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The Man Higher Up
by [?]

“‘Listen,’ says I. ‘I instruct her to keep her lamp clean and well filled. If she does that it can’t burst. And with the sand in it she knows it can’t, and she don’t worry. It’s a kind of Industrial Christian Science. She pays fifty cents, and gets both Rockefeller and Mrs. Eddy on the job. It ain’t everybody that can let the gold-dust twins do their work.’

“Alfred E. Ricks all but licks the dust off of Bill Bassett’s shoes.

“‘My dear young friend,’ says he, ‘I will never forget your generosity. Heaven will reward you. But let me implore you to turn from your ways of violence and crime.’

“‘Mousie,’ says Bill, ‘the hole in the wainscoting for yours. Your dogmas and inculcations sound to me like the last words of a bicycle pump. What has your high moral, elevator-service system of pillage brought you to? Penuriousness and want. Even Brother Peters, who insists upon contaminating the art of robbery with theories of commerce and trade, admitted he was on the lift. Both of you live by the gilded rule. Brother Peters,’ says Bill, ‘you’d better choose a slice of this embalmed currency. You’re welcome.’

“I told Bill Bassett once more to put his money in his pocket. I never had the respect for burglary that some people have. I always gave something for the money I took, even if it was only some little trifle for a souvenir to remind ’em not to get caught again.

“And then Alfred E. Ricks grovels at Bill’s feet again, and bids us adieu. He says he will have a team at a farmhouse, and drive to the station below, and take the train for Denver. It salubrified the atmosphere when that lamentable boll-worm took his departure. He was a disgrace to every non-industrial profession in the country. With all his big schemes and fine offices he had wound up unable even to get an honest meal except by the kindness of a strange and maybe unscrupulous burglar. I was glad to see him go, though I felt a little sorry for him, now that he was ruined forever. What could such a man do without a big capital to work with? Why, Alfred E. Ricks, as we left him, was as helpless as turtle on its back. He couldn’t have worked a scheme to beat a little girl out of a penny slate-pencil.

“When me and Bill Bassett was left alone I did a little sleight-of- mind turn in my head with a trade secret at the end of it. Thinks I, I’ll show this Mr. Burglar Man the difference between business and labor. He had hurt some of my professional self-adulation by casting his Persians upon commerce and trade.

“‘I won’t take any of your money as a gift, Mr. Bassett,’ says I to him, ‘but if you’ll pay my expenses as a travelling companion until we get out of the danger zone of the immoral deficit you have caused in this town’s finances to-night, I’ll be obliged.’

“Bill Bassett agreed to that, and we hiked westward as soon as we could catch a safe train.

“When we got to a town in Arizona called Los Perros I suggested that we once more try our luck on terra-cotta. That was the home of Montague Silver, my old instructor, now retired from business. I knew Monty would stake me to web money if I could show him a fly buzzing ’round the locality. Bill Bassett said all towns looked alike to him as he worked mainly in the dark. So we got off the train in Los Perros, a fine little town in the silver region.

“I had an elegant little sure thing in the way of a commercial slugshot that I intended to hit Bassett behind the ear with. I wasn’t going to take his money while he was asleep, but I was going to leave him with a lottery ticket that would represent in experience to him $4,755–I think that was the amount he had when we got off the train. But the first time I hinted to him about an investment, he turns on me and disencumbers himself of the following terms and expressions.