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.