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Forty Modern Fables, by George Ade, [1901], at

The Fable of The Sure-Thing Crook & The Town of Nubbinville

    THERE was once a Grafter who would do anything for Money, I. . except Work.

     He had acted as Capper and Plugger for all sorts of Shady Enterprises. He had helped to operate every variety of Skin Game on the Farmers who come out of the Union Station carrying Telescope Valises and Shoe Boxes full of Lunch. He had given the quick Zing-Zing to Cattlemen who hang around and invite Trouble after they have drawn their Money. He stood in with the Police and knew an Alderman and the Law had no Terrors for him.

    In fact, the Grafter thought he was one of the Brightest and Best. When the Fish were running and the Nets came up heavy he would wear a large Stone in front and smoke a 15-Center with a Gold Label on it.

    One Spring there was an Election coming, so the Authorities suddenly discovered that the Town was Bad. They closed everything tighter than a Drum. The Pool Rooms, Poker Joints, Brace Faro Games, Policy Shops, Opium Dens, Crap Parlors, and in fact nearly all the Sporting Centers, except the Stock Exchange, put up the Green Shutters and went out of Business until the periodical Spasm had played itself out. The Police were so Vigilant that any one who dropped a Penny in the Slot to get a stick of Wintergreen Gum was taking his life in his Hands.

    During this Season of Depression the accomplished City Grafter decided that he would go out among the Jays and try to scare up two or three Green Wrappers for his rapidly diminishing Roll.

    He had a Scheme for coaxing Money out of those who want to get Something for Nothing. His Lay was to sell 18-Carat Jewelry at a Nominal Price, in order to introduce the Goods, and then put Real Money in the Boxes as an Extra Inducement. One Corner of the Greenback was allowed to Protrude as an Evidence of Good Faith.

    The Grafter had a Satchel filled with Tin Jewelry and Alaska Diamonds, just received from the Glass Works, when he descended on a Flag Station called Nubbinville, which is near the Jumping-Off Place in Pike County. It was one of these Towns that seemed to be trying to hold two Farms apart. When you are passing it on a Train it Leaves Off and you are out in the Country again before you have time to ask the Name.

    The well-dressed Shark from the City hoped to do well. He stood up on a Dry-Goods Box at the Principal Corner and made a Hurry-Up Call and began to give away "Friendship" Rings in order to whet the Interest.

    Just as he was elucidating his Unselfish Motives for the benefit of the Male Residents, who. were looking up at him with their Mouths open, the Town Marshal came racking down the middle of the Street with a piece of Sapling in one hand and a Star on his Coat.

    The Marshal needed Money that Day. He drew a Salary every Month, but it was so Small that if it had been paid to him in Pig Iron he could have carried it Home all right. But he got his Bit every time he Pinched any one. So he had to Arrest somebody about once so often in order to have enough for Groceries and Fuel. This Official did not find it advisable to put his Constits into the Cooler, because he was around every Year asking them to vote for him. But if a Hired Hand came in and accumulated a Sosh, or if any Stranger began to act New along Main Street, he was Jerked Up in less than no Time. And one of them Thimble-Riggers from the City was justly regarded as Meat.

    So the Representative of the Dignity and Majesty of the Law broke through the Crowd and introduced himself.

    "If you are the Town Marshal, as you say, I will ask you to remain here while I am giving my Lecture and Free Entertainment and if any one makes any Trouble, you arrest him," quoth the diplomatic Grafter.

    But the Town Marshal was not to be stalled off. He said he wanted $2 for a License Fee right away or he would put the Grafter into the Hen-House so quick it would make his Head swim. So the Grafter gave up Two and started in to mix up the Little Boxes and the Town Marshal arrested him for Swindling and led him over to the Calaboose.

    The next thing to do was to send for the Squire.

    He was out trimming a Hedge, but when he heard that there was some Easy Money down town, he put on his Black Coat and got out his Revised Statutes.

    The Squire and the Town Marshal backed the Grafter up into one Corner of the Calaboose and made him stand for a Search. They found nearly $80 on him, so they advised him to get a Lawyer and told him they would do the Fair Thing by him and give him a Jury Trial.

    The Marshal happened to have 12 Personal Friends who had not been Working for a number of Years, so he went over to the General Store, where they were wont to Congregate and Criticize the Government, and summoned them to serve as Jurors. He told them it would not take long because the man was Guilty.

    At the Trial the Prosecutor made a pathetic Spiel about the Honest Laboring Man who is done out of his Money by Designing Villains who live in the City. The Peers who were trying the Case shifted their Cuds and looked Serious. The Attorney for the Defendant collected his Fee in Advance and then advised his Client to Plead Guilty.

    When the Evidence was in, the Squire gave the Twelve Good Men and True a few Instructions. He said if they found the Defendant Guilty they would receive $1.25 each in the Way of Fees. If they found him Not Guilty they would get what the boy shot at.

    The Jury was out about Four Minutes by the Watch. They Soaked him $10 and Costs; especially the Costs, because that was where the Home Talent came in. By the time the Squire, the Marshal, the Prosecutor, the Attorney for the Defence, the Clerk and the Twelve Jurors cut into the Eighty, they had it reduced to $53.75.

    After the Prisoner had settled, the Squire took him aside and told him he hoped there would be no Hard Feelings as they merely done their Duty, and to prove to him that they didn't have it In for him, they would permit him to Sit in a little Game of Poker in the back room of the Harness Shop. They knew that he had the $53.75. The misguided Grafter thought he saw a chance to pull back some of his Stuff, so he willingly consented to hold a few Hands.

    Now, a Man never knows what Poker is until he gets into one of these Country Games back of the Harness Shop. The Outsider who caroms against that Outfit might as well Hand them his Money when he goes in and then start for Home and get some Sleep. No matter how long he stays or how Close he plays them, the Local Combine is going to flounce him and flounce him Right, because they need the Money. They can't Lose. They are the Boys who invented Poker. They may not wear Link Cuff-Buttons or be Up on' the Songs of the Day, but when it comes to Realizing on what they Hold they are so many Calla Lilies.

    All the Money that went into that Cut-Throat Game was Money that the Grafter had brought into Town with him. The Squire, the Clerk, the Prosecutor, the Attorney for the Defence and the Marshal pulled off their Coats and lit "Nellie Gray" Cigars and moved up to the Table, and by the Time they got through with Mr. Grafter they had the $53.75 and the Satchel full of Fake Jewelry, and he was putting up his Watch to get the Price of a Ticket to the Great City where the Slick People live.

MORAL: For a proper Shake-Down take the Small Town.

Next: The Fable of The Foozie and The Successful Approach