From Chapter 1:
“Durand, Farrows, Riley, come with me.” Lieutenant Pomeroy walked down the line, tapping men and motioning them to follow. He led a group of soldiers behind the line, towards the gap.
“We’re pinned down here by heavy fire coming from that rise,” Pomeroy shouted, pointing at a sloping hill about 150 yards away. “If we can attack and take that position, we free up our right flank to advance. Everyone to the left here,” he motioned with his hand, “will be in the first group. Everyone to the right will be in the second group. The first group will charge, followed closely by the second.”
Daniel, Will, and Riley were in the second group. They exchanged nervous glances. Daniel said, “Sir, is this order coming from Colonel Sullivan?”
“What difference does it make, Private? An order is an order.”
“Yes, sir.” They loaded their rifles and fixed bayonets.
The first group had charged no more than fifty yards before a spray of enemy fire from the rise cut them down. The few who survived were hit as they tried to scramble back.
“Now, while they’re reloading—charge!” Pomeroy shouted.
Daniel, in the lead, broke from the trees. “Damn if this coward’s going to get me killed!” he yelled. He ran to the right, away from the Rebs’ fire. The other men followed. They found a scraggly stand of trees that afforded some cover.
A volley of Union fire came from the left. “That may divert ’em. Let’s move!” Riley shouted. “Don’t fire until you see them!”
Riley, Daniel, and Will were the first to emerge, running as fast as they could. They were half way up the hill before the Confederates started firing at them.
A minié whizzed by Daniel’s head. Faster, damn it, faster! He stopped, took aim at a soldier taking aim at him, and fired. The Reb went down! They reached the crest and Daniel plunged his bayonet in a Confederate chest. Will jammed the stock of his rifle in a Reb’s face. He went down and stayed down as Will pounded his head. Daniel kicked one in the groin. He doubled over and Daniel bayoneted him in the back. He lunged at another, who threw his hands up in surrender before Daniel could plunge a bayonet into his belly.
“You’re the damn devil himself!” the Reb shouted. The few Rebs that hadn’t skedaddled were surrendering. Union soldiers took their guns and huddled them into a group.
From Chapter 7:
“Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look.”
That enchanting, musical voice! Daniel turned and there she was, her head and the shape of her beautiful blue dress silhouetted in the light from the ballroom.
“Julius Caesar. Why that quote?” She stepped towards him. He smelled honeysuckle.
“That’s the way my father sees you, Mr. Daniel Durand. Like Mr. Keane, he admires your industry and ability, but perhaps you pose a danger to him.”
“Perhaps I do.” Daniel smiled.
Eleanor felt a nervous flutter across her stomach. What a gem of a smile. Here was a man who didn’t require her assistance. “Father thinks you’re an upstart—that you don’t know your place.”
“Perhaps I don’t. Those people down there, do they know theirs?”
“They most certainly do. It’s their birthrights. What’s your birthright?”
“I don’t have one.” Another smile. “Not a family or a name. I don’t even know my own birthday.”
She felt gloriously, recklessly alive. For once she was free to speak without measuring her words, free to match his candor with her own. “Were you an orphan?”
“They found me on the doorstep of a charity hospital. One of the nurses who cared for me liked the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. I can’t tell you where the Durand comes from.”
Whatever their virtues, the men she knew always mentioned their wealth and their families’ prominence, as if those accidents of birth gave them some special value. Even Archer, notwithstanding his sardonic disdain and mocking jokes, made it clear that he belonged to the privileged class. Without a trace of embarrassment Daniel said that he came from nowhere, had started with nothing. Where you started from wasn’t important, it was where you ended up—and how you got there. “Tell me, Daniel-in-the-lion’s-den, when does a foundling banker who arrives early and stays late every single working day find time for Shakespeare?”
He stared into her wide-open, inquisitive, sparkling-with-mischief, beautiful blue eyes. “I read at nights and my days off. I haven’t read all his plays, but I’ve read the tragedies and histories.”
“Which play do you like the most?”
She made it extremely difficult to concentrate on literary criticism. “Macbeth.”
