The first time my optical nerves was disturbed by the sight of
Buckingham Skinner was in Kansas City. I was standing on a corner when
I see Buck stick his straw-colored head out of a third-story window of
a business block and holler, "Whoa, there! Whoa!" like you would in
endeavoring to assuage a team of runaway mules.
I looked around; but all the animals I see in sight is a policeman,
having his shoes shined, and a couple of delivery wagons hitched to
posts. Then in a minute downstairs tumbles this Buckingham Skinner,
and runs to the corner, and stands and gazes down the other street at
the imaginary dust kicked up by the fabulous hoofs of the fictitious
team of chimerical quadrupeds. And then B. Skinner goes back up to the
third-story room again, and I see that the lettering on the window is
"The Farmers' Friend Loan Company."
By and by Straw-top comes down again, and I crossed the street to meet
him, for I had my ideas. Yes, sir, when I got close I could see where
he overdone it. He was Reub all right as far as his blue jeans and
cowhide boots went, but he had a matinee actor's hands, and the rye
straw stuck over his ear looked like it belonged to the property man
of the Old Homestead Co. Curiosity to know what his graft was got the
best of me.
"Was that your team broke away and run just now?" I asks him, polite.
"I tried to stop 'em," says I, "but I couldn't. I guess they're half
way back to the farm by now."
"Gosh blame them darned mules," says Straw-top, in a voice so good
that I nearly apologized; "they're a'lus bustin' loose." And then he
looks at me close, and then he takes off his hayseed hat, and says, in
a different voice: "I'd like to shake hands with Parleyvoo Pickens,
the greatest street man in the West, barring only Montague Silver,
which you can no more than allow."
I let him shake hands with me.
"I learned under Silver," I said; "I don't begrudge him the lead. But
what's your graft, son? I admit that the phantom flight of the non-
existing animals at which you remarked 'Whoa!' has puzzled me
somewhat. How do you win out on the trick?"
Buckingham Skinner blushed.
"Pocket money," says he; "that's all. I am temporarily unfinanced.
This little coup de rye straw is good for forty dollars in a town of
this size. How do I work it? Why, I involve myself, as you perceive,
in the loathsome apparel of the rural dub. Thus embalmed I am Jonas
Stubblefield--a name impossible to improve upon. I repair noisily to
the office of some loan company conveniently located in the third-
floor, front. There I lay my hat and yarn gloves on the floor and ask
to mortgage my farm for $2,000 to pay for my sister's musical
education in Europe. Loans like that always suit the loan companies.
It's ten to one that when the note falls due the foreclosure will be
leading the semiquavers by a couple of lengths.
"Well, sir, I reach in my pocket for the abstract of title; but I
suddenly hear my team running away. I run to the window and emit the
word--or exclamation, which-ever it may be--viz, 'Whoa!' Then I rush
down-stairs and down the street, returning in a few minutes. 'Dang
them mules,' I says; 'they done run away and busted the doubletree and
two traces. Now I got to hoof it home, for I never brought no money
along. Reckon we'll talk about that loan some other time, gen'lemen.'
"Then I spreads out my tarpaulin, like the Israelites, and waits for
the manna to drop.
"'Why, no, Mr. Stubblefield,' says the lobster-colored party in the
specs and dotted pique vest; 'oblige us by accepting this ten-dollar
bill until to-morrow. Get your harness repaired and call in at ten.
We'll be pleased to accommodate you in the matter of this loan.'
"It's a slight thing," says Buckingham Skinner, modest, "but, as I
said, only for temporary loose change."
"It's nothing to be ashamed of," says I, in respect for his
mortification; "in case of an emergency. Of course, it's small
compared to organizing a trust or bridge whist, but even the Chicago
University had to be started in a small way."
"What's your graft these days?" Buckingham Skinner asks me.
