The Gentle Grafter HTML version
Jeff Peters As A Personal Magnet
Jeff Peters has been engaged in as many schemes for making money as there are recipes
for cooking rice in Charleston, S.C.
Best of all I like to hear him tell of his earlier days when he sold liniments and cough
cures on street corners, living hand to mouth, heart to heart with the people, throwing
heads or tails with fortune for his last coin.
"I struck Fisher Hill, Arkansaw," said he, "in a buckskin suit, moccasins, long hair and a
thirty-carat diamond ring that I got from an actor in Texarkana. I don't know what he ever
did with the pocket knife I swapped him for it.
"I was Dr. Waugh-hoo, the celebrated Indian medicine man. I carried only one best bet
just then, and that was Resurrection Bitters. It was made of life-giving plants and herbs
accidentally discovered by Ta-qua-la, the beautiful wife of the chief of the Choctaw
Nation, while gathering truck to garnish a platter of boiled dog for the annual corn dance.
"Business hadn't been good in the last town, so I only had five dollars. I went to the
Fisher Hill druggist and he credited me for half a gross of eight-ounce bottles and corks. I
had the labels and ingredients in my valise, left over from the last town. Life began to
look rosy again after I got in my hotel room with the water running from the tap, and the
Resurrection Bitters lining up on the table by the dozen.
"Fake? No, sir. There was two dollars' worth of fluid extract of cinchona and a dime's
worth of aniline in that half-gross of bitters. I've gone through towns years afterwards and
had folks ask for 'em again.
"I hired a wagon that night and commenced selling the bitters on Main Street. Fisher Hill
was a low, malarial town; and a compound hypothetical pneumocardiac anti-scorbutic
tonic was just what I diagnosed the crowd as needing. The bitters started off like
sweetbreads-on-toast at a vegetarian dinner. I had sold two dozen at fifty cents apiece
when I felt somebody pull my coat tail. I knew what that meant; so I climbed down and
sneaked a five dollar bill into the hand of a man with a German silver star on his lapel.
"'Constable,' says I, 'it's a fine night.'
"'Have you got a city license,' he asks, 'to sell this illegitimate essence of spooju that you
flatter by the name of medicine?'
"'I have not,' says I. 'I didn't know you had a city. If I can find it to-morrow I'll take one
out if it's necessary.'