“Why?” She took a few steps away from him, to draw him away from the balcony railing into the shadows. If they were spotted the horde would quickly put an end to this intimate scene.
He stepped towards her. “It’s the most believable of the tragedies. There’s no depravity or evil that men won’t commit to gain power.”
Not only does he read, he thinks. “Are there any you don’t like?”
“Hamlet. A man shouldn’t have so much trouble killing the man who murdered his father and married his mother. If he can’t do that, he’s not much of a man.”
���Did you like King Lear?” She smiled. “Can daughters drive their father mad?”
He nodded. A half-smile played across his face. “A certain kind of daughter could visit all sorts of vexations upon her father. Perhaps even drive him mad.”
She laughed. “What about Othello? Could a man kill his wife out of jealous love?”
He moved closer to her. Disjointed notes came from the orchestra as the musicians, returning from their break, tuned their instruments. They gazed into each other’s eyes a long time before he murmured, “Definitely.”
From Chapter 15:
Pierpont slowly performed the ritual of cutting, with a gleaming gold cutter, a fresh cigar and lighting it. Daniel cut his cigar and Morgan lit it. He sipped his brandy and said, “I understand, Mr. Durand, that you have some involvement with Mr. Hill’s railroad.”
“I’m not on the board, but I have a substantial investment.”
“Do you enjoy cordial relations with Mr. Hill?”
“Cordial enough, but I don’t know him well.”
“Mr. Hill presents a problem. His aggressive tactics and cutthroat rates pose a threat to the stability of the entire Northwestern transportation system. He’s failing to recognize the necessary community of interest in the region.” Morgan took several long puffs from his cigar. “I’d like you to use your influence with Mr. Hill to see if he won’t agree to a more rational rate structure.”
Baker noticed that the other conversations in the salon had stopped. Daniel’s face remained impassive. When he spoke, his voice was low but firm.
“You mean you want me to see if he’ll fix rates with the Northern Pacific?”
Morgan cleared his throat. “Essentially, yes—to keep the peace in the region.”
The answer seemed to hang in the air like something tangible. Baker had seen several businessmen—John D. Rockefeller, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, and James Stillwell, president of a rival New York bank—use silence to devastating effect. Morgan was a master. His eyebrows arched. Equanimity unbroken, he stared at Daniel as he would a large rut that blocked his carriage—a problem, to be sure, but no cause for alarm. Baker felt anxious, but Daniel appeared equal to the test of wills. He never looked away from Morgan.
“Am I to understand, Mr. Durand,” Morgan said calmly, “that you’re refusing this request?”
“The Northern Pacific is an uncompetitive, second-rate line. As a major shareholder of Mr. Hill’s St. Paul line, I don’t want to see him offering relief on rates to the Northern Pacific. I’d prefer that he drive it out of business and take it over.”
“Are you aware that I’m a director of the Northern Pacific?”
“Young man, you don’t appreciate the risks of having only one railroad in the Northwest.”
“Were you worried about those risks when the Northern Pacific was the only line?”
Morgan took a long puff from his cigar, emitted a small cloud, turned, and began talking to one of his friends. It was a curt, appallingly rude dismissal. Daniel glanced around the room and Baker saw the other guests avert their eyes. Daniel had been ostracized. “Excuse me,” he said, and left the salon. His cigar remained in its ashtray.
From Chapter 18:
They stood together in the drawing room. She wore a light green dress from Paris. Groups were scattered around the large room, the men drinking whiskey or brandy. Will had whiskey. An occasional laugh floated above the chatter. Lady Barrows smiled. “Your father really is, as you Americans say, ‘all business,’ isn’t he? I see it more in his own realm than I did in England.”
Will nodded. “Durand & Woodbury is his life. He loves his work. More, I sometimes think, than his family, maybe even more than Mother.”
The sad resignation in Will’s voice was disconcerting. “One mustn’t get maudlin about that sort of thing.”
“No, one mustn’t.”
“Your parents don’t go in for the trappings and frippery.”
“Not at all. They deem social prominence and their political position unimportant.” Will’s eyes narrowed. “Not sentiments I share.”
