Part 2 out of 3
"One summer me and Andy decided to rest up a spell in a fine little
town in the mountains of Kentucky called Grassdale. We was supposed to
be horse drovers, and good decent citizens besides, taking a summer
vacation. The Grassdale people liked us, and me and Andy declared a
cessation of hostilities, never so much as floating the fly leaf of a
rubber concession prospectus or flashing a Brazilian diamond while we
"One day the leading hardware merchant of Grassdale drops around to
the hotel where me and Andy stopped, and smokes with us, sociable, on
the side porch. We knew him pretty well from pitching quoits in the
afternoons in the court house yard. He was a loud, red man, breathing
hard, but fat and respectable beyond all reason.
"After we talk on all the notorious themes of the day, this Murkison--
for such was his entitlements--takes a letter out of his coat pocket
in a careful, careless way and hands it to us to read.
"'Now, what do you think of that?' says he, laughing--'a letter like
that to ME!'
"Me and Andy sees at a glance what it is; but we pretend to read it
through. It was one of them old time typewritten green goods letters
explaining how for $1,000 you could get $5,000 in bills that an expert
couldn't tell from the genuine; and going on to tell how they were
made from plates stolen by an employee of the Treasury at Washington.
"'Think of 'em sending a letter like that to ME!' says Murkison again.
"'Lot's of good men get 'em,' says Andy. 'If you don't answer the
first letter they let you drop. If you answer it they write again
asking you to come on with your money and do business.'
"'But think of 'em writing to ME!' says Murkison.
"A few days later he drops around again.
"'Boys,' says he, 'I know you are all right or I wouldn't confide in
you. I wrote to them rascals again just for fun. They answered and
told me to come on to Chicago. They said telegraph to J. Smith when I
would start. When I get there I'm to wait on a certain street corner
till a man in a gray suit comes along and drops a newspaper in front
of me. Then I am to ask him how the water is, and he knows it's me and
I know it's him.'
"'Ah, yes,' says Andy, gaping, 'it's the same old game. I've often
read about it in the papers. Then he conducts you to the private
abattoir in the hotel, where Mr. Jones is already waiting. They show
you brand new real money and sell you all you want at five for one.
You see 'em put it in a satchel for you and know it's there. Of course
it's brown paper when you come to look at it afterward.'
"'Oh, they couldn't switch it on me,' says Murkison. 'I haven't built
up the best paying business in Grassdale without having witticisms
about me. You say it's real money they show you, Mr. Tucker?'
"'I've always--I see by the papers that it always is,' says Andy.
"'Boys,' says Murkison, 'I've got it in my mind that them fellows
can't fool me. I think I'll put a couple of thousand in my jeans and
go up there and put it all over 'em. If Bill Murkison gets his eyes
once on them bills they show him he'll never take 'em off of 'em. They
offer $5 for $1, and they'll have to stick to the bargain if I tackle
'em. That's the kind of trader Bill Murkison is. Yes, I jist believe
I'll drop up Chicago way and take a 5 to 1 shot on J. Smith. I guess
the water'll be fine enough.'
"Me and Andy tries to get this financial misquotation out of
Murkison's head, but we might as well have tried to keep the man who
rolls peanuts with a toothpick from betting on Bryan's election. No,
sir; he was going to perform a public duty by catching these green
goods swindlers at their own game. Maybe it would teach 'em a lesson.
"After Murkison left us me and Andy sat a while prepondering over our
silent meditations and heresies of reason. In our idle hours we always
improved our higher selves by ratiocination and mental thought.
"'Jeff,' says Andy after a long time, 'quite unseldom I have seen fit
to impugn your molars when you have been chewing the rag with me about
your conscientious way of doing business. I may have been often wrong.
But here is a case where I think we can agree. I feel that it would be
wrong for us to allow Mr. Murkison to go alone to meet those Chicago
green goods men. There is but one way it can end. Don't you think we
would both feel better if we was to intervene in some way and prevent
the doing of this deed?'
"I got up and shook Andy Tucker's hand hard and long.
"'Andy,' says I, 'I may have had one or two hard thoughts about the
heartlessness of your corporation, but I retract 'em now. You have a
kind nucleus at the interior of your exterior after all. It does you
credit. I was just thinking the same thing that you have expressed. It
would not be honorable or praiseworthy,' says I, 'for us to let
Murkison go on with this project he has taken up. If he is determined
to go let us go with him and prevent this swindle from coming off.'
"Andy agreed with me; and I was glad to see that he was in earnest
about breaking up this green goods scheme.
"'I don't call myself a religious man,' says I, 'or a fanatic in moral
bigotry, but I can't stand still and see a man who has built up his
business by his own efforts and brains and risk be robbed by an
unscrupulous trickster who is a menace to the public good.'
"'Right, Jeff,' says Andy. 'We'll stick right along with Murkison if
he insists on going and block this funny business. I'd hate to see any
money dropped in it as bad as you would.'
"Well, we went to see Murkison.
"'No, boys,' says he. 'I can't consent to let the song of this Chicago
siren waft by me on the summer breeze. I'll fry some fat out of this
ignis fatuus or burn a hole in the skillet. But I'd be plumb diverted
to death to have you all go along with me. Maybe you could help some
when it comes to cashing in the ticket to that 5 to 1 shot. Yes, I'd
really take it as a pastime and regalement if you boys would go along
"Murkison gives it out in Grassdale that he is going for a few days
with Mr. Peters and Mr. Tucker to look over some iron ore property in
West Virginia. He wires J. Smith that he will set foot in the spider
web on a given date; and the three of us lights out for Chicago.
"On the way Murkison amuses himself with premonitions and advance
"'In a gray suit,' says he, 'on the southwest corner of Wabash avenue
and Lake street. He drops the paper, and I ask how the water is. Oh,
my, my, my!' And then he laughs all over for five minutes.
"Sometimes Murkison was serious and tried to talk himself out of his
cogitations, whatever they was.
"'Boys,' says he, 'I wouldn't have this to get out in Grassdale for
ten times a thousand dollars. It would ruin me there. But I know you
all are all right. I think it's the duty of every citizen,' says he,
'to try to do up these robbers that prey upon the public. I'll show
'em whether the water's fine. Five dollars for one--that's what J.
Smith offers, and he'll have to keep his contract if he does business
with Bill Murkison.'
"We got into Chicago about 7 P.M. Murkison was to meet the gray man at
half past 9. We had dinner at a hotel and then went up to Murkison's
room to wait for the time to come.
"'Now, boys,' says Murkison, 'let's get our gumption together and
inoculate a plan for defeating the enemy. Suppose while I'm exchanging
airy bandage with the gray capper you gents come along, by accident,
you know, and holler: "Hello, Murk!" and shake hands with symptoms of
surprise and familiarity. Then I take the capper aside and tell him
you all are Jenkins and Brown of Grassdale, groceries and feed, good
men and maybe willing to take a chance while away from home.'
"'"Bring 'em along," he'll say, of course, "if they care to invest."
Now, how does that scheme strike you?'
"'What do you say, Jeff?' says Andy, looking at me.
"'Why, I'll tell you what I say,' says I. 'I say let's settle this
thing right here now. I don't see any use of wasting any more time.' I
took a nickel-plated .38 out of my pocket and clicked the cylinder
around a few times.
"'You undevout, sinful, insidious hog,' says I to Murkison, 'get out
that two thousand and lay it on the table. Obey with velocity,' says
I, 'for otherwise alternatives are impending. I am preferably a man of
mildness, but now and then I find myself in the middle of extremities.
Such men as you,' I went on after he had laid the money out, 'is what
keeps the jails and court houses going. You come up here to rob these
men of their money. Does it excuse you?' I asks, 'that they were
trying to skin you? No, sir; you was going to rob Peter to stand off
Paul. You are ten times worse,' says I, 'than that green goods man.
You go to church at home and pretend to be a decent citizen, but
you'll come to Chicago and commit larceny from men that have built up
a sound and profitable business by dealing with such contemptible
scoundrels as you have tried to be to-day. How do you know,' says I,
'that that green goods man hasn't a large family dependent upon his
extortions? It's you supposedly respectable citizens who are always on
the lookout to get something for nothing,' says I, 'that support the
lotteries and wild-cat mines and stock exchanges and wire tappers of
this country. If it wasn't for you they'd go out of business. The
green goods man you was going to rob,' says I, 'studied maybe for
years to learn his trade. Every turn he makes he risks his money and
liberty and maybe his life. You come up here all sanctified and
vanoplied with respectability and a pleasing post office address to
swindle him. If he gets the money you can squeal to the police. If you
get it he hocks the gray suit to buy supper and says nothing. Mr.
Tucker and me sized you up,' says I, 'and came along to see that you
got what you deserved. Hand over the money,' says I, 'you grass fed
"I put the two thousand, which was all in $20 bills, in my inside
"'Now get out your watch,' says I to Murkison. 'No, I don't want it,'
says I. 'Lay it on the table and you sit in that chair till it ticks
off an hour. Then you can go. If you make any noise or leave any
sooner we'll handbill you all over Grassdale. I guess your high
position there is worth more than $2,000 to you.'
"Then me and Andy left.
"On the train Andy was a long time silent. Then he says: 'Jeff, do you
mind my asking you a question?'
"'Two,' says I, 'or forty.'
"'Was that the idea you had,' says he, 'when we started out with
"'Why, certainly,' says I. 'What else could it have been? Wasn't it
"In about half an hour Andy spoke again. I think there are times when
Andy don't exactly understand my system of ethics and moral hygiene.
"'Jeff,' says he, 'some time when you have the leisure I wish you'd
draw off a diagram and foot-notes of that conscience of yours. I'd
like to have it to refer to occasionally.'"
INNOCENTS OF BROADWAY
"I hope some day to retire from business," said Jeff Peters; "and when
I do I don't want anybody to be able to say that I ever got a dollar
of any man's money without giving him a quid pro rata for it. I've
always managed to leave a customer some little gewgaw to paste in his
scrapbook or stick between his Seth Thomas clock and the wall after we
are through trading.
"There was one time I came near having to break this rule of mine and
do a profligate and illaudable action, but I was saved from it by the
laws and statutes of our great and profitable country.
"One summer me and Andy Tucker, my partner, went to New York to lay in
our annual assortment of clothes and gents' furnishings. We was always
pompous and regardless dressers, finding that looks went further than
anything else in our business, except maybe our knowledge of railroad
schedules and an autograph photo of the President that Loeb sent us,
probably by mistake. Andy wrote a nature letter once and sent it in
about animals that he had seen caught in a trap lots of times. Loeb
must have read it 'triplets,' instead of 'trap lots,' and sent the
photo. Anyhow, it was useful to us to show people as a guarantee of
"Me and Andy never cared much to do business in New York. It was too
much like pothunting. Catching suckers in that town, is like
dynamiting a Texas lake for bass. All you have to do anywhere between
the North and East rivers is to stand in the street with an open bag
marked, 'Drop packages of money here. No checks or loose bills taken.'
