Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Gentle Grafter by O. Henry

Part 3 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

We investigated our pockets and found we had just enough money to
settle our hotel bill in the morning and pay our passage over the

"Plenty of the 'Shake-the-Shakes Chill Cure' labels," says I, after

"What more do you want?" says Buck. "Slap 'em on. The chill season is
just opening up in the Hackensack low grounds. What's hair, anyway, if
you have to shake it off?"

We posted on the Chill Cure labels about half an hour and Buck says:

"Making an honest livin's better than that Wall Street, anyhow; ain't
it, Pick?"

"You bet," says I.




I never got inside of the legitimate line of graft but once. But, one
time, as I say, I reversed the decision of the revised statutes and
undertook a thing that I'd have to apologize for even under the New
Jersey trust laws.

Me and Caligula Polk, of Muskogee in the Creek Nation, was down in the
Mexican State of Tamaulipas running a peripatetic lottery and monte
game. Now, selling lottery tickets is a government graft in Mexico,
just like selling forty-eight cents' worth of postage-stamps for
forty-nine cents is over here. So Uncle Porfirio he instructs the
/rurales/ to attend to our case.

/Rurales/? They're a sort of country police; but don't draw any mental
crayon portraits of the worthy constables with a tin star and a gray
goatee. The /rurales/--well, if we'd mount our Supreme Court on
broncos, arm 'em with Winchesters, and start 'em out after John Doe
/et al/., we'd have about the same thing.

When the /rurales/ started for us we started for the States. They
chased us as far as Matamoras. We hid in a brickyard; and that night
we swum the Rio Grande, Caligula with a brick in each hand, absent-
minded, which he drops upon the soil of Texas, forgetting he had 'em.

From there we emigrated to San Antone, and then over to New Orleans,
where we took a rest. And in that town of cotton bales and other
adjuncts to female beauty we made the acquaintance of drinks invented
by the Creoles during the period of Louey Cans, in which they are
still served at the side doors. The most I can remember of this town
is that me and Caligula and a Frenchman named McCarty--wait a minute;
Adolph McCarty--was trying to make the French Quarter pay up the back
trading-stamps due on the Louisiana Purchase, when somebody hollers
that the johndarms are coming. I have an insufficient recollection of
buying two yellow tickets through a window; and I seemed to see a man
swing a lantern and say "All aboard!" I remembered no more, except
that the train butcher was covering me and Caligula up with Augusta J.
Evans's works and figs.

When we become revised, we find that we have collided up against the
State of Georgia at a spot hitherto unaccounted for in time tables
except by an asterisk, which means that trains stop every other
Thursday on signal by tearing up a rail. We was waked up in a yellow
pine hotel by the noise of flowers and the smell of birds. Yes, sir,
for the wind was banging sunflowers as big as buggy wheels against the
weatherboarding and the chicken coop was right under the window. Me
and Caligula dressed and went down-stairs. The landlord was shelling
peas on the front porch. He was six feet of chills and fever, and
Hongkong in complexion though in other respects he seemed amenable in
the exercise of his sentiments and features.

Caligula, who is a spokesman by birth, and a small man, though red-
haired and impatient of painfulness of any kind, speaks up.

"Pardner," says he, "good-morning, and be darned to you. Would you
mind telling us why we are at? We know the reason we are where, but
can't exactly figure out on account of at what place."

"Well, gentlemen," says the landlord, "I reckoned you-all would be
inquiring this morning. You-all dropped off of the nine-thirty train
here last night; and you was right tight. Yes, you was right smart in
liquor. I can inform you that you are now in the town of Mountain
Valley, in the State of Georgia."

"On top of that," says Caligula, "don't say that we can't have
anything to eat."

"Sit down, gentlemen," says the landlord, "and in twenty minutes I'll
call you to the best breakfast you can get anywhere in town."

That breakfast turned out to be composed of fried bacon and a
yellowish edifice that proved up something between pound cake and
flexible sandstone. The landlord calls it corn pone; and then he sets
out a dish of the exaggerated breakfast food known as hominy; and so
me and Caligula makes the acquaintance of the celebrated food that
enabled every Johnny Reb to lick one and two-thirds Yankees for nearly
four years at a stretch.

"The wonder to me is," says Caligula, "that Uncle Robert Lee's boys
didn't chase the Grant and Sherman outfit clear up into Hudson's Bay.
It would have made me that mad to eat this truck they call mahogany!"

"Hog and hominy," I explains, "is the staple food of this section."

"Then," says Caligula, "they ought to keep it where it belongs. I
thought this was a hotel and not a stable. Now, if we was in Muskogee
at the St. Lucifer House, I'd show you some breakfast grub. Antelope
steaks and fried liver to begin on, and venison cutlets with /chili
con carne/ and pineapple fritters, and then some sardines and mixed
pickles; and top it off with a can of yellow clings and a bottle of
beer. You won't find a layout like that on the bill of affairs of any
of your Eastern restauraws."

"Too lavish," says I. "I've traveled, and I'm unprejudiced. There'll
never be a perfect breakfast eaten until some man grows arms long
enough to stretch down to New Orleans for his coffee and over to
Norfolk for his rolls, and reaches up to Vermont and digs a slice of
butter out of a spring-house, and then turns over a beehive close to a
white clover patch out in Indiana for the rest. Then he'd come pretty
close to making a meal on the amber that the gods eat on Mount

"Too ephemeral," says Caligula. "I'd want ham and eggs, or rabbit
stew, anyhow, for a chaser. What do you consider the most edifying and
casual in the way of a dinner?"

