The Tale of A Tainted Tenner
Money talks. But you may think that the conversation of a little old ten-dollar bill in New York would be nothing more than a whisper. Oh, very well! Pass up this sotto voce autobiography of an X if you like. If you are one of the kind that prefers to listen to John D.s chequebook roar at you through a megaphone as it passes by, all right. But dont forget that small change can say a word to the point now and then. The next time you tip your grocers clerk a silver quarter to give you extra weight of his bosss goods read the four words above the ladys head. How are they for repartee?
I am a ten-dollar Treasury note, series of 1901. You may have seen one in a friends hand. On my face, in the centre, is a picture of the bison Americanus, miscalled a buffalo by fifty or sixty millions of Americans. The heads of Capt. Lewis and Capt. Clark adorn the ends. On my back is the graceful figure of Liberty, or Ceres, or Maxine Elliott standing in the centre of the stage on a conservatory plant. My references isor areSection 3,588, Revised Statutes. Ten cold, hard dollarsI dont say whether silver, gold, lead or ironUncle Sam will hand you over his counter if you want to cash me in.
I beg you will excuse any conversational breaks that I makethanks, I knew you wouldgot that sneaking little respect and agreeable feeling toward even an X, havent you? You see, a tainted bill doesnt have much chance to acquire a correct form of expression. I never knew a really cultured and educated person that could afford to hold a tenspot any longer than it would take to do an Arthur Duffy to the nearest Thats All! sign or delicatessen store.
For a six-year-old, Ive had a lively and gorgeous circulation. I guess Ive paid as many debts as the man who dies. Ive been owned by a good many kinds of people. But a little old ragged, damp, dingy five-dollar silver certificate gave me a jar one day. I was next to it in the fat and bad-smelling purse of a butcher.
Hey, you Sitting Bull, says I, dont scrouge so. Anyhow, dont you think its about time you went in on a customs payment and got reissued? For a series of 1899 youre a sight.
Oh, dont get crackly just because youre a Buffalo bill, says the fiver. Youd be limp, too, if youd been stuffed down in a thick cotton-and-lisle-thread under an elastic all day, and the thermometer not a degree under 85 in the store.
I never heard of a pocket-book like that, says I. Who carried you?
A shop-girl, says the five-spot.
Whats that? I had to ask.
Youll never know till their millennium comes, says the fiver.
Just then a two-dollar bill behind me with a George Washington head, spoke up to the fiver:
Aw, cut out yer kicks. Aint lisle thread good enough for yer? If you was under all cotton like Ive been to-day, and choked up with factory dust till the lady with the cornucopia on me sneezed half a dozen times, youd have some reason to complain.
That was the next day after I arrived in New York. I came in a $500 package of tens to a Brooklyn bank from one of its Pennsylvania correspondentsand I havent made the acquaintance of any of the five and two spots friends pocket-books yet. Silk for mine, every time.
I was lucky money. I kept on the move. Sometimes I changed hands twenty times a day. I saw the inside of every business; I fought for my owners every pleasure. It seemed that on Saturday nights I never missed being slapped down on a bar. Tens were always slapped down, while ones and twos were slid over to the bartenders folded. I got in the habit of looking for mine, and I managed to soak in a little straight or some spilled Martini or Manhattan whenever I could. Once I got tied up a great greasy
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