The story concerns the rise of Cowperwood from obscurity to great power in Philadelphia finance, his marriage, his ruin at the hands of the politician who had befriended him and whom he had repaid by debauching his daughter, his term in prison, his financial rehabilitation, and the swift-following descent upon Chicago with his inamorata for future but undivulged activities.
aged to force the price of beef up to thirty cents a pound, causing all the retailers and consumers to rebel, and this was what made him so conspicuous. He used to come to the brokerage end of the elder Cowperwood's bank, with as much as one hundred thousand or two hundred thousand dollars, in twelve months-- post-notes of the United States Bank in denominations of one thousand, five thousand, and ten thousand dollars. These he would cash at from ten to twelve per cent. under their face value, having previously given the United States Bank his own note at four months for the entire amount. He would take his pay from the Third National brokerage counter in packages of Virginia, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania bank-notes at par, because he made his disbursements principally in those States. The Third National would in the first place realize a profit of from four to five per cent. on the original transaction; and as it took the Western bank-notes at a discount, it also made a profit on those.
There was an