"Because-well, because I'm older. People would think it strange. I'm not long enough free."
"Oh, long enough nothing!" he exclaimed, irritably. "That's the one thing I have against you-you are so worried about what people think. They don't make your life. They certainly don't make mine. Think of yourself first. You have your own life to make. Are you going to let what other people think stand in the way of what you want to do?"
"But I don't want to," she smiled.
He arose and came over to her, looking into her eyes.
"Well?" she asked, nervously, quizzically.
He merely looked at her.
"Well?" she queried, more flustered.
He stooped down to take her arms, but she got up.
"Now you must not come near me," she pleaded, determinedly. "I'll go in the house, and I'll not let you come any more. It's terrible! You're silly! You mustn't interest yourself in me."
She did show a good deal of determination, and he desisted. But for the time being only. He called again and again. Then one night, when they had gone inside because of the mosquitoes, and when she had insisted that he must stop coming to see her, that his attentions were noticeable to others, and that she would be disgraced, he caught her, under desperate protest, in his arms.
"Now, see here!" she exclaimed. "I told you! It's silly! You mustn't kiss me! How dare you! Oh! oh! oh!-"
She broke away and ran up the near-by stairway to her room. Cowperwood followed her swiftly. As she pushed the door to he forced it open and recaptured her. He lifted her bodily from her feet and held her crosswise, lying in his arms.
"Oh, how could you!" she exclaimed. "I will never speak to you any more. I will never let you come here any more if you don't put me down this minute. Put me down!"
"I'll put you down, sweet," he said. "I'll take you down," at the same time pulling her face to him and kissing her. He was very much aroused, excited.
While she was twisting and protesting, he carried her down the stairs again into the living-room, and seated himself in the great armchair, still holding her tight in his arms.
"Oh!" she sighed, falling limp on his shoulder when he refused to let her go. Then, because of the set determination of his face, some intense pull in him, she smiled. "How would I ever explain if I did marry you?" she asked, weakly. "Your father! Your mother!"
"You don't need to explain. I'll do that. And you needn't worry about my family. They won't care."
"But mine," she recoiled.
"Don't worry about yours. I'm not marrying your family. I'm marrying you. We have independent means."
She relapsed into additional protests; but he kissed her the more. There was a deadly persuasion to his caresses. Mr. Semple had never displayed any such fire. He aroused a force of feeling in her which had not previously been there. She was afraid of it and ashamed.
"Will you marry me in a month?" he asked, cheerfully, when she paused.
"You know I won't!" she exclaimed, nervously. "The idea! Why do you ask?"
"What difference does it make? We're going to get married eventually." He was thinking how attractive he could make her look in other surroundings. Neither she nor his family knew how to live.
"Well, not in a month. Wait a little while. I will marry you after a while-after you see whether you want me."
He caught her tight. "I'll show you," he said.
"Please stop. You hurt me."
"How about it? Two months?"
"No maybe in that case. We marry."
"But you're only a boy."
"Don't worry about me. You'll find out how much of a boy I am."
He seemed of a sudden to open up a new world to her, and she realized that she had never really lived before. This man represented something bigger and stronger than ever her husband had dreamed of. In his young way he was terrible, irresistible.
"Well, in three months then," she whispered, while he rocked her cozily in his arms.
Cowperwood started in the note brokerage business with a small
office at No. 64 South Third Street, where he very soon had the
pleasure of discovering that his former excellent business
connections remembered him. He would go to one house, where he
suspected ready money might be desirable, and offer to negotiate
their notes or any paper they might issue bearing six per cent.
interest for a commission and then he would sell the paper for a
small commission to some one who would welcome a secure investment.
Sometimes his father, sometimes other people, helped him with
suggestions as to when and how. Between the two ends he might
make four and five per cent. on the total transaction. In the
first year he cleared six thousand dollars over and above all
expenses. That wasn't much, but he was augmenting it in another
way which he believed would bring great profit in the future.
Before the first street-car line, which was a shambling affair, had been laid on Front Street, the streets of Philadelphia had been crowded with hundreds of springless omnibuses rattling over rough, hard, cobblestones. Now, thanks to the idea of John Stephenson, in New York, the double rail track idea had come, and besides the line on Fifth and Sixth Streets (the cars running out one street and back on another) which had paid splendidly from the start, there were many other lines proposed or under way. The city was as eager to see street-cars replace omnibuses as it was to see railroads replace canals. There was opposition, of course. There always is in such cases. The cry of probable monopoly was raised. Disgruntled and defeated omnibus owners and drivers groaned aloud.
