The Ethics of Pig
On an east-bound train I went into the smoker and found Jefferson Peters, the only man with a brain west of the Wabash River who can use his cerebrum cerebellum and medulla oblongata at the same time.
Jeff is in the line of unillegal graft. He is not to be dreaded by widows and orphans; he is a reducer of surplusage. His favourite disguise is that of the target-bird at which the spendthrift or the reckless investor may shy a few inconsequential dollars. He is readily vocalized by tobacco; so, with the aid of two thick and easy-burning brevas, I got the story of his latest Autolycan adventure.
In my line of business, said Jeff, the hardest thing is to find an upright, trustworthy, strictly honourable partner to graft with. Some of the best men I ever worked with in a swindle would resort to trickery at times.
So, last summer, I thinks I will go over into this section of country where I hear the serpent has not yet entered, and see if I can find a partner naturally gifted with a talent for crime, but not yet contaminated by success.
I found a village that seemed to show the right kind of a layout. The inhabitants hadnt found out that Adam had been dispossessed, and were going right along naming the animals and killing snakes just as if they were in the Garden of Eden. They call this town Mount Nebo, and its up near the spot where Kentucky and West Virginia and North Carolina corner together. Them States dont meet? Well, it was in that neighbourhood, anyway.
After putting in a week proving I wasnt a revenue officer, I went over to the store where the rude fourflushers of the hamlet lied, to see if I could get a line on the kind of man I wanted.
Gentlemen, says I, after we had rubbed noses and gathered around the dried-apple barrel. I dont suppose theres another community in the whole world into which sin and chicanery has less extensively permeated than this. Life here, where all the women are brave and propitious and all the men honest and expedient, must, indeed, be an idol. It reminds me, says I, of Goldsteins beautiful ballad entitled The Deserted Village, which says:
What art can drive its charms away?
The judge rode slowly down the lane, mother,
For Im to be Queen of the May.
Why, yes, Mr. Peters, says the storekeeper. I reckon we air about as moral and torpid a community as there be on the mounting, according to censuses of opinion; but I reckon you aint ever met Rufe Tatum.
Why, no, says the town constable, he cant hardly have ever. That air Rufe is shore the monstrousest scalawag that has escaped hangin on the galluses. And that puts me in mind that I ought to have turned Rufe out of the lock-up day before yesterday. The thirty days he got for killin Yance Goodloe was up then. A day or two more wont hurt Rufe any, though.
Shucks, now, says I, in the mountain idiom, dont tell me theres a man in Mount Nebo as bad as that.
Worse, says the storekeeper. He steals hogs.
I think I will look up this Mr. Tatum; so a day or two after the constable turned him out I got acquainted with him and invited him out on the edge of town to sit on a log and talk business.
What I wanted was a partner with a natural rural make-up to play a part some little one-act outrages that I was going to book with the Pitfall & Gin circuit in some of the Western towns; and this R. Tatum
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