You have a cop handy to club pikers who try to chip in post office
orders and Canadian money, and that's all there is to New York for a
hunter who loves his profession. So me and Andy used to just nature
fake the town. We'd get out our spyglasses and watch the woodcocks
along the Broadway swamps putting plaster casts on their broken legs,
and then we'd sneak away without firing a shot.
"One day in the papier mache palm room of a chloral hydrate and hops
agency in a side street about eight inches off Broadway me and Andy
had thrust upon us the acquaintance of a New Yorker. We had beer
together until we discovered that each of us knew a man named
Hellsmith, traveling for a stove factory in Duluth. This caused us to
remark that the world was a very small place, and then this New Yorker
busts his string and takes off his tin foil and excelsior packing and
starts in giving us his Ellen Terris, beginning with the time he used
to sell shoelaces to the Indians on the spot where Tammany Hall now
"This New Yorker had made his money keeping a cigar store in Beekman
street, and he hadn't been above Fourteenth street in ten years.
Moreover, he had whiskers, and the time had gone by when a true sport
will do anything to a man with whiskers. No grafter except a boy who
is soliciting subscribers to an illustrated weekly to win the prize
air rifle, or a widow, would have the heart to tamper with the man
behind with the razor. He was a typical city Reub--I'd bet the man
hadn't been out of sight of a skyscraper in twenty-five years.
"Well, presently this metropolitan backwoodsman pulls out a roll of
bills with an old blue sleeve elastic fitting tight around it and
opens it up.
"'There's $5,000, Mr. Peters,' says he, shoving it over the table to
me, 'saved during my fifteen years of business. Put that in your
pocket and keep it for me, Mr. Peters. I'm glad to meet you gentlemen
from the West, and I may take a drop too much. I want you to take care
of my money for me. Now, let's have another beer.'
"'You'd better keep this yourself,' says I. 'We are strangers to you,
and you can't trust everybody you meet. Put your roll back in your
pocket,' says I. 'And you'd better run along home before some farm-
hand from the Kaw River bottoms strolls in here and sells you a copper
"'Oh, I don't know,' says Whiskers. 'I guess Little Old New York can
take care of herself. I guess I know a man that's on the square when I
see him. I've always found the Western people all right. I ask you as
a favor, Mr. Peters,' says he, 'to keep that roll in your pocket for
me. I know a gentleman when I see him. And now let's have some more
"In about ten minutes this fall of manna leans back in his chair and
snores. Andy looks at me and says: 'I reckon I'd better stay with him
for five minutes or so, in case the waiter comes in.'
"I went out the side door and walked half a block up the street. And
then I came back and sat down at the table.
"'Andy,' says I, 'I can't do it. It's too much like swearing off
taxes. I can't go off with this man's money without doing something to
earn it like taking advantage of the Bankrupt act or leaving a bottle
of eczema lotion in his pocket to make it look more like a square
"'Well,' says Andy, 'it does seem kind of hard on one's professional
pride to lope off with a bearded pard's competency, especially after
he has nominated you custodian of his bundle in the sappy insouciance
of his urban indiscrimination. Suppose we wake him up and see if we
can formulate some commercial sophistry by which he will be enabled to
give us both his money and a good excuse.'
"We wakes up Whiskers. He stretches himself and yawns out the
hypothesis that he must have dropped off for a minute. And then he
says he wouldn't mind sitting in at a little gentleman's game of
poker. He used to play some when he attended high school in Brooklyn;
and as he was out for a good time, why--and so forth.
"Andy brights up a little at that, for it looks like it might be a
solution to our financial troubles. So we all three go to our hotel
further down Broadway and have the cards and chips brought up to
Andy's room. I tried once more to make this Babe in the Horticultural
Gardens take his five thousand. But no.
"'Keep that little roll for me, Mr. Peters,' says he, 'and oblige.
I'll ask you fer it when I want it. I guess I know when I'm among
friends. A man that's done business on Beekman street for twenty
years, right in the heart of the wisest old village on earth, ought to
know what he's about. I guess I can tell a gentleman from a con man or
a flimflammer when I meet him. I've got some odd change in my clothes
--enough to start the game with, I guess.'
"He goes through his pockets and rains $20 gold certificates on the
table till it looked like a $10,000 'Autumn Day in a Lemon Grove'
picture by Turner in the salons. Andy almost smiled.
"The first round that was dealt, this boulevardier slaps down his
hand, claims low and jack and big casino and rakes in the pot.
"Andy always took a pride in his poker playing. He got up from the
table and looked sadly out of the window at the street cars.
"'Well, gentlemen,' says the cigar man, 'I don't blame you for not
wanting to play. I've forgotten the fine points of the game, I guess,
it's been so long since I indulged. Now, how long are you gentlemen
going to be in the city?'
"I told him about a week longer. He says that'll suit him fine. His
cousin is coming over from Brooklyn that evening and they are going to
see the sights of New York. His cousin, he says, is in the artificial
limb and lead casket business, and hasn't crossed the bridge in eight
years. They expect to have the time of their lives, and he winds up by
asking me to keep his roll of money for him till next day. I tried to
make him take it, but it only insulted him to mention it.
"'I'll use what I've got in loose change,' says he. 'You keep the rest
for me. I'll drop in on you and Mr. Tucker to-morrow afternoon about 6
or 7,' says he, 'and we'll have dinner together. Be good.'
"After Whiskers had gone Andy looked at me curious and doubtful.
"'Well, Jeff,' says he, 'it looks like the ravens are trying to feed
us two Elijahs so hard that if we turned 'em down again we ought to
have the Audubon Society after us. It won't do to put the crown aside
too often. I know this is something like paternalism, but don't you
think Opportunity has skinned its knuckles about enough knocking at
"I put my feet up on the table and my hands in my pockets, which is an
attitude unfavorable to frivolous thoughts.
"'Andy,' says I, 'this man with the hirsute whiskers has got us in a
predicament. We can't move hand or foot with his money. You and me
have got a gentleman's agreement with Fortune that we can't break.
We've done business in the West where it's more of a fair game. Out
there the people we skin are trying to skin us, even the farmers and
the remittance men that the magazines send out to write up Goldfields.
But there's little sport in New York city for rod, reel or gun. They
hunt here with either one of two things--a slungshot or a letter of
introduction. The town has been stocked so full of carp that the game
fish are all gone. If you spread a net here, do you catch legitimate
suckers in it, such as the Lord intended to be caught--fresh guys who
know it all, sports with a little coin and the nerve to play another
man's game, street crowds out for the fun of dropping a dollar or two
and village smarties who know just where the little pea is? No, sir,'
says I. 'What the grafters live on here is widows and orphans, and
foreigners who save up a bag of money and hand it out over the first
counter they see with an iron railing to it, and factory girls and
little shopkeepers that never leave the block they do business on.
That's what they call suckers here. They're nothing but canned
sardines, and all the bait you need to catch 'em is a pocketknife and
a soda cracker.
"'Now, this cigar man,' I went on, 'is one of the types. He's lived
twenty years on one street without learning as much as you would in
getting a once-over shave from a lockjawed barber in a Kansas
crossroads town. But he's a New Yorker, and he'll brag about that all
the time when he isn't picking up live wires or getting in front of
street cars or paying out money to wire-tappers or standing under a
safe that's being hoisted into a skyscraper. When a New Yorker does
loosen up,' says I, 'it's like the spring decomposition of the ice jam
in the Allegheny River. He'll swamp you with cracked ice and back-
water if you don't get out of the way.
"'It's mighty lucky for us, Andy,' says I, 'that this cigar exponent
with the parsley dressing saw fit to bedeck us with his childlike
trust and altruism. For,' says I, 'this money of his is an eyesore to
my sense of rectitude and ethics. We can't take it, Andy; you know we
can't,' says I, 'for we haven't a shadow of a title to it--not a
shadow. If there was the least bit of a way we could put in a claim to
it I'd be willing to see him start in for another twenty years and
make another $5,000 for himself, but we haven't sold him anything, we
haven't been embroiled in a trade or anything commercial. He
approached us friendly,' says I, 'and with blind and beautiful idiocy
laid the stuff in our hands. We'll have to give it back to him when he
"'Your arguments,' says Andy, 'are past criticism or comprehension.
No, we can't walk off with the money--as things now stand. I admire
your conscious way of doing business, Jeff,' says Andy, 'and I
wouldn't propose anything that wasn't square in line with your
theories of morality and initiative.
"'But I'll be away to-night and most of to-morrow Jeff,' says Andy.
'I've got some business affairs that I want to attend to. When this
free greenbacks party comes in to-morrow afternoon hold him here till
I arrive. We've all got an engagement for dinner, you know.'
"Well, sir, about 5 the next afternoon in trips the cigar man, with
his eyes half open.
"'Been having a glorious time, Mr. Peters,' says he. 'Took in all the
sights. I tell you New York is the onliest only. Now if you don't
mind,' says he, 'I'll lie down on that couch and doze off for about
nine minutes before Mr. Tucker comes. I'm not used to being up all
night. And to-morrow, if you don't mind, Mr. Peters, I'll take that
five thousand. I met a man last night that's got a sure winner at the
racetrack to-morrow. Excuse me for being so impolite as to go to
sleep, Mr. Peters.'
"And so this inhabitant of the second city in the world reposes
himself and begins to snore, while I sit there musing over things and
wishing I was back in the West, where you could always depend on a
customer fighting to keep his money hard enough to let your conscience
take it from him.
"At half-past 5 Andy comes in and sees the sleeping form.
"'I've been over to Trenton,' says Andy, pulling a document out of his
pocket. 'I think I've got this matter fixed up all right, Jeff. Look
"I open the paper and see that it is a corporation charter issued by
the State of New Jersey to 'The Peters and Tucker Consolidated and
Amalgamated Aerial Franchise Development Company, Limited.'
"'It's to buy up rights of way for airship lines,' explained Andy.
'The Legislature wasn't in session, but I found a man at a postcard
stand in the lobby that kept a stock of charters on hand. There are
100,000 shares,' says Andy, 'expected to reach a par value of $1. I
had one blank certificate of stock printed.'
"Andy takes out the blank and begins to fill it in with a fountain
"'The whole bunch,' says he, 'goes to our friend in dreamland for
$5,000. Did you learn his name?'
"'Make it out to bearer,' says I.
"We put the certificate of stock in the cigar man's hand and went out
to pack our suit cases.
"On the ferryboat Andy says to me: 'Is your conscience easy about
taking the money now, Jeff?'
"'Why shouldn't it be?' says I. 'Are we any better than any other
CONSCIENCE IN ART
"I never could hold my partner, Andy Tucker, down to legitimate ethics
of pure swindling," said Jeff Peters to me one day.
"Andy had too much imagination to be honest. He used to devise schemes
of money-getting so fraudulent and high-financial that they wouldn't
have been allowed in the bylaws of a railroad rebate system.
