Since it is the privilege of the lawyer for the defense to address the jury first, Steger bowed politely to his colleague and came forward. Putting his hands on the jury-box rail, he began in a very quiet, modest, but impressive way:
“Gentlemen of the jury, my client, Mr. Frank Algernon Cowperwood, a well-known banker and financier of this city, doing business in Third Street, is charged by the State of Pennsylvania, represented by the district attorney of this district, with fraudulently transferring from the treasury of the city of Philadelphia to his own purse the sum of sixty thousand dollars, in the form of a check made out to his order, dated October 9, 1871, and by him received from one Albert Stires, the private secretary and head bookkeeper of the treasurer of this city, at the time in question. Now, gentlemen, what are the facts in this connection? You have heard the various witnesses and know the general outlines of the story. Take the testimony of George W. Stener, to begin with. He tells you that sometime back in the year 1866 he was greatly in need of some one, some banker or broker, who would tell him how to bring city loan, which was selling very low at the time, to par—who would not only tell him this, but proceed to demonstrate that his knowledge was accurate by doing it. Mr. Stener was an inexperienced man at the time in the matter of finance. Mr. Cowperwood was an active young man with an enviable record as a broker and a trader on ‘change. He proceeded to demonstrate to Mr. Stener not only in theory, but in fact, how this thing of bringing city loan to par could be done. He made an arrangement at that time with Mr. Stener, the details of which you have heard from Mr. Stener himself, the result of which was that a large amount of city loan was turned over to Mr. Cowperwood by Mr. Stener for sale, and by adroit manipulation—methods of buying and selling which need not be gone into here, but which are perfectly sane and legitimate in the world in which Mr. Cowperwood operated, did bring that loan to par, and kept it there year after year as you have all heard here testified to.
“Now what is the bone of contention here, gentlemen, the significant fact which brings Mr. Stener into this court at this time charging his old-time agent and broker with larceny and embezzlement, and alleging that he has transferred to his own use without a shadow of return sixty thousand dollars of the money which belongs to the city treasury? What is it? Is it that Mr. Cowperwood secretly, with great stealth, as it were, at some time or other, unknown to Mr. Stener or to his assistants, entered the office of the treasurer and forcibly, and with criminal intent, carried away sixty thousand dollars’ worth of the city’s money? Not at all. The charge is, as you have heard the district attorney explain, that Mr. Cowperwood came in broad daylight at between four and five o’clock of the afternoon preceeding the day of his assignment; was closeted with Mr. Stener for a half or three-quarters of an hour; came out; explained to Mr. Albert Stires that he had recently bought sixty thousand dollars’ worth of city loan for the city sinking-fund, for which he had not been paid; asked that the amount be credited on the city’s books to him, and that he be given a check, which was his due, and walked out. Anything very remarkable about that, gentlemen? Anything very strange? Has it been testified here to-day that Mr. Cowperwood was not the agent of the city for the transaction of just such business as he said on that occasion that he had transacted? Did any one say here on the witness-stand that he had not bought city loan as he said he had?
“Why is it then that Mr. Stener charges Mr. Cowperwood with larcenously securing and feloniously disposing of a check for sixty thousand dollars for certificates which he had a right to buy, and which it has not been contested here that he did buy? The reason lies just here—listen—just here. At the time my client asked for the check and took it away with him and deposited it in his own bank to his own account, he failed, so the prosecution insists, to put the sixty thousand dollars’ worth of certificates for which he had received the check, in the sinking-fund; and having failed to do that, and being compelled by the pressure of financial events the same day to suspend payment generally, he thereby, according to the prosecution and the anxious leaders of the Republican party in the city, became an embezzler, a thief, a this or that—anything you please so long as you find a substitute for George W. Stener and the indifferent leaders of the Republican party in the eyes of the people.”
And here Mr. Steger proceeded boldly and defiantly to outline the entire political situation as it had manifested itself in connection with the Chicago fire, the subsequent panic and its political consequences, and to picture Cowperwood as the unjustly maligned agent, who before the fire was valuable and honorable enough to suit any of the political leaders of Philadelphia, but afterward, and when political defeat threatened, was picked upon as the most available scapegoat anywhere within reach.
