O'henry — the hand that riles the world
THE HAND THAT RILES THE WORLD
"Many of our great men," said I (apropos of many things), "have
declared that they owe their success to the aid and encouragement of
some brilliant woman."
"I know," said Jeff Peters. "I've read in history and mythology about
Joan of Arc and Mme. Yale and Mrs. Caudle and Eve and other noted
females of the past. But, in my opinion, the woman of to-day is of
little use in politics or business. What's she best in, anyway? — men
make the best cooks, milliners, nurses, housekeepers, stenographers,
clerks, hairdressers and launderers. About the only job left that a
woman can beat a man in is female impersonator in vaudeville."
"I would have thought," said I, "that occasionally, anyhow, you would
have found the wit and intuition of woman valuable to you in your
lines of — er — business."
"Now, wouldn't you," said Jeff, with an emphatic nod — "wouldn't you
have imagined that? But a woman is an absolutely unreliable partner in
any straight swindle. She's liable to turn honest on you when you are
depending upon her the most. I tried 'em once.
"Bill Humble, an old friend of mine in the Territories, conceived
the illusion that he wanted to be appointed United States Marshall.
At that time me and Andy was doing a square, legitimate business of
selling walking canes. If you unscrewed the head of one and turned it
up to your mouth a half pint of good rye whiskey would go trickling
down your throat to reward you for your act of intelligence. The
deputies was annoying me and Andy some, and when Bill spoke to me
about his officious aspirations, I saw how the appointment as Marshall
might help along the firm of Peters & Tucker.
[Illustration: "Selling walking canes."]
"'Jeff,' says Bill to me, 'you are a man of learning and education,
besides having knowledge and information concerning not only rudiments
but facts and attainments.'
"'I do,' says I, 'and I have never regretted it. I am not one,' says
I, 'who would cheapen education by making it free. Tell me,' says I,
'which is of the most value to mankind, literature or horse racing?'
"'Why — er — , playing the po — I mean, of course, the poets and the
great writers have got the call, of course,' says Bill.
"'Exactly,' says I. 'Then why do the master minds of finance and
philanthropy,' says I, 'charge us $2 to get into a race-track and let
us into a library free? Is that distilling into the masses,' says
I, 'a correct estimate of the relative value of the two means of
self-culture and disorder?'
"'You are arguing outside of my faculties of sense and rhetoric,' says
Bill. 'What I wanted you to do is to go to Washington and dig out this
appointment for me. I haven't no ideas of cultivation and intrigue.
I'm a plain citizen and I need the job. I've killed seven men,' says
Bill; 'I've got nine children; I've been a good Republican ever since
the first of May; I can't read nor write, and I see no reason why I
ain't illegible for the office. And I think your partner, Mr. Tucker,'
goes on Bill, 'is also a man of sufficient ingratiation and connected
system of mental delinquency to assist you in securing the appointment.
I will give you preliminary,' says Bill, '$1,000 for drinks, bribes and
carfare in Washington. If you land the job I will pay you $1,000 more,
cash down, and guarantee you impunity in boot-legging whiskey for
twelve months. Are you patriotic to the West enough to help me put this
thing through the Whitewashed Wigwam of the Great Father of the most