind. What I want to know is did you intend using her
"No, not if you want her. Jerry suits me just as well."
"Very well, then. Leave her in the stable." Butler quietly closed
the door. Aileen concluded at once that it was a horse conference.
She knew he would not dispose of any horse in which she was interested
without first consulting her, and so she thought no more about it.
After she was gone Alderson stepped out and declared that he was
satisfied. "That's all I need to know," he said. "I'll let you
know in a few days if I find out anything."
He departed, and within thirty-six hours the house and office of
Cowperwood, the house of Butler, the office of Harper Steger,
Cowperwood's lawyer, and Cowperwood and Aileen separately and
personally were under complete surveillance. It took six men to
do it at first, and eventually a seventh, when the second
meeting-place, which was located in South Sixth Street, was
discovered. All the detectives were from New York. In a week all
was known to Alderson. It bad been agreed between him and Butler
that if Aileen and Cowperwood were discovered to have any particular
rendezvous Butler was to be notified some time when she was there,
so that he might go immediately and confront her in person, if he
wished. He did not intend to kill Cowperwood--and Alderson would
have seen to it that he did not in his presence at least, but he
would give him a good tongue-lashing, fell him to the floor, in all
likelihood, and march Aileen away. There would be no more lying
on her part as to whether she was or was not going with Cowperwood.
She would not be able to say after that what she would or would not
do. Butler would lay down the law to her. She would reform, or
he would send her to a reformatory. Think of her influence on her
sister, or on any good girl--knowing what she knew, or doing what
she was doing! She would go to Europe after this, or any place he
chose to send her.
In working out his plan of action it was necessary for Butler to
take Alderson into his confidence and the detective made plain
his determination to safeguard Cowperwood's person.
"We couldn't allow you to strike any blows or do any violence,"
Alderson told Butler, when they first talked about it. "It's
against the rules. You can go in there on a search-warrant, if
we have to have one. I can get that for you without anybody's
knowing anything about your connection with the case. We can say
it's for a girl from New York. But you'll have to go in in the
presence of my men. They won't permit any trouble. You can get
your daughter all right--we'll bring her away, and him, too, if
you say so; but you'll have to make some charge against him, if
we do. Then there's the danger of the neighbors seeing. You
can't always guarantee you won't collect a crowd that way." Butler
had many misgivings about the matter. It was fraught with great
danger of publicity. Still he wanted to know. He wanted to terrify
Aileen if he could--to reform her drastically.
Within a week Alderson learned that Aileen and Cowperwood were
visiting an apparently private residence, which was anything but
that. The house on South Sixth Street was one of assignation purely;
but in its way it was superior to the average establishment of its