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.”
“Mr. Pinkerton is in Chicago at present,” replied Mr. Martinson. “I don’t expect him back for a week or ten days. You can talk to me, though, with the same confidence that you could to him. I’m the responsible head here. However, you’re the best judge of that.”
Butler debated with himself in silence for a few moments, estimating the man before him. “Are you a family man yourself?” he asked, oddly.
“Yes, sir, I’m married,” replied Martinson, solemnly. “I have a wife and two children.”
Martinson, from long experience conceived that this must be a matter of family misconduct—a son, daughter, wife. Such cases were not infrequent.
“I thought I would like to talk to Mr. Pinkerton himself, but if you’re the responsible head—” Butler paused.
“I am,” replied Martinson. “You can talk to me with the same freedom that you could to Mr. Pinkerton. Won’t you come into my private office? We can talk more at ease in there.”
He led the way into an adjoining room which had two windows looking down into Broadway; an oblong table, heavy, brown, smoothly polished; four leather-backed chairs; and some pictures of the Civil War battles in which the North had been victorious. Butler followed doubtfully. He hated very much to take any one into his confidence in regard to Aileen. He was not sure that he would, even now. He wanted to “look these fellys over,” as he said in his mind. He would decide then what he wanted to do. He went to one of the windows and looked down into the street, where there was a perfect swirl of omnibuses and vehicles of all sorts. Mr. Martinson quietly closed the door.
“Now then, if there’s anything I can do for you,” Mr. Martinson paused. He thought by this little trick to elicit Buder’s real name—it often “worked”—but in this instance the name was not forthcoming. Butler was too shrewd.
“I’m not so sure that I want to go into this,” said the old man solemnly. “Certainly not if there’s any risk of the thing not being handled in the right way. There’s somethin’ I want to find out about—somethin’ that I ought to know; but it’s a very private matter with me, and—” He paused to think and conjecture, looking at Mr. Martinson the while. The latter understood his peculiar state of mind. He had seen many such cases.
“Let me say right here, to begin with, Mr.—”
“Scanlon,” interpolated Butler, easily; “that’s as good a name as any if you want to use one. I’m keepin’ me own to meself for the present.”
“Scanlon,” continued Martinson, easily. “I really don’t care whether it’s your right name or not. I was just going to say that it might not be necessary to have your right name under any circumstances—it all depends upon what you want to know. But, so far as your private affairs are concerned, they are as safe with us, as if you had never told them to any one. Our business is built upon confidence, and we never betray it. We wouldn’t dare. We have men and women who have been in our employ for over thirty years, and we never retire any one except for cause, and we don’t pick people who are likely to need to be retired for cause. Mr. Pinkerton is a good judge of men. There are others here who consider that they are. We handle over ten thousand separate cases in all parts of the United States every year. We work on a case only so long as we are wanted. We try to find out only such things as our customers want. We do not pry unnecessarily into anybody’s affairs. If we decide that we cannot find out what you want to know, we are the first to say so. Many cases are rejected right here in this office before we ever begin. Yours might be such a one. We don’t want cases merely for the sake of having them, and we are frank to say so. Some matters that involve public policy, or some form of small persecution, we don’t touch at all—we won’t be a party to them. You can see how that is. You look to me to be a man of the world. I hope I am one. Does it strike you that an organization like ours would be likely to betray any one’s confidence?” He paused and looked at Butler for confirmation of what he had just said.
“It wouldn’t seem likely,” said the latter; “that’s the truth. It’s not aisy to bring your private affairs into the light of day, though,” added the old man, sadly.
They both rested.
“Well,” said Butler, finally, “you look to me to be all right, and I’d like some advice. Mind ye, I’m willing to pay for it well enough; and it isn’t anything that’ll be very hard to find out. I want to know whether a certain man where I live is goin’ with a certain woman, and where. You could find that out aisy enough, I belave—couldn’t you?”
“Nothing easier,” replied Martinson. “We are doing it all the time. Let me see if I can help you just a moment, Mr. Scanlon, in order to make it easier for you. It is very plain to me that you don’t care to tell any more than you can help, and we don’t care to have you tell any more than we absolutely need. We will have to have the name of the city, of course, and the name of either the man or the woman; but not necessarily both of them, unless you want to help us in that way. Sometimes if you give us the name of one party—say the man, for illustration—and the description of the woman—an accurate one—or a photograph, we can tell you after a little while exactly what you want to know. Of course, it’s always better if we have full information. You suit yourself about that. Tell me as much or as little as you please, and I’ll guarantee that we will do our best to serve you, and that you will be satisfied afterward.”
