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"Consider Mr. Barsh" from New Yorker

by Ellis Parker Butler
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from New Yorker
Consider Mr. Barsh
by Ellis Parker Butler

Until one year ago Mr. Retwick Barsh was treasurer of the Tenfron Overland & Coppick Company, Incorporated, which does some twenty-seven million dollars' business a year. Mr. Barsh, who is a neighbor of mine, was thoroughly appreciated by the Tenfron people. They trusted him fully and paid him eight thousand dollars a year salary and had him bonded for two hundred thousand dollars in the Fidelity & Fidelity Bond & Bonding Company.

Mr. Barsh was a good citizen. He owned a house around the corner from me on which he had paid one thousand dollars down. He was a neat-appearing man with a bald head, and he had a wife and four children. Every morning when he started to work he carried the garbage pail out to the sidewalk and every evening he returned from work and carried the pail in again. The pail was then empty.

In this way Mr. Barsh live the life of a respectable treasurer and all went well until he met O. J. Plick. Mr. Plick lived next door to Mr. Barsh and occasionally talked with him over the hedge that separated the two properties. Mr. Plick was an inventor and had invented a noiseless garbage pail with undentable sides. He had made one of these for his own use and sometimes he took the pail and slammed it against a tree to prove to Mr. Barsh that the pail was indeed noiseless and undentable. He showed Mr. Barsh figures to prove that the Plick pail could be made at a price that would yield good profits, and he urged Mr. Barsh to raise five thousand dollars and go into partnership with him.

"I will put in my patent," said Mr. Plick, "and you will put in five thousand dollars and we will be fifty-fifty owners. I can manage the production end and your business experience fits you to handle the office and sales departments, and we will make a good thing of it."

"I have aunts and uncles and cousins and brothers and sisters galore," said Mr. Barsh, "and most of them have money to spare. They certainly have reason to have faith in me for I have been with the Tenfron concern sixteen years and I ought to know a good business proposition when I see one."

With that he got pen and ink and made eighteen tables showing the total consumption of garbage pails in America from 1910 to 1928, the long-time trend, the prices of steel, the variation in the exchange rate on English pounds and French francs, and the tensile, prehensile, and toric resistance of the Plick garbage pail at various temperatures. These proved that the new concern -- if it went into business -- should make three hundred per cent per annum and be a great success.

With these tables in a briefcase Mr. Barsh went to see his aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters. In an open and businesslike manner he explained the entire Plick proposition and agreed to pay six per cent per annum for any money loaned him to permit him to go into the garbage-pail business with Mr. Plick.

One after another his aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters picked flaws in his tables, his reasoning, his conclusions, and his faith in Mr. Plick. He heard more reasons for expecting no money than he had hairs on his head, but he got no money.

As a result of this Mr. Barsh was greatly discouraged.

"Never mind," said Mr. Plick. "I'm in no hurry to put this pail on the market. Next year will be plenty of time."

So a year went by and the matter was never out of Mr. Barsh's mind. It worried him and he became careless in his dress. He began to drink and spent for bootleg whiskey the money he should have paid on his mortgage. He looked run-down and sick. So did his wife.

"Retwick," his wife said to him one day, "the man was here and if we don't make the payment on the mortgage they are going to take the house and we will be thrown out on the street. If we don't have one thousand dollars by next week the worst will happen."

"Jomyna," said Mr. Barsh, for that was his wife's name, "I'll do my best."

He polished his shoes and brushed his coat and went to see his aunts and uncles and cousins and brothers and sisters. He told them the whole sad story of his need for money, and begged for temporary help. He even got down on his knees to them, and tears rolled down his face.

The only result was that one aunt and two cousins sent his wife boxes of old clothes. The others explained that their own expenses had gone up something frightful. They said they would love to help him but they just couldn't, seeing how things were just then.

When Retwick Barsh went home he was even more discouraged than he had been. He spent all the money he had remaining and it went for bootleg gin. And the next day he took one thousand dollars from the till of the Tenfron concern and made a false entry on the books and paid the money due on the mortgage.

One week after that he took five hundred dollars from the cash drawer and made another false entry on the books. With this money he bought a suit of clothes, a diamond ring for his wife, and a rug for the hall.

And the next week he took another five hundred dollars and made another false entry and bought himself a fur-lined coat, had his nails manicured, and took Mrs. Barsh to the opera.

The next week Mr. Barsh was just going to take another five hundred dollars from the cash drawer and make another false entry when the president of the Tenfron Overland & Coppick Company said carelessly: "Barsh, the auditors will go over the books next Tuesday."

For a moment all went black before Mr. Barsh's eyes. Then he struggled to regain his composure.

"Tuesday? Quite right!" he said.

The day was Saturday. The office closed at noon, and a few minutes after noon Mr. Barsh telephoned to his Uncle Humbert Barsh and told him the whole hideous story.

"Great Scott, Retwick!" Uncle Humbert cried. "You an embezzler? You a defaulter? A Barsh a thief? That's awful! That's frightful! How much did you steal?"

"T--" said Retwick Barsh, and then he lied. "Twelve thousand dollars," he said.

"Hah!" exclaimed his Uncle Humbert. "Well, it might be worse. Stay right where you are; I'll be down there."

Uncle Humbert Barsh was in the Tenfron office in less than five minutes. He told Retwick what he thought of him. Then he went out and saw all the aunts and uncles and cousins and brothers and sisters, and Sunday afternoon he put into Retwick Barsh's hands an assortment of cheques that made a total of twelve thousand dollars. Monday morning Mr. Barsh made good the two thousand dollars he had embezzled and erased the false entries he had made on the books. Tuesday the auditors gave him a clean bill of health and complimented him on the excellent manner in which he kept his accounts. Wednesday he resigned his position with the Tenfron Overload & Coppick Company and signed a contract with Mr. Plick. That was one year ago and yesterday the Barsh-Plick Undentable-Noiseless Garbage Pail Company paid a one-hundred-per-cent cash dividend after having put thirty-two thousand dollars in the surplus account.

"And what is the moral of it?" I asked Barsh when he told me all this.

"You tell me," he said.



Saturday, October 07 at 1:18:20am USA Central
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