O'henry — jeff peters as a personal magnet
JEFF PETERS AS A PERSONAL MAGNET
Jeff Peters has been engaged in as many schemes for making money as
there are recipes for cooking rice in Charleston, S.C.
Best of all I like to hear him tell of his earlier days when he sold
liniments and cough cures on street corners, living hand to mouth,
heart to heart with the people, throwing heads or tails with fortune
for his last coin.
"I struck Fisher Hill, Arkansaw," said he, "in a buckskin suit,
moccasins, long hair and a thirty-carat diamond ring that I got from
an actor in Texarkana. I don't know what he ever did with the pocket
knife I swapped him for it.
"I was Dr. Waugh-hoo, the celebrated Indian medicine man. I carried
only one best bet just then, and that was Resurrection Bitters. It
was made of life-giving plants and herbs accidentally discovered by
Ta-qua-la, the beautiful wife of the chief of the Choctaw Nation, while
gathering truck to garnish a platter of boiled dog for the annual corn
"Business hadn't been good in the last town, so I only had five
dollars. I went to the Fisher Hill druggist and he credited me for
half a gross of eight-ounce bottles and corks. I had the labels and
ingredients in my valise, left over from the last town. Life began to
look rosy again after I got in my hotel room with the water running
from the tap, and the Resurrection Bitters lining up on the table by
[Illustration: "Life began to look rosy again…"]
"Fake? No, sir. There was two dollars' worth of fluid extract of
cinchona and a dime's worth of aniline in that half-gross of bitters.
I've gone through towns years afterwards and had folks ask for 'em
"I hired a wagon that night and commenced selling the bitters on
Main Street. Fisher Hill was a low, malarial town; and a compound
hypothetical pneumocardiac anti-scorbutic tonic was just what
I diagnosed the crowd as needing. The bitters started off like
sweetbreads-on-toast at a vegetarian dinner. I had sold two dozen at
fifty cents apiece when I felt somebody pull my coat tail. I knew what
that meant; so I climbed down and sneaked a five dollar bill into the
hand of a man with a German silver star on his lapel.
[Illustration: "I commenced selling the bitters on Main Street."]
"'Constable,' says I, 'it's a fine night.'
"'Have you got a city license,' he asks, 'to sell this illegitimate
essence of spooju that you flatter by the name of medicine?'
"'I have not,' says I. 'I didn't know you had a city. If I can find it
to-morrow I'll take one out if it's necessary.'
"'I'll have to close you up till you do,' says the constable.
"I quit selling and went back to the hotel. I was talking to the
landlord about it.
"'Oh, you won't stand no show in Fisher Hill,' says he. 'Dr. Hoskins,
the only doctor here, is a brother-in-law of the Mayor, and they won't
allow no fake doctor to practice in town.'
"'I don't practice medicine,' says I, 'I've got a State peddler's
license, and I take out a city one wherever they demand it.'
"I went to the Mayor's office the next morning and they told me
he hadn't showed up yet. They didn't know when he'd be down. So
Doc Waugh-hoo hunches down again in a hotel chair and lights a
jimpson-weed regalia, and waits.
"By and by a young man in a blue necktie slips into the chair next to
me and asks the time.
"'Half-past ten,' says I, 'and you are Andy Tucker. I've seen you
work. Wasn't it you that put up the Great Cupid Combination package on
the Southern States?