"The legitimate," says I. "I'm handling rhinestones and Dr. Oleum
Sinapi's Electric Headache Battery and the Swiss Warbler's Bird Call,
a small lot of the new queer ones and twos, and the Bonanza Budget,
consisting of a rolled-gold wedding and engagement ring, six Egyptian
lily bulbs, a combination pickle fork and nail-clipper, and fifty
engraved visiting cards--no two names alike--all for the sum of 38
"Two months ago," says Buckingham Skinner, "I was doing well down in
Texas with a patent instantaneous fire kindler, made of compressed
wood ashes and benzine. I sold loads of 'em in towns where they like
to burn niggers quick, without having to ask somebody for a light. And
just when I was doing the best they strikes oil down there and puts me
out of business. 'Your machine's too slow, now, pardner,' they tells
me. 'We can have a coon in hell with this here petroleum before your
old flint-and-tinder truck can get him warm enough to perfess
religion.' And so I gives up the kindler and drifts up here to K.C.
This little curtain-raiser you seen me doing, Mr. Pickens, with the
simulated farm and the hypothetical teams, ain't in my line at all,
and I'm ashamed you found me working it."
"No man," says I, kindly, "need to be ashamed of putting the skibunk
on a loan corporation for even so small a sum as ten dollars, when he
is financially abashed. Still, it wasn't quite the proper thing. It's
too much like borrowing money without paying it back."
I liked Buckingham Skinner from the start, for as good a man as ever
stood over the axles and breathed gasoline smoke. And pretty soon we
gets thick, and I let him in on a scheme I'd had in mind for some
time, and offers to go partners.
"Anything," says Buck, "that is not actually dishonest will find me
willing and ready. Let us perforate into the inwardness of your
proposition. I feel degraded when I am forced to wear property straw
in my hair and assume a bucolic air for the small sum of ten dollars.
Actually, Mr. Pickens, it makes me feel like the Ophelia of the Great
Occidental All-Star One-Night Consolidated Theatrical Aggregation."
This scheme of mine was one that suited my proclivities. By nature I
am some sentimental, and have always felt gentle toward the mollifying
elements of existence. I am disposed to be lenient with the arts and
sciences; and I find time to instigate a cordiality for the more human
works of nature, such as romance and the atmosphere and grass and
poetry and the Seasons. I never skin a sucker without admiring the
prismatic beauty of his scales. I never sell a little auriferous
beauty to the man with the hoe without noticing the beautiful harmony
there is between gold and green. And that's why I liked this scheme;
it was so full of outdoor air and landscapes and easy money.
We had to have a young lady assistant to help us work this graft; and
I asked Buck if he knew of one to fill the bill.
"One," says I, "that is cool and wise and strictly business from her
pompadour to her Oxfords. No ex-toe-dancers or gum-chewers or crayon
portrait canvassers for this."
Buck claimed he knew a suitable feminine and he takes me around to see
Miss Sarah Malloy. The minute I see her I am pleased. She looked to be
the goods as ordered. No sign of the three p's about her--no peroxide,
patchouli, nor peau de soie; about twenty-two, brown hair, pleasant
ways--the kind of a lady for the place.
"A description of the sandbag, if you please," she begins.
"Why, ma'am," says I, "this graft of ours is so nice and refined and
romantic, it would make the balcony scene in 'Romeo and Juliet' look
like second-story work."
We talked it over, and Miss Malloy agreed to come in as a business
partner. She said she was glad to get a chance to give up her place as
stenographer and secretary to a suburban lot company, and go into
This is the way we worked our scheme. First, I figured it out by a
kind of a proverb. The best grafts in the world are built up on copy-
book maxims and psalms and proverbs and Esau's fables. They seem to
kind of hit off human nature. Our peaceful little swindle was
constructed on the old saying: "The whole push loves a lover."
One evening Buck and Miss Malloy drives up like blazes in a buggy to a
farmer's door. She is pale but affectionate, clinging to his arm--
always clinging to his arm. Any one can see that she is a peach and of
the cling variety. They claim they are eloping for to be married on
account of cruel parents. They ask where they can find a preacher.
Farmer says, "B'gum there ain't any preacher nigher than Reverend
Abels, four miles over on Caney Creek." Farmeress wipes her hand on
her apron and rubbers through her specs.
