"Many of our great men," said I (apropos of many things), "have
declared that they owe their success to the aid and encouragement of
some brilliant woman."
"I know," said Jeff Peters. "I've read in history and mythology about
Joan of Arc and Mme. Yale and Mrs. Caudle and Eve and other noted
females of the past. But, in my opinion, the woman of to-day is of
little use in politics or business. What's she best in, anyway?--men
make the best cooks, milliners, nurses, housekeepers, stenographers,
clerks, hairdressers and launderers. About the only job left that a
woman can beat a man in is female impersonator in vaudeville."
"I would have thought," said I, "that occasionally, anyhow, you would
have found the wit and intuition of woman valuable to you in your
"Now, wouldn't you," said Jeff, with an emphatic nod--"wouldn't you
have imagined that? But a woman is an absolutely unreliable partner in
any straight swindle. She's liable to turn honest on you when you are
depending upon her the most. I tried 'em once.
"Bill Humble, an old friend of mine in the Territories, conceived the
illusion that he wanted to be appointed United States Marshall. At
that time me and Andy was doing a square, legitimate business of
selling walking canes. If you unscrewed the head of one and turned it
up to your mouth a half pint of good rye whiskey would go trickling
down your throat to reward you for your act of intelligence. The
deputies was annoying me and Andy some, and when Bill spoke to me
about his officious aspirations, I saw how the appointment as Marshall
might help along the firm of Peters & Tucker.
"'Jeff,' says Bill to me, 'you are a man of learning and education,
besides having knowledge and information concerning not only rudiments
but facts and attainments.'
"'I do,' says I, 'and I have never regretted it. I am not one,' says
I, 'who would cheapen education by making it free. Tell me,' says I,
'which is of the most value to mankind, literature or horse racking?'
"'Why--er--, playing the po--I mean, of course, the poets and the
great writers have got the call, of course,' says Bill.
"'Exactly,' says I. 'Then why do the master minds of finance and
philanthropy,' says I, 'charge us $2 to get into a race-track and let
us into a library free? Is that distilling into the masses,' says I,
'a correct estimate of the relative value of the two means of self-
culture and disorder?'
"'You are arguing outside of my faculties of sense and rhetoric,' says
Bill. 'What I wanted you to do is to go to Washington and dig out this
appointment for me. I haven't no ideas of cultivation and intrigue.
I'm a plain citizen and I need the job. I've killed seven men,' says
Bill; 'I've got nine children; I've been a good Republican ever since
the first of May; I can't read nor write, and I see no reason why I
ain't illegible for the office. And I think your partner, Mr. Tucker,'
goes on Bill, 'is also a man of sufficient ingratiation and connected
system of mental delinquency to assist you in securing the
appointment. I will give you preliminary,' says Bill, '$1,000 for
drinks, bribes and carfare in Washington. If you land the job I will
pay you $1,000 more, cash down, and guarantee you impunity in boot-
legging whiskey for twelve months. Are you patriotic to the West
enough to help me put this thing through the Whitewashed Wigwam of the
Great Father of the most eastern flag station of the Pennsylvania
Railroad?' says Bill.
"Well, I talked to Andy about it, and he liked the idea immense. Andy
was a man of an involved nature. He was never content to plod along,
as I was, selling to the peasantry some little tool like a combination
steak beater, shoe horn, marcel waver, monkey wrench, nail file,
potato masher and Multum in Parvo tuning fork. Andy had the artistic
temper, which is not to be judged as a preacher's or a moral man's is
by purely commercial deflections. So we accepted Bill's offer, and
strikes out for Washington.
"Says I to Andy, when we get located at a hotel on South Dakota
Avenue, G.S.S.W. 'Now Andy, for the first time in our lives we've got
to do a real dishonest act. Lobbying is something we've never been
used to; but we've got to scandalize ourselves for Bill Humble's sake.
In a straight and legitimate business,' says I, 'we could afford to
introduce a little foul play and chicanery, but in a disorderly and
heinous piece of malpractice like this it seems to me that the
straightforward and aboveboard way is the best. I propose,' says I,
'that we hand over $500 of this money to the chairman of the national
campaign committee, get a receipt, lay the receipt on the President's
desk and tell him about Bill. The President is a man who would
appreciate a candidate who went about getting office that way instead
of pulling wires.'
"Andy agreed with me, but after we talked the scheme over with the
hotel clerk we give that plan up. He told us that there was only one
way to get an appointment in Washington, and that was through a lady
lobbyist. He gave us the address of one he recommended, a Mrs. Avery,
who he said was high up in sociable and diplomatic rings and circles.
"The next morning at 10 o'clock me and Andy called at her hotel, and
was shown up to her reception room.
"This Mrs. Avery was a solace and a balm to the eyesight. She had hair
the color of the back of a twenty dollar gold certificate, blue eyes
and a system of beauty that would make the girl on the cover of a July
magazine look like a cook on a Monongahela coal barge.
"She had on a low necked dress covered with silver spangles, and
diamond rings and ear bobs. Her arms was bare; and she was using a
desk telephone with one hand, and drinking tea with the other.
"'Well, boys,' says she after a bit, 'what is it?'
"I told her in as few words as possible what we wanted for Bill, and
the price we could pay.