He smiled genially.
“Well, that bein’ the case,” said Butler, finally taking the leap, with many mental reservations, however, “I’ll be plain with you. My name’s not Scanlon. It’s Butler. I live in Philadelphy. There’s a man there, a banker by the name of Cowperwood—Frank A. Cowperwood—”
“Wait a moment,” said Martinson, drawing an ample pad out of his pocket and producing a lead-pencil; “I want to get that. How do you spell it?”
Butler told him.
“Yes; now go on.”
“He has a place in Third Street—Frank A. Cowperwood—any one can show you where it is. He’s just failed there recently.”
“Oh, that’s the man,” interpolated Martinson. “I’ve heard of him. He’s mixed up in some city embezzlement case over there. I suppose the reason you didn’t go to our Philadelphia office is because you didn’t want our local men over there to know anything about it. Isn’t that it?”
“That’s the man, and that’s the reason,” said Butler. “I don’t care to have anything of this known in Philadelphy. That’s why I’m here. This man has a house on Girard Avenue—Nineteen-thirty-seven. You can find that out, too, when you get over there.”
“Yes,” agreed Mr. Martinson.
“Well, it’s him that I want to know about—him—and a certain woman, or girl, rather.” The old man paused and winced at this necessity of introducing Aileen into the case. He could scarcely think of it—he was so fond of her. He had been so proud of Aileen. A dark, smoldering rage burned in his heart against Cowperwood.
“A relative of yours—possibly, I suppose,” remarked Martinson, tactfully. “You needn’t tell me any more—just give me a description if you wish. We may be able to work from that.” He saw quite clearly what a fine old citizen in his way he was dealing with here, and also that the man was greatly troubled. Butler’s heavy, meditative face showed it. “You can be quite frank with me, Mr. Butler,” he added; “I think I understand. We only want such information as we must have to help you, nothing more.”
“Yes,” said the old man, dourly. “She is a relative. She’s me daughter, in fact. You look to me like a sensible, honest man. I’m her father, and I wouldn’t do anything for the world to harm her. It’s tryin’ to save her I am. It’s him I want.” He suddenly closed one big fist forcefully.
Martinson, who had two daughters of his own, observed the suggestive movement.
“I understand how you feel, Mr. Butler,” he observed. “I am a father myself. We’ll do all we can for you. If you can give me an accurate description of her, or let one of my men see her at your house or office, accidentally, of course, I think we can tell you in no time at all if they are meeting with any regularity. That’s all you want to know, is it—just that?”
“That’s all,” said Butler, solemnly.
“Well, that oughtn’t to take any time at all, Mr. Butler—three or four days possibly, if we have any luck—a week, ten days, two weeks. It depends on how long you want us to shadow him in case there is no evidence the first few days.”
“I want to know, however long it takes,” replied Butler, bitterly. “I want to know, if it takes a month or two months or three to find out. I want to know.” The old man got up as he said this, very positive, very rugged. “And don’t send me men that haven’t sinse—lots of it, plase. I want men that are fathers, if you’ve got ‘em—and that have sinse enough to hold their tongues—not b’ys.”
“I understand, Mr. Butler,” Martinson replied. “Depend on it, you’ll have the best we have, and you can trust them. They’ll be discreet. You can depend on that. The way I’ll do will be to assign just one man to the case at first, some one you can see for yourself whether you like or not. I’ll not tell him anything. You can talk to him. If you like him, tell him, and he’ll do the rest. Then, if he needs any more help, he can get it. What is your address?”
Butler gave it to him.
“And there’ll be no talk about this?”
“None whatever—I assure you.”
“And when’ll he be comin’ along?”
“To-morrow, if you wish. I have a man I could send to-night. He isn’t here now or I’d have him talk with you. I’ll talk to him, though, and make everything clear. You needn’t worry about anything. Your daughter’s reputation will be safe in his hands.”
“Thank you kindly,” commented Butler, softening the least bit in a gingerly way. “I’m much obliged to you. I’ll take it as a great favor, and pay you well.”
“Never mind about that, Mr. Butler,” replied Martinson. “You’re welcome to anything this concern can do for you at its ordinary rates.”
He showed Butler to the door, and the old man went out. He was feeling very depressed over this—very shabby. To think he should have to put detectives on the track of his Aileen, his daughter!