Then, lo and look ye! Up the road from the other way jogs Parleyvoo
Pickens in a gig, dressed in black, white necktie, long face, sniffing
his nose, emitting a spurious kind of noise resembling the long meter
"B'jinks!" says farmer, "if thar ain't a preacher now!"
It transpires that I am Rev. Abijah Green, travelling over to Little
Bethel school-house for to preach next Sunday.
The young folks will have it they must be married, for pa is pursuing
them with the plow mules and the buckboard. So the Reverend Green,
after hesitating, marries 'em in the farmer's parlor. And farmer
grins, and has in cider, and says "B'gum!" and farmeress sniffles a
bit and pats the bride on the shoulder. And Parleyvoo Pickens, the
wrong reverend, writes out a marriage certificate, and farmer and
farmeress sign it as witnesses. And the parties of the first, second
and third part gets in their vehicles and rides away. Oh, that was an
idyllic graft! True love and the lowing kine and the sun shining on
the red barns--it certainly had all other impostures I know about beat
to a batter.
I suppose I happened along in time to marry Buck and Miss Malloy at
about twenty farm-houses. I hated to think how the romance was going
to fade later on when all them marriage certificates turned up in
banks where we'd discounted 'em, and the farmers had to pay them notes
of hand they'd signed, running from $300 to $500.
On the 15th day of May us three divided about $6,000. Miss Malloy
nearly cried with joy. You don't often see a tenderhearted girl or one
that is bent on doing right.
"Boys," says she, dabbing her eyes with a little handkerchief, "this
stake comes in handier than a powder rag at a fat men's ball. It gives
me a chance to reform. I was trying to get out of the real estate
business when you fellows came along. But if you hadn't taken me in on
this neat little proposition for removing the cuticle of the rutabaga
propagators I'm afraid I'd have got into something worse. I was about
to accept a place in one of these Women's Auxiliary Bazars, where they
build a parsonage by selling a spoonful of chicken salad and a cream-
puff for seventy-five cents and calling it a Business Man's Lunch.
"Now I can go into a square, honest business, and give all them queer
jobs the shake. I'm going to Cincinnati and start a palm reading and
clairvoyant joint. As Madame Saramaloi, the Egyptian Sorceress, I
shall give everybody a dollar's worth of good honest prognostication.
Good-by, boys. Take my advice and go into some decent fake. Get
friendly with the police and newspapers and you'll be all right."
So then we all shook hands, and Miss Malloy left us. Me and Buck also
rose up and sauntered off a few hundred miles; for we didn't care to
be around when them marriage certificates fell due.
With about $4,000 between us we hit that bumptious little town off the
New Jersey coast they call New York.
If there ever was an aviary overstocked with jays it is that Yaptown-
on-the-Hudson. Cosmopolitan they call it. You bet. So's a piece of
fly-paper. You listen close when they're buzzing and trying to pull
their feet out of the sticky stuff. "Little old New York's good enough
for us"--that's what they sing.
There's enough Reubs walk down Broadway in one hour to buy up a week's
output of the factory in Augusta, Maine, that makes Knaughty
Knovelties and the little Phine Phum oroide gold finger ring that
sticks a needle in your friend's hand.
You'd think New York people was all wise; but no. They don't get a
chance to learn. Everything's too compressed. Even the hayseeds are
baled hayseeds. But what else can you expect from a town that's shut
off from the world by the ocean on one side and New Jersey on the
It's no place for an honest grafter with a small capital. There's too
big a protective tariff on bunco. Even when Giovanni sells a quart of
warm worms and chestnut hulls he has to hand out a pint to an
insectivorous cop. And the hotel man charges double for everything in
the bill that he sends by the patrol wagon to the altar where the duke
is about to marry the heiress.
