O'henry — the exact science of matrimony

THE EXACT SCIENCE OF MATRIMONY

"As I have told you before," said Jeff Peters, "I never had much
confidence in the perfidiousness of woman. As partners or coeducators
in the most innocent line of graft they are not trustworthy."

"They deserve the compliment," said I. "I think they are entitled to
be called the honest sex."

"Why shouldn't they be?" said Jeff. "They've got the other sex either
grafting or working overtime for 'em. They're all right in business
until they get their emotions or their hair touched up too much.
Then you want to have a flat footed, heavy breathing man with sandy
whiskers, five kids and a building and loan mortgage ready as an
understudy to take her desk. Now there was that widow lady that me
and Andy Tucker engaged to help us in that little matrimonial agency
scheme we floated out in Cairo.

"When you've got enough advertising capital — say a roll as big as the
little end of a wagon tongue — there's money in matrimonial agencies.
We had about $6,000 and we expected to double it in two months, which
is about as long as a scheme like ours can be carried on without
taking out a New Jersey charter.

"We fixed up an advertisement that read about like this:

"Charming widow, beautiful, home loving, 32 years, possessing
$3,000 cash and owning valuable country property, would remarry.
Would prefer a poor man with affectionate disposition to one with
means, as she realizes that the solid virtues are oftenest to be
found in the humble walks of life. No objection to elderly man
or one of homely appearance if faithful and true and competent
to manage property and invest money with judgment. Address, with
particulars.

Lonely,
Care of Peters & Tucker, agents, Cairo, Ill.

"'So far, so pernicious,' says I, when we had finished the literary
concoction. 'And now,' says I, 'where is the lady.'

"Andy gives me one of his looks of calm irritation.

"'Jeff,' says he, 'I thought you had lost them ideas of realism in
your art. Why should there be a lady? When they sell a lot of watered
stock on Wall Street would you expect to find a mermaid in it? What
has a matrimonial ad got to do with a lady?'

"'Now listen,' says I. 'You know my rule, Andy, that in all my
illegitimate inroads against the legal letter of the law the article
sold must be existent, visible, producible. In that way and by a
careful study of city ordinances and train schedules I have kept out
of all trouble with the police that a five dollar bill and a cigar
could not square. Now, to work this scheme we've got to be able to
produce bodily a charming widow or its equivalent with or without the
beauty, hereditaments and appurtenances set forth in the catalogue and
writ of errors, or hereafter be held by a justice of the peace.'

"'Well,' says Andy, reconstructing his mind, 'maybe it would be
safer in case the post office or the peace commission should try to
investigate our agency. But where,' he says, 'could you hope to find
a widow who would waste time on a matrimonial scheme that had no
matrimony in it?'

"I told Andy that I thought I knew of the exact party. An old friend
of mine, Zeke Trotter, who used to draw soda water and teeth in a
tent show, had made his wife a widow a year before by drinking some
dyspepsia cure of the old doctor's instead of the liniment that he
always got boozed up on. I used to stop at their house often, and I
thought we could get her to work with us.

"'Twas only sixty miles to the little town where she lived, so I
jumped out on the I. C.