"I've been infatuated from time to time," I answers, "with fancy
ramifications of grub such as terrapins, lobsters, reed birds,
jambolaya, and canvas-covered ducks; but after all there's nothing
less displeasing to me than a beefsteak smothered in mushrooms on a
balcony in sound of the Broadway streetcards, with a hand-organ
playing down below, and the boys hollering extras about the latest
suicide. For the wine, give me a reasonable Ponty Cany. And that's
all, except a /demi-tasse/."

"Well," says Caligula, "I reckon in New York you get to be a
conniseer; and when you go around with the /demi-tasse/ you are
naturally bound to buy 'em stylish grub."

"It's a great town for epicures," says I. "You'd soon fall into their
ways if you was there."

"I've heard it was," says Caligula. "But I reckon I wouldn't. I can
polish my fingernails all they need myself."


After breakfast we went out on the front porch, lighted up two of the
landlord's /flor de upas/ perfectos, and took a look at Georgia.

The installment of scenery visible to the eye looked mighty poor. As
far as we could see was red hills all washed down with gullies and
scattered over with patches of piny woods. Blackberry bushes was all
that kept the rail fences from falling down. About fifteen miles over
to the north was a little range of well-timbered mountains.

That town of Mountain Valley wasn't going. About a dozen people
permeated along the sidewalks; but what you saw mostly was rain-
barrels and roosters, and boys poking around with sticks in piles of
ashes made by burning the scenery of Uncle Tom shows.

And just then there passes down on the other side of the street a high
man in a long black coat and a beaver hat. All the people in sight
bowed, and some crossed the street to shake hands with him; folks came
out of stores and houses to holler at him; women leaned out of windows
and smiled; and all the kids stopped playing to look at him. Our
landlord stepped out on the porch and bent himself double like a
carpenter's rule, and sung out, "Good-morning, Colonel," when he was a
dozen yards gone by.

"And is that Alexander, pa?" says Caligula to the landlord; "and why
is he called great?"

"That, gentlemen," says the landlord, "is no less than Colonel Jackson
T. Rockingham, the president of the Sunrise & Edenville Tap Railroad,
mayor of Mountain Valley, and chairman of the Perry County board of
immigration and public improvements."

"Been away a good many years, hasn't he?" I asked.

"No, sir; Colonel Rockingham is going down to the post-office for his
mail. His fellow-citizens take pleasure in greeting him thus every
morning. The colonel is our most prominent citizen. Besides the height
of the stock of the Sunrise & Edenville Tap Railroad, he owns a
thousand acres of that land across the creek. Mountain Valley
delights, sir, to honor a citizen of such worth and public spirit."

For an hour that afternoon Caligula sat on the back of his neck on the
porch and studied a newspaper, which was unusual in a man who despised
print. When he was through he took me to the end of the porch among
the sunlight and drying dish-towels. I knew that Caligula had invented
a new graft. For he chewed the ends of his mustache and ran the left
catch of his suspenders up and down, which was his way.

"What is it now?" I asks. "Just so it ain't floating mining stocks or
raising Pennsylvania pinks, we'll talk it over."

"Pennsylvania pinks? Oh, that refers to a coin-raising scheme of the
Keystoners. They burn the soles of old women's feet to make them tell
where their money's hid."

Caligula's words in business was always few and bitter.

"You see them mountains," said he, pointing. "And you seen that
colonel man that owns railroads and cuts more ice when he goes to the
post-office than Roosevelt does when he cleans 'em out. What we're
going to do is to kidnap the latter into the former, and inflict a
ransom of ten thousand dollars."

"Illegality," says I, shaking my head.

"I knew you'd say that," says Caligula. "At first sight it does seem
to jar peace and dignity. But it don't. I got the idea out of that
newspaper. Would you commit aspersions on a equitable graft that the
United States itself has condoned and indorsed and ratified?"

"Kidnapping," says I, "is an immoral function in the derogatory list
of the statutes. If the United States upholds it, it must be a recent
enactment of ethics, along with race suicide and rural delivery."

"Listen," says Caligula, "and I'll explain the case set down in the
papers. Here was a Greek citizen named Burdick Harris," says he,
"captured for a graft by Africans; and the United States sends two
gunboats to the State of Tangiers and makes the King of Morocco give
up seventy thousand dollars to Raisuli."

"Go slow," says I. "That sounds too international to take in all at
once. It's like 'thimble, thimble, who's got the naturalization

"'Twas press despatches from Constantinople," says Caligula. "You'll
see, six months from now. They'll be confirmed by the monthly
magazines; and then it won't be long till you'll notice 'em alongside
the photos of the Mount Pelee eruption photos in the while-you-get-
your-hair-cut weeklies. It's all right, Pick. This African man Raisuli
hides Burdick Harris up in the mountains, and advertises his price to
the governments of different nations. Now, you wouldn't think for a
minute," goes on Caligula, "that John Hay would have chipped in and
helped this graft along if it wasn't a square game, would you?"

"Why, no," says I. "I've always stood right in with Bryan's policies,
and I couldn't consciously say a word against the Republican
administration just now. But if Harris was a Greek, on what system of
international protocols did Hay interfere?"