"Myself, I never believed in taking any man's dollars unless I gave
him something for it--something in the way of rolled gold jewelry,
garden seeds, lumbago lotion, stock certificates, stove polish or a
crack on the head to show for his money. I guess I must have had New
England ancestors away back and inherited some of their stanch and
rugged fear of the police.
"But Andy's family tree was in different kind. I don't think he could
have traced his descent any further back than a corporation.
"One summer while we was in the middle West, working down the Ohio
valley with a line of family albums, headache powders and roach
destroyer, Andy takes one of his notions of high and actionable
"'Jeff,' says he, 'I've been thinking that we ought to drop these
rutabaga fanciers and give our attention to something more nourishing
and prolific. If we keep on snapshooting these hinds for their egg
money we'll be classed as nature fakers. How about plunging into the
fastnesses of the skyscraper country and biting some big bull caribous
in the chest?'
"'Well,' says I, 'you know my idiosyncrasies. I prefer a square, non-
illegal style of business such as we are carrying on now. When I take
money I want to leave some tangible object in the other fellow's hands
for him to gaze at and to distract his attention from my spoor, even
if it's only a Komical Kuss Trick Finger Ring for Squirting Perfume in
a Friend's Eye. But if you've got a fresh idea, Andy,' says I, 'let's
have a look at it. I'm not so wedded to petty graft that I would
refuse something better in the way of a subsidy.'
"'I was thinking,' says Andy, 'of a little hunt without horn, hound or
camera among the great herd of the Midas Americanus, commonly known as
the Pittsburg millionaires.'
"'In New York?' I asks.
"'No, sir,' says Andy, 'in Pittsburg. That's their habitat. They don't
like New York. They go there now and then just because it's expected
"'A Pittsburg millionaire in New York is like a fly in a cup of hot
coffee--he attracts attention and comment, but he don't enjoy it. New
York ridicules him for "blowing" so much money in that town of sneaks
and snobs, and sneers. The truth is, he don't spend anything while he
is there. I saw a memorandum of expenses for a ten days trip to Bunkum
Town made by a Pittsburg man worth $15,000,000 once. Here's the way he
set it down:
R. R. fare to and from . . . . . . . . . . $ 21 00
Cab fare to and from hotel . . . . . . . . 2 00
Hotel bill @ $5 per day . . . . . . . . . 50 00
Tips . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5,750 00
Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $5,823 00
"'That's the voice of New York,' goes on Andy. 'The town's nothing but
a head waiter. If you tip it too much it'll go and stand by the door
and make fun of you to the hat check boy. When a Pittsburger wants to
spend money and have a good time he stays at home. That's where we'll
go to catch him.'
"Well, to make a dense story more condensed, me and Andy cached our
paris green and antipyrine powders and albums in a friend's cellar,
and took the trail to Pittsburg. Andy didn't have any especial
prospectus of chicanery and violence drawn up, but he always had
plenty of confidence that his immoral nature would rise to any
occasion that presented itself.
"As a concession to my ideas of self-preservation and rectitude he
promised that if I should take an active and incriminating part in any
little business venture that we might work up there should be
something actual and cognizant to the senses of touch, sight, taste or
smell to transfer to the victim for the money so my conscience might
rest easy. After that I felt better and entered more cheerfully into
the foul play.
"'Andy,' says I, as we strayed through the smoke along the cinderpath
they call Smithfield street, 'had you figured out how we are going to
get acquainted with these coke kings and pig iron squeezers? Not that
I would decry my own worth or system of drawing room deportment, and
work with the olive fork and pie knife,' says I, 'but isn't the entree
nous into the salons of the stogie smokers going to be harder than you
"'If there's any handicap at all,' says Andy, 'it's our own refinement
and inherent culture. Pittsburg millionaires are a fine body of plain,
wholehearted, unassuming, democratic men.
"'They are rough but uncivil in their manners, and though their ways
are boisterous and unpolished, under it all they have a great deal of
impoliteness and discourtesy. Nearly every one of 'em rose from
obscurity,' says Andy, 'and they'll live in it till the town gets to
using smoke consumers. If we act simple and unaffected and don't go
too far from the saloons and keep making a noise like an import duty
on steel rails we won't have any trouble in meeting some of 'em
"Well Andy and me drifted about town three or four days getting our
bearings. We got to knowing several millionaires by sight.
"One used to stop his automobile in front of our hotel and have a
quart of champagne brought out to him. When the waiter opened it he'd
turn it up to his mouth and drink it out of the bottle. That showed he
used to be a glassblower before he made his money.
"One evening Andy failed to come to the hotel for dinner. About 11
o'clock he came into my room.
"'Landed one, Jeff,' says he. 'Twelve millions. Oil, rolling mills,
real estate and natural gas. He's a fine man; no airs about him. Made
all his money in the last five years. He's got professors posting him
up now in education--art and literature and haberdashery and such
"'When I saw him he'd just won a bet of $10,000 with a Steel
Corporation man that there'd be four suicides in the Allegheny rolling
mills to-day. So everybody in sight had to walk up and have drinks on
him. He took a fancy to me and asked me to dinner with him. We went to
a restaurant in Diamond alley and sat on stools and had a sparkling
Moselle and clam chowder and apple fritters.
"'Then he wanted to show me his bachelor apartment on Liberty street.
He's got ten rooms over a fish market with privilege of the bath on
the next floor above. He told me it cost him $18,000 to furnish his
apartment, and I believe it.
"'He's got $40,000 worth of pictures in one room, and $20,000 worth of
curios and antiques in another. His name's Scudder, and he's 45, and
taking lessons on the piano and 15,000 barrels of oil a day out of his
"'All right,' says I. 'Preliminary canter satisfactory. But, kay
vooly, voo? What good is the art junk to us? And the oil?'
"'Now, that man,' says Andy, sitting thoughtfully on the bed, 'ain't
what you would call an ordinary scutt. When he was showing me his
cabinet of art curios his face lighted up like the door of a coke
oven. He says that if some of his big deals go through he'll make J.
P. Morgan's collection of sweatshop tapestry and Augusta, Me.,
beadwork look like the contents of an ostrich's craw thrown on a
screen by a magic lantern.
"'And then he showed me a little carving,' went on Andy, 'that anybody
could see was a wonderful thing. It was something like 2,000 years
old, he said. It was a lotus flower with a woman's face in it carved
out of a solid piece of ivory.
"Scudder looks it up in a catalogue and describes it. An Egyptian
carver named Khafra made two of 'em for King Rameses II. about the
year B.C. The other one can't be found. The junkshops and antique bugs
have rubbered all Europe for it, but it seems to be out of stock.
Scudder paid $2,000 for the one he has.'
"'Oh, well,' says I, 'this sounds like the purling of a rill to me. I
thought we came here to teach the millionaires business, instead of
learning art from 'em?'
"'Be patient,' says Andy, kindly. 'Maybe we will see a rift in the
smoke ere long.'
"All the next morning Andy was out. I didn't see him until about noon.
He came to the hotel and called me into his room across the hall. He
pulled a roundish bundle about as big as a goose egg out of his pocket
and unwrapped it. It was an ivory carving just as he had described the
millionaire's to me.
"'I went in an old second hand store and pawnshop a while ago,' says
Andy, 'and I see this half hidden under a lot of old daggers and
truck. The pawnbroker said he'd had it several years and thinks it was
soaked by some Arabs or Turks or some foreign dubs that used to live
down by the river.
"'I offered him $2 for it, and I must have looked like I wanted it,
for he said it would be taking the pumpernickel out of his children's
mouths to hold any conversation that did not lead up to a price of
$35. I finally got it for $25.
"'Jeff,' goes on Andy, 'this is the exact counterpart of Scudder's
carving. It's absolutely a dead ringer for it. He'll pay $2,000 for it
as quick as he'd tuck a napkin under his chin. And why shouldn't it be
the genuine other one, anyhow, that the old gypsy whittled out?'
"'Why not, indeed?' says I. 'And how shall we go about compelling him
to make a voluntary purchase of it?'
"Andy had his plan all ready, and I'll tell you how we carried it out.
"I got a pair of blue spectacles, put on my black frock coat, rumpled
my hair up and became Prof. Pickleman. I went to another hotel,
registered, and sent a telegram to Scudder to come to see me at once
on important art business. The elevator dumped him on me in less than
an hour. He was a foggy man with a clarion voice, smelling of
Connecticut wrappers and naphtha.
"'Hello, Profess!' he shouts. 'How's your conduct?'
"I rumpled my hair some more and gave him a blue glass stare.
"'Sir,' says I, 'are you Cornelius T. Scudder? Of Pittsburg,
"'I am,' says he. 'Come out and have a drink.'
"'I've neither the time nor the desire,' says I, 'for such harmful and
deleterious amusements. I have come from New York,' says I, 'on a
matter of busi--on a matter of art.
"'I learned there that you are the owner of an Egyptian ivory carving
of the time of Rameses II., representing the head of Queen Isis in a
lotus flower. There were only two of such carvings made. One has been
lost for many years. I recently discovered and purchased the other in
a pawn--in an obscure museum in Vienna. I wish to purchase yours. Name
"'Well, the great ice jams, Profess!' says Scudder. 'Have you found
the other one? Me sell? No. I don't guess Cornelius Scudder needs to
sell anything that he wants to keep. Have you got the carving with
"I shows it to Scudder. He examines it careful all over.
"'It's the article,' says he. 'It's a duplicate of mine, every line
and curve of it. Tell you what I'll do,' he says. 'I won't sell, but
I'll buy. Give you $2,500 for yours.'
"'Since you won't sell, I will,' says I. 'Large bills, please. I'm a
man of few words. I must return to New York to-night. I lecture
to-morrow at the aquarium.'
"Scudder sends a check down and the hotel cashes it. He goes off with
his piece of antiquity and I hurry back to Andy's hotel, according to
"Andy is walking up and down the room looking at his watch.
"'Well?' he says.
"'Twenty-five hundred,' says I. 'Cash.'
"'We've got just eleven minutes,' says Andy, 'to catch the B. & O.
westbound. Grab your baggage.'
"'What's the hurry,' says I. 'It was a square deal. And even if it was
only an imitation of the original carving it'll take him some time to
find it out. He seemed to be sure it was the genuine article.'
"'It was,' says Andy. 'It was his own. When I was looking at his
curios yesterday he stepped out of the room for a moment and I
pocketed it. Now, will you pick up your suit case and hurry?'
"'Then,' says I, 'why was that story about finding another one in the
"'Oh,' says Andy, 'out of respect for that conscience of yours. Come
THE MAN HIGHER UP
Across our two dishes of spaghetti, in a corner of Provenzano's
restaurant, Jeff Peters was explaining to me the three kinds of graft.
Every winter Jeff comes to New York to eat spaghetti, to watch the
shipping in East River from the depths of his chinchilla overcoat, and
to lay in a supply of Chicago-made clothing at one of the Fulton
street stores. During the other three seasons he may be found further
west--his range is from Spokane to Tampa. In his profession he takes a
pride which he supports and defends with a serious and unique
philosophy of ethics. His profession is no new one. He is an
incorporated, uncapitalized, unlimited asylum for the reception of the
restless and unwise dollars of his fellowmen.
