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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Financier - Chapter 22
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The Financier - Chapter 22 Post by :gtelivwa Category :Long Stories Author :Theodore Dreiser Date :February 2011 Read :3307

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The Financier - Chapter 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The vagaries of passion! Subtleties! Risks! What sacrifices arenot laid willfully upon its altar! In a little while this morethan average residence to which Cowperwood had referred wasprepared solely to effect a satisfactory method of concealment.The house was governed by a seemingly recently-bereaved widow,and it was possible for Aileen to call without seeming strangelyout of place. In such surroundings, and under such circumstances,it was not difficult to persuade her to give herself wholly to herlover, governed as she was by her wild and unreasoning affectionand passion. In a way, there was a saving element of love, fortruly, above all
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