"It ain't exactly set forth in the papers," says Caligula. "I suppose
it's a matter of sentiment. You know he wrote this poem, 'Little
Breeches'; and them Greeks wear little or none. But anyhow, John Hay
sends the Brooklyn and the Olympia over, and they cover Africa with
thirty-inch guns. And then Hay cables after the health of the /persona
grata/. 'And how are they this morning?' he wires. 'Is Burdick Harris
alive yet, or Mr. Raisuli dead?' And the King of Morocco sends up the
seventy thousand dollars, and they turn Burdick Harris loose. And
there's not half the hard feelings among the nations about this little
kidnapping matter as there was about the peace congress. And Burdick
Harris says to the reporters, in the Greek language, that he's often
heard about the United States, and he admires Roosevelt next to
Raisuli, who is one of the whitest and most gentlemanly kidnappers
that he ever worked alongside of. So you see, Pick," winds up
Caligula, "we've got the law of nations on our side. We'll cut this
colonel man out of the herd, and corral him in them little mountains,
and stick up his heirs and assigns for ten thousand dollars."

"Well, you seldom little red-headed territorial terror," I answers,
"you can't bluff your uncle Tecumseh Pickens! I'll be your company in
this graft. But I misdoubt if you've absorbed the inwardness of this
Burdick Harris case, Calig; and if on any morning we get a telegram
from the Secretary of State asking about the health of the scheme, I
propose to acquire the most propinquitous and celeritous mule in this
section and gallop diplomatically over into the neighboring and
peaceful nation of Alabama."


Me and Caligula spent the next three days investigating the bunch of
mountains into which we proposed to kidnap Colonel Jackson T.
Rockingham. We finally selected an upright slice of topography covered
with bushes and trees that you could only reach by a secret path that
we cut out up the side of it. And the only way to reach the mountain
was to follow up the bend of a branch that wound among the elevations.

Then I took in hand an important subdivision of the proceedings. I
went up to Atlanta on the train and laid in a two-hundred-and-fifty-
dollar supply of the most gratifying and efficient lines of grub that
money could buy. I always was an admirer of viands in their more
palliative and revised stages. Hog and hominy are not only inartistic
to my stomach, but they give indigestion to my moral sentiments. And I
thought of Colonel Jackson T. Rockingham, president of the Sunrise &
Edenville Tap Railroad, and how he would miss the luxury of his home
fare as is so famous among wealthy Southerners. So I sunk half of mine
and Caligula's capital in as elegant a layout of fresh and canned
provisions as Burdick Harris or any other professional kidnappee ever
saw in a camp.

I put another hundred in a couple of cases of Bordeaux, two quarts of
cognac, two hundred Havana regalias with gold bands, and a camp stove
and stools and folding cots. I wanted Colonel Rockingham to be
comfortable; and I hoped after he gave up the ten thousand dollars he
would give me and Caligula as good a name for gentlemen and
entertainers as the Greek man did the friend of his that made the
United States his bill collector against Africa.

When the goods came down from Atlanta, we hired a wagon, moved them up
on the little mountain, and established camp. And then we laid for the

We caught him one morning about two miles out from Mountain Valley, on
his way to look after some of his burnt umber farm land. He was an
elegant old gentleman, as thin and tall as a trout rod, with frazzled
shirt-cuffs and specs on a black string. We explained to him, brief
and easy, what we wanted; and Caligula showed him, careless, the
handle of his forty-five under his coat.

"What?" says Colonel Rockingham. "Bandits in Perry County, Georgia! I
shall see that the board of immigration and public improvements hears
of this!"

"Be so unfoolhardy as to climb into that buggy," says Caligula, "by
order of the board of perforation and public depravity. This is a
business meeting, and we're anxious to adjourn /sine qua non/."

We drove Colonel Rockingham over the mountain and up the side of it as
far as the buggy could go. Then we tied the horse, and took our
prisoner on foot up to the camp.

"Now, colonel," I says to him, "we're after the ransom, me and my
partner; and no harm will come to you if the King of Mor--if your
friends send up the dust. In the mean time we are gentlemen the same
as you. And if you give us your word not to try to escape, the freedom
of the camp is yours."

"I give you my word," says the colonel.

"All right," says I; "and now it's eleven o'clock, and me and Mr. Polk
will proceed to inculcate the occasion with a few well-timed
trivialities in the way of grub."

"Thank you," says the colonel; "I believe I could relish a slice of
bacon and a plate of hominy."

"But you won't," says I emphatic. "Not in this camp. We soar in higher
regions than them occupied by your celebrated but repulsive dish."

While the colonel read his paper, me and Caligula took off our coats
and went in for a little luncheon /de luxe/ just to show him. Caligula
was a fine cook of the Western brand. He could toast a buffalo or
fricassee a couple of steers as easy as a woman could make a cup of
tea. He was gifted in the way of knocking together edibles when haste
and muscle and quantity was to be considered. He held the record west
of the Arkansas River for frying pancakes with his left hand, broiling
venison cutlets with his right, and skinning a rabbit with his teeth
at the same time. But I could do things /en casserole/ and /a la
creole/, and handle the oil and tobasco as gently and nicely as a
French /chef/.

So at twelve o'clock we had a hot lunch ready that looked like a
banquet on a Mississippi River steamboat. We spread it on the tops of
two or three big boxes, opened two quarts of the red wine, set the
olives and a canned oyster cocktail and a ready-made Martini by the
colonel's plate, and called him to grub.