But old Badville-near-Coney is the ideal burg for a refined piece of
piracy if you can pay the bunco duty. Imported grafts come pretty
high. The custom-house officers that look after it carry clubs, and
it's hard to smuggle in even a bib-and-tucker swindle to work Brooklyn
with unless you can pay the toll. But now, me and Buck, having
capital, descends upon New York to try and trade the metropolitan
backwoodsmen a few glass beads for real estate just as the Vans did a
hundred or two years ago.
At an East Side hotel we gets acquainted with Romulus G. Atterbury, a
man with the finest head for financial operations I ever saw. It was
all bald and glossy except for gray side whiskers. Seeing that head
behind an office railing, and you'd deposit a million with it without
a receipt. This Atterbury was well dressed, though he ate seldom; and
the synopsis of his talk would make the conversation of a siren sound
like a cab driver's kick. He said he used to be a member of the Stock
Exchange, but some of the big capitalists got jealous and formed a
ring that forced him to sell his seat.
Atterbury got to liking me and Buck and he begun to throw on the
canvas for us some of the schemes that had caused his hair to
evacuate. He had one scheme for starting a National bank on $45 that
made the Mississippi Bubble look as solid as a glass marble. He talked
this to us for three days, and when his throat was good and sore we
told him about the roll we had. Atterbury borrowed a quarter from us
and went out and got a box of throat lozenges and started all over
again. This time he talked bigger things, and he got us to see 'em as
he did. The scheme he laid out looked like a sure winner, and he
talked me and Buck into putting our capital against his burnished dome
of thought. It looked all right for a kid-gloved graft. It seemed to
be just about an inch and a half outside of the reach of the police,
and as money-making as a mint. It was just what me and Buck wanted--a
regular business at a permanent stand, with an open air spieling with
tonsolitis on the street corners every evening.
So, in six weeks you see a handsome furnished set of offices down in
the Wall Street neighborhood, with "The Golconda Gold Bond and
Investment Company" in gilt letters on the door. And you see in his
private room, with the door open, the secretary and treasurer, Mr.
Buckingham Skinner, costumed like the lilies of the conservatory, with
his high silk hat close to his hand. Nobody yet ever saw Buck outside
of an instantaneous reach for his hat.
And you might perceive the president and general manager, Mr. R. G.
Atterbury, with his priceless polished poll, busy in the main office
room dictating letters to a shorthand countess, who has got pomp and a
pompadour that is no less than a guarantee to investors.
There is a bookkeeper and an assistant, and a general atmosphere of
varnish and culpability.
At another desk the eye is relieved by the sight of an ordinary man,
attired with unscrupulous plainness, sitting with his feet up, eating
apples, with his obnoxious hat on the back of his head. That man is no
other than Colonel Tecumseh (once "Parleyvoo") Pickens, the vice-
president of the company.
"No recherche rags for me," I says to Atterbury, when we was
organizing the stage properties of the robbery. "I'm a plain man,"
says I, "and I do not use pajamas, French, or military hair-brushes.
Cast me for the role of the rhinestone-in-the-rough or I don't go on
exhibition. If you can use me in my natural, though displeasing form,
"Dress you up?" says Atterbury; "I should say not! Just as you are
you're worth more to the business than a whole roomful of the things
they pin chrysanthemums on. You're to play the part of the solid but
disheveled capitalist from the Far West. You despise the conventions.
You've got so many stocks you can afford to shake socks. Conservative,
homely, rough, shrewd, saving--that's your pose. It's a winner in New
York. Keep your feet on the desk and eat apples. Whenever anybody
comes in eat an apple. Let 'em see you stuff the peelings in a drawer
of your desk. Look as economical and rich and rugged as you can."
I followed out Atterbury's instructions. I played the Rocky Mountain
capitalist without ruching or frills. The way I deposited apple
peelings to my credit in a drawer when any customers came in made
Hetty Green look like a spendthrift. I could hear Atterbury saying to
victims, as he smiled at me, indulgent and venerating, "That's our
vice-president, Colonel Pickens . . . fortune in Western investments
. . . delightfully plain manners, but . . . could sign his check for
half a million . . . simple as a child . . . wonderful head . . .
conservative and careful almost to a fault."