Cowperwood had implicit faith in the future of the street railway. In support of this belief he risked all he could spare on new issues of stock shares in new companies. He wanted to be on the inside wherever possible, always, though this was a little difficult in the matter of the street-railways, he having been so young when they started and not having yet arranged his financial connections to make them count for much. The Fifth and Sixth Street line, which had been but recently started, was paying six hundred dollars a day. A project for a West Philadelphia line (Walnut and Chestnut) was on foot, as were lines to occupy Second and Third Streets, Race and Vine, Spruce and Pine, Green and Coates, Tenth and Eleventh, and so forth. They were engineered and backed by some powerful capitalists who had influence with the State legislature and could, in spite of great public protest, obtain franchises. Charges of corruption were in the air. It was argued that the streets were valuable, and that the companies should pay a road tax of a thousand dollars a mile. Somehow, however, these splendid grants were gotten through, and the public, hearing of the Fifth and Sixth Street line profits, was eager to invest. Cowperwood was one of these, and when the Second and Third Street line was engineered, he invested in that and in the Walnut and Chestnut Street line also. He began to have vague dreams of controlling a line himself some day, but as yet he did not see exactly how it was to be done, since his business was far from being a bonanza.
In the midst of this early work he married Mrs. Semple. There was no vast to-do about it, as he did not want any and his bride-to-be was nervous, fearsome of public opinion. His family did not entirely approve. She was too old, his mother and father thought, and then Frank, with his prospects, could have done much better. His sister Anna fancied that Mrs. Semple was designing, which was, of course, not true. His brothers, Joseph and Edward, were interested, but not certain as to what they actually thought, since Mrs. Semple was good-looking and had some money.
It was a warm October day when he and Lillian went to the altar, in the First Presbyterian Church of Callowhill Street. His bride, Frank was satisfied, looked exquisite in a trailing gown of cream lace-a creation that had cost months of labor. His parents, Mrs. Seneca Davis, the Wiggin family, brothers and sisters, and some friends were present. He was a little opposed to this idea, but Lillian wanted it. He stood up straight and correct in black broadcloth for the wedding ceremony-because she wished it, but later changed to a smart business suit for traveling. He had arranged his affairs for a two weeks' trip to New York and Boston. They took an afternoon train for New York, which required five hours to reach. When they were finally alone in the Astor House, New York, after hours of make-believe and public pretense of indifference, he gathered her in his arms.
"Oh, it's delicious," he exclaimed, "to have you all to myself."
She met his eagerness with that smiling, tantalizing passivity which he had so much admired but which this time was tinged strongly with a communicated desire. He thought he should never have enough of her, her beautiful face, her lovely arms, her smooth, lymphatic body. They were like two children, billing and cooing, driving, dining, seeing the sights. He was curious to visit the financial sections of both cities. New York and Boston appealed to him as commercially solid. He wondered, as he observed the former, whether he should ever leave Philadelphia. He was going to be very happy there now, he thought, with Lillian and possibly a brood of young Cowperwoods. He was going to work hard and make money. With his means and hers now at his command, he might become, very readily, notably wealthy.Chapter X
The home atmosphere which they established when they returned
from their honeymoon was a great improvement in taste over that
which had characterized the earlier life of Mrs. Cowperwood as
Mrs. Semple. They had decided to occupy her house, on North Front
Street, for a while at least. Cowperwood, aggressive in his
current artistic mood, had objected at once after they were engaged
to the spirit of the furniture and decorations, or lack of them,
and had suggested that he be allowed to have it brought more in
keeping with his idea of what was appropriate. During the years
in which he had been growing into manhood he had come instinctively
into sound notions of what was artistic and refined. He had seen
so many homes that were more distinguished and harmonious than his
own. One could not walk or drive about Philadelphia without seeing
and being impressed with the general tendency toward a more
cultivated and selective social life. Many excellent and expensive
houses were being erected. The front lawn, with some attempt at
floral gardening, was achieving local popularity. In the homes of
the Tighes, the Leighs, Arthur Rivers, and others, he had noticed
art objects of some distinction-bronzes, marbles, hangings,
pictures, clocks, rugs.