Colonel Rockingham drew up his campstool, wiped off his specs, and
looked at the things on the table. Then I thought he was swearing; and
I felt mean because I hadn't taken more pains with the victuals. But
he wasn't; he was asking a blessing; and me and Caligula hung our
heads, and I saw a tear drop from the colonel's eye into his cocktail.

I never saw a man eat with so much earnestness and application--not
hastily, like a grammarian, or one of the canal, but slow and
appreciative, like a anaconda, or a real /vive bonjour/.

In an hour and a half the colonel leaned back. I brought him a pony of
brandy and his black coffee, and set the box of Havana regalias on the

"Gentlemen," says he, blowing out the smoke and trying to breathe it
back again, "when we view the eternal hills and the smiling and
beneficent landscape, and reflect upon the goodness of the Creator

"Excuse me, colonel," says I, "but there's some business to attend to
now"; and I brought out paper and pen and ink and laid 'em before him.
"Who do you want to send to for the money?" I asks.

"I reckon," says he, after thinking a bit, "to the vice-president of
our railroad, at the general offices of the Company in Edenville."

"How far is it to Edenville from here?" I asked.

"About ten miles," says he.

Then I dictated these lines, and Colonel Rockingham wrote them out:

I am kidnapped and held a prisoner by two desperate outlaws in a
place which is useless to attempt to find. They demand ten
thousand dollars at once for my release. The amount must be raised
immediately, and these directions followed. Come alone with the
money to Stony Creek, which runs out of Blacktop Mountains. Follow
the bed of the creek till you come to a big flat rock on the left
bank, on which is marked a cross in red chalk. Stand on the rock
and wave a white flag. A guide will come to you and conduct you to
where I am held. Lose no time.

After the colonel had finished this, he asked permission to take on a
postscript about how he was being treated, so the railroad wouldn't
feel uneasy in its bosom about him. We agreed to that. He wrote down
that he had just had lunch with the two desperate ruffians; and then
he set down the whole bill of fare, from cocktails to coffee. He wound
up with the remark that dinner would be ready about six, and would
probably be a more licentious and intemperate affair than lunch.

Me and Caligula read it, and decided to let it go; for we, being
cooks, were amenable to praise, though it sounded out of place on a
sight draft for ten thousand dollars.

I took the letter over to the Mountain Valley road and watched for a
messenger. By and by a colored equestrian came along on horseback,
riding toward Edenville. I gave him a dollar to take the letter to the
railroad offices; and then I went back to camp.


About four o'clock in the afternoon, Caligula, who was acting as
lookout, calls to me:

"I have to report a white shirt signalling on the starboard bow, sir."

I went down the mountain and brought back a fat, red man in an alpaca
coat and no collar.

"Gentlemen," says Colonel Rockingham, "allow me to introduce my
brother, Captain Duval C. Rockingham, vice-president of the Sunrise &
Edenville Tap Railroad."

"Otherwise the King of Morocco," says I. "I reckon you don't mind my
counting the ransom, just as a business formality."

"Well, no, not exactly," says the fat man, "not when it comes. I
turned that matter over to our second vice-president. I was anxious
after Brother Jackson's safetiness. I reckon he'll be along right
soon. What does that lobster salad you mentioned taste like, Brother

"Mr. Vice-President," says I, "you'll oblige us by remaining here till
the second V.P. arrives. This is a private rehearsal, and we don't
want any roadside speculators selling tickets."

In half an hour Caligula sings out again:

"Sail ho! Looks like an apron on a broomstick."

I perambulated down the cliff again, and escorted up a man six foot
three, with a sandy beard and no other dimension that you could
notice. Thinks I to myself, if he's got ten thousand dollars on his
person it's in one bill and folded lengthwise.

"Mr. Patterson G. Coble, our second vice-president," announces the

"Glad to know you, gentlemen," says this Coble. "I came up to
disseminate the tidings that Major Tallahassee Tucker, our general
passenger agent, is now negotiating a peachcrate full of our railroad
bonds with the Perry County Bank for a loan. My dear Colonel
Rockingham, was that chicken gumbo or cracked goobers on the bill of
fare in your note? Me and the conductor of fifty-six was having a
dispute about it."

"Another white wings on the rocks!" hollers Caligula. "If I see any
more I'll fire on 'em and swear they was torpedo-boats!"

The guide goes down again, and convoys into the lair a person in blue
overalls carrying an amount of inebriety and a lantern. I am so sure
that this is Major Tucker that I don't even ask him until we are up
above; and then I discover that it is Uncle Timothy, the yard
switchman at Edenville, who is sent ahead to flag our understandings
with the gossip that Judge Pendergast, the railroad's attorney, is in
the process of mortgaging Colonel Rockingham's farming lands to make
up the ransom.

While he is talking, two men crawl from under the bushes into camp,
and Caligula, with no white flag to disinter him from his plain duty,
draws his gun. But again Colonel Rockingham intervenes and introduces
Mr. Jones and Mr. Batts, engineer and fireman of train number forty-

"Excuse us," says Batts, "but me and Jim have hunted squirrels all
over this mounting, and we don't need no white flag. Was that
straight, colonel, about the plum pudding and pineapples and real
store cigars?"

"Towel on a fishing-pole in the offing!" howls Caligula. "Suppose it's
the firing line of the freight conductors and brakeman."