In the wilderness of stone in which Jeff seeks his annual lonely
holiday he is glad to palaver of his many adventures, as a boy will
whistle after sundown in a wood. Wherefore, I mark on my calendar the
time of his coming, and open a question of privilege at Provenzano's
concerning the little wine-stained table in the corner between the
rakish rubber plant and the framed palazzio della something on the
"There are two kinds of graft," said Jeff, "that ought to be wiped out
by law. I mean Wall Street speculation, and burglary."
"Nearly everybody will agree with you as to one of them," said I, with
"Well, burglary ought to be wiped out, too," said Jeff; and I wondered
whether the laugh had been redundant.
"About three months ago," said Jeff, "it was my privilege to become
familiar with a sample of each of the aforesaid branches of
illegitimate art. I was /sine que grata/ with a member of the
housebreakers' union and one of the John D. Napoleons of finance at
the same time."
"Interesting combination,' said I, with a yawn. "Did I tell you I
bagged a duck and a ground-squirrel at one shot last week over in the
Ramapos?" I knew well how to draw Jeff's stories.
"Let me tell you first about these barnacles that clog the wheels of
society by poisoning the springs of rectitude with their upas-like
eye," said Jeff, with the pure gleam of the muck-raker in his own.
"As I said, three months ago I got into bad company. There are two
times in a man's life when he does this--when he's dead broke, and
when he's rich.
"Now and then the most legitimate business runs out of luck. It was
out in Arkansas I made the wrong turn at a cross-road, and drives into
this town of Peavine by mistake. It seems I had already assaulted and
disfigured Peavine the spring of the year before. I had sold $600
worth of young fruit trees there--plums, cherries, peaches and pears.
The Peaviners were keeping an eye on the country road and hoping I
might pass that way again. I drove down Main street as far as the
Crystal Palace drugstore before I realized I had committed ambush upon
myself and my white horse Bill.
"The Peaviners took me by surprise and Bill by the bridle and began a
conversation that wasn't entirely disassociated with the subject of
fruit trees. A committee of 'em ran some trace-chains through the
armholes of my vest, and escorted me through their gardens and
"Their fruit trees hadn't lived up to their labels. Most of 'em had
turned out to be persimmons and dogwoods, with a grove or two of
blackjacks and poplars. The only one that showed any signs of bearing
anything was a fine young cottonwood that had put forth a hornet's
nest and half of an old corset-cover.
"The Peaviners protracted our fruitless stroll to the edge of town.
They took my watch and money on account; and they kept Bill and the
wagon as hostages. They said the first time one of them dogwood trees
put forth an Amsden's June peach I might come back and get my things.
Then they took off the trace chains and jerked their thumbs in the
direction of the Rocky Mountains; and I struck a Lewis and Clark lope
for the swollen rivers and impenetrable forests.
"When I regained intellectualness I found myself walking into an
unidentified town on the A., T. & S. F. railroad. The Peaviners hadn't
left anything in my pockets except a plug of chewing--they wasn't
after my life--and that saved it. I bit off a chunk and sits down on a
pile of ties by the track to recogitate my sensations of thought and
"And then along comes a fast freight which slows up a little at the
town; and off of it drops a black bundle that rolls for twenty yards
in a cloud of dust and then gets up and begins to spit soft coal and
interjections. I see it is a young man broad across the face, dressed
more for Pullmans than freights, and with a cheerful kind of smile in
spite of it all that made Phoebe Snow's job look like a chimney-
"'Fall off?' says I.
"'Nunk,' says he. 'Got off. Arrived at my destination. What town is
"'Haven't looked it up on the map yet,' says I. 'I got in about five
minutes before you did. How does it strike you?'
"'Hard,' says he, twisting one of his arms around. 'I believe that
shoulder--no, it's all right.'
"He stoops over to brush the dust off his clothes, when out of his
pocket drops a fine, nine-inch burglar's steel jimmy. He picks it up
and looks at me sharp, and then grins and holds out his hand.
"'Brother,' says he, 'greetings. Didn't I see you in Southern Missouri
last summer selling colored sand at half-a-dollar a teaspoonful to put
into lamps to keep the oil from exploding?'
"'Oil,' says I, 'never explodes. It's the gas that forms that
explodes.' But I shakes hands with him, anyway.
"'My name's Bill Bassett,' says he to me, 'and if you'll call it
professional pride instead of conceit, I'll inform you that you have
the pleasure of meeting the best burglar that ever set a gum-shoe on
ground drained by the Mississippi River.'
"Well, me and this Bill Bassett sits on the ties and exchanges brags
as artists in kindred lines will do. It seems he didn't have a cent,
either, and we went into close caucus. He explained why an able
burglar sometimes had to travel on freights by telling me that a
servant girl had played him false in Little Rock, and he was making a
"'It's part of my business,' says Bill Bassett, 'to play up to the
ruffles when I want to make a riffle as Raffles. 'Tis loves that makes
the bit go 'round. Show me a house with a swag in it and a pretty
parlor-maid, and you might as well call the silver melted down and
sold, and me spilling truffles and that Chateau stuff on the napkin
under my chin, while the police are calling it an inside job just
because the old lady's nephew teaches a Bible class. I first make an
impression on the girl,' says Bill, 'and when she lets me inside I
make an impression on the locks. But this one in Little Rock done me,'
says he. 'She saw me taking a trolley ride with another girl, and when
I came 'round on the night she was to leave the door open for me it
was fast. And I had keys made for the doors upstairs. But, no sir. She
had sure cut off my locks. She was a Delilah,' says Bill Bassett.
"It seems that Bill tried to break in anyhow with his jimmy, but the
girl emitted a succession of bravura noises like the top-riders of a
tally-ho, and Bill had to take all the hurdles between there and
depot. As he had no baggage they tried hard to check his departure,
but he made a train that was just pulling out.
"'Well,' says Bill Bassett, when we had exchanged memories of our dead
lives, 'I could eat. This town don't look like it was kept under a
Yale lock. Suppose we commit some mild atrocity that will bring in
temporary expense money. I don't suppose you've brought along any hair
tonic or rolled gold watch-chains, or similar law-defying swindles
that you could sell on the plaza to the pikers of the paretic
populace, have you?'
"'No,' says I, 'I left an elegant line of Patagonian diamond earrings
and rainy-day sunbursts in my valise at Peavine. But they're to stay
there until some of those black-gum trees begin to glut the market
with yellow clings and Japanese plums. I reckon we can't count on them
unless we take Luther Burbank in for a partner.'
"'Very well,' says Bassett, 'we'll do the best we can. Maybe after
dark I'll borrow a hairpin from some lady, and open the Farmers and
Drovers Marine Bank with it.'
"While we were talking, up pulls a passenger train to the depot near
by. A person in a high hat gets off on the wrong side of the train and
comes tripping down the track towards us. He was a little, fat man
with a big nose and rat's eyes, but dressed expensive, and carrying a
hand-satchel careful, as if it had eggs or railroads bonds in it. He
passes by us and keeps on down the track, not appearing to notice the
"'Come on,' says Bill Bassett to me, starting after him.
"'Where?' I asks.
"'Lordy!' says Bill, 'had you forgot you was in the desert? Didn't you
see Colonel Manna drop down right before your eyes? Don't you hear the
rustling of General Raven's wings? I'm surprised at you, Elijah.'
"We overtook the stranger in the edge of some woods, and, as it was
after sun-down and in a quiet place, nobody saw us stop him. Bill
takes the silk hat off the man's head and brushes it with his sleeve
and puts it back.
"'What does this mean, sir?' says the man.
"'When I wore one of these,' says Bill, 'and felt embarrassed, I
always done that. Not having one now I had to use yours. I hardly know
how to begin, sir, in explaining our business with you, but I guess
we'll try your pockets first.'
"Bill Bassett felt in all of them, and looked disgusted.
"'Not even a watch,' he says. 'Ain't you ashamed of yourself, you
whited sculpture? Going about dressed like a head-waiter, and financed
like a Count! You haven't even got carfare. What did you do with your
"The man speaks up and says he has no assets or valuables of any sort.
But Bassett takes his hand-satchel and opens it. Out comes some
collars and socks and a half a page of a newspaper clipped out. Bill
reads the clipping careful, and holds out his hand to the held-up
"'Brother,' says he, 'greetings! Accept the apologies of friends. I am
Bill Bassett, the burglar. Mr. Peters, you must make the acquaintance
of Mr. Alfred E. Ricks. Shake hands. Mr. Peters,' says Bill, 'stands
about halfway between me and you, Mr. Ricks, in the line of havoc and
corruption. He always gives something for the money he gets. I'm glad
to meet you, Mr. Ricks--you and Mr. Peters. This is the first time I
ever attended a full gathering of the National Synod of Sharks--
housebreaking, swindling, and financiering all represented. Please
examine Mr. Rick's credentials, Mr. Peters.'
"The piece of newspaper that Bill Bassett handed me had a good picture
of this Ricks on it. It was a Chicago paper, and it had obloquies of
Ricks in every paragraph. By reading it over I harvested the
intelligence that said alleged Ricks had laid off all that portion of
the State of Florida that lies under water into town lots and sold 'em
to alleged innocent investors from his magnificently furnished offices
in Chicago. After he had taken in a hundred thousand or so dollars one
of these fussy purchasers that are always making trouble (I've had 'em
actually try gold watches I've sold 'em with acid) took a cheap
excursion down to the land where it is always just before supper to
look at his lot and see if it didn't need a new paling or two on the
fence, and market a few lemons in time for the Christmas present
trade. He hires a surveyor to find his lot for him. They run the line
out and find the flourishing town of Paradise Hollow, so advertised,
to be about 40 rods and 16 poles S., 27 degrees E. of the middle of
Lake Okeechobee. This man's lot was under thirty-six feet of water,
and, besides, had been preempted so long by the alligators and gars
that his title looked fishy.
"Naturally, the man goes back to Chicago and makes it as hot for
Alfred E. Ricks as the morning after a prediction of snow by the
weather bureau. Ricks defied the allegation, but he couldn't deny the
alligators. One morning the papers came out with a column about it,
and Ricks come out by the fire-escape. It seems the alleged
authorities had beat him to the safe-deposit box where he kept his
winnings, and Ricks has to westward ho! with only feetwear and a dozen
15-and-a-half English pokes in his shopping bag. He happened to have
some mileage left in his book, and that took him as far as the town in
the wilderness where he was spilled out on me and Bill Bassett as
Elijah III. with not a raven in sight for any of us.
"Then this Alfred E. Ricks lets out a squeak that he is hungry, too,
and denies the hypothesis that he is good for the value, let alone the
price, of a meal. And so, there was the three of us, representing, if
we had a mind to draw syllogisms and parabolas, labor and trade and
capital. Now, when trade has no capital there isn't a dicker to be
made. And when capital has no money there's a stagnation in steak and
onions. That put it up to the man with the jimmy.