"'Those western appointments,' says she, 'are easy. Le'me see, now,'
says she, 'who could put that through for us. No use fooling with the
Territorial delegates. I guess,' says she, 'that Senator Sniper would
be about the man. He's from somewheres in the West. Let's see how he
stands on my private menu card.' She takes some papers out of a
pigeon-hole with the letter 'S' over it.
"'Yes,' says she, 'he's marked with a star; that means "ready to
serve." Now, let's see. "Age 55; married twice; Presbyterian, likes
blondes, Tolstoi, poker and stewed terrapin; sentimental at third
bottle of wine." Yes,' she goes on, 'I am sure I can have your friend,
Mr. Bummer, appointed Minister to Brazil.'
"'Humble,' says I. 'And United States Marshal was the berth.'
"'Oh, yes,' says Mrs. Avery. 'I have so many deals of this sort I
sometimes get them confused. Give me all the memoranda you have of the
case, Mr. Peters, and come back in four days. I think it can be
arranged by then.'
"So me and Andy goes back to our hotel and waits. Andy walks up and
down and chews the left end of his mustache.
"'A woman of high intellect and perfect beauty is a rare thing, Jeff,'
"'As rare,' says I, 'as an omelet made from the eggs of the fabulous
bird known as the epidermis,' says I.
"'A woman like that,' says Andy, 'ought to lead a man to the highest
positions of opulence and fame.'
"'I misdoubt,' says I, 'if any woman ever helped a man to secure a job
any more than to have his meals ready promptly and spread a report
that the other candidate's wife had once been a shoplifter. They are
no more adapted for business and politics,' says I, 'than Algernon
Charles Swinburne is to be floor manager at one of Chuck Connor's
annual balls. I know,' says I to Andy, 'that sometimes a woman seems
to step out into the kalsomine light as the charge d'affaires of her
man's political job. But how does it come out? Say, they have a neat
little berth somewhere as foreign consul of record to Afghanistan or
lockkeeper on the Delaware and Raritan Canal. One day this man finds
his wife putting on her overshoes and three months supply of bird seed
into the canary's cage. "Sioux Falls?" he asks with a kind of hopeful
light in his eye. "No, Arthur," says she, "Washington. We're wasted
here," says she. "You ought to be Toady Extraordinary to the Court of
St. Bridget or Head Porter of the Island of Porto Rico. I'm going to
see about it."
"'Then this lady,' I says to Andy, 'moves against the authorities at
Washington with her baggage and munitions, consisting of five dozen
indiscriminating letters written to her by a member of the Cabinet
when she was 15; a letter of introduction from King Leopold to the
Smithsonian Institution, and a pink silk costume with canary colored
"'Well and then what?' I goes. 'She has the letters printed in the
evening papers that match her costume, she lectures at an informal tea
given in the palm room of the B. & O. Depot and then calls on the
President. The ninth Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Labor, the
first aide-de-camp of the Blue Room and an unidentified colored man
are waiting there to grasp her by the hands--and feet. They carry her
out to S.W.B. street and leave her on a cellar door. That ends it. The
next time we hear of her she is writing postcards to the Chinese
Minister asking him to get Arthur a job in a tea store.'
"'Then,' says Andy, 'you don't think Mrs. Avery will land the
Marshalship for Bill?'
"'I do not,' says I. 'I do not wish to be a sceptic, but I doubt if
she can do as well as you and me could have done.'
"'I don't agree with you,' says Andy. 'I'll bet you she does. I'm
proud of having a higher opinion of the talent and the powers of
negotiation of ladies.'
"We was back at Mrs. Avery's hotel at the time she appointed. She was
looking pretty and fine enough, as far as that went, to make any man
let her name every officer in the country. But I hadn't much faith in
looks, so I was certainly surprised when she pulls out a document with
the great seal of the United States on it, and 'William Henry Humble'
in a fine, big hand on the back.
"'You might have had it the next day, boys,' says Mrs. Avery, smiling.
'I hadn't the slightest trouble in getting it,' says she. 'I just
asked for it, that's all. Now, I'd like to talk to you a while,' she
goes on, 'but I'm awfully busy, and I know you'll excuse me. I've got
an Ambassadorship, two Consulates and a dozen other minor applications
to look after. I can hardly find time to sleep at all. You'll give my
compliments to Mr. Humble when you get home, of course.'
"Well, I handed her the $500, which she pitched into her desk drawer
without counting. I put Bill's appointment in my pocket and me and
Andy made our adieus.
"We started back for the Territory the same day. We wired Bill: 'Job
landed; get the tall glasses ready,' and we felt pretty good.
"Andy joshed me all the way about how little I knew about women.
"'All right,' says I. 'I'll admit that she surprised me. But it's the
first time I ever knew one of 'em to manipulate a piece of business on
time without getting it bungled up in some way,' says I.
"Down about the edge of Arkansas I got out Bill's appointment and
looked it over, and then I handed it to Andy to read. Andy read it,
but didn't add any remarks to my silence.
"The paper was for Bill, all right, and a genuine document, but it
appointed him postmaster of Dade City, Fla.
"Me and Andy got off the train at Little Rock and sent Bill's
appointment to him by mail. Then we struck northeast toward Lake
"I never saw Bill Humble after that."