This was what she wanted to hear. She smiled her conspiratorial smile and put her white-gloved hand on his sleeve. “Of course not. I do love America, Mr. Durand. I love this city, so alive with possibilities, so powerful, so rich.” She inched toward him; her body touched his. A woman who didn’t use that arrow might as well throw away her quiver. He pressed against her; she could feel his heat. They continued their intimate conversation, aware of each other’s smallest body shift, gesture, and brush of hand against hand.
A man who had been introduced to her earlier, Mr. Palos, oblivious to their intimacy, approached them, accompanied by Will’s younger sister, Laura. Tall and thin, the wild curls of his brown hair appeared as if they had never met a comb or brush. He seemed out of place and ill at ease in the Durands’ ornate drawing room.
“Are you enjoying your visit to New York?” Laura said.
“I was just saying how much I love your city. The excitement, the tremendous energy, you can feel it in the air.” Laura stared intently at her. Lady Barrows’ father, an astute politician, said that one had to be able to divine people within a minute of meeting them. Laura’s intense dark eyes and earnest expression suggested she was one of those souls who felt, and bore, the sorrows of the world. It was intuition, but Lady Barrows had gambled on less. “Of course,” she said, allowing her voice to trail off slightly, “like London, New York has its poor, its downtrodden. I cannot avert my eyes from them.”
Laura nodded in agreement and her face brightened. Lady Barrow’s gambit had come a winner. Not that the stakes were high; who would dispute such a sentiment?
“We can’t forget those less fortunate than ourselves,” Laura said.
“It’s not enough, to simply dispense charity to the poor,” Mr. Palos said. “They must be taught skills, so that they can acquire jobs and help themselves.”
Lady Barrows said, “If you give a man a fish, you must give him another on the morrow, but teach him to fish, and he’ll feed himself for his lifetime.”
Eleanor approached the group and placed her hand on her daughter’s arm. “Excuse me for interrupting, dear, but I was wondering if I could impose upon you to play the piano.”
“I’d love to hear you play!” Palos said with too much enthusiasm.
Laura smiled shyly. “Yes, I’ll play, Mother.” Palos in tow, she went to the grand piano in a corner of the drawing room. Palos sat in the closest chair. Mrs. Durand shepherded the knots of people towards the piano, and Lady Barrows was again alone with Will.
She smiled. “I didn’t have an opportunity to finish that old fish adage.”
“Once you’ve taught that man to fish, he might be better at it than you and drive you out of business. Therefore, it’s better to give him his fish a day until his initiative and industry are destroyed and he’s dependent upon you. Then you’ve eliminated the threat.”
Will smiled. They understood each other.
From Chapter 27:
Keane ushered a man to the conference room who appeared every inch the proper London banker—tall, stocky but not fat, in his mid-fifties. He wore a black, perfectly cut Saville Row suit with a gold watch-chain across the vest, black Oxfords, and a blue tie with discreet yellow dots extending from under a high collar. Black-and-gray mutton-chop sideburns met his mustache and strands of hair stretched across his otherwise gleaming pate. Daniel guessed that he had left a bowler on the hat stand in the reception room.
“Mr. Salisbury, may I present Mr. Durand?” Keane said.
The men shook hands. “I’m pleased to meet you, Mr. Salisbury.”
“How do you do?” His cultured accent confirmed Daniel’s initial assessment.
“May I get you tea or coffee?” Keane asked.
“Tea—white with sugar.”
They settled into high-backed leather chairs across from each other at a rectangular table of dark, gleaming rosewood. Keane left and returned with coffee and tea. He set a cup of tea before Salisbury and a cup of coffee before Daniel and left the room.
“Your letter said you wished to discuss my testimony on the Federal Reserve Act.”
“Yes, I did. It’s my understanding that you will testify against the legislation.”
“As it stands, you will be the only man of prominence within banking who will publicly oppose the Federal Reserve Act. I’d like to suggest that you reconsider your stance.” Salisbury placidly sipped his tea.