"'Brother bushrangers,' says Bill Bassett, 'never yet, in trouble, did
I desert a pal. Hard by, in yon wood, I seem to see unfurnished
lodgings. Let us go there and wait till dark.'
"There was an old, deserted cabin in the grove, and we three took
possession of it. After dark Bill Bassett tells us to wait, and goes
out for half an hour. He comes back with a armful of bread and
spareribs and pies.
"'Panhandled 'em at a farmhouse on Washita Avenue,' says he. 'Eat,
drink and be leary.'
"The full moon was coming up bright, so we sat on the floor of the
cabin and ate in the light of it. And this Bill Bassett begins to
"'Sometimes,' says he, with his mouth full of country produce, 'I lose
all patience with you people that think you are higher up in the
profession than I am. Now, what could either of you have done in the
present emergency to set us on our feet again? Could you do it,
"'I must confess, Mr. Bassett,' says Ricks, speaking nearly inaudible
out of a slice of pie, 'that at this immediate juncture I could not,
perhaps, promote an enterprise to relieve the situation. Large
operations, such as I direct, naturally require careful preparation in
"'I know, Ricksy,' breaks in Bill Bassett. 'You needn't finish. You
need $500 to make the first payment on a blond typewriter, and four
roomsful of quartered oak furniture. And you need $500 more for
advertising contracts. And you need two weeks' time for the fish to
begin to bite. Your line of relief would be about as useful in an
emergency as advocating municipal ownership to cure a man suffocated
by eighty-cent gas. And your graft ain't much swifter, Brother
Peters,' he winds up.
"'Oh,' says I, 'I haven't seen you turn anything into gold with your
wand yet, Mr. Good Fairy. 'Most anybody could rub the magic ring for a
little left-over victuals.'
"'That was only getting the pumpkin ready,' says Bassett, braggy and
cheerful. 'The coach and six'll drive up to the door before you know
it, Miss Cinderella. Maybe you've got some scheme under your sleeve-
holders that will give us a start.'
"'Son,' says I, 'I'm fifteen years older than you are, and young
enough yet to take out an endowment policy. I've been broke before. We
can see the lights of that town not half a mile away. I learned under
Montague Silver, the greatest street man that ever spoke from a wagon.
There are hundreds of men walking those streets this moment with
grease spots on their clothes. Give me a gasoline lamp, a dry-goods
box, and a two-dollar bar of white castile soap, cut into little--'
"'Where's your two dollars?' snickered Bill Bassett into my discourse.
There was no use arguing with that burglar.
"'No,' he goes on; 'you're both babes-in-the-wood. Finance has closed
the mahogany desk, and trade has put the shutters up. Both of you look
to labor to start the wheels going. All right. You admit it. To-night
I'll show you what Bill Bassett can do.'
"Bassett tells me and Ricks not to leave the cabin till he comes back,
even if it's daylight, and then he starts off toward town, whistling
"This Alfred E. Ricks pulls off his shoes and his coat, lays a silk
handkerchief over his hat, and lays down on the floor.
"'I think I will endeavor to secure a little slumber,' he squeaks.
'The day has been fatiguing. Good-night, my dear Mr. Peters.'
"'My regards to Morpheus,' says I. 'I think I'll sit up a while.'
"About two o'clock, as near as I could guess by my watch in Peavine,
home comes our laboring man and kicks up Ricks, and calls us to the
streak of bright moonlight shining in the cabin door. Then he spreads
out five packages of one thousand dollars each on the floor, and
begins to cackle over the nest-egg like a hen.
"'I'll tell you a few things about that town,' says he. 'It's named
Rocky Springs, and they're building a Masonic temple, and it looks
like the Democratic candidate for mayor is going to get soaked by a
Pop, and Judge Tucker's wife, who has been down with pleurisy, is
getting some better. I had a talk on these liliputian thesises before
I could get a siphon in the fountain of knowledge that I was after.
And there's a bank there called the Lumberman's Fidelity and Plowman's
Savings Institution. It closed for business yesterday with $23,000
cash on hand. It will open this morning with $18,000--all silver--
that's the reason I didn't bring more. There you are, trade and
capital. Now, will you be bad?'
"'My young friend,' says Alfred E. Ricks, holding up his hands, 'have
you robbed this bank? Dear me, dear me!'
"'You couldn't call it that,' says Bassett. "Robbing" sounds harsh.
All I had to do was to find out what street it was on. That town is so
quiet that I could stand on the corner and hear the tumblers clicking
in that safe lock--"right to 45; left twice to 80; right once to 60;
left to 15"--as plain as the Yale captain giving orders in the
football dialect. Now, boys,' says Bassett, 'this is an early rising
town. They tell me the citizens are all up and stirring before
daylight. I asked what for, and they said because breakfast was ready
at that time. And what of merry Robin Hood? It must be Yoicks! and
away with the tinkers' chorus. I'll stake you. How much do you want?
Speak up. Capital.'
"'My dear young friend,' says this ground squirrel of a Ricks,
standing on his hind legs and juggling nuts in his paws, 'I have
friends in Denver who would assist me. If I had a hundred dollars I--'
"Basset unpins a package of the currency and throws five twenties to
"'Trade, how much?' he says to me.
"'Put your money up, Labor,' says I. 'I never yet drew upon honest
toil for its hard-earned pittance. The dollars I get are surplus ones
that are burning the pockets of damfools and greenhorns. When I stand
on a street corner and sell a solid gold diamond ring to a yap for
$3.00, I make just $2.60. And I know he's going to give it to a girl
in return for all the benefits accruing from a $125.00 ring. His
profits are $122.00. Which of us is the biggest fakir?'
"'And when you sell a poor woman a pinch of sand for fifty cents to
keep her lamp from exploding,' says Bassett, 'what do you figure her
gross earnings to be, with sand at forty cents a ton?'
"'Listen,' says I. 'I instruct her to keep her lamp clean and well
filled. If she does that it can't burst. And with the sand in it she
knows it can't, and she don't worry. It's a kind of Industrial
Christian Science. She pays fifty cents, and gets both Rockefeller and
Mrs. Eddy on the job. It ain't everybody that can let the gold-dust
twins do their work.'
"Alfred E. Ricks all but licks the dust off of Bill Bassett's shoes.
"'My dear young friend,' says he, 'I will never forget your
generosity. Heaven will reward you. But let me implore you to turn
from your ways of violence and crime.'
"'Mousie,' says Bill, 'the hole in the wainscoting for yours. Your
dogmas and inculcations sound to me like the last words of a bicycle
pump. What has your high moral, elevator-service system of pillage
brought you to? Penuriousness and want. Even Brother Peters, who
insists upon contaminating the art of robbery with theories of
commerce and trade, admitted he was on the lift. Both of you live by
the gilded rule. Brother Peters,' says Bill, 'you'd better choose a
slice of this embalmed currency. You're welcome.'
"I told Bill Bassett once more to put his money in his pocket. I never
had the respect for burglary that some people have. I always gave
something for the money I took, even if it was only some little trifle
for a souvenir to remind 'em not to get caught again.
"And then Alfred E. Ricks grovels at Bill's feet again, and bids us
adieu. He says he will have a team at a farmhouse, and drive to the
station below, and take the train for Denver. It salubrified the
atmosphere when that lamentable boll-worm took his departure. He was a
disgrace to every non-industrial profession in the country. With all
his big schemes and fine offices he had wound up unable even to get an
honest meal except by the kindness of a strange and maybe unscrupulous
burglar. I was glad to see him go, though I felt a little sorry for
him, now that he was ruined forever. What could such a man do without
a big capital to work with? Why, Alfred E. Ricks, as we left him, was
as helpless as turtle on its back. He couldn't have worked a scheme to
beat a little girl out of a penny slate-pencil.
"When me and Bill Bassett was left alone I did a little sleight-of-
mind turn in my head with a trade secret at the end of it. Thinks I,
I'll show this Mr. Burglar Man the difference between business and
labor. He had hurt some of my professional self-adulation by casting
his Persians upon commerce and trade.
"'I won't take any of your money as a gift, Mr. Bassett,' says I to
him, 'but if you'll pay my expenses as a travelling companion until we
get out of the danger zone of the immoral deficit you have caused in
this town's finances to-night, I'll be obliged.'
"Bill Bassett agreed to that, and we hiked westward as soon as we
could catch a safe train.
"When we got to a town in Arizona called Los Perros I suggested that
we once more try our luck on terra-cotta. That was the home of
Montague Silver, my old instructor, now retired from business. I knew
Monty would stake me to web money if I could show him a fly buzzing
'round the locality. Bill Bassett said all towns looked alike to him
as he worked mainly in the dark. So we got off the train in Los
Perros, a fine little town in the silver region.
"I had an elegant little sure thing in the way of a commercial
slugshot that I intended to hit Bassett behind the ear with. I wasn't
going to take his money while he was asleep, but I was going to leave
him with a lottery ticket that would represent in experience to him
$4,755--I think that was the amount he had when we got off the train.
But the first time I hinted to him about an investment, he turns on me
and disencumbers himself of the following terms and expressions.
"'Brother Peters,' says he, 'it ain't a bad idea to go into an
enterprise of some kind, as you suggest. I think I will. But if I do
it will be such a cold proposition that nobody but Robert E. Peary and
Charlie Fairbanks will be able to sit on the board of directors.'
"'I thought you might want to turn your money over,' says I.
"'I do,' says he, 'frequently. I can't sleep on one side all night.
I'll tell you, Brother Peters,' says he, 'I'm going to start a poker
room. I don't seem to care for the humdrum in swindling, such as
peddling egg-beaters and working off breakfast food on Barnum and
Bailey for sawdust to strew in their circus rings. But the gambling
business,' says he, 'from the profitable side of the table is a good
compromise between swiping silver spoons and selling penwipers at a
Waldorf-Astoria charity bazar.'
"'Then,' says I, 'Mr. Bassett, you don't care to talk over my little
"'Why,' says he, 'do you know, you can't get a Pasteur institute to
start up within fifty miles of where I live. I bite so seldom.'
"So, Bassett rents a room over a saloon and looks around for some
furniture and chromos. The same night I went to Monty Silver's house,
and he let me have $200 on my prospects. Then I went to the only store
in Los Perros that sold playing cards and bought every deck in the
house. The next morning when the store opened I was there bringing all
the cards back with me. I said that my partner that was going to back
me in the game had changed his mind; and I wanted to sell the cards
back again. The storekeeper took 'em at half price.
"Yes, I was seventy-five dollars loser up to that time. But while I
had the cards that night I marked every one in every deck. That was
labor. And then trade and commerce had their innings, and the bread I
had cast upon the waters began to come back in the form of cottage
pudding with wine sauce.
"Of course I was among the first to buy chips at Bill Bassett's game.
He had bought the only cards there was to be had in town; and I knew
the back of every one of them better than I know the back of my head
when the barber shows me my haircut in the two mirrors.
