A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
When a man swindles the public out of a certain amount he begins to get scared and wants to return part of it. And if you’ll watch close and notice the way his charity runs you’ll see that he tries to restore it to the same people he got it from.
This 1908 story is narrated by one of O. Henry’s recurring characters, “The Gentle Grafter” Jeff Peters. Jeff hilariously mangles the English language while telling how he and his buddy Andy Tucker once flourished as philanthropists.
After hightailing it out of Tucson—where they sold a lucrative silver mine that was only lacking in silver—they stop in a small frontier town where their consciences convince them to set up, of all things, a University.
“The World’s University: Peters and Tucker, Patrons and Proprietors” is pretty successful for the first couple months. Then Jeff realizes that their rambunctious student body are hardly charity cases, consisting mostly of “sons of wealthy miners and stockmen.” It doesn’t take long for Jeff and Andy’s philanthropy to take a turn for their benefit.
It’s a clever story and still a funny one 107 years later. O. Henry’s knack for dialect, not to mention playful language in general, really shines. I guarantee you won’t feel swindled out of the ten minutes it takes to read it.