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Theodore Dreiser >> The Financier (page 38)


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.Chapter XXXV
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 there."

"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 Owen, reservedly.

"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, my sons."

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, fondly.

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."

Title: The Financier
Author: Theodore Dreiser
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