"My last trip down," says I, wiping off my face. "If the S. & E.T.
wants to run an excursion up here just because we kidnapped their
president, let 'em. We'll put out our sign. 'The Kidnapper's Cafe and
Trainmen's Home.'"

This time I caught Major Tallahassee Tucker by his own confession, and
I felt easier. I asked him into the creek, so I could drown him if he
happened to be a track-walker or caboose porter. All the way up the
mountain he driveled to me about asparagus on toast, a thing that his
intelligence in life had skipped.

Up above I got his mind segregated from food and asked if he had
raised the ransom.

"My dear sir," says he, "I succeeded in negotiating a loan on thirty
thousand dollars' worth of the bonds of our railroad, and--"

"Never mind just now, major," says I. "It's all right, then. Wait till
after dinner, and we'll settle the business. All of you gentlemen," I
continues to the crowd, "are invited to stay to dinner. We have
mutually trusted one another, and the white flag is supposed to wave
over the proceedings."

"The correct idea," says Caligula, who was standing by me. "Two
baggage-masters and a ticket-agent dropped out of a tree while you was
below the last time. Did the major man bring the money?"

"He says," I answered, "that he succeeded in negotiating the loan."

If any cooks ever earned ten thousand dollars in twelve hours, me and
Caligula did that day. At six o'clock we spread the top of the
mountain with as fine a dinner as the personnel of any railroad ever
engulfed. We opened all the wine, and we concocted entrees and /pieces
de resistance/, and stirred up little savory /chef de cuisines/ and
organized a mass of grub such as has been seldom instigated out of
canned and bottled goods. The railroad gathered around it, and the
wassail and diversions was intense.

After the feast me and Caligula, in the line of business, takes Major
Tucker to one side and talks ransom. The major pulls out an
agglomeration of currency about the size of the price of a town lot in
the suburbs of Rabbitville, Arizona, and makes this outcry.

"Gentlemen," says he, "the stock of the Sunrise & Edenville railroad
has depreciated some. The best I could do with thirty thousand
dollars' worth of the bonds was to secure a loan of eighty-seven
dollars and fifty cents. On the farming lands of Colonel Rockingham,
Judge Pendergast was able to obtain, on a ninth mortgage, the sum of
fifty dollars. You will find the amount, one hundred and thirty-seven
fifty, correct."

"A railroad president," said I, looking this Tucker in the eye, "and
the owner of a thousand acres of land; and yet--"

"Gentlemen," says Tucker, "The railroad is ten miles long. There don't
any train run on it except when the crew goes out in the pines and
gathers enough lightwood knots to get up steam. A long time ago, when
times was good, the net earnings used to run as high as eighteen
dollars a week. Colonel Rockingham's land has been sold for taxes
thirteen times. There hasn't been a peach crop in this part of Georgia
for two years. The wet spring killed the watermelons. Nobody around
here has money enough to buy fertilizer; and land is so poor the corn
crop failed and there wasn't enough grass to support the rabbits. All
the people have had to eat in this section for over a year is hog and
hominy, and--"

"Pick," interrupts Caligula, mussing up his red hair, "what are you
going to do with that chicken-feed?"

I hands the money back to Major Tucker; and then I goes over to
Colonel Rockingham and slaps him on the back.

"Colonel," says I, "I hope you've enjoyed our little joke. We don't
want to carry it too far. Kidnappers! Well, wouldn't it tickle your
uncle? My name's Rhinegelder, and I'm a nephew of Chauncey Depew. My
friend's a second cousin of the editor of /Puck/. So you can see. We
are down South enjoying ourselves in our humorous way. Now, there's
two quarts of cognac to open yet, and then the joke's over."

What's the use to go into details? One or two will be enough. I
remember Major Tallahassee Tucker playing on a jew's-harp, and
Caligula waltzing with his head on the watch pocket of a tall baggage-
master. I hesitate to refer to the cake-walk done by me and Mr.
Patterson G. Coble with Colonel Jackson T. Rockingham between us.

And even on the next morning, when you wouldn't think it possible,
there was a consolation for me and Caligula. We knew that Raisuli
himself never made half the hit with Burdick Harris that we did with
the Sunrise & Edenville Tap Railroad.



On an east-bound train I went into the smoker and found Jefferson
Peters, the only man with a brain west of the Wabash River who can use
his cerebrum cerebellum, and medulla oblongata at the same time.

Jeff is in the line of unillegal graft. He is not to be dreaded by
widows and orphans; he is a reducer of surplusage. His favorite
disguise is that of the target-bird at which the spendthrift or the
reckless investor may shy a few inconsequential dollars. He is readily
vocalized by tobacco; so, with the aid of two thick and easy-burning
brevas, I got the story of his latest Autolycan adventure.

"In my line of business," said Jeff, "the hardest thing is to find an
upright, trustworthy, strictly honorable partner to work a graft with.
Some of the best men I ever worked with in a swindle would resort to
trickery at times.

"So, last summer, I thinks I will go over into this section of country
where I hear the serpent has not yet entered, and see if I can find a
partner naturally gifted with a talent for crime, but not yet
contaminated by success.

"I found a village that seemed to show the right kind of a layout. The
inhabitants hadn't found that Adam had been dispossessed, and were
going right along naming the animals and killing snakes just as if
they were in the Garden of Eden. They call this town Mount Nebo, and
it's up near the spot where Kentucky and West Virginia and North
Carolina corner together. Them States don't meet? Well, it was in that
neighborhood, anyway.

