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Old 08-01-2017, 07:33 AM   #1
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Cobb, Irvin S.: Sundry Accounts (collected shorts). v1. 02 Aug 2017

SUNDRY ACCOUNTS
A collection of short stories BY IRVIN S. COBB (1876–1944)

The contents of this book first appeared 1915–1922 in various magazines. This collection, Sundry Accounts, was published in 1922. Text is in the public domain in countries where copyright is “Life + 70” or less, and in the USA.
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Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb was an American author, humorist, editor, and columnist from Paducah, Kentucky who relocated to New York in 1904 for the remainder of his life, writing for the New York “World”, “The Saturday Evening Post”, “Cosmopolitan”, and other newspapers and magazines. Cobb wrote more than 300 short stories and 60 books (most of these being collections of his stories and articles). Some of his works were adapted for film.

Cobb was one of America’s most popular humorists during the first third of the 20th century, but his writing was not limited to comedy only. His descriptive writing was masterful, and his stories were often dramatic, poignant, tragic – even terror-ridden.

Herewith, a tasty buffet serving up tidbits of the many flavors of Irvin S. Cobb.

EXCERPT (from “Worth 10,000”)
Spoiler:
You might have called Vincent C. Marr a self-made man and be making no mistake about it. For he was self-made; not merely self-assembled, as so many men are who attain distinction in this profession or that calling. Entirely through his own efforts, with only his native wit to light the way for him, he had pulled himself up, step by step, from the very bottom of his trade to the very top of it. His trade was the applied trade of crookedness; his pursuit the pursuit of other folks’ cash resources. He had the envy and admiration of his friends in allied branches of the same general industry; he had the begrudged respect of his official enemies, the police; while his accomplishments – the tricks he pulled, the coups he scored, the purses he garnered – were discussed and praised by the human nits and lice of the Seamy Side, just as the achievements in a legitimate field of a Hill or a Schwab or a Rockefeller might be talked of among petty shopkeepers and little business men. He had, as the phrase goes, everything – imagination, resource, ingenuity, audacity, utter ruthlessness.

Yet it would seem hard to conceive a more humble beginning than his had been. His father was a cobbler in a little West Virginia coal town. At sixteen he ran away from home to go with a small circus. This circus was a traveling shield for all manner of rough extortioners. Card sharps, shell workers, petermen, sneak thieves, pickpockets, even burglars rode its train. They had a saying that the owner of this show sold the safe-blowing privileges outright but retained a one-third interest in the hold-up concession. That was a whimsical exaggeration of what perhaps had a kernel of truth in it. Certainly it was the fact of the case that the owner depended more upon his lion’s cut of the swag which the trailing jackals amassed than upon the intake at the ticket windows. Bad weather might kill his business for a week; a crop failure might lame it for a month; but the graft was as sure as anything graftified can be. When the runaway youth, Vince Marr, inserted himself beneath the protecting wing of this patron he knew exactly whither his ultimate ambitions tended. He had no vague boyish design to serve a ’prenticeship as stake driver or roustabout in the hope someday of graduating into a rider or a tumbler, a ringmaster or a clown. He joined out in order that among these congenial influences he might the quicker become an accomplished thief.

Starting as a novice he had to carve out his own little niche in company where the competition already was fierce. His rise, though, was rapid. So far as the records show he was the first of the Monday guys. He developed the line himself and gave to it its name. A Monday guy was a plunderer of clotheslines. He followed the route of the daily street parade; rather he followed a route running roughly parallel to it. He set out coincidentally with it and he aimed to have his pilfering stint finished when the parade was over. He prowled in alleys and skinned over back fences, progressing from house yard to house yard while the parade passed through the streets upon which the houses faced. From kitchen boilers and laundry heaps, from wash baskets and drying ropes, he skimmed the pick of what was offered – silk shirts, fancy hose, women’s embroidered blouses, women’s belaced under-things. His work was made comparatively easy for him, since the dwellers of the houses would be watching the parade.

His strippings he carried to the show lot and there he hid them away. That night in the privilege car the collections of the day would be disposed of by sale or trade to members of the troupe and the affiliated rogues. Especially desirable pieces might be reserved to be shipped on to a professional receiver of stolen goods in a certain city. Naturally, pickings were at their best on a Monday, for since Mother Eve on the first Monday hanged her fig leaf out to dry, Monday has been wash day the world over. Hence the name for the practitioner of the business.

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Text was obtained from gutenberg.org. Transcription errors were corrected; punctuation, diacritics, and italics formatted; American spelling restored (as in initial magazine publication); some spelling and punctuation modernized to provide consistency.
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Last edited by GrannyGrump; 08-03-2017 at 06:20 AM. Reason: add excerpt
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