O'henry — the ethics of pig
THE ETHICS OF PIG
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
"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
"'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