"After putting in a week proving I wasn't a revenue officer, I went
over to the store where the rude fourflushers of the hamlet lied, to
see if I could get a line on the kind of man I wanted.

"'Gentlemen,' says I, after we had rubbed noses and gathered 'round
the dried-apple barrel. 'I don't suppose there's another community in
the whole world into which sin and chicanery has less extensively
permeated than this. Life here, where all the women are brave and
propitious and all the men honest and expedient, must, indeed, be an
idol. It reminds me,' says I, 'of Goldstein's beautiful ballad
entitled "The Deserted Village," which says:

'Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
What art can drive its charms away?
The judge rode slowly down the lane, mother.
For I'm to be Queen of the May.'

"'Why, yes, Mr. Peters,' says the storekeeper. 'I reckon we air about
as moral and torpid a community as there be on the mounting, according
to censuses of opinion; but I reckon you ain't ever met Rufe Tatum.'

"'Why, no,' says the town constable, 'he can't hardly have ever. That
air Rufe is shore the monstrousest scalawag that has escaped hangin'
on the galluses. And that puts me in mind that I ought to have turned
Rufe out of the lockup before yesterday. The thirty days he got for
killin' Yance Goodloe was up then. A day or two more won't hurt Rufe
any, though.'

"'Shucks, now,' says I, in the mountain idiom, 'don't tell me there's
a man in Mount Nebo as bad as that.'

"'Worse,' says the storekeeper. 'He steals hogs.'

"I think I will look up this Mr. Tatum; so a day or two after the
constable turned him out I got acquainted with him and invited him out
on the edge of town to sit on a log and talk business.

"What I wanted was a partner with a natural rural make-up to play a
part in some little one-act outrages that I was going to book with the
Pitfall & Gin circuit in some of the Western towns; and this R. Tatum
was born for the role as sure as nature cast Fairbanks for the stuff
that kept /Eliza/ from sinking into the river.

"He was about the size of a first baseman; and he had ambiguous blue
eyes like the china dog on the mantelpiece that Aunt Harriet used to
play with when she was a child. His hair waved a little bit like the
statue of the dinkus-thrower at the Vacation in Rome, but the color of
it reminded you of the 'Sunset in the Grand Canon, by an American
Artist,' that they hang over the stove-pipe holes in the salongs. He
was the Reub, without needing a touch. You'd have known him for one,
even if you'd seen him on the vaudeville stage with one cotton
suspender and a straw over his ear.

"I told him what I wanted, and found him ready to jump at the job.

"'Overlooking such a trivial little peccadillo as the habit of
manslaughter,' says I, 'what have you accomplished in the way of
indirect brigandage or nonactionable thriftiness that you could point
to, with or without pride, as an evidence of your qualifications for
the position?'

"'Why,' says he, in his kind of Southern system of procrastinated
accents, 'hain't you heard tell? There ain't any man, black or white,
in the Blue Ridge that can tote off a shoat as easy as I can without
bein' heard, seen, or cotched. I can lift a shoat,' he goes on, 'out
of a pen, from under a porch, at the trough, in the woods, day or
night, anywhere or anyhow, and I guarantee nobody won't hear a squeal.
It's all in the way you grab hold of 'em and carry 'em atterwards.
Some day,' goes on this gentle despoiler of pig-pens, 'I hope to
become reckernized as the champion shoat-stealer of the world.'

"'It's proper to be ambitious,' says I; 'and hog-stealing will do very
well for Mount Nebo; but in the outside world, Mr. Tatum, it would be
considered as crude a piece of business as a bear raid on Bay State
Gas. However, it will do as a guarantee of good faith. We'll go into
partnership. I've got a thousand dollars cash capital; and with that
homeward-plods atmosphere of yours we ought to be able to win out a
few shares of Soon Parted, preferred, in the money market.'

"So I attaches Rufe, and we go away from Mount Nebo down into the
lowlands. And all the way I coach him for his part in the grafts I had
in mind. I had idled away two months on the Florida coast, and was
feeling all to the Ponce de Leon, besides having so many new schemes
up my sleeve that I had to wear kimonos to hold 'em.

"I intended to assume a funnel shape and mow a path nine miles wide
though the farming belt of the Middle West; so we headed in that
direction. But when we got as far as Lexington we found Binkley
Brothers' circus there, and the blue-grass peasantry romping into town
and pounding the Belgian blocks with their hand-pegged sabots as
artless and arbitrary as an extra session of a Datto Bryan drama. I
never pass a circus without pulling the valve-cord and coming down for
a little Key West money; so I engaged a couple of rooms and board for
Rufe and me at a house near the circus grounds run by a widow lady
named Peevy. Then I took Rufe to a clothing store and gent's-outfitted
him. He showed up strong, as I knew he would, after he was rigged up
in the ready-made rutabaga regalia. Me and old Misfitzky stuffed him
into a bright blue suit with a Nile green visible plaid effect, and
riveted on a fancy vest of a light Tuskegee Normal tan color, a red
necktie, and the yellowest pair of shoes in town.

"They were the first clothes Rufe had ever worn except the gingham
layette and the butternut top-dressing of his native kraal, and he
looked as self-conscious as an Igorrote with a new nose-ring.

