The Gentle Grafter
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 neighborhood, anyway.
"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
"'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,"
'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.'