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The Girl And The Graft
by [?]

The other day I ran across my old friend Ferguson Pogue. Pogue is a conscientious grafter of the highest type. His headquarters is the Western Hemisphere, and his line of business is anything from speculating in town lots on the Great Staked Plains to selling wooden toys in Connecticut, made by hydraulic pressure from nutmegs ground to a pulp.

Now and then when Pogue has made a good haul he comes to New York for a rest. He says the jug of wine and loaf of bread and Thou in the wilderness business is about as much rest and pleasure to him as sliding down the bumps at Coney would be to President Taft. “Give me,” says Pogue, “a big city for my vacation. Especially New York. I’m not much fond of New Yorkers, and Manhattan is about the only place on the globe where I don’t find any.”

While in the metropolis Pogue can always be found at one of two places. One is a little second-hand bookshop on Fourth Avenue, where he reads books about his hobbies, Mahometanism and taxidermy. I found him at the other–his hall bedroom in Eighteenth Street–where he sat in his stocking feet trying to pluck “The Banks of the Wabash” out of a small zither. Four years he has practised this tune without arriving near enough to cast the longest trout line to the water’s edge. On the dresser lay a blued- steel Colt’s forty-five and a tight roll of tens and twenties large enough around to belong to the spring rattlesnake-story class. A chambermaid with a room-cleaning air fluttered nearby in the hall, unable to enter or to flee, scandalized by the stocking feet, aghast at the Colt’s, yet powerless, with her metropolitan instincts, to remove herself beyond the magic influence of the yellow-hued roll.

I sat on his trunk while Ferguson Pogue talked. No one could be franker or more candid in his conversation. Beside his expression the cry of Henry James for lacteal nourishment at the age of one month would have seemed like a Chaldean cryptogram. He told me stories of his profession with pride, for he considered it an art. And I was curious enough to ask him whether he had known any women who followed it.

“Ladies?” said Pogue, with Western chivalry. “Well, not to any great extent. They don’t amount to much in special lines of graft, because they’re all so busy in general lines. What? Why, they have to. Who’s got the money in the world? The men. Did you ever know a man to give a woman a dollar without any consideration? A man will shell out his dust to another man free and easy and gratis. But if he drops a penny in one of the machines run by the Madam Eve’s Daughters’ Amalgamated Association and the pineapple chewing gum don’t fall out when he pulls the lever you can hear him kick to the superintendent four blocks away. Man is the hardest proposition a woman has to go up against. He’s the low-grade one, and she has to work overtime to make him pay. Two times out of five she’s salted. She can’t put in crushers and costly machinery. He’d notice ’em and be onto the game. They have to pan out what they get, and it hurts their tender hands. Some of ’em are natural sluice troughs and can carry out $1,000 to the ton. The dry-eyed ones have to depend on signed letters, false hair, sympathy, the kangaroo walk, cowhide whips, ability to cook, sentimental juries, conversational powers, silk underskirts, ancestry, rouge, anonymous letters, violet sachet powders, witnesses, revolvers, pneumatic forms, carbolic acid, moonlight, cold cream and the evening newspapers.”