"When the game closed I had the five thousand and a few odd dollars,
and all Bill Bassett had was the wanderlust and a black cat he had
bought for a mascot. Bill shook hands with me when I left.
"'Brother Peters,' says he, 'I have no business being in business. I
was preordained to labor. When a No. 1 burglar tries to make a James
out of his jimmy he perpetrates an improfundity. You have a well-oiled
and efficacious system of luck at cards,' says he. 'Peace go with
you.' And I never afterward sees Bill Bassett again."
"Well, Jeff," said I, when the Autolycan adventurer seemed to have
divulged the gist of his tale, "I hope you took care of the money.
That would be a respecta--that is a considerable working capital if
you should choose some day to settle down to some sort of regular
"Me?" said Jeff, virtuously. "You can bet I've taken care of that five
He tapped his coat over the region of his chest exultantly.
"Gold mining stock," he explained, "every cent of it. Shares par value
one dollar. Bound to go up 500 per cent. within a year. Non-
assessable. The Blue Gopher mine. Just discovered a month ago. Better
get in yourself if you've any spare dollars on hand."
"Sometimes," said I, "these mines are not--"
"Oh, this one's solid as an old goose," said Jeff. "Fifty thousand
dollars' worth of ore in sight, and 10 per cent. monthly earnings
He drew out a long envelope from his pocket and cast it on the table.
"Always carry it with me," said he. "So the burglar can't corrupt or
the capitalist break in and water it."
I looked at the beautifully engraved certificate of stock.
"In Colorado, I see," said I. "And, by the way, Jeff, what was the
name of the little man who went to Denver--the one you and Bill met at
"Alfred E. Ricks," said Jeff, "was the toad's designation."
"I see," said I, "the president of this mining company signs himself
A. L. Fredericks. I was wondering--"
"Let me see that stock," said Jeff quickly, almost snatching it from
To mitigate, even though slightly, the embarrassment I summoned the
waiter and ordered another bottle of the Barbera. I thought it was the
least I could do.
A TEMPERED WIND
The first time my optical nerves was disturbed by the sight of
Buckingham Skinner was in Kansas City. I was standing on a corner when
I see Buck stick his straw-colored head out of a third-story window of
a business block and holler, "Whoa, there! Whoa!" like you would in
endeavoring to assuage a team of runaway mules.
I looked around; but all the animals I see in sight is a policeman,
having his shoes shined, and a couple of delivery wagons hitched to
posts. Then in a minute downstairs tumbles this Buckingham Skinner,
and runs to the corner, and stands and gazes down the other street at
the imaginary dust kicked up by the fabulous hoofs of the fictitious
team of chimerical quadrupeds. And then B. Skinner goes back up to the
third-story room again, and I see that the lettering on the window is
"The Farmers' Friend Loan Company."
By and by Straw-top comes down again, and I crossed the street to meet
him, for I had my ideas. Yes, sir, when I got close I could see where
he overdone it. He was Reub all right as far as his blue jeans and
cowhide boots went, but he had a matinee actor's hands, and the rye
straw stuck over his ear looked like it belonged to the property man
of the Old Homestead Co. Curiosity to know what his graft was got the
best of me.
"Was that your team broke away and run just now?" I asks him, polite.
"I tried to stop 'em," says I, "but I couldn't. I guess they're half
way back to the farm by now."
"Gosh blame them darned mules," says Straw-top, in a voice so good
that I nearly apologized; "they're a'lus bustin' loose." And then he
looks at me close, and then he takes off his hayseed hat, and says, in
a different voice: "I'd like to shake hands with Parleyvoo Pickens,
the greatest street man in the West, barring only Montague Silver,
which you can no more than allow."
I let him shake hands with me.
"I learned under Silver," I said; "I don't begrudge him the lead. But
what's your graft, son? I admit that the phantom flight of the non-
existing animals at which you remarked 'Whoa!' has puzzled me
somewhat. How do you win out on the trick?"
Buckingham Skinner blushed.
"Pocket money," says he; "that's all. I am temporarily unfinanced.
This little coup de rye straw is good for forty dollars in a town of
this size. How do I work it? Why, I involve myself, as you perceive,
in the loathsome apparel of the rural dub. Thus embalmed I am Jonas
Stubblefield--a name impossible to improve upon. I repair noisily to
the office of some loan company conveniently located in the third-
floor, front. There I lay my hat and yarn gloves on the floor and ask
to mortgage my farm for $2,000 to pay for my sister's musical
education in Europe. Loans like that always suit the loan companies.
It's ten to one that when the note falls due the foreclosure will be
leading the semiquavers by a couple of lengths.
"Well, sir, I reach in my pocket for the abstract of title; but I
suddenly hear my team running away. I run to the window and emit the
word--or exclamation, which-ever it may be--viz, 'Whoa!' Then I rush
down-stairs and down the street, returning in a few minutes. 'Dang
them mules,' I says; 'they done run away and busted the doubletree and
two traces. Now I got to hoof it home, for I never brought no money
along. Reckon we'll talk about that loan some other time, gen'lemen.'
"Then I spreads out my tarpaulin, like the Israelites, and waits for
the manna to drop.
"'Why, no, Mr. Stubblefield,' says the lobster-colored party in the
specs and dotted pique vest; 'oblige us by accepting this ten-dollar
bill until to-morrow. Get your harness repaired and call in at ten.
We'll be pleased to accommodate you in the matter of this loan.'
"It's a slight thing," says Buckingham Skinner, modest, "but, as I
said, only for temporary loose change."
"It's nothing to be ashamed of," says I, in respect for his
mortification; "in case of an emergency. Of course, it's small
compared to organizing a trust or bridge whist, but even the Chicago
University had to be started in a small way."
"What's your graft these days?" Buckingham Skinner asks me.
"The legitimate," says I. "I'm handling rhinestones and Dr. Oleum
Sinapi's Electric Headache Battery and the Swiss Warbler's Bird Call,
a small lot of the new queer ones and twos, and the Bonanza Budget,
consisting of a rolled-gold wedding and engagement ring, six Egyptian
lily bulbs, a combination pickle fork and nail-clipper, and fifty
engraved visiting cards--no two names alike--all for the sum of 38
"Two months ago," says Buckingham Skinner, "I was doing well down in
Texas with a patent instantaneous fire kindler, made of compressed
wood ashes and benzine. I sold loads of 'em in towns where they like
to burn niggers quick, without having to ask somebody for a light. And
just when I was doing the best they strikes oil down there and puts me
out of business. 'Your machine's too slow, now, pardner,' they tells
me. 'We can have a coon in hell with this here petroleum before your
old flint-and-tinder truck can get him warm enough to perfess
religion.' And so I gives up the kindler and drifts up here to K.C.
This little curtain-raiser you seen me doing, Mr. Pickens, with the
simulated farm and the hypothetical teams, ain't in my line at all,
and I'm ashamed you found me working it."
"No man," says I, kindly, "need to be ashamed of putting the skibunk
on a loan corporation for even so small a sum as ten dollars, when he
is financially abashed. Still, it wasn't quite the proper thing. It's
too much like borrowing money without paying it back."
I liked Buckingham Skinner from the start, for as good a man as ever
stood over the axles and breathed gasoline smoke. And pretty soon we
gets thick, and I let him in on a scheme I'd had in mind for some
time, and offers to go partners.
"Anything," says Buck, "that is not actually dishonest will find me
willing and ready. Let us perforate into the inwardness of your
proposition. I feel degraded when I am forced to wear property straw
in my hair and assume a bucolic air for the small sum of ten dollars.
Actually, Mr. Pickens, it makes me feel like the Ophelia of the Great
Occidental All-Star One-Night Consolidated Theatrical Aggregation."
This scheme of mine was one that suited my proclivities. By nature I
am some sentimental, and have always felt gentle toward the mollifying
elements of existence. I am disposed to be lenient with the arts and
sciences; and I find time to instigate a cordiality for the more human
works of nature, such as romance and the atmosphere and grass and
poetry and the Seasons. I never skin a sucker without admiring the
prismatic beauty of his scales. I never sell a little auriferous
beauty to the man with the hoe without noticing the beautiful harmony
there is between gold and green. And that's why I liked this scheme;
it was so full of outdoor air and landscapes and easy money.
We had to have a young lady assistant to help us work this graft; and
I asked Buck if he knew of one to fill the bill.
"One," says I, "that is cool and wise and strictly business from her
pompadour to her Oxfords. No ex-toe-dancers or gum-chewers or crayon
portrait canvassers for this."
Buck claimed he knew a suitable feminine and he takes me around to see
Miss Sarah Malloy. The minute I see her I am pleased. She looked to be
the goods as ordered. No sign of the three p's about her--no peroxide,
patchouli, nor peau de soie; about twenty-two, brown hair, pleasant
ways--the kind of a lady for the place.
"A description of the sandbag, if you please," she begins.
"Why, ma'am," says I, "this graft of ours is so nice and refined and
romantic, it would make the balcony scene in 'Romeo and Juliet' look
like second-story work."
We talked it over, and Miss Malloy agreed to come in as a business
partner. She said she was glad to get a chance to give up her place as
stenographer and secretary to a suburban lot company, and go into
This is the way we worked our scheme. First, I figured it out by a
kind of a proverb. The best grafts in the world are built up on copy-
book maxims and psalms and proverbs and Esau's fables. They seem to
kind of hit off human nature. Our peaceful little swindle was
constructed on the old saying: "The whole push loves a lover."
One evening Buck and Miss Malloy drives up like blazes in a buggy to a
farmer's door. She is pale but affectionate, clinging to his arm--
always clinging to his arm. Any one can see that she is a peach and of
the cling variety. They claim they are eloping for to be married on
account of cruel parents. They ask where they can find a preacher.
Farmer says, "B'gum there ain't any preacher nigher than Reverend
Abels, four miles over on Caney Creek." Farmeress wipes her hand on
her apron and rubbers through her specs.
Then, lo and look ye! Up the road from the other way jogs Parleyvoo
Pickens in a gig, dressed in black, white necktie, long face, sniffing
his nose, emitting a spurious kind of noise resembling the long meter
"B'jinks!" says farmer, "if thar ain't a preacher now!"
It transpires that I am Rev. Abijah Green, travelling over to Little
Bethel school-house for to preach next Sunday.
The young folks will have it they must be married, for pa is pursuing
them with the plow mules and the buckboard. So the Reverend Green,
after hesitating, marries 'em in the farmer's parlor. And farmer
grins, and has in cider, and says "B'gum!" and farmeress sniffles a
bit and pats the bride on the shoulder. And Parleyvoo Pickens, the
wrong reverend, writes out a marriage certificate, and farmer and
farmeress sign it as witnesses. And the parties of the first, second
and third part gets in their vehicles and rides away. Oh, that was an
idyllic graft! True love and the lowing kine and the sun shining on
the red barns--it certainly had all other impostures I know about beat
to a batter.
