The Gentle Grafter HTML version

Innocents Of Broadway
"I hope some day to retire from business," said Jeff Peters; "and when I do I don't want
anybody to be able to say that I ever got a dollar of any man's money without giving him
a quid pro rata for it. I've always managed to leave a customer some little gewgaw to
paste in his scrapbook or stick between his Seth Thomas clock and the wall after we are
through trading.
"There was one time I came near having to break this rule of mine and do a profligate and
illaudable action, but I was saved from it by the laws and statutes of our great and
profitable country.
"One summer me and Andy Tucker, my partner, went to New York to lay in our annual
assortment of clothes and gents' furnishings. We was always pompous and regardless
dressers, finding that looks went further than anything else in our business, except maybe
our knowledge of railroad schedules and an autograph photo of the President that Loeb
sent us, probably by mistake. Andy wrote a nature letter once and sent it in about animals
that he had seen caught in a trap lots of times. Loeb must have read it 'triplets,' instead of
'trap lots,' and sent the photo. Anyhow, it was useful to us to show people as a guarantee
of good faith.
"Me and Andy never cared much to do business in New York. It was too much like
pothunting. Catching suckers in that town is like dynamiting a Texas lake for bass. All
you have to do anywhere between the North and East rivers is to stand in the street with
an open bag marked, 'Drop packages of money here. No checks or loose bills taken.' You
have a cop handy to club pikers who try to chip in post office orders and Canadian
money, and that's all there is to New York for a hunter who loves his profession. So me
and Andy used to just nature fake the town. We'd get out our spyglasses and watch the
woodcocks along the Broadway swamps putting plaster casts on their broken legs, and
then we'd sneak away without firing a shot.
"One day in the papier mâché palm room of a chloral hydrate and hops agency in a side
street about eight inches off Broadway me and Andy had thrust upon us the acquaintance
of a New Yorker. We had beer together until we discovered that each of us knew a man
named Hellsmith, traveling for a stove factory in Duluth. This caused us to remark that
the world was a very small place, and then this New Yorker busts his string and takes off
his tin foil and excelsior packing and starts in giving us his Ellen Terris, beginning with
the time he used to sell shoelaces to the Indians on the spot where Tammany Hall now
"This New Yorker had made his money keeping a cigar store in Beekman street, and he
hadn't been above Fourteenth street in ten years. Moreover, he had whiskers, and the time
had gone by when a true sport will do anything to a man with whiskers. No grafter except
a boy who is soliciting subscribers to an illustrated weekly to win the prize air rifle, or a
widow, would have the heart to tamper with the man behind with the razor. He was a