O’henry – conscience in art


“I never could hold my partner, Andy Tucker, down to legitimate ethics
Of pure swindling,” said Jeff Peters to me one day.

“Andy had too much imagination to be honest. He used to devise schemes
Of money-getting so fraudulent and high-financial that they wouldn’t
Have been allowed in the bylaws of a railroad rebate system.

“Myself, I never believed in taking any man’s dollars unless I gave
Him something for it – something in the way of rolled gold jewelry,
Garden seeds, lumbago lotion, stock certificates, stove polish or a
Crack on the head to show for his money. I guess I must have had New
England ancestors away back and inherited some of their stanch and
Rugged fear of the police.

“But Andy’s family tree was in different kind. I don’t think he could
Have traced his descent any further back than a corporation.

“One summer while we was in the middle West, working down the Ohio
Valley with a line of family albums, headache powders and roach
Destroyer, Andy takes one of his notions of high and actionable

“‘Jeff,’ says he, ‘I’ve been thinking that we ought to drop these
Rutabaga fanciers and give our attention to something more nourishing
And prolific. If we keep on snapshooting these hinds for their egg
Money we’ll be classed as nature fakers. How about plunging into the
Fastnesses of the skyscraper country and biting some big bull caribous
In the chest?’

“‘Well,’ says I, ‘you know my idiosyncrasies. I prefer a square,
Non-illegal style of business such as we are carrying on now. When I
Take money I want to leave some tangible object in the other fellow’s
Hands for him to gaze at and to distract his attention from my spoor,

if it’s only a Komical Kuss Trick Finger Ring for Squirting
Perfume in a Friend’s Eye. But if you’ve got a fresh idea, Andy,’ says
I, ‘let’s have a look at it. I’m not so wedded to petty graft that I
Would refuse something better in the way of a subsidy.’

“‘I was thinking,’ says Andy, ‘of a little hunt without horn, hound or
Camera among the great herd of the Midas Americanus, commonly known as
The Pittsburg millionaires.’

“‘In New York?’ I asks.

“‘No, sir,’ says Andy, ‘in Pittsburg. That’s their habitat. They don’t
Like New York. They go there now and then just because it’s expected
Of ’em.’

“‘A Pittsburg millionaire in New York is like a fly in a cup of hot
Coffee – he attracts attention and comment, but he don’t enjoy it. New
York ridicules him for “blowing” so much money in that town of sneaks
And snobs, and sneers. The truth is, he don’t spend anything while he
Is there. I saw a memorandum of expenses for a ten days trip to Bunkum
Town made by a Pittsburg man worth $15,000,000 once. Here’s the way he
Set it down:

R. R. fare to and from. . . . . . . . $ 21 00
Cab fare to and from hotel. . . . . . 2 00
Hotel bill @ $5 per day. . . . . . . 50 00
Tips. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5,750 00
– – – – –
Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $5,823 00

“‘That’s the voice of New York,’ goes on Andy. ‘The town’s nothing but
A head waiter. If you tip it too much it’ll go and stand by the door
And make fun of you to the hat check boy. When a Pittsburger wants to
Spend money and have a good time he stays at home. That’s where we’ll
Go to catch him.’

“Well, to make a dense story more condensed, me and Andy cached our
Paris green and antipyrine powders and albums in a friend’s cellar,
And took the trail to Pittsburg. Andy didn’t have any especial

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O’henry – conscience in art