The Gentle Grafter HTML version
Shearing The Wolf
Jeff Peters was always eloquent when the ethics of his profession was under discussion.
"The only times," said he, "that me and Andy Tucker ever had any hiatuses in our cordial
intents was when we differed on the moral aspects of grafting. Andy had his standards
and I had mine. I didn't approve of all of Andy's schemes for levying contributions from
the public, and he thought I allowed my conscience to interfere too often for the financial
good of the firm. We had high arguments sometimes. One word led on to another till he
said I reminded him of Rockefeller.
"'I don't know how you mean that, Andy,' says I, 'but we have been friends too long for
me to take offense at a taunt that you will regret when you cool off. I have yet,' says I, 'to
shake hands with a subpœna server.'
"One summer me and Andy decided to rest up a spell in a fine little town in the
mountains of Kentucky called Grassdale. We was supposed to be horse drovers, and good
decent citizens besides, taking a summer vacation. The Grassdale people liked us, and me
and Andy declared a cessation of hostilities, never so much as floating the fly leaf of a
rubber concession prospectus or flashing a Brazilian diamond while we was there.
"One day the leading hardware merchant of Grassdale drops around to the hotel where
me and Andy stopped, and smokes with us, sociable, on the side porch. We knew him
pretty well from pitching quoits in the afternoons in the court house yard. He was a loud,
red man, breathing hard, but fat and respectable beyond all reason.
"After we talk on all the notorious themes of the day, this Murkison—for such was his
entitlements—takes a letter out of his coat pocket in a careful, careless way and hands it
to us to read.
"'Now, what do you think of that?' says he, laughing—'a letter like that to ME!'
"Me and Andy sees at a glance what it is; but we pretend to read it through. It was one of
them old time typewritten green goods letters explaining how for $1,000 you could get
$5,000 in bills that an expert couldn't tell from the genuine; and going on to tell how they
were made from plates stolen by an employee of the Treasury at Washington.
"'Think of 'em sending a letter like that to ME!' says Murkison again.