“Why would I reconsider? All my research has strengthened my conviction that a reserve bank would be bad for the country.”
“I’m sure you have your reasons, Mr. Durand.” Salisbury’s tone was dismissive—reasons were apparently irrelevant. “However, I wonder if you’ve fully considered the depth of support, both in this country and Europe, for the establishment of an American central bank. Your resistance will prove futile.”
“If it’s futile, why is anybody worried about it?”
“Despite the manifest advantages of central banking and a lengthy campaign to educate the public, there’s historical antagonism among certain segments of your population. Although it’s remote, there’s a chance you might reawaken that antagonism.”
“I hope so.”
Salisbury set his saucer and teacup on the table. “I’m thinking of where your true interest lies,” he said, his tone persuasive. “You can have your grand gesture, but this legislation will become law, and people, important people, will remember your opposition. Mr. Durand, you’ve been too successful, scaled too many heights, not to realize what that would mean.”
Daniel smiled. “Mr. Salisbury, before I scaled all those heights, I grew up in Cleveland, among what you would call ‘the lower classes.’ When someone didn’t like what you had to say, he didn’t send you a letter on bonded letterhead written in the King’s English, and he didn’t pretend he was acting in your interest. He told you to shut up and you were in a fight if you didn’t. Now we’re in our nice clothes in a nice room and we use nice words in civilized tones, but we might as well be in a back alley in Cleveland. You’re threatening me if I don’t shut up.”
“I haven’t threatened you.”
“You haven’t? Who sent you?”
“I speak only on my own behalf.”
“What about those important people of whom you spoke?”
“As I said, I speak only on my own behalf.”
It was a lie and meant to be seen as such, but Daniel knew he would learn no more. He had no way to assess the threat. He suspected he couldn’t completely disregard it, although it wouldn’t stop him from testifying. “Good day, Mr. Salisbury.”
Salisbury looked surprised as he realized the meeting had concluded. He stood. “Good day, Mr. Durand.”
Copyright 2013, Robert Gore
THE GOLDEN PINNACLE
A HISTORICAL NOVEL
You Don't Know What You've Lost If You Don't Know What You Had
PART 4 THE SECOND GENERATION
CHAPTER 16 HARVARD
CHAPTER 17 EUROPE
CHAPTER 18 FLEDGLINGS
CHAPTER 19 ADIEU
CHAPTER 20 POLITICS
CHAPTER 21 CORNERED
CHAPTER 22 RISING AND FALLING
PART 5 THE FINAL BATTLES
CHAPTER 23 INQUIRY
CHAPTER 24 TRIBUNAL
CHAPTER 25 VOX POPULI
CHAPTER 26 CAPITALIST
CHAPTER 27 FOOLS' GOLD
CHAPTER 28 THE END OF INNOCENCE
CHAPTER 29 A PLACE OF PEACE
EXCERPTS FROM THE GOLDEN PINNACLE
Were you interested in the Industrial Revolution before reading TGP?
Are you interested in the Industrial Revolution after reading TGP?
Were you interested in finance and Wall Street before reading TGP? Are you interested in finance and Wall Street after reading TGP? Was any of the financial material too technical or hard to understand?
What did you like the most about TGP? What did you like the least?
The political themes of TGP—too much, too little, or just right?
Were those themes well integrated into the novel, or did they come across as the author on his soap box? Do you agree or disagree with their general tenor?
Which characters did you like? Which characters did you not like?
Which characters were the best and least developed?
The book features business figures J.D. Rockefeller, J.J. Hill, and J.P. Morgan. Did they come across as real life human beings or cardboard cameos?
Do you think the portrayals of women, especially Eleanor, were realistic, considering the historical period in which they were portrayed?
One of the toughest jobs in writing novels is developing interesting heroes. How well did the author do with Daniel and Tom Durand? Were they flesh-and-blood characters, too-good-to-be-true, or somewhere in between?
Perhaps no character undergoes more change than Will Durand. How realistic and believable was that change?
Did you find the plot compelling? Did you discover any plot holes?
What did you think of the last three chapters of the novel?
Do memories last longer than monuments?