Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Efficiency Expert


"I'm taking it from an old crab who has more than he can use, and all of it he got by robbing people that didn't have any to spare. He's a big guy here. When anything big is doing the newspaper guys interview him and his name is in all the lists of subscriptions to charity--when they're going to be published in the papers. I'll bet he takes nine-tenths of his kale from women and children, and he's an honored citizen. I ain't no angel, but whatever I've taken didn't cause nobody any sufferin'--I'm a thief, bo, and I'm mighty proud of it when I think of what this other guy is."

Thirty per cent of fifty thousand dollars! Jimmy was sitting with his legs crossed. He looked down at his ill-fitting, shabby trousers, and then turned up the sole of one shoe which was worn through almost to his sock. The Lizard watched him as a cat watches a mouse. He knew that the other was thinking hard, and that presently he would reach a decision, and through Jimmy's mind marched a sordid and hateful procession of recent events--humiliation, rebuff, shame, poverty, hunger, and in the background the face of his father and the face of a girl whose name, even, he did not know.

Presently he looked up at the Lizard.

"Nothing doing, old top," he said. "But don't mistake the motives which prompt me to refuse your glittering offer. I am moved by no moral scruples, however humiliating such a confession should be. The way I feel now I would almost as lief go out and rob widows and orphans myself, but each of us, some time in our life, has to consider some one who would probably rather see us dead than disgraced. I don't know whether you get me or not."

"I get you," replied the Lizard, "and while you may never wear diamonds, you'll get more pleasure out of life than I ever will, provided you don't starve to death too soon. You know, I had a hunch you would turn me down, and I'm glad you did. If you were going crooked some time I thought I'd like to have you with me. When it comes to men, I'm a pretty good picker. That's the reason I have kept out of jail so long. I either pick a square one or I work alone."

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