Atterbury managed the business. Me and Buck never quite understood all
of it, though he explained it to us in full. It seems the company was
a kind of cooperative one, and everybody that bought stock shared in
the profits. First, we officers bought up a controlling interest--we
had to have that--of the shares at 50 cents a hundred--just what the
printer charged us--and the rest went to the public at a dollar each.
The company guaranteed the stockholders a profit of ten per cent. each
month, payable on the last day thereof.
When any stockholder had paid in as much as $100, the company issued
him a Gold Bond and he became a bondholder. I asked Atterbury one day
what benefits and appurtenances these Gold Bonds was to an investor
more so than the immunities and privileges enjoyed by the common
sucker who only owned stock. Atterbury picked up one of them Gold
Bonds, all gilt and lettered up with flourishes and a big red seal
tied with a blue ribbon in a bowknot, and he looked at me like his
feelings was hurt.
"My dear Colonel Pickens," says he, "you have no soul for Art. Think
of a thousand homes made happy by possessing one of these beautiful
gems of the lithographer's skill! Think of the joy in the household
where one of these Gold Bonds hangs by a pink cord to the what-not, or
is chewed by the baby, caroling gleefully upon the floor! Ah, I see
your eye growing moist, Colonel--I have touched you, have I not?"
"You have not," says I, "for I've been watching you. The moisture you
see is apple juice. You can't expect one man to act as a human cider-
press and an art connoisseur too."
Atterbury attended to the details of the concern. As I understand it,
they was simple. The investors in stock paid in their money, and--
well, I guess that's all they had to do. The company received it, and
--I don't call to mind anything else. Me and Buck knew more about
selling corn salve than we did about Wall Street, but even we could
see how the Golconda Gold Bond Investment Company was making money.
You take in money and pay back ten per cent. of it; it's plain enough
that you make a clean, legitimate profit of 90 per cent., less
expenses, as long as the fish bite.
Atterbury wanted to be president and treasurer too, but Buck winks an
eye at him and says: "You was to furnish the brains. Do you call it
good brain work when you propose to take in money at the door, too?
Think again. I hereby nominate myself treasurer ad valorem, sine die,
and by acclamation. I chip in that much brain work free. Me and
Pickens, we furnished the capital, and we'll handle the unearned
increment as it incremates."
It costs us $500 for office rent and first payment on furniture;
$1,500 more went for printing and advertising. Atterbury knew his
business. "Three months to a minute we'll last," says he. "A day
longer than that and we'll have to either go under or go under an
alias. By that time we ought to clean up $60,000. And then a money
belt and a lower berth for me, and the yellow journals and the
furniture men can pick the bones."
Our ads. done the work. "Country weeklies and Washington hand-press
dailies, of course," says I when we was ready to make contracts.
"Man," says Atterbury, "as its advertising manager you would cause a
Limburger cheese factory to remain undiscovered during a hot summer.
The game we're after is right here in New York and Brooklyn and the
Harlem reading-rooms. They're the people that the street-car fenders
and the Answers to Correspondents columns and the pickpocket notices
are made for. We want our ads. in the biggest city dailies, top of
column, next to editorials on radium and pictures of the girl doing
Pretty soon the money begins to roll in. Buck didn't have to pretend
to be busy; his desk was piled high up with money orders and checks
and greenbacks. People began to drop in the office and buy stock every
Most of the shares went in small amounts--$10 and $25 and $50, and a
good many $2 and $3 lots. And the bald and inviolate cranium of
President Atterbury shines with enthusiasm and demerit, while Colonel
Tecumseh Pickens, the rude but reputable Croesus of the West, consumes
so many apples that the peelings hang to the floor from the mahogany
garbage chest that he calls his desk.
Just as Atterbury said, we ran along about three months without being
troubled. Buck cashed the paper as fast as it came in and kept the
money in a safe deposit vault a block or so away. Buck never thought
much of banks for such purposes. We paid the interest regular on the
stock we'd sold, so there was nothing for anybody to squeal about. We
had nearly $50,000 on hand and all three of us had been living as high
as prize fighters out of training.