I suppose I happened along in time to marry Buck and Miss Malloy at
about twenty farm-houses. I hated to think how the romance was going
to fade later on when all them marriage certificates turned up in
banks where we'd discounted 'em, and the farmers had to pay them notes
of hand they'd signed, running from $300 to $500.
On the 15th day of May us three divided about $6,000. Miss Malloy
nearly cried with joy. You don't often see a tenderhearted girl or one
that is bent on doing right.
"Boys," says she, dabbing her eyes with a little handkerchief, "this
stake comes in handier than a powder rag at a fat men's ball. It gives
me a chance to reform. I was trying to get out of the real estate
business when you fellows came along. But if you hadn't taken me in on
this neat little proposition for removing the cuticle of the rutabaga
propagators I'm afraid I'd have got into something worse. I was about
to accept a place in one of these Women's Auxiliary Bazars, where they
build a parsonage by selling a spoonful of chicken salad and a cream-
puff for seventy-five cents and calling it a Business Man's Lunch.
"Now I can go into a square, honest business, and give all them queer
jobs the shake. I'm going to Cincinnati and start a palm reading and
clairvoyant joint. As Madame Saramaloi, the Egyptian Sorceress, I
shall give everybody a dollar's worth of good honest prognostication.
Good-by, boys. Take my advice and go into some decent fake. Get
friendly with the police and newspapers and you'll be all right."
So then we all shook hands, and Miss Malloy left us. Me and Buck also
rose up and sauntered off a few hundred miles; for we didn't care to
be around when them marriage certificates fell due.
With about $4,000 between us we hit that bumptious little town off the
New Jersey coast they call New York.
If there ever was an aviary overstocked with jays it is that Yaptown-
on-the-Hudson. Cosmopolitan they call it. You bet. So's a piece of
fly-paper. You listen close when they're buzzing and trying to pull
their feet out of the sticky stuff. "Little old New York's good enough
for us"--that's what they sing.
There's enough Reubs walk down Broadway in one hour to buy up a week's
output of the factory in Augusta, Maine, that makes Knaughty
Knovelties and the little Phine Phum oroide gold finger ring that
sticks a needle in your friend's hand.
You'd think New York people was all wise; but no. They don't get a
chance to learn. Everything's too compressed. Even the hayseeds are
baled hayseeds. But what else can you expect from a town that's shut
off from the world by the ocean on one side and New Jersey on the
It's no place for an honest grafter with a small capital. There's too
big a protective tariff on bunco. Even when Giovanni sells a quart of
warm worms and chestnut hulls he has to hand out a pint to an
insectivorous cop. And the hotel man charges double for everything in
the bill that he sends by the patrol wagon to the altar where the duke
is about to marry the heiress.
But old Badville-near-Coney is the ideal burg for a refined piece of
piracy if you can pay the bunco duty. Imported grafts come pretty
high. The custom-house officers that look after it carry clubs, and
it's hard to smuggle in even a bib-and-tucker swindle to work Brooklyn
with unless you can pay the toll. But now, me and Buck, having
capital, descends upon New York to try and trade the metropolitan
backwoodsmen a few glass beads for real estate just as the Vans did a
hundred or two years ago.
At an East Side hotel we gets acquainted with Romulus G. Atterbury, a
man with the finest head for financial operations I ever saw. It was
all bald and glossy except for gray side whiskers. Seeing that head
behind an office railing, and you'd deposit a million with it without
a receipt. This Atterbury was well dressed, though he ate seldom; and
the synopsis of his talk would make the conversation of a siren sound
like a cab driver's kick. He said he used to be a member of the Stock
Exchange, but some of the big capitalists got jealous and formed a
ring that forced him to sell his seat.
Atterbury got to liking me and Buck and he begun to throw on the
canvas for us some of the schemes that had caused his hair to
evacuate. He had one scheme for starting a National bank on $45 that
made the Mississippi Bubble look as solid as a glass marble. He talked
this to us for three days, and when his throat was good and sore we
told him about the roll we had. Atterbury borrowed a quarter from us
and went out and got a box of throat lozenges and started all over
again. This time he talked bigger things, and he got us to see 'em as
he did. The scheme he laid out looked like a sure winner, and he
talked me and Buck into putting our capital against his burnished dome
of thought. It looked all right for a kid-gloved graft. It seemed to
be just about an inch and a half outside of the reach of the police,
and as money-making as a mint. It was just what me and Buck wanted--a
regular business at a permanent stand, with an open air spieling with
tonsolitis on the street corners every evening.
So, in six weeks you see a handsome furnished set of offices down in
the Wall Street neighborhood, with "The Golconda Gold Bond and
Investment Company" in gilt letters on the door. And you see in his
private room, with the door open, the secretary and treasurer, Mr.
Buckingham Skinner, costumed like the lilies of the conservatory, with
his high silk hat close to his hand. Nobody yet ever saw Buck outside
of an instantaneous reach for his hat.
And you might perceive the president and general manager, Mr. R. G.
Atterbury, with his priceless polished poll, busy in the main office
room dictating letters to a shorthand countess, who has got pomp and a
pompadour that is no less than a guarantee to investors.
There is a bookkeeper and an assistant, and a general atmosphere of
varnish and culpability.
At another desk the eye is relieved by the sight of an ordinary man,
attired with unscrupulous plainness, sitting with his feet up, eating
apples, with his obnoxious hat on the back of his head. That man is no
other than Colonel Tecumseh (once "Parleyvoo") Pickens, the vice-
president of the company.
"No recherche rags for me," I says to Atterbury, when we was
organizing the stage properties of the robbery. "I'm a plain man,"
says I, "and I do not use pajamas, French, or military hair-brushes.
Cast me for the role of the rhinestone-in-the-rough or I don't go on
exhibition. If you can use me in my natural, though displeasing form,
"Dress you up?" says Atterbury; "I should say not! Just as you are
you're worth more to the business than a whole roomful of the things
they pin chrysanthemums on. You're to play the part of the solid but
disheveled capitalist from the Far West. You despise the conventions.
You've got so many stocks you can afford to shake socks. Conservative,
homely, rough, shrewd, saving--that's your pose. It's a winner in New
York. Keep your feet on the desk and eat apples. Whenever anybody
comes in eat an apple. Let 'em see you stuff the peelings in a drawer
of your desk. Look as economical and rich and rugged as you can."
I followed out Atterbury's instructions. I played the Rocky Mountain
capitalist without ruching or frills. The way I deposited apple
peelings to my credit in a drawer when any customers came in made
Hetty Green look like a spendthrift. I could hear Atterbury saying to
victims, as he smiled at me, indulgent and venerating, "That's our
vice-president, Colonel Pickens . . . fortune in Western investments
. . . delightfully plain manners, but . . . could sign his check for
half a million . . . simple as a child . . . wonderful head . . .
conservative and careful almost to a fault."
Atterbury managed the business. Me and Buck never quite understood all
of it, though he explained it to us in full. It seems the company was
a kind of cooperative one, and everybody that bought stock shared in
the profits. First, we officers bought up a controlling interest--we
had to have that--of the shares at 50 cents a hundred--just what the
printer charged us--and the rest went to the public at a dollar each.
The company guaranteed the stockholders a profit of ten per cent. each
month, payable on the last day thereof.
When any stockholder had paid in as much as $100, the company issued
him a Gold Bond and he became a bondholder. I asked Atterbury one day
what benefits and appurtenances these Gold Bonds was to an investor
more so than the immunities and privileges enjoyed by the common
sucker who only owned stock. Atterbury picked up one of them Gold
Bonds, all gilt and lettered up with flourishes and a big red seal
tied with a blue ribbon in a bowknot, and he looked at me like his
feelings was hurt.
"My dear Colonel Pickens," says he, "you have no soul for Art. Think
of a thousand homes made happy by possessing one of these beautiful
gems of the lithographer's skill! Think of the joy in the household
where one of these Gold Bonds hangs by a pink cord to the what-not, or
is chewed by the baby, caroling gleefully upon the floor! Ah, I see
your eye growing moist, Colonel--I have touched you, have I not?"
"You have not," says I, "for I've been watching you. The moisture you
see is apple juice. You can't expect one man to act as a human cider-
press and an art connoisseur too."
Atterbury attended to the details of the concern. As I understand it,
they was simple. The investors in stock paid in their money, and--
well, I guess that's all they had to do. The company received it, and
--I don't call to mind anything else. Me and Buck knew more about
selling corn salve than we did about Wall Street, but even we could
see how the Golconda Gold Bond Investment Company was making money.
You take in money and pay back ten per cent. of it; it's plain enough
that you make a clean, legitimate profit of 90 per cent., less
expenses, as long as the fish bite.
Atterbury wanted to be president and treasurer too, but Buck winks an
eye at him and says: "You was to furnish the brains. Do you call it
good brain work when you propose to take in money at the door, too?
Think again. I hereby nominate myself treasurer ad valorem, sine die,
and by acclamation. I chip in that much brain work free. Me and
Pickens, we furnished the capital, and we'll handle the unearned
increment as it incremates."
It costs us $500 for office rent and first payment on furniture;
$1,500 more went for printing and advertising. Atterbury knew his
business. "Three months to a minute we'll last," says he. "A day
longer than that and we'll have to either go under or go under an
alias. By that time we ought to clean up $60,000. And then a money
belt and a lower berth for me, and the yellow journals and the
furniture men can pick the bones."
Our ads. done the work. "Country weeklies and Washington hand-press
dailies, of course," says I when we was ready to make contracts.
"Man," says Atterbury, "as its advertising manager you would cause a
Limburger cheese factory to remain undiscovered during a hot summer.
The game we're after is right here in New York and Brooklyn and the
Harlem reading-rooms. They're the people that the street-car fenders
and the Answers to Correspondents columns and the pickpocket notices
are made for. We want our ads. in the biggest city dailies, top of
column, next to editorials on radium and pictures of the girl doing
Pretty soon the money begins to roll in. Buck didn't have to pretend
to be busy; his desk was piled high up with money orders and checks
and greenbacks. People began to drop in the office and buy stock every
Most of the shares went in small amounts--$10 and $25 and $50, and a
good many $2 and $3 lots. And the bald and inviolate cranium of
President Atterbury shines with enthusiasm and demerit, while Colonel
Tecumseh Pickens, the rude but reputable Croesus of the West, consumes
so many apples that the peelings hang to the floor from the mahogany
garbage chest that he calls his desk.
Just as Atterbury said, we ran along about three months without being
troubled. Buck cashed the paper as fast as it came in and kept the
money in a safe deposit vault a block or so away. Buck never thought
much of banks for such purposes. We paid the interest regular on the
stock we'd sold, so there was nothing for anybody to squeal about. We
had nearly $50,000 on hand and all three of us had been living as high
as prize fighters out of training.
One morning, as me and Buck sauntered into the office, fat and
flippant, from our noon grub, we met an easy-looking fellow, with a
bright eye and a pipe in his mouth, coming out. We found Atterbury
looking like he'd been caught a mile from home in a wet shower.
"Know that man?" he asked us.
We said we didn't.
