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The Girl And The Graft
by [?]

“‘Get anything out of that?’ I asks.

“‘That reminds me,’ says he; ‘add $8.50 for perpsin. Yes, I got indigestion.’

“‘How am I supposed to push along your scramble for prominence?’ I inquires. ‘Contrast?’

“‘Something of that sort to-night,’ says Vaucross. ‘It grieves me; but I am forced to resort to eccentricity.’ And here he drops his napkin in his soup and rises up and bows to a gent who is devastating a potato under a palm across the room.

“‘The Police Commissioner,’ says my climber, gratified. ‘Friend’, says I, in a hurry, ‘have ambitions but don’t kick a rung out of your ladder. When you use me as a stepping stone to salute the police you spoil my appetite on the grounds that I may be degraded and incriminated. Be thoughtful.’

“At the Quaker City squab en casserole the idea about Artemisia Blye comes to me.

“‘Suppose I can manage to get you in the papers,’ says I–‘a column or two every day in all of ’em and your picture in most of ’em for a week. How much would it be worth to you?’

“‘Ten thousand dollars,’ says Vaucross, warm in a minute. ‘But no murder,’ says he; ‘and I won’t wear pink pants at a cotillon.’

“‘I wouldn’t ask you to,’ says I. ‘This is honorable, stylish and uneffiminate. Tell the waiter to bring a demi tasse and some other beans, and I will disclose to you the opus moderandi.’

“We closed the deal an hour later in the rococo rouge et noise room. I telegraphed that night to Miss Artemisia in Salina. She took a couple of photographs and an autograph letter to an elder in the Fourth Presbyterian Church in the morning, and got some transportation and $80. She stopped in Topeka long enough to trade a flashlight interior and a valentine to the vice-president of a trust company for a mileage book and a package of five-dollar notes with $250 scrawled on the band.

“The fifth evening after she got my wire she was waiting, all d’ecollet’ee and dressed up, for me and Vaucross to take her to dinner in one of these New York feminine apartment houses where a man can’t get in unless he plays bezique and smokes depilatory powder cigarettes.

“‘She’s a stunner,’ says Vaucross when he saw her. ‘They’ll give her a two-column cut sure.’

“This was the scheme the three of us concocted. It was business straight through. Vaucross was to rush Miss Blye with all the style and display and emotion he could for a month. Of course, that amounted to nothing as far as his ambitions were concerned. The sight of a man in a white tie and patent leather pumps pouring greenbacks through the large end of a cornucopia to purchase nutriment and heartsease for tall, willowy blondes in New York is as common a sight as blue turtles in delirium tremens. But he was to write her love letters–the worst kind of love letters, such as your wife publishes after you are dead–every day. At the end of the month he was to drop her, and she would bring suit for $100,000 for breach of promise.

“Miss Artemisia was to get $10,000. If she won the suit that was all; and if she lost she was to get it anyhow. There was a signed contract to that effect.

“Sometimes they had me out with ’em, but not often. I couldn’t keep up to their style. She used to pull out his notes and criticize them like bills of lading.

“‘Say, you!’ she’d say. ‘What do you call this–letter to a Hardware Merchant from His Nephew on Learning that His Aunt Has Nettlerash? You Eastern duffers know as much about writing love letters as a Kansas grasshopper does about tugboats. “My dear Miss Blye!”–wouldn’t that put pink icing and a little red sugar bird on your bridal cake? How long do you expect to hold an audience in a court-room with that kind of stuff? You want to get down to business, and call me “Tweedlums Babe” and “Honeysuckle,” and sing yourself “Mama’s Own Big Bad Puggy Wuggy Boy” if you want any limelight to concentrate upon your sparse gray hairs. Get sappy.’

“After that Vaucross dipped his pen in the indelible tabasco. His notes read like something or other in the original. I could see a jury sitting up, and women tearing one another’s hats to hear ’em read. And I could see piling up for Mr. Vaucross as much notoriousness as Archbishop Crammer or the Brooklyn Bridge or cheese-on-salad ever enjoyed. He seemed mighty pleased at the prospects.

“They agreed on a night; and I stood on Fifth Avenue outside a solemn restaurant and watched ’em. A process-server walked in and handed Vaucross the papers at this table. Everybody looked at ’em; and he looked as proud as Cicero. I went back to my room and lit a five-cent cigar, for I knew the $10,000 was as good as ours.

“About two hours later somebody knocked at my door. There stood Vaucross and Miss Artemisia, and she was clinging–yes, sir, clinging–to his arm. And they tells me they’d been out and got married. And they articulated some trivial cadences about love and such. And they laid down a bundle on the table and said ‘Good night’ and left.

“And that’s why I say,” concluded Ferguson Pogue, “that a woman is too busy occupied with her natural vocation and instinct of graft such as is given her for self-preservation and amusement to make any great success in special lines.”

“What was in the bundle they left?” I asked, with my usual curiosity.

“Why,” said Ferguson, “there was a scalper’s railroad ticket as far as Kansas City and two pairs of Mr. Vaucross’s old pants.”