One morning, as me and Buck sauntered into the office, fat and
flippant, from our noon grub, we met an easy-looking fellow, with a
bright eye and a pipe in his mouth, coming out. We found Atterbury
looking like he'd been caught a mile from home in a wet shower.
"Know that man?" he asked us.
We said we didn't.
"I don't either," says Atterbury, wiping off his head; "but I'll bet
enough Gold Bonds to paper a cell in the Tombs that he's a newspaper
"What did he want?" asks Buck.
"Information," says our president. "Said he was thinking of buying
some stock. He asked me about nine hundred questions, and every one of
'em hit some sore place in the business. I know he's on a paper. You
can't fool me. You see a man about half shabby, with an eye like a
gimlet, smoking cut plug, with dandruff on his coat collar, and
knowing more than J. P. Morgan and Shakespeare put together--if that
ain't a reporter I never saw one. I was afraid of this. I don't mind
detectives and post-office inspectors--I talk to 'em eight minutes and
then sell 'em stock--but them reporters take the starch out of my
collar. Boys, I recommend that we declare a dividend and fade away.
The signs point that way."
Me and Buck talked to Atterbury and got him to stop sweating and stand
still. That fellow didn't look like a reporter to us. Reporters always
pull out a pencil and tablet on you, and tell you a story you've
heard, and strikes you for the drinks. But Atterbury was shaky and
nervous all day.
The next day me and Buck comes down from the hotel about ten-thirty.
On the way we buys the papers, and the first thing we see is a column
on the front page about our little imposition. It was a shame the way
that reporter intimated that we were no blood relatives of the late
George W. Childs. He tells all about the scheme as he sees it, in a
rich, racy kind of a guying style that might amuse most anybody except
a stockholder. Yes, Atterbury was right; it behooveth the gaily clad
treasurer and the pearly pated president and the rugged vice-president
of the Golconda Gold Bond and Investment Company to go away real
sudden and quick that their days might be longer upon the land.
Me and Buck hurries down to the office. We finds on the stairs and in
the hall a crowd of people trying to squeeze into our office, which is
already jammed full inside to the railing. They've nearly all got
Golconda stock and Gold Bonds in their hands. Me and Buck judged
they'd been reading the papers, too.
We stopped and looked at our stockholders, some surprised. It wasn't
quite the kind of a gang we supposed had been investing. They all
looked like poor people; there was plenty of old women and lots of
young girls that you'd say worked in factories and mills. Some was old
men that looked like war veterans, and some was crippled, and a good
many was just kids--bootblacks and newsboys and messengers. Some was
working-men in overalls, with their sleeves rolled up. Not one of the
gang looked like a stockholder in anything unless it was a peanut
stand. But they all had Golconda stock and looked as sick as you
I saw a queer kind of a pale look come on Buck's face when he sized up
the crowd. He stepped up to a sickly looking woman and says: "Madam,
do you own any of this stock?"
"I put in a hundred dollars," says the woman, faint like. "It was all
I had saved in a year. One of my children is dying at home now and I
haven't a cent in the house. I came to see if I could draw out some.
The circulars said you could draw it at any time. But they say now I
will lose it all."
There was a smart kind of kid in the gang--I guess he was a newsboy.
"I got in twenty-fi', mister," he says, looking hopeful at Buck's silk
hat and clothes. "Dey paid me two-fifty a mont' on it. Say, a man
tells me dey can't do dat and be on de square. Is dat straight? Do you
guess I can get out my twenty-fi'?"
Some of the old women was crying. The factory girls was plumb
distracted. They'd lost all their savings and they'd be docked for the
time they lost coming to see about it.
There was one girl--a pretty one--in a red shawl, crying in a corner
like her heart would dissolve. Buck goes over and asks her about it.
"It ain't so much losing the money, mister," says she, shaking all
over, "though I've been two years saving it up; but Jakey won't marry
me now. He'll take Rosa Steinfeld. I know J--J--Jakey. She's got $400
in the savings bank. Ai, ai, ai--" she sings out.
