Conscience in Art
I never could hold my partner, Andy Tucker, down to legitimate ethics of pure swindling, said Jeff Peters to me one day.
Andy had too much imagination to be honest. He used to devise schemes of money-getting so fraudulent and high-financial that they wouldnt have been allowed in the by-laws of a railroad rebate system.
Myself, I never believed in taking any mans dollars unless I gave him something for itsomething in the way of rolled gold jewellery, garden seeds, lumbago lotion, stock certificates, stove polish or a crack on the head to show for his money. I guess I must have had New England ancestors away back and inherited some of their staunch and rugged fear of the police.
But Andys family tree was in different kind. I dont think he could have traced his descent any further back than a corporation.
One summer while he was in the Middle West, working down the Ohio valley with a line of family albums, headache powders and roach destroyer, Andy takes one of his notions of high and actionable financiering.
Jeff, says he, Ive been thinking that we ought to drop these rutabaga fanciers and give our attention to something more nourishing and prolific. If we keep on snapshooting these hinds for their egg money well be classed as nature fakers. How about plunging into the fastnesses of the sky-scraper country and biting some big bull caribous in the chest?
Well, says I, you know my idiosyncrasies. I prefer a square, non-illegal style of business such as we are carrying on now. When I take money I want to leave some tangible object in the other fellows hands for him to gaze at and to distract his attention from my spoor, even if its only a Komical Kuss Trick Finger Ring for Squirting Perfume in a Friends Eye. But if youve got a fresh idea, Andy, says I, lets have a look at it. Im not so wedded to petty graft that I would refuse something better in the way of a subsidy.
I was thinking, says Andy, of a little hunt without horn, hound or camera among the great herd of the Midas Americanus, commonly known as the Pittsburg millionaires.
In New York? I asks.
No, sir, says Andy, in Pittsburg. Thats their habitat. They dont like New York. They go there now and then just because its expected of em.
A Pittsburg millionaire in New York is like a fly in a cup of hot coffeehe attracts attention and comment, but he dont enjoy it. New York ridicules him for blowing so much money in that town of sneaks and snobs, and sneers. The truth is, he dont spend anything while he is there. I saw a memorandum of expenses for a ten-days trip to Bunkum Town made by a Pittsburg man worth $15,000,000 once. Heres the way he set it down:
Thats the voice of New York, goes on Andy. The towns nothing but a head waiter. If you tip it too much itll go and stand by the door and make fun of you to the hat check boy. When a Pittsburger wants to spend money and have a good time he stays at home. Thats where well go to catch him.
Well, to make a dense story more condensed, me and Andy cached our Paris green and antipyrine powders and albums in a friends cellar, and took the trail to Pittsburg. Andy didnt have any especial prospectus of chicanery and violence drawn up, but he always had plenty of confidence that his immoral nature would rise to any occasion that presented itself.
As a concession to my ideas of self-preservation and rectitude he promised that if I should take an active and incriminating part in any little business venture that we might work up there should be something
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