It seemed to him now that his comparatively commonplace house could be made into something charming and for comparatively little money. The dining-room for instance which, through two plain windows set in a hat side wall back of the veranda, looked south over a stretch of grass and several trees and bushes to a dividing fence where the Semple property ended and a neighbor's began, could be made so much more attractive. That fence-sharp-pointed, gray palings– could be torn away and a hedge put in its place. The wall which divided the dining-room from the parlor could be knocked through and a hanging of some pleasing character put in its place. A bay-window could be built to replace the two present oblong windows-a bay which would come down to the floor and open out on the lawn via swiveled, diamond-shaped, lead-paned frames. All this shabby, nondescript furniture, collected from heaven knows where– partly inherited from the Semples and the Wiggins and partly bought-could be thrown out or sold and something better and more harmonious introduced. He knew a young man by the name of Ellsworth, an architect newly graduated from a local school, with whom he had struck up an interesting friendship-one of those inexplicable inclinations of temperament. Wilton Ellsworth was an artist in spirit, quiet, meditative, refined. From discussing the quality of a certain building on Chestnut Street which was then being erected, and which Ellsworth pronounced atrocious, they had fallen to discussing art in general, or the lack of it, in America. And it occurred to him that Ellsworth was the man to carry out his decorative views to a nicety. When he suggested the young man to Lillian, she placidly agreed with him and also with his own ideas of how the house could be revised.
So while they were gone on their honeymoon Ellsworth began the revision on an estimated cost of three thousand dollars, including the furniture. It was not completed for nearly three weeks after their return; but when finished made a comparatively new house. The dining-room bay hung low over the grass, as Frank wished, and the windows were diamond-paned and leaded, swiveled on brass rods. The parlor and dining-room were separated by sliding doors; but the intention was to hang in this opening a silk hanging depicting a wedding scene in Normandy. Old English oak was used in the dining-room, an American imitation of Chippendale and Sheraton for the sitting-room and the bedrooms. There were a few simple water-colors hung here and there, some bronzes of Hosmer and Powers, a marble venus by Potter, a now forgotten sculptor, and other objects of art-nothing of any distinction. Pleasing, appropriately colored rugs covered the floor. Mrs. Cowperwood was shocked by the nudity of the Venus which conveyed an atmosphere of European freedom not common to America; but she said nothing. It was all harmonious and soothing, and she did not feel herself capable to judge. Frank knew about these things so much better than she did. Then with a maid and a man of all work installed, a program of entertaining was begun on a small scale.
Those who recall the early years of their married life can best realize the subtle changes which this new condition brought to Frank, for, like all who accept the hymeneal yoke, he was influenced to a certain extent by the things with which he surrounded himself. Primarily, from certain traits of his character, one would have imagined him called to be a citizen of eminent respectability and worth. He appeared to be an ideal home man. He delighted to return to his wife in the evenings, leaving the crowded downtown section where traffic clamored and men hurried. Here he could feel that he was well-stationed and physically happy in life. The thought of the dinner-table with candles upon it (his idea); the thought of Lillian in a trailing gown of pale-blue or green silk-he liked her in those colors; the thought of a large fireplace flaming with solid lengths of cord-wood, and Lillian snuggling in his arms, gripped his immature imagination. As has been said before, he cared nothing for books, but life, pictures, trees, physical contact-these, in spite of his shrewd and already gripping financial calculations, held him. To live richly, joyously, fully-his whole nature craved that.
And Mrs. Cowperwood, in spite of the difference in their years, appeared to be a fit mate for him at this time. She was once awakened, and for the time being, clinging, responsive, dreamy. His mood and hers was for a baby, and in a little while that happy expectation was whispered to him by her. She had half fancied that her previous barrenness was due to herself, and was rather surprised and delighted at the proof that it was not so. It opened new possibilities-a seemingly glorious future of which she was not afraid. He liked it, the idea of self-duplication. It was almost acquisitive, this thought. For days and weeks and months and years, at least the first four or five, he took a keen satisfaction in coming home evenings, strolling about the yard, driving with his wife, having friends in to dinner, talking over with her in an explanatory way the things he intended to do. She did not understand his financial abstrusities, and he did not trouble to make them clear.