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Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking
by [?]

Whistling Dick had known Boston Harry of old, and knew him to be one of the shrewdest and most successful of his brotherhood. He looked like a prosperous stock-drover or solid merchant from some country village. He was stout and hale, with a ruddy, always smoothly shaven face. His clothes were strong and neat, and he gave special attention to his decent-appearing shoes. During the past ten years he had acquired a reputation for working a larger number of successfully managed confidence games than any of his acquaintances, and he had not a day’s work to be counted against him. It was rumoured among his associates that he had saved a considerable amount of money. The four other men were fair specimens of the slinking, ill-clad, noisome genus who carried their labels of “suspicious” in plain view.

After the bottom of the large can had been scraped, and pipes lit at the coals, two of the men called Boston aside and spake with him lowly and mysteriously. He nodded decisively, and then said aloud to Whistling Dick:

“Listen, sonny, to some plain talky-talk. We five are on a lay. I’ve guaranteed you to be square, and you’re to come in on the profits equal with the boys, and you’ve got to help. Two hundred hands on this plantation are expecting to be paid a week’s wages to-morrow morning. To-morrow’s Christmas, and they want to lay off. Says the boss: ‘Work from five to nine in the morning to get a train load of sugar off, and I’ll pay every man cash down for the week and a day extra.’ They say: ‘Hooray for the boss! It goes.’ He drives to Noo Orleans to-day, and fetches back the cold dollars. Two thousand and seventy-four fifty is the amount. I got the figures from a man who talks too much, who got ’em from the bookkeeper. The boss of this plantation thinks he’s going to pay this wealth to the hands. He’s got it down wrong; he’s going to pay it to us. It’s going to stay in the leisure class, where it belongs. Now, half of this haul goes to me, and the other half the rest of you may divide. Why the difference? I represent the brains. It’s my scheme. Here’s the way we’re going to get it. There’s some company at supper in the house, but they’ll leave about nine. They’ve just happened in for an hour or so. If they don’t go pretty soon, we’ll work the scheme anyhow. We want all night to get away good with the dollars. They’re heavy. About nine o’clock Deaf Pete and Blinky’ll go down the road about a quarter beyond the house, and set fire to a big cane-field there that the cutters haven’t touched yet. The wind’s just right to have it roaring in two minutes. The alarm’ll be given, and every man Jack about the place will be down there in ten minutes, fighting fire. That’ll leave the money sacks and the women alone in the house for us to handle. You’ve heard cane burn? Well, there’s mighty few women can screech loud enough to be heard above its crackling. The thing’s dead safe. The only danger is in being caught before we can get far enough away with the money. Now, if you–“

“Boston,” interrupted Whistling Dick, rising to his feet, “T’anks for the grub yous fellers has given me, but I’ll be movin’ on now.”

“What do you mean?” asked Boston, also rising.

“W’y, you can count me outer dis deal. You oughter know that. I’m on de bum all right enough, but dat other t’ing don’t go wit’ me. Burglary is no good. I’ll say good night and many t’anks fer–“

Whistling Dick had moved away a few steps as he spoke, but he stopped very suddenly. Boston had covered him with a short revolver of roomy calibre.

“Take your seat,” said the tramp leader. “I’d feel mighty proud of myself if I let you go and spoil the game. You’ll stick right in this camp until we finish the job. The end of that brick pile is your limit. You go two inches beyond that, and I’ll have to shoot. Better take it easy, now.”