The Gentle Grafter HTML version

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 financiering.
"'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
"'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, even 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