Buck looks all around with that same funny look on his face. And then
we see leaning against the wall, puffing at his pipe, with his eye
shining at us, this newspaper reporter. Buck and me walks over to him.
"You're a real interesting writer," says Buck. "How far do you mean to
carry it? Anything more up your sleeve?"
"Oh, I'm just waiting around," says the reporter, smoking away, "in
case any news turns up. It's up to your stockholders now. Some of them
might complain, you know. Isn't that the patrol wagon now?" he says,
listening to a sound outside. "No," he goes on, "that's Doc.
Whittleford's old cadaver coupe from the Roosevelt. I ought to know
that gong. Yes, I suppose I've written some interesting stuff at
"You wait," says Buck; "I'm going to throw an item of news in your
Buck reaches in his pocket and hands me a key. I knew what he meant
before he spoke. Confounded old buccaneer--I knew what he meant. They
don't make them any better than Buck.
"Pick," says he, looking at me hard, "ain't this graft a little out of
our line? Do we want Jakey to marry Rosa Steinfeld?"
"You've got my vote," says I. "I'll have it here in ten minutes." And
I starts for the safe deposit vaults.
I comes back with the money done up in a big bundle, and then Buck and
me takes the journalist reporter around to another door and we let
ourselves into one of the office rooms.
"Now, my literary friend," says Buck, "take a chair, and keep still,
and I'll give you an interview. You see before you two grafters from
Graftersville, Grafter County, Arkansas. Me and Pick have sold brass
jewelry, hair tonic, song books, marked cards, patent medicines,
Connecticut Smyrna rugs, furniture polish, and albums in every town
from Old Point Comfort to the Golden Gate. We've grafted a dollar
whenever we saw one that had a surplus look to it. But we never went
after the simoleon in the toe of the sock under the loose brick in the
corner of the kitchen hearth. There's an old saying you may have heard
--'fussily decency averni'--which means it's an easy slide from the
street faker's dry goods box to a desk in Wall Street. We've took that
slide, but we didn't know exactly what was at the bottom of it. Now,
you ought to be wise, but you ain't. You've got New York wiseness,
which means that you judge a man by the outside of his clothes. That
ain't right. You ought to look at the lining and seams and the button-
holes. While we are waiting for the patrol wagon you might get out
your little stub pencil and take notes for another funny piece in the
And then Buck turns to me and says: "I don't care what Atterbury
thinks. He only put in brains, and if he gets his capital out he's
lucky. But what do you say, Pick?"
"Me?" says I. "You ought to know me, Buck. I didn't know who was
buying the stock."
"All right," says Buck. And then he goes through the inside door into
the main office and looks at the gang trying to squeeze through the
railing. Atterbury and his hat was gone. And Buck makes 'em a short
"All you lambs get in line. You're going to get your wool back. Don't
shove so. Get in a line--a /line/--not in a pile. Lady, will you
please stop bleating? Your money's waiting for you. Here, sonny, don't
climb over that railing; your dimes are safe. Don't cry, sis; you
ain't out a cent. Get in /line/, I say. Here, Pick, come and
straighten 'em out and let 'em through and out by the other door."
Buck takes off his coat, pushes his silk hat on the back of his head,
and lights up a reina victoria. He sets at the table with the boodle
before him, all done up in neat packages. I gets the stockholders
strung out and marches 'em, single file, through from the main room;
and the reporter man passes 'em out of the side door into the hall
again. As they go by, Buck takes up the stock and the Gold Bonds,
paying 'em cash, dollar for dollar, the same as they paid in. The
shareholders of the Golconda Gold Bond and Investment Company can't
hardly believe it. They almost grabs the money out of Buck's hands.
Some of the women keep on crying, for it's a custom of the sex to cry
when they have sorrow, to weep when they have joy, and to shed tears
whenever they find themselves without either.
