“‘Well, the great ice jams, Profess!’ says Scudder. ’Have you found the other one? Me sell? No. I don’t guess Cornelius Scudder needs to sell anything that he wants to keep. Have you got the carving with you, Profess?’
“I shows it to Scudder. He examines it careful all over.
“‘It’s the article,’ says he. ’It’s a duplicate of mine, every line and curve of it. Tell you what I’ll do,’ he says. ’I won’t sell, but I’ll buy. Give you $2,500 for yours.’
“‘Since you won’t sell, I will,’ says I. ’Large bills, please. I’m a man of few words. I must return to New York to-night. I lecture to-morrow at the aquarium.’
“Scudder sends a check down and the hotel cashes it. He goes off with his piece of antiquity and I hurry back to Andy’s hotel, according to arrangement.
“Andy is walking up and down the room looking at his watch.
“‘Well?’ he says.
“‘Twenty-five hundred,’ says I. ‘Cash.’
“‘We’ve got just eleven minutes,’ says Andy, ’to catch the B. & O. westbound. Grab your baggage.’
“‘What’s the hurry,’ says I. ’It was a square deal. And even if it was only an imitation of the original carving it’ll take him some time to find it out. He seemed to be sure it was the genuine article.’
“‘It was,’ says Andy. ’It was his own. When I was looking at his curios yesterday he stepped out of the room for a moment and I pocketed it. Now, will you pick up your suit case and hurry?’
“‘Then,’ says I, ’why was that story about finding another one in the pawn—’
“‘Oh,’ says Andy, ’out of respect for that conscience of yours. Come on.’”
Across our two dishes of spaghetti, in a corner of Provenzano’s restaurant, Jeff Peters was explaining to me the three kinds of graft.
Every winter Jeff comes to New York to eat spaghetti, to watch the shipping in East River from the depths of his chinchilla overcoat, and to lay in a supply of Chicago-made clothing at one of the Fulton street stores. During the other three seasons he may be found further west—his range is from Spokane to Tampa. In his profession he takes a pride which he supports and defends with a serious and unique philosophy of ethics. His profession is no new one. He is an incorporated, uncapitalized, unlimited asylum for the reception of the restless and unwise dollars of his fellowmen.
In the wilderness of stone in which Jeff seeks his annual lonely holiday he is glad to palaver of his many adventures, as a boy will whistle after sundown in a wood. Wherefore, I mark on my calendar the time of his coming, and open a question of privilege at Provenzano’s concerning the little wine-stained table in the corner between the rakish rubber plant and the framed palazzio della something on the wall.
“There are two kinds of graft,” said Jeff, “that ought to be wiped out by law. I mean Wall Street speculation, and burglary.”