O'henry — shearing the wolf
SHEARING THE WOLF
Jeff Peters was always eloquent when the ethics of his profession was
"The only times," said he, "that me and Andy Tucker ever had any
hiatuses in our cordial intents was when we differed on the moral
aspects of grafting. Andy had his standards and I had mine. I didn't
approve of all of Andy's schemes for levying contributions from the
public, and he thought I allowed my conscience to interfere too often
for the financial good of the firm. We had high arguments sometimes.
One word led on to another till he said I reminded him of Rockefeller.
"'I don't know how you mean that, Andy,' says I, 'but we have been
friends too long for me to take offense at a taunt that you will
regret when you cool off. I have yet,' says I, 'to shake hands with
a subpoena server.'
"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.
[Illustration: "Pitching quoits in the afternoon in the court house
"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.
[Illustration: "'Think of 'em sending a letter like that to ME!'"]
"'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