"That night I went down to the circus tents and opened a small shell
game. Rufe was to be the capper. I gave him a roll of phony currency
to bet with and kept a bunch of it in a special pocket to pay his
winnings out of. No; I didn't mistrust him; but I simply can't
manipulate the ball to lose when I see real money bet. My fingers go
on a strike every time I try it.

"I set up my little table and began to show them how easy it was to
guess which shell the little pea was under. The unlettered hinds
gathered in a thick semicircle and began to nudge elbows and banter
one another to bed. Then was when Rufe ought to have single-footed up
and called the turn on the little joker for a few tens and fives to
get them started. But, no Rufe. I'd seen him two or three times
walking about and looking at the side-show pictures with his mouth
full of peanut candy; but he never came nigh.

"The crowd piked a little; but trying to work the shells without a
capper is like fishing without a bait. I closed the game with only
forty-two dollars of the unearned increment, while I had been counting
on yanking the yeomen for two hundred at least. I went home at eleven
and went to bed. I supposed that the circus had proved too alluring
for Rufe, and that he had succumbed to it, concert and all; but I
meant to give him a lecture on general business principles in the

"Just after Morpheus had got both my shoulders to the shuck mattress I
hears a houseful of unbecoming and ribald noises like a youngster
screeching with green-apple colic. I opens my door and calls out in
the hall for the widow lady, and when she sticks her head out, I says:
'Mrs. Peevy, ma'am, would you mind choking off that kid of yours so
that honest people can get their rest?'

"'Sir,' says she, 'it's no child of mine. It's the pig squealing that
your friend Mr. Tatum brought home to his room a couple of hours ago.
And if you are uncle or second cousin or brother to it, I'd appreciate
your stopping its mouth, sir, yourself, if you please.'

"I put on some of the polite outside habiliments of external society
and went into Rufe's room. He had gotten up and lit his lamp, and was
pouring some milk into a tin pan on the floor for a dingy-white, half-
grown, squealing pig.

"'How is this, Rufe?' says I. 'You flimflammed in your part of the
work to-night and put the game on crutches. And how do you explain the
pig? It looks like back-sliding to me.'

"'Now, don't be too hard on me, Jeff,' says he. 'You know how long
I've been used to stealing shoats. It's got to be a habit with me. And
to-night, when I see such a fine chance, I couldn't help takin' it.'

"'Well,' says I, 'maybe you've really got kleptopigia. And maybe when
we get out of the pig belt you'll turn your mind to higher and more
remunerative misconduct. Why you should want to stain your soul with
such a distasteful, feeble-minded, perverted, roaring beast as that I
can't understand.'

"'Why, Jeff,' says he, 'you ain't in sympathy with shoats. You don't
understand 'em like I do. This here seems to me to be an animal of
more than common powers of ration and intelligence. He walked half
across the room on his hind legs a while ago.'

"'Well, I'm going back to bed,' says I. 'See if you can impress it
upon your friend's ideas of intelligence that he's not to make so much

"'He was hungry,' says Rufe. 'He'll go to sleep and keep quiet now.'

"I always get up before breakfast and read the morning paper whenever
I happen to be within the radius of a Hoe cylinder or a Washington
hand-press. The next morning I got up early, and found a Lexington
daily on the front porch where the carrier had thrown it. The first
thing I saw in it was a double-column ad. on the front page that read
like this:


The above amount will be paid, and no questions asked, for the
return, alive and uninjured, of Beppo, the famous European
educated pig, that strayed or was stolen from the side-show tents
of Binkley Bros.' circus last night.

Geo. B. Tapley, Business Manager.
At the circus grounds.

"I folded up the paper flat, put it into my inside pocket, and went to
Rufe's room. He was nearly dressed, and was feeding the pig the rest
of the milk and some apple-peelings.

"'Well, well, well, good morning all,' I says, hearty and amiable. 'So
we are up? And piggy is having his breakfast. What had you intended
doing with that pig, Rufe?'

"'I'm going to crate him up,' says Rufe, 'and express him to ma in
Mount Nebo. He'll be company for her while I am away.'

"'He's a mighty fine pig,' says I, scratching him on the back.

"'You called him a lot of names last night,' says Rufe.

"'Oh, well,' says I, 'he looks better to me this morning. I was raised
on a farm, and I'm very fond of pigs. I used to go to bed at sundown,
so I never saw one by lamplight before. Tell you what I'll do, Rufe,'
I says. 'I'll give you ten dollars for that pig.'

"'I reckon I wouldn't sell this shoat,' says he. 'If it was any other
one I might.'

"'Why not this one?' I asked, fearful that he might know something.

"'Why, because,' says he, 'it was the grandest achievement of my life.
There ain't airy other man that could have done it. If I ever have a
fireside and children, I'll sit beside it and tell 'em how their daddy
toted off a shoat from a whole circus full of people. And maybe my
grandchildren, too. They'll certainly be proud a whole passel. Why,'
says he, 'there was two tents, one openin' into the other. This shoat
was on a platform, tied with a little chain. I seen a giant and a lady
with a fine chance of bushy white hair in the other tent. I got the
shoat and crawled out from under the canvas again without him
squeakin' as loud as a mouse. I put him under my coat, and I must have
passed a hundred folks before I got out where the streets was dark. I
reckon I wouldn't sell that shoat, Jeff. I'd want ma to keep it, so
there'd be a witness to what I done.'

