From the first evening that Laura Dearborn meets Curtis Jadwin, she knows that she interests him. She attends the opera with her sister, Page, and her Aunt Wess as the guests of their longtime friends, the Cresslers. Jadwin also is a guest that evening, and the marked attention he pays her is so flattering to her that she listens only absently to avowals of love from her old and devoted suitor, Sheldon Corthell. Corthell is an artist. The life of the capitalist Jadwin who makes and breaks fortunes and human lives from the floor of the Board of Trade seems to Laura more romantic than painting.
The next day, Mrs. Cressler tells Laura part of Jadwin’s story. He had been born into a poor family and had worked to educate himself. When he gained possession of some land in Chicago in default of a loan, he sold it, bought more real estate, and by shrewd dealings eventually owned a portion of one of the wealthiest sections of real estate in Chicago. He also speculated in the wheat market, and he is now a familiar figure on the floor of the Board of Trade.
Stopping by the Board of Trade one morning in answer to the summons of Gretry, his broker, Jadwin pauses in the Pit—the huge room downstairs in which all the bidding takes place—to watch the frenzied excitement of bidders and sellers. Gretry has received information that in a few days the French government will introduce a bill placing heavy import duties on all foreign goods. When this news becomes more widely known, the price of wheat will drop considerably. Gretry urges Jadwin to sell his shares at once, and Jadwin agrees.
The deal is a tremendous success. Jadwin pockets a large profit. The Cresslers try to persuade Jadwin to stop his speculating. Mr. Cressler had almost ruined himself at one time through his gambling with wheat, and he fears that the same might eventually happen to his friend. Jadwin, however, is too much interested in Laura to pay attention to the warning or even to hear the words of his friends. One evening at the Cresslers, he asks Laura to marry him. Laura, in a capricious mood, says that, although she loves no one as yet, she might some day come to love him. She had given Sheldon Corthell the same encouragement. That night, ashamed of her coquetry, she writes to both men to tell them that she does not love either of them and that they must never speak of love to her again if they are to continue as friends. Corthell accepts her refusal and leaves for Europe. Jadwin calls on Laura while she is out and refuses to leave until he has spoken to her. He is eloquent in pleading his suit, and they are married in July.
The early years of their marriage are completely happy. Their home is a mansion, exquisitely furnished and with beautiful grounds. At first, Laura has a difficult time adjusting to her...
(The entire section is 1151 words.)