"I don't either," says Atterbury, wiping off his head; "but I'll bet
enough Gold Bonds to paper a cell in the Tombs that he's a newspaper
"What did he want?" asks Buck.
"Information," says our president. "Said he was thinking of buying
some stock. He asked me about nine hundred questions, and every one of
'em hit some sore place in the business. I know he's on a paper. You
can't fool me. You see a man about half shabby, with an eye like a
gimlet, smoking cut plug, with dandruff on his coat collar, and
knowing more than J. P. Morgan and Shakespeare put together--if that
ain't a reporter I never saw one. I was afraid of this. I don't mind
detectives and post-office inspectors--I talk to 'em eight minutes and
then sell 'em stock--but them reporters take the starch out of my
collar. Boys, I recommend that we declare a dividend and fade away.
The signs point that way."
Me and Buck talked to Atterbury and got him to stop sweating and stand
still. That fellow didn't look like a reporter to us. Reporters always
pull out a pencil and tablet on you, and tell you a story you've
heard, and strikes you for the drinks. But Atterbury was shaky and
nervous all day.
The next day me and Buck comes down from the hotel about ten-thirty.
On the way we buys the papers, and the first thing we see is a column
on the front page about our little imposition. It was a shame the way
that reporter intimated that we were no blood relatives of the late
George W. Childs. He tells all about the scheme as he sees it, in a
rich, racy kind of a guying style that might amuse most anybody except
a stockholder. Yes, Atterbury was right; it behooveth the gaily clad
treasurer and the pearly pated president and the rugged vice-president
of the Golconda Gold Bond and Investment Company to go away real
sudden and quick that their days might be longer upon the land.
Me and Buck hurries down to the office. We finds on the stairs and in
the hall a crowd of people trying to squeeze into our office, which is
already jammed full inside to the railing. They've nearly all got
Golconda stock and Gold Bonds in their hands. Me and Buck judged
they'd been reading the papers, too.
We stopped and looked at our stockholders, some surprised. It wasn't
quite the kind of a gang we supposed had been investing. They all
looked like poor people; there was plenty of old women and lots of
young girls that you'd say worked in factories and mills. Some was old
men that looked like war veterans, and some was crippled, and a good
many was just kids--bootblacks and newsboys and messengers. Some was
working-men in overalls, with their sleeves rolled up. Not one of the
gang looked like a stockholder in anything unless it was a peanut
stand. But they all had Golconda stock and looked as sick as you
I saw a queer kind of a pale look come on Buck's face when he sized up
the crowd. He stepped up to a sickly looking woman and says: "Madam,
do you own any of this stock?"
"I put in a hundred dollars," says the woman, faint like. "It was all
I had saved in a year. One of my children is dying at home now and I
haven't a cent in the house. I came to see if I could draw out some.
The circulars said you could draw it at any time. But they say now I
will lose it all."
There was a smart kind of kid in the gang--I guess he was a newsboy.
"I got in twenty-fi', mister," he says, looking hopeful at Buck's silk
hat and clothes. "Dey paid me two-fifty a mont' on it. Say, a man
tells me dey can't do dat and be on de square. Is dat straight? Do you
guess I can get out my twenty-fi'?"
Some of the old women was crying. The factory girls was plumb
distracted. They'd lost all their savings and they'd be docked for the
time they lost coming to see about it.
There was one girl--a pretty one--in a red shawl, crying in a corner
like her heart would dissolve. Buck goes over and asks her about it.
"It ain't so much losing the money, mister," says she, shaking all
over, "though I've been two years saving it up; but Jakey won't marry
me now. He'll take Rosa Steinfeld. I know J--J--Jakey. She's got $400
in the savings bank. Ai, ai, ai--" she sings out.
Buck looks all around with that same funny look on his face. And then
we see leaning against the wall, puffing at his pipe, with his eye
shining at us, this newspaper reporter. Buck and me walks over to him.
"You're a real interesting writer," says Buck. "How far do you mean to
carry it? Anything more up your sleeve?"
"Oh, I'm just waiting around," says the reporter, smoking away, "in
case any news turns up. It's up to your stockholders now. Some of them
might complain, you know. Isn't that the patrol wagon now?" he says,
listening to a sound outside. "No," he goes on, "that's Doc.
Whittleford's old cadaver coupe from the Roosevelt. I ought to know
that gong. Yes, I suppose I've written some interesting stuff at
"You wait," says Buck; "I'm going to throw an item of news in your
Buck reaches in his pocket and hands me a key. I knew what he meant
before he spoke. Confounded old buccaneer--I knew what he meant. They
don't make them any better than Buck.
"Pick," says he, looking at me hard, "ain't this graft a little out of
our line? Do we want Jakey to marry Rosa Steinfeld?"
"You've got my vote," says I. "I'll have it here in ten minutes." And
I starts for the safe deposit vaults.
I comes back with the money done up in a big bundle, and then Buck and
me takes the journalist reporter around to another door and we let
ourselves into one of the office rooms.
"Now, my literary friend," says Buck, "take a chair, and keep still,
and I'll give you an interview. You see before you two grafters from
Graftersville, Grafter County, Arkansas. Me and Pick have sold brass
jewelry, hair tonic, song books, marked cards, patent medicines,
Connecticut Smyrna rugs, furniture polish, and albums in every town
from Old Point Comfort to the Golden Gate. We've grafted a dollar
whenever we saw one that had a surplus look to it. But we never went
after the simoleon in the toe of the sock under the loose brick in the
corner of the kitchen hearth. There's an old saying you may have heard
--'fussily decency averni'--which means it's an easy slide from the
street faker's dry goods box to a desk in Wall Street. We've took that
slide, but we didn't know exactly what was at the bottom of it. Now,
you ought to be wise, but you ain't. You've got New York wiseness,
which means that you judge a man by the outside of his clothes. That
ain't right. You ought to look at the lining and seams and the button-
holes. While we are waiting for the patrol wagon you might get out
your little stub pencil and take notes for another funny piece in the
And then Buck turns to me and says: "I don't care what Atterbury
thinks. He only put in brains, and if he gets his capital out he's
lucky. But what do you say, Pick?"
"Me?" says I. "You ought to know me, Buck. I didn't know who was
buying the stock."
"All right," says Buck. And then he goes through the inside door into
the main office and looks at the gang trying to squeeze through the
railing. Atterbury and his hat was gone. And Buck makes 'em a short
"All you lambs get in line. You're going to get your wool back. Don't
shove so. Get in a line--a /line/--not in a pile. Lady, will you
please stop bleating? Your money's waiting for you. Here, sonny, don't
climb over that railing; your dimes are safe. Don't cry, sis; you
ain't out a cent. Get in /line/, I say. Here, Pick, come and
straighten 'em out and let 'em through and out by the other door."
Buck takes off his coat, pushes his silk hat on the back of his head,
and lights up a reina victoria. He sets at the table with the boodle
before him, all done up in neat packages. I gets the stockholders
strung out and marches 'em, single file, through from the main room;
and the reporter man passes 'em out of the side door into the hall
again. As they go by, Buck takes up the stock and the Gold Bonds,
paying 'em cash, dollar for dollar, the same as they paid in. The
shareholders of the Golconda Gold Bond and Investment Company can't
hardly believe it. They almost grabs the money out of Buck's hands.
Some of the women keep on crying, for it's a custom of the sex to cry
when they have sorrow, to weep when they have joy, and to shed tears
whenever they find themselves without either.
The old women's fingers shake when they stuff the skads in the bosom
of their rusty dresses. The factory girls just stoop over and flap
their dry goods a second, and you hear the elastic go "pop" as the
currency goes down in the ladies' department of the "Old Domestic
Some of the stockholders that had been doing the Jeremiah act the
loudest outside had spasms of restored confidence and wanted to leave
the money invested. "Salt away that chicken feed in your duds, and
skip along," says Buck. "What business have you got investing in
bonds? The tea-pot or the crack in the wall behind the clock for your
hoard of pennies."
When the pretty girl in the red shawl cashes in Buck hands her an
"A wedding present," says our treasurer, "from the Golconda Company.
And say--if Jakey ever follows his nose, even at a respectful
distance, around the corner where Rosa Steinfeld lives, you are hereby
authorized to knock a couple of inches of it off."
When they was all paid off and gone, Buck calls the newspaper reporter
and shoves the rest of the money over to him.
"You begun this," says Buck; "now finish it. Over there are the books,
showing every share and bond issued. Here's the money to cover, except
what we've spent to live on. You'll have to act as receiver. I guess
you'll do the square thing on account of your paper. This is the best
way we know how to settle it. Me and our substantial but apple-weary
vice-president are going to follow the example of our revered
president, and skip. Now, have you got enough news for to-day, or do
you want to interview us on etiquette and the best way to make over an
old taffeta skirt?"
"News!" says the newspaper man, taking his pipe out; "do you think I
could use this? I don't want to lose my job. Suppose I go around to
the office and tell 'em this happened. What'll the managing editor
say? He'll just hand me a pass to Bellevue and tell me to come back
when I get cured. I might turn in a story about a sea serpent wiggling
up Broadway, but I haven't got the nerve to try 'em with a pipe like
this. A get-rich-quick scheme--excuse me--gang giving back the boodle!
Oh, no. I'm not on the comic supplement."
"You can't understand it, of course," says Buck, with his hand on the
door knob. "Me and Pick ain't Wall Streeters like you know 'em. We
never allowed to swindle sick old women and working girls and take
nickels off of kids. In the lines of graft we've worked we took money
from the people the Lord made to be buncoed--sports and rounders and
smart Alecks and street crowds, that always have a few dollars to
throw away, and farmers that wouldn't ever be happy if the grafters
didn't come around and play with 'em when they sold their crops. We
never cared to fish for the kind of suckers that bite here. No, sir.
We got too much respect for the profession and for ourselves. Good-by
to you, Mr. Receiver."
"Here!" says the journalist reporter; "wait a minute. There's a broker
I know on the next floor. Wait till I put this truck in his safe. I
want you fellows to take a drink on me before you go."
"On you?" says Buck, winking solemn. "Don't you go and try to make 'em
believe at the office you said that. Thanks. We can't spare the time,
I reckon. So long."
And me and Buck slides out the door; and that's the way the Golconda
Company went into involuntary liquefaction.
If you had seen me and Buck the next night you'd have had to go to a
little bum hotel over near the West Side ferry landings. We was in a
little back room, and I was filling up a gross of six-ounce bottles
with hydrant water colored red with aniline and flavored with
cinnamon. Buck was smoking, contented, and he wore a decent brown
derby in place of his silk hat.
"It's a good thing, Pick," says he, as he drove in the corks, "that we
got Brady to lend us his horse and wagon for a week. We'll rustle up
the stake by then. This hair tonic'll sell right along over in Jersey.
Bald heads ain't popular over there on account of the mosquitoes."
Directly I dragged out my valise and went down in it for labels.
"Hair tonic labels are out," says I. "Only about a dozen on hand."
"Buy some more," says Buck.