"'The pig won't live long enough,' I says, 'to use as an exhibit in
your senile fireside mendacity. Your grandchildren will have to take
your word for it. I'll give you one hundred dollars for the animal.'

"Rufe looked at me astonished.

"'The shoat can't be worth anything like that to you,' he says. 'What
do you want him for?'

"'Viewing me casuistically,' says I, with a rare smile, 'you wouldn't
think that I've got an artistic side to my temper. But I have. I'm a
collector of pigs. I've scoured the world for unusual pigs. Over in
the Wabash Valley I've got a hog ranch with most every specimen on it,
from a Merino to a Poland China. This looks like a blooded pig to me,
Rufe,' says I. 'I believe it's a genuine Berkshire. That's why I'd
like to have it.'

"'I'd shore like to accommodate you,' says he, 'but I've got the
artistic tenement, too. I don't see why it ain't art when you can
steal a shoat better than anybody else can. Shoats is a kind of
inspiration and genius with me. Specially this one. I wouldn't take
two hundred and fifty for that animal.'

"'Now, listen,' says I, wiping off my forehead. 'It's not so much a
matter of business with me as it is art; and not so much art as it is
philanthropy. Being a connoisseur and disseminator of pigs, I wouldn't
feel like I'd done my duty to the world unless I added that Berkshire
to my collection. Not intrinsically, but according to the ethics of
pigs as friends and coadjutors of mankind, I offer you five hundred
dollars for the animal.'

"'Jeff,' says this pork esthete, 'it ain't money; it's sentiment with

"'Seven hundred,' says I.

"'Make it eight hundred,' says Rufe, 'and I'll crush the sentiment out
of my heart.'

"I went under my clothes for my money-belt, and counted him out forty
twenty-dollar gold certificates.

"'I'll just take him into my own room,' says I, 'and lock him up till
after breakfast.'

"I took the pig by the hind leg. He turned on a squeal like the steam
calliope at the circus.

"'Let me tote him in for you,' says Rufe; and he picks up the beast
under one arm, holding his snout with the other hand, and packs him
into my room like a sleeping baby.

"After breakfast Rufe, who had a chronic case of haberdashery ever
since I got his trousseau, says he believes he will amble down to
Misfitzky's and look over some royal-purple socks. And then I got as
busy as a one-armed man with the nettle-rash pasting on wall-paper. I
found an old Negro man with an express wagon to hire; and we tied the
pig in a sack and drove down to the circus grounds.

"I found George B. Tapley in a little tent with a window flap open. He
was a fattish man with an immediate eye, in a black skull-cap, with a
four-ounce diamond screwed into the bosom of his red sweater.

"'Are you George B. Tapley?' I asks.

"'I swear it,' says he.

"'Well, I've got it,' says I.

"'Designate,' says he. 'Are you the guinea pigs for the Asiatic python
or the alfalfa for the sacred buffalo?'

"'Neither,' says I. 'I've got Beppo, the educated hog, in a sack in
that wagon. I found him rooting up the flowers in my front yard this
morning. I'll take the five thousand dollars in large bills, if it's

"George B. hustles out of his tent, and asks me to follow. We went
into one of the side-shows. In there was a jet black pig with a pink
ribbon around his neck lying on some hay and eating carrots that a man
was feeding to him.

"'Hey, Mac,' calls G. B. 'Nothing wrong with the world-wide this
morning, is there?'

"'Him? No,' says the man. 'He's got an appetite like a chorus girl at
1 A.M.'

"'How'd you get this pipe?' says Tapley to me. 'Eating too many pork
chops last night?'

"I pulls out the paper and shows him the ad.

"'Fake,' says he. 'Don't know anything about it. You've beheld with
your own eyes the marvelous, world-wide porcine wonder of the four-
footed kingdom eating with preternatural sagacity his matutinal meal,
unstrayed and unstole. Good morning.'

"I was beginning to see. I got in the wagon and told Uncle Ned to
drive to the most adjacent orifice of the nearest alley. There I took
out my pig, got the range carefully for the other opening, set his
sights, and gave him such a kick that he went out the other end of the
alley twenty feet ahead of his squeal.

"Then I paid Uncle Ned his fifty cents, and walked down to the
newspaper office. I wanted to hear it in cold syllables. I got the
advertising man to his window.

"'To decide a bet,' says I, 'wasn't the man who had this ad. put in
last night short and fat, with long black whiskers and a club-foot?'

"'He was not,' says the man. 'He would measure about six feet by four
and a half inches, with corn-silk hair, and dressed like the pansies
of the conservatory.'

"At dinner time I went back to Mrs. Peevy's.

"'Shall I keep some soup hot for Mr. Tatum till he comes back?' she

"'If you do, ma'am,' says I, 'you'll more than exhaust for firewood
all the coal in the bosom of the earth and all the forests on the
outside of it.'

"So there, you see," said Jefferson Peters, in conclusion, "how hard
it is ever to find a fair-minded and honest business-partner."

"But," I began, with the freedom of long acquaintance, "the rule
should work both ways. If you had offered to divide the reward you
would not have lost--"

Jeff's look of dignified reproach stopped me.

"That don't involve the same principles at all," said he. "Mine was a
legitimate and moral attempt at speculation. Buy low and sell high--
don't Wall Street endorse it? Bulls and bears and pigs--what's the
difference? Why not bristles as well as horns and fur?"

Book of the day: