O'henry — innocents of broadway
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 mâché 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.