And it took him a half hour to do that. And afterward but only after he had pointed to Stener as the true henchman and stalking horse, who had, in turn, been used by political forces above him to accomplish certain financial results, which they were not willing to have ascribed to themselves, he continued with:
“But now, in the light of all this, only see how ridiculous all this is! How silly! Frank A. Cowperwood had always been the agent of the city in these matters for years and years. He worked under certain rules which he and Mr. Stener had agreed upon in the first place, and which obviously came from others, who were above Mr. Stener, since they were hold-over customs and rules from administrations, which had been long before Mr. Stener ever appeared on the scene as city treasurer. One of them was that he could carry all transactions over until the first of the month following before he struck a balance. That is, he need not pay any money over for anything to the city treasurer, need not send him any checks or deposit any money or certificates in the sinking-fund until the first of the month because—now listen to this carefully, gentlemen; it is important—because his transactions in connection with city loan and everything else that he dealt in for the city treasurer were so numerous, so swift, so uncalculated beforehand, that he had to have a loose, easy system of this kind in order to do his work properly—to do business at all. Otherwise he could not very well have worked to the best advantage for Mr. Stener, or for any one else. It would have meant too much bookkeeping for him—too much for the city treasurer. Mr. Stener has testified to that in the early part of his story. Albert Stires has indicated that that was his understanding of it. Well, then what? Why, just this. Would any jury suppose, would any sane business man believe that if such were the case Mr. Cowperwood would be running personally with all these items of deposit, to the different banks or the sinking-fund or the city treasurer’s office, or would be saying to his head bookkeeper, ‘Here, Stapley, here is a check for sixty thousand dollars. See that the certificates of loan which this represents are put in the sinking-fund to-day’? And why not? What a ridiculous supposition any other supposition is! As a matter of course and as had always been the case, Mr. Cowperwood had a system. When the time came, this check and these certificates would be automatically taken care of. He handed his bookkeeper the check and forgot all about it. Would you imagine a banker with a vast business of this kind doing anything else?”
Mr. Steger paused for breath and inquiry, and then, having satisfied himself that his point had been sufficiently made, he continued:
“Of course the answer is that he knew he was going to fail. Well, Mr. Cowperwood’s reply is that he didn’t know anything of the sort. He has personally testified here that it was only at the last moment before it actually happened that he either thought or knew of such an occurrence. Why, then, this alleged refusal to let him have the check to which he was legally entitled? I think I know. I think I can give a reason if you will hear me out.”
Steger shifted his position and came at the jury from another intellectual angle:
“It was simply because Mr. George W. Stener at that time, owing to a recent notable fire and a panic, imagined for some reason—perhaps because Mr. Cowperwood cautioned him not to become frightened over local developments generally—that Mr. Cowperwood was going to close his doors; and having considerable money on deposit with him at a low rate of interest, Mr. Stener decided that Mr. Cowperwood must not have any more money—not even the money that was actually due him for services rendered, and that had nothing whatsoever to do with the money loaned him by Mr. Stener at two and one-half per cent. Now isn’t that a ridiculous situation? But it was because Mr. George W. Stener was filled with his own fears, based on a fire and a panic which had absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Cowperwood’s solvency in the beginning that he decided not to let Frank A. Cowperwood have the money that was actually due him, because he, Stener, was criminally using the city’s money to further his own private interests (through Mr. Cowperwood as a broker), and in danger of being exposed and possibly punished. Now where, I ask you, does the good sense of that decision come in? Is it apparent to you, gentlemen? Was Mr. Cowperwood still an agent for the city at the time he bought the loan certificates as here testified? He certainly was. If so, was he entitled to that money? Who is going to stand up here and deny it? Where is the question then, as to his right or his honesty in this matter? How does it come in here at all? I can tell you. It sprang solely from one source and from nowhere else, and that is the desire of the politicians of this city to find a scapegoat for the Republican party.
“Now you may think I am going rather far afield for an explanation of this very peculiar decision to prosecute Mr. Cowperwood, an agent of the city, for demanding and receiving what actually belonged to him. But I’m not. Consider the position of the Republican party at that time. Consider the fact that an exposure of the truth in regard to the details of a large defalcation in the city treasury would have a very unsatisfactory effect on the election about to be held. The Republican party had a new city treasurer to elect, a new district attorney. It had been in the habit of allowing its city treasurers the privilege of investing the funds in their possession at a low rate of interest for the benefit of themselves and their friends. Their salaries were small. They had to have some way of eking out a reasonable existence. Was Mr. George Stener responsible for this custom of loaning out the city money? Not at all. Was Mr. Cowperwood? Not at all. The custom had been in vogue long before either Mr. Cowperwood or Mr. Stener came on the scene. Why, then, this great hue and cry about it now? The entire uproar sprang solely from the fear of Mr. Stener at this juncture, the fear of the politicians at this juncture, of public exposure. No city treasurer had ever been exposed before. It was a new thing to face exposure, to face the risk of having the public’s attention called to a rather nefarious practice of which Mr. Stener was taking advantage, that was all. A great fire and a panic were endangering the security and well-being of many a financial organization in the city—Mr. Cowperwood’s among others. It meant many possible failures, and many possible failures meant one possible failure. If Frank A. Cowperwood failed, he would fail owing the city of Philadelphia five hundred thousand dollars, borrowed from the city treasurer at the very low rate of interest of two and one-half per cent. Anything very detrimental to Mr. Cowperwood in that? Had he gone to the city treasurer and asked to be loaned money at two and one-half per cent.? If he had, was there anything criminal in it from a business point of view? Isn’t a man entitled to borrow money from any source he can at the lowest possible rate of interest? Did Mr. Stener have to loan it to Mr. Cowperwood if he did not want to? As a matter of fact didn’t he testify here to-day that he personally had sent for Mr. Cowperwood in the first place? Why, then, in Heaven’s name, this excited charge of larceny, larceny as bailee, embezzlement, embezzlement on a check, etc., etc.?
“Once more, gentlemen, listen. I’ll tell you why. The men who stood behind Stener, and whose bidding he was doing, wanted to make a political scapegoat of some one—of Frank Algernon Cowperwood, if they couldn’t get any one else. That’s why. No other reason under God’s blue sky, not one. Why, if Mr. Cowperwood needed more money just at that time to tide him over, it would have been good policy for them to have given it to him and hushed this matter up. It would have been illegal—though not any more illegal than anything else that has ever been done in this connection—but it would have been safer. Fear, gentlemen, fear, lack of courage, inability to meet a great crisis when a great crisis appears, was all that really prevented them from doing this. They were afraid to place confidence in a man who had never heretofore betrayed their trust and from whose loyalty and great financial ability they and the city had been reaping large profits. The reigning city treasurer of the time didn’t have the courage to go on in the face of fire and panic and the rumors of possible failure, and stick by his illegal guns; and so he decided to draw in his horns as testified here to-day—to ask Mr. Cowperwood to return all or at least a big part of the five hundred thousand dollars he had loaned him, and which Cowperwood had been actually using for his, Stener’s benefit, and to refuse him in addition the money that was actually due him for an authorized purchase of city loan. Was Cowperwood guilty as an agent in any of these transactions? Not in the least. Was there any suit pending to make him return the five hundred thousand dollars of city money involved in his present failure? Not at all. It was simply a case of wild, silly panic on the part of George W. Stener, and a strong desire on the part of the Republican party leaders, once they discovered what the situation was, to find some one outside of Stener, the party treasurer, upon whom they could blame the shortage in the treasury. You heard what Mr. Cowperwood testified to here in this case to-day—that he went to Mr. Stener to forfend against any possible action of this kind in the first place. And it was because of this very warning that Mr. Stener became wildly excited, lost his head, and wanted Mr. Cowperwood to return him all his money, all the five hundred thousand dollars he had loaned him at two and one-half per cent. Isn’t that silly financial business at the best? Wasn’t that a fine time to try to call a perfectly legal loan?
“But now to return to this particular check of sixty thousand dollars. When Mr. Cowperwood called that last afternoon before he failed, Mr. Stener testified that he told him that he couldn’t have any more money, that it was impossible, and that then Mr. Cowperwood went out into his general office and without his knowledge or consent persuaded his chief clerk and secretary, Mr. Albert Stires, to give him a check for sixty thousand dollars, to which he was not entitled and on which he, Stener, would have stopped payment if he had known.
“What nonsense! Why didn’t he know? The books were there, open to him. Mr. Stires told him the first thing the next morning. Mr. Cowperwood thought nothing of it, for he was entitled to it, and could collect it in any court of law having jurisdiction in such cases, failure or no failure. It is silly for Mr. Stener to say he would have stopped payment. Such a claim was probably an after-thought of the next morning after he had talked with his friends, the politicians, and was all a part, a trick, a trap, to provide the Republican party with a scapegoat at this time. Nothing more and nothing less; and you may be sure no one knew it better than the people who were most anxious to see Mr. Cowperwood convicted.”
Steger paused and looked significantly at Shannon.
“Gentlemen of the jury [he finally concluded, quietly and earnestly], you are going to find, when you think it over in the jury-room this evening, that this charge of larceny and larceny as bailee, and embezzlement of a check for sixty thousand dollars, which are contained in this indictment, and which represent nothing more than the eager effort of the district attorney to word this one act in such a way that it will look like a crime, represents nothing more than the excited imagination of a lot of political refugees who are anxious to protect their own skirts at the expense of Mr. Cowperwood, and who care for nothing—honor, fair play, or anything else, so long as they are let off scot-free. They don’t want the Republicans of Pennsylvania to think too ill of the Republican party management and control in this city. They want to protect George W. Stener as much as possible and to make a political scapegoat of my client. It can’t be done, and it won’t be done. As honorable, intelligent men you won’t permit it to be done. And I think with that thought I can safely leave you.”
Steger suddenly turned from the jury-box and walked to his seat beside Cowperwood, while Shannon arose, calm, forceful, vigorous, much younger.
As between man and man, Shannon was not particularly opposed to the case Steger had made out for Cowperwood, nor was he opposed to Cowperwood’s having made money as he did. As a matter of fact, Shannon actually thought that if he had been in Cowperwood’s position he would have done exactly the same thing. However, he was the newly elected district attorney. He had a record to make; and, besides, the political powers who were above him were satisfied that Cowperwood ought to be convicted for the looks of the thing. Therefore he laid his hands firmly on the rail at first, looked the jurors steadily in the eyes for a time, and, having framed a few thoughts in his mind began:
“Now, gentlemen of the jury, it seems to me that if we all pay strict attention to what has transpired here to-day, we will have no difficulty in reaching a conclusion; and it will be a very satisfactory one, if we all try to interpret the facts correctly. This defendant, Mr. Cowperwood, comes into this court to-day charged, as I have stated to you before, with larceny, with larceny as bailee, with embezzlement, and with embezzlement of a specific check—namely, one dated October 9, 1871, drawn to the order of Frank A. Cowperwood & Company for the sum of sixty thousand dollars by the secretary of the city treasurer for the city treasurer, and by him signed, as he had a perfect right to sign it, and delivered to the said Frank A. Cowperwood, who claims that he was not only properly solvent at the time, but had previously purchased certificates of city loan to the value of sixty thousand dollars, and had at that time or would shortly thereafter, as was his custom, deposit them to the credit of the city in the city sinking-fund, and thus close what would ordinarily be an ordinary transaction—namely, that of Frank A. Cowperwood & Company as bankers and brokers for the city buying city loan for the city, depositing it in the sinking-fund, and being promptly and properly reimbursed. Now, gentlemen, what are the actual facts in this case? Was the said Frank A. Cowperwood & Company—there is no company, as you well know, as you have heard testified here to-day, only Frank A. Cowperwood—was the said Frank A. Cowperwood a fit person to receive the check at this time in the manner he received it—that is, was he authorized agent of the city at the time, or was he not? Was he solvent? Did he actually himself think he was going to fail, and was this sixty-thousand-dollar check a last thin straw which he was grabbing at to save his financial life regardless of what it involved legally, morally, or otherwise; or had he actually purchased certificates of city loan to the amount he said he had in the way he said he had, at the time he said he had, and was he merely collecting his honest due? Did he intend to deposit these certificates of loans in the city sinking-fund, as he said he would—as it was understood naturally and normally that he would—or did he not? Were his relations with the city treasurer as broker and agent the same as they had always been on the day that he secured this particular check for sixty thousand dollars, or were they not? Had they been terminated by a conversation fifteen minutes before or two days before or two weeks before—it makes no difference when, so long as they had been properly terminated—or had they not? A business man has a right to abrogate an agreement at any time where there is no specific form of contract and no fixed period of operation entered into—as you all must know. You must not forget that in considering the evidence in this case. Did George W. Stener, knowing or suspecting that Frank A. Cowperwood was in a tight place financially, unable to fulfill any longer properly and honestly the duties supposedly devolving on him by this agreement, terminate it then and there on October 9, 1871, before this check for sixty thousand dollars was given, or did he not? Did Mr. Frank A. Cowperwood then and there, knowing that he was no longer an agent of the city treasurer and the city, and knowing also that he was insolvent (having, as Mr. Stener contends, admitted to him that he was so), and having no intention of placing the certificates which he subsequently declared he had purchased in the sinking-fund, go out into Mr. Stener’s general office, meet his secretary, tell him he had purchased sixty thousand dollars’ worth of city loan, ask for the check, get it, put it in his pocket, walk off, and never make any return of any kind in any manner, shape, or form to the city, and then, subsequently, twenty-four hours later, fail, owing this and five hundred thousand dollars more to the city treasury, or did he not? What are the facts in this case? What have the witnesses testified to? What has George W. Stener testified to, Albert Stires, President Davison, Mr. Cowperwood himself? What are the interesting, subtle facts in this case, anyhow? Gentlemen, you have a very curious problem to decide.”
He paused and gazed at the jury, adjusting his sleeves as he did so, and looking as though he knew for certain that he was on the trail of a slippery, elusive criminal who was in a fair way to foist himself upon an honorable and decent community and an honorable and innocent jury as an honest man.
Then he continued:
“Now, gentlemen, what are the facts? You can see for yourselves exactly how this whole situation has come about. You are sensible men. I don’t need to tell you. Here are two men, one elected treasurer of the city of Philadelphia, sworn to guard the interests of the city and to manipulate its finances to the best advantage, and the other called in at a time of uncertain financial cogitation to assist in unraveling a possibly difficult financial problem; and then you have a case of a quiet, private financial understanding being reached, and of subsequent illegal dealings in which one man who is shrewder, wiser, more versed in the subtle ways of Third Street leads the other along over seemingly charming paths of fortunate investment into an accidental but none the less criminal mire of failure and exposure and public calumny and what not. And then they get to the place where the more vulnerable individual of the two—the man in the most dangerous position, the city treasurer of Philadelphia, no less—can no longer reasonably or, let us say, courageously, follow the other fellow; and then you have such a spectacle as was described here this afternoon in the witness-chair by Mr. Stener—that is, you have a vicious, greedy, unmerciful financial wolf standing over a cowering, unsophisticated commercial lamb, and saying to him, his white, shiny teeth glittering all the while, ‘If you don’t advance me the money I ask for—the three hundred thousand dollars I now demand—you will be a convict, your children will be thrown in the street, you and your wife and your family will be in poverty again, and there will be no one to turn a hand for you.’ That is what Mr. Stener says Mr. Cowperwood said to him. I, for my part, haven’t a doubt in the world that he did. Mr. Steger, in his very guarded references to his client, describes him as a nice, kind, gentlemanly agent, a broker merely on whom was practically forced the use of five hundred thousand dollars at two and a half per cent. when money was bringing from ten to fifteen per cent. in Third Street on call loans, and even more. But I for one don’t choose to believe it. The thing that strikes me as strange in all of this is that if he was so nice and kind and gentle and remote—a mere hired and therefore subservient agent—how is it that he could have gone to Mr. Stener’s office two or three days before the matter of this sixty-thousand-dollar check came up and say to him, as Mr. Stener testifies under oath that he did say to him, ‘If you don’t give me three hundred thousand dollars’ worth more of the city’s money at once, to-day, I will fail, and you will be a convict. You will go to the penitentiary.’? That’s what he said to him. ‘I will fail and you will be a convict. They can’t touch me, but they will arrest you. I am an agent merely.’ Does that sound like a nice, mild, innocent, well-mannered agent, a hired broker, or doesn’t it sound like a hard, defiant, contemptuous master—a man in control and ready to rule and win by fair means or foul?
“Gentlemen, I hold no brief for George W. Stener. In my judgment he is as guilty as his smug co-partner in crime—if not more so—this oily financier who came smiling and in sheep’s clothing, pointing out subtle ways by which the city’s money could be made profitable for both; but when I hear Mr. Cowperwood described as I have just heard him described, as a nice, mild, innocent agent, my gorge rises. Why, gentlemen, if you want to get a right point of view on this whole proposition you will have to go back about ten or twelve years and see Mr. George W. Stener as he was then, a rather poverty-stricken beginner in politics, and before this very subtle and capable broker and agent came along and pointed out ways and means by which the city’s money could be made profitable; George W. Stener wasn’t very much of a personage then, and neither was Frank A. Cowperwood when he found Stener newly elected to the office of city treasurer. Can’t you see him arriving at that time nice and fresh and young and well dressed, as shrewd as a fox, and saying: ‘Come to me. Let me handle city loan. Loan me the city’s money at two per cent. or less.’ Can’t you hear him suggesting this? Can’t you see him?
“George W. Stener was a poor man, comparatively a very poor man, when he first became city treasurer. All he had was a small real-estate and insurance business which brought him in, say, twenty-five hundred dollars a year. He had a wife and four children to support, and he had never had the slightest taste of what for him might be called luxury or comfort. Then comes Mr. Cowperwood—at his request, to be sure, but on an errand which held no theory of evil gains in Mr. Stener’s mind at the time—and proposes his grand scheme of manipulating all the city loan to their mutual advantage. Do you yourselves think, gentlemen, from what you have seen of George W. Stener here on the witness-stand, that it was he who proposed this plan of ill-gotten wealth to that gentleman over there?”
He pointed to Cowperwood.
“Does he look to you like a man who would be able to tell that gentleman anything about finance or this wonderful manipulation that followed? I ask you, does he look clever enough to suggest all the subtleties by which these two subsequently made so much money? Why, the statement of this man Cowperwood made to his creditors at the time of his failure here a few weeks ago showed that he considered himself to be worth over one million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and he is only a little over thirty-four years old to-day. How much was he worth at the time he first entered business relations with the ex-city treasurer? Have you any idea? I can tell. I had the matter looked up almost a month ago on my accession to office. Just a little over two hundred thousand dollars, gentlemen—just a little over two hundred thousand dollars. Here is an abstract from the files of Dun & Company for that year. Now you can see how rapidly our Caesar has grown in wealth since then. You can see how profitable these few short years have been to him. Was George W. Stener worth any such sum up to the time he was removed from his office and indicted for embezzlement? Was he? I have here a schedule of his liabilities and assets made out at the time. You can see it for yourselves, gentlemen. Just two hundred and twenty thousand dollars measured the sum of all his property three weeks ago; and it is an accurate estimate, as I have reason to know. Why was it, do you suppose, that Mr. Cowperwood grew so fast in wealth and Mr. Stener so slowly? They were partners in crime. Mr. Stener was loaning Mr. Cowperwood vast sums of the city’s money at two per cent. when call-rates for money in Third Street were sometimes as high as sixteen and seventeen per cent. Don’t you suppose that Mr. Cowperwood sitting there knew how to use this very cheaply come-by money to the very best advantage? Does he look to you as though he didn’t? You have seen him on the witness-stand. You have heard him testify. Very suave, very straightforward-seeming, very innocent, doing everything as a favor to Mr. Stener and his friends, of course, and yet making a million in a little over six years and allowing Mr. Stener to make one hundred and sixty thousand dollars or less, for Mr. Stener had some little money at the time this partnership was entered into—a few thousand dollars.”
Shannon now came to the vital transaction of October 9th, when Cowperwood called on Stener and secured the check for sixty thousand dollars from Albert Stires. His scorn for this (as he appeared to think) subtle and criminal transaction was unbounded. It was plain larceny, stealing, and Cowperwood knew it when he asked Stires for the check.
“Think of it! [Shannon exclaimed, turning and looking squarely at Cowperwood, who faced him quite calmly, undisturbed and unashamed.] Think of it! Think of the colossal nerve of the man—the Machiavellian subtlety of his brain. He knew he was going to fail. He knew after two days of financial work—after two days of struggle to offset the providential disaster which upset his nefarious schemes—that he had exhausted every possible resource save one, the city treasury, and that unless he could compel aid there he was going to fail. He already owed the city treasury five hundred thousand dollars. He had already used the city treasurer as a cat’s-paw so much, had involved him so deeply, that the latter, because of the staggering size of the debt, was becoming frightened. Did that deter Mr. Cowperwood? Not at all.”
He shook his finger ominously in Cowperwood’s face, and the latter turned irritably away. “He is showing off for the benefit of his future,” he whispered to Steger. “I wish you could tell the jury that.”
“I wish I could,” replied Steger, smiling scornfully, “but my hour is over.”
“Why [continued Mr. Shannon, turning once more to the jury], think of the colossal, wolfish nerve that would permit a man to say to Albert Stires that he had just purchased sixty thousand dollars’ worth additional of city loan, and that he would then and there take the check for it! Had he actually purchased this city loan as he said he had? Who can tell? Could any human being wind through all the mazes of the complicated bookkeeping system which he ran, and actually tell? The best answer to that is that if he did purchase the certificates he intended that it should make no difference to the city, for he made no effort to put the certificates in the sinking-fund, where they belonged. His counsel says, and he says, that he didn’t have to until the first of the month, although the law says that he must do it at once, and he knew well enough that legally he was bound to do it. His counsel says, and he says, that he didn’t know he was going to fail. Hence there was no need of worrying about it. I wonder if any of you gentlemen really believed that? Had he ever asked for a check like that so quick before in his life? In all the history of these nefarious transactions was there another incident like that? You know there wasn’t. He had never before, on any occasion, asked personally for a check for anything in this office, and yet on this occasion he did it. Why? Why should he ask for it this time? A few hours more, according to his own statement, wouldn’t have made any difference one way or the other, would it? He could have sent a boy for it, as usual. That was the way it had always been done before. Why anything different now? I’ll tell you why! [Shannon suddenly shouted, varying his voice tremendously.] I’ll tell you why! He knew that he was a ruined man! He knew that his last semi-legitimate avenue of escape—the favor of George W. Stener—had been closed to him! He knew that honestly, by open agreement, he could not extract another single dollar from the treasury of the city of Philadelphia. He knew that if he left the office without this check and sent a boy for it, the aroused city treasurer would have time to inform his clerks, and that then no further money could be obtained. That’s why! That’s why, gentlemen, if you really want to know.
“Now, gentlemen of the jury, I am about done with my arraignment of this fine, honorable, virtuous citizen whom the counsel for the defense, Mr. Steger, tells you you cannot possibly convict without doing a great injustice. All I have to say is that you look to me like sane, intelligent men—just the sort of men that I meet everywhere in the ordinary walks of life, doing an honorable American business in an honorable American way. Now, gentlemen of the jury [he was very soft-spoken now], all I have to say is that if, after all you have heard and seen here to-day, you still think that Mr. Frank A. Cowperwood is an honest, honorable man—that he didn’t steal, willfully and knowingly, sixty thousand dollars from the Philadelphia city treasury; that he had actually bought the certificates he said he had, and had intended to put them in the sinking-fund, as he said he did, then don’t you dare to do anything except turn him loose, and that speedily, so that he can go on back to-day into Third Street, and start to straighten out his much-entangled financial affairs. It is the only thing for honest, conscientious men to do—to turn him instantly loose into the heart of this community, so that some of the rank injustice that my opponent, Mr. Steger, alleges has been done him will be a little made up to him. You owe him, if that is the way you feel, a prompt acknowledgment of his innocence. Don’t worry about George W. Stener. His guilt is established by his own confession. He admits he is guilty. He will be sentenced without trial later on. But this man—he says he is an honest, honorable man. He says he didn’t think he was going to fail. He says he used all that threatening, compelling, terrifying language, not because he was in danger of failing, but because he didn’t want the bother of looking further for aid. What do you think? Do you really think that he had purchased sixty thousand dollars more of certificates for the sinking-fund, and that he was entitled to the money? If so, why didn’t he put them in the sinking-fund? They’re not there now, and the sixty thousand dollars is gone. Who got it? The Girard National Bank, where he was overdrawn to the extent of one hundred thousand dollars! Did it get it and forty thousand dollars more in other checks and certificates? Certainly. Why? Do you suppose the Girard National Bank might be in any way grateful for this last little favor before he closed his doors? Do you think that President Davison, whom you saw here testifying so kindly in this case feels at all friendly, and that that may possibly—I don’t say that it does—explain his very kindly interpretation of Mr. Cowperwood’s condition? It might be. You can think as well along that line as I can. Anyhow, gentlemen, President Davison says Mr. Cowperwood is an honorable, honest man, and so does his counsel, Mr. Steger. You have heard the testimony. Now you think it over. If you want to turn him loose—turn him loose. [He waved his hand wearily.] You’re the judges. I wouldn’t; but then I am merely a hard-working lawyer—one person, one opinion. You may think differently—that’s your business. [He waved his hand suggestively, almost contemptuously.] However, I’m through, and I thank you for your courtesy. Gentlemen, the decision rests with you.”
He turned away grandly, and the jury stirred—so did the idle spectators in the court. Judge Payderson sighed a sigh of relief. It was now quite dark, and the flaring gas forms in the court were all brightly lighted. Outside one could see that it was snowing. The judge stirred among his papers wearily, and turning to the jurors solemnly, began his customary explanation of the law, after which they filed out to the jury-room.
Cowperwood turned to his father who now came over across the fast-emptying court, and said:
“Well, we’ll know now in a little while.”
“Yes,” replied Cowperwood, Sr., a little wearily. “I hope it comes out right. I saw Butler back there a little while ago.”
“Did you?” queried Cowperwood, to whom this had a peculiar interest.
“Yes,” replied his father. “He’s just gone.”
So, Cowperwood thought, Butler was curious enough as to his fate to want to come here and watch him tried. Shannon was his tool. Judge Payderson was his emissary, in a way. He, Cowperwood, might defeat him in the matter of his daughter, but it was not so easy to defeat him here unless the jury should happen to take a sympathetic attitude. They might convict him, and then Butler’s Judge Payderson would have the privilege of sentencing him—giving him the maximum sentence. That would not be so nice—five years! He cooled a little as he thought of it, but there was no use worrying about what had not yet happened. Steger came forward and told him that his bail was now ended—had been the moment the jury left the room—and that he was at this moment actually in the care of the sheriff, of whom he knew—Sheriff Adlai Jaspers. Unless he were acquitted by the jury, Steger added, he would have to remain in the sheriff’s care until an application for a certificate of reasonable doubt could be made and acted upon.
“It would take all of five days, Frank,” Steger said, “but Jaspers isn’t a bad sort. He’d be reasonable. Of course if we’re lucky you won’t have to visit him. You will have to go with this bailiff now, though. Then if things come out right we’ll go home. Say, I’d like to win this case,” he said. “I’d like to give them the laugh and see you do it. I consider you’ve been pretty badly treated, and I think I made that perfectly clear. I can reverse this verdict on a dozen grounds if they happen to decide against you.”
He and Cowperwood and the latter’s father now stalked off with the sheriff’s subordinate—a small man by the name of “Eddie” Zanders, who had approached to take charge. They entered a small room called the pen at the back of the court, where all those on trial whose liberty had been forfeited by the jury’s leaving the room had to wait pending its return. It was a dreary, high-ceiled, four-square place, with a window looking out into Chestnut Street, and a second door leading off into somewhere—one had no idea where. It was dingy, with a worn wooden floor, some heavy, plain, wooden benches lining the four sides, no pictures or ornaments of any kind. A single two-arm gas-pipe descended from the center of the ceiling. It was permeated by a peculiarly stale and pungent odor, obviously redolent of all the flotsam and jetsam of life—criminal and innocent—that had stood or sat in here from time to time, waiting patiently to learn what a deliberating fate held in store.
Cowperwood was, of course, disgusted; but he was too self-reliant and capable to show it. All his life he had been immaculate, almost fastidious in his care of himself. Here he was coming, perforce, in contact with a form of life which jarred upon him greatly. Steger, who was beside him, made some comforting, explanatory, apologetic remarks.
“Not as nice as it might be,” he said, “but you won’t mind waiting a little while. The jury won’t be long, I fancy.”
“That may not help me,” he replied, walking to the window. Afterward he added: “What must be, must be.”
His father winced. Suppose Frank was on the verge of a long prison term, which meant an atmosphere like this? Heavens! For a moment, he trembled, then for the first time in years he made a silent prayer.