The old women's fingers shake when they stuff the skads in the bosom
of their rusty dresses. The factory girls just stoop over and flap
their dry goods a second, and you hear the elastic go "pop" as the
currency goes down in the ladies' department of the "Old Domestic
Some of the stockholders that had been doing the Jeremiah act the
loudest outside had spasms of restored confidence and wanted to leave
the money invested. "Salt away that chicken feed in your duds, and
skip along," says Buck. "What business have you got investing in
bonds? The tea-pot or the crack in the wall behind the clock for your
hoard of pennies."
When the pretty girl in the red shawl cashes in Buck hands her an
"A wedding present," says our treasurer, "from the Golconda Company.
And say--if Jakey ever follows his nose, even at a respectful
distance, around the corner where Rosa Steinfeld lives, you are hereby
authorized to knock a couple of inches of it off."
When they was all paid off and gone, Buck calls the newspaper reporter
and shoves the rest of the money over to him.
"You begun this," says Buck; "now finish it. Over there are the books,
showing every share and bond issued. Here's the money to cover, except
what we've spent to live on. You'll have to act as receiver. I guess
you'll do the square thing on account of your paper. This is the best
way we know how to settle it. Me and our substantial but apple-weary
vice-president are going to follow the example of our revered
president, and skip. Now, have you got enough news for to-day, or do
you want to interview us on etiquette and the best way to make over an
old taffeta skirt?"
"News!" says the newspaper man, taking his pipe out; "do you think I
could use this? I don't want to lose my job. Suppose I go around to
the office and tell 'em this happened. What'll the managing editor
say? He'll just hand me a pass to Bellevue and tell me to come back
when I get cured. I might turn in a story about a sea serpent wiggling
up Broadway, but I haven't got the nerve to try 'em with a pipe like
this. A get-rich-quick scheme--excuse me--gang giving back the boodle!
Oh, no. I'm not on the comic supplement."
"You can't understand it, of course," says Buck, with his hand on the
door knob. "Me and Pick ain't Wall Streeters like you know 'em. We
never allowed to swindle sick old women and working girls and take
nickels off of kids. In the lines of graft we've worked we took money
from the people the Lord made to be buncoed--sports and rounders and
smart Alecks and street crowds, that always have a few dollars to
throw away, and farmers that wouldn't ever be happy if the grafters
didn't come around and play with 'em when they sold their crops. We
never cared to fish for the kind of suckers that bite here. No, sir.
We got too much respect for the profession and for ourselves. Good-by
to you, Mr. Receiver."
"Here!" says the journalist reporter; "wait a minute. There's a broker
I know on the next floor. Wait till I put this truck in his safe. I
want you fellows to take a drink on me before you go."
"On you?" says Buck, winking solemn. "Don't you go and try to make 'em
believe at the office you said that. Thanks. We can't spare the time,
I reckon. So long."
And me and Buck slides out the door; and that's the way the Golconda
Company went into involuntary liquefaction.
If you had seen me and Buck the next night you'd have had to go to a
little bum hotel over near the West Side ferry landings. We was in a
little back room, and I was filling up a gross of six-ounce bottles
with hydrant water colored red with aniline and flavored with
cinnamon. Buck was smoking, contented, and he wore a decent brown
derby in place of his silk hat.
"It's a good thing, Pick," says he, as he drove in the corks, "that we
got Brady to lend us his horse and wagon for a week. We'll rustle up
the stake by then. This hair tonic'll sell right along over in Jersey.
Bald heads ain't popular over there on account of the mosquitoes."
Directly I dragged out my valise and went down in it for labels.
"Hair tonic labels are out," says I. "Only about a dozen on hand."
"Buy some more," says Buck.
We investigated our pockets and found we had just enough money to
settle our hotel bill in the morning and pay our passage over the
"Plenty of the 'Shake-the-Shakes Chill Cure' labels," says I, after
"What more do you want?" says Buck. "Slap 'em on. The chill season is
just opening up in the Hackensack low grounds. What's hair, anyway, if
you have to shake it off?"
We posted on the Chill Cure labels about half an hour and Buck says:
"Making an honest livin's better than that Wall Street, anyhow; ain't
"You bet," says I.