Bad Medicine

Those good old times when mischievous members of the fraternity amused themselves by sending “specials” from ostensibly distant points to their fellow operators in the same office, or worried some credulous brother by sending to him on the local from the battery-room, and continued to send despite the desperate efforts of the receiver to break—those happy days have flown forever. Your modern man of the key has long since “tumbled.” There is no game to be got out of him, as a general thing, and the oft-repeated attempts to “guy” him “mitter pack schtroke,” or otherwise, in nearly every case end in bringing confusion on the perpetrator of the fraud. Many and ingenious are the jobs put up at the expense of novices and the absent-minded and unsuspicious “old ’uns;” but the only one of which I have knowledge, that has been carried out with much show of success, is embodied in the sending of a bogus message, having a wrong check, so worded that when the sender, commencing at the period, gives the letters, some indecorous phrase is spelled out, much to the astonishment and chagrin of the receiver, and which enables him to see the joke instantly.

To illustrate this, for the benefit of those who have never been victimized, let me relate that, stepping into a Jew store on Chatham Street, a while ago, I bought the grandest looking vest I ever saw for a dollar. The circumcised villain measured me, and, referring to sundry tags sewed on the garment at divers points, assured me that it was made for his brother-in-law in Paris, and would “fit me like the baper on the vall.” In the trusting innocence of my heart I bought the waistcoat, and so great is my faith in human nature that I didn’t try it on until I reached home. Well, you ought to have seen it. Like the fiddle in Handy Andy’s conundrum, “it was the shape of a turkey and the size of a goose,” and it fitted me about as well as a soldier’s overcoat would fit a barberry bush. The Israelite in attendance told me, when I called for satisfaction, that his brother “was died” last night. He alluded to the individual of whom I made the purchase, and I deeply sympathized with him in his bereavement, and went home in quite low spirits. With womanly shrewdness my wife harnessed the vest one day, and taking enough out of the back to make young Oakum two suits of home clothes, she returned it to me, saying she hoped I could make it go now, and get my money’s worth out of it at least. So, arter that, when I was unusually courageous, or got on a fit of despondency, and wanted all Broadway to think I was a mountebank retired to private life, or a three-card monte man revelling in the gay metropolis prior to his departure to Coney Island for the season, I lost myself in that gorgeous garment and groped over to the office. To say that my appearance elicited frequent and painful remarks from the operators about me would be but to faintly hint at the shower of slurs and innuendoes which my appearance, in connection with that vest, always provoked. It was on one of these occasions that I received the following message, sandwiched in between a half rate and a special, and checked seven words out of the way:

“Will Irving leave Lewistown? Young owes Unsworth. Every vessel expected remain. Smith has often ordered the things. He also transferred very early. Secure Thompson.”

The sender insisted there were thrity-one words, and, according to custom, went ahead period, when I found myself questioned as follows:

“Will you ever shoot that vest?”

By what means the interrogator, many miles distant, came to know of my magnificent article of apparel I leave to others to explain. Suffice it, that at this writing the cause of my tribulations forms an important feature in a rag carpet adorning my mother-in law’s back parlor. I am teaching all the vagabond boys in my neighborhood now to go down in front of that Chatham Street store and cry, “I sell sheep.” Not that it does those precious Jews any harm, but it amuses the boys. I have no conscientious qualms about this either; for while it may be regarded as a pernicious habit, it has been productive of good results—my especial favorite, who “was died” last night, having been resuscitated to an extent enabling him to bound over the counter and get out on to the teeming thoroughfare in precisely seven seconds—which isn’t slow for a dweller in that shady bourne from which no traveler returns. But, after all, the sending of those messages is no evidence of smartness. As long as they are sent to other people I enjoy them; but, somehow, I never can see the application of such things when my own dignity is involved.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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