|Jeff Peters and
Andy Tucker could never be trusted. One day, the two men decided to open
a marriage business to make some quick and easy money. The first thing
they did was to write an advertisement to be published in newspapers.
Their advertisement read like this:
“A charming widow, beautiful and home-loving, would like to remarry. She
is only thirty-two years old. She has three thousand dollars in cash and
owns valuable property in the country. She would like a poor man with a
loving heart. No objection to an older man or to one who is not good-looking.
But he needs to be faithful and true, can take care of property and
invest money with good judgment. Give address, with details about
yourself. Signed: Lonely, care of Peters and Tucker, agents, Cairo,
When they finished writing the ad, Jeff Peters said to Andy Tucker: “So
far, so good. And now, where is the lady?”
Andy gave Jeff an unhappy look. “What does a marriage advertisement have
to do with a lady?” he asked.
“Now listen,” Jeff answered. “You know my rule, Andy. In all illegal
activities, we must obey the law, in every detail. Something offered for
sale must exist. It must be seen. You must be able to produce it. That
is how I have kept out of trouble with the police. Now, for this
business to work, we must be able to produce a charming widow, with or
without the beauty, as advertised.”
“Well,” said Andy, after thinking it over, “it might be better, if the
United States Post Office should decide to investigate our marriage
agency. But where can you hope to find a widow who would waste her time
on a marriage proposal that has no marriage in it?”
Jeff said that he knew just such a woman.
“An old friend of mine, Zeke Trotter,” he said, “used to work in a tent
show. He made his wife a widow by drinking too much of the wrong kind of
alcohol. I used to stop at their house often. I think we can get her to
work with us.”
Missus Zeke Trotter lived in a small town not far away. Jeff Peters went
out to see her. She was not beautiful and not so young. But she seemed
all right to Jeff.
“Is this an honest deal you are putting on, Mister Peters?” she asked
when he told her what he wanted.
“Missus Trotter,” said Jeff, “three thousand men will seek to marry you
to get your money and property. What are they prepared to give in
exchange? Nothing! Nothing but the bones of a lazy, dishonest, good-for-nothing
fortune-seeker. We will teach them something. This will be a great moral
campaign. Does that satisfy you?”
“It does, Mister Peters,” she said. “But what will my duties be? Do I
have to personally reject these three thousand good-for-nothings you
speak of? Or can I throw them out in bunches?”
Jeff explained that her job would be easy. She would live in a quiet
hotel and have no work to do. He and Andy would take care of all letters
and the business end of the plot. But he warned her that some of the men
might come to see her in person. Then, she would have to meet them face-to-face
and reject them. She would be paid twenty-five dollars a week and hotel
“Give me five minutes to get ready,” Missus Trotter said. “Then you can
start paying me.”
So Jeff took her to the city and put her in a hotel far enough from Jeff
and Andy’s place to cause no suspicion.
Jeff Peters and Andy Tucker were now ready to catch a few fish on the
hook. They placed their advertisement in newspapers across the country.
They put two thousand dollars in a bank in Missus Trotter’s name. They
gave her the bank book to show if anyone questioned the honesty of their
marriage agency. They were sure that Missus Trotter could be trusted and
that it was safe to leave the money in her name.
Their ad in the newspapers started a flood of letters – more than one
hundred a day. Jeff and Andy worked twelve hours a day answering them.
Most of the men wrote that they had lost their jobs. The world
misunderstood them. But they were full of love and other good qualities.
Jeff and Andy answered every letter with high praise for the writer.
They asked the men to send a photograph and more details. And they told
them to include two dollars to cover the cost of giving the second
letter to the charming widow.
Almost all the men sent in the two dollars requested. It seemed to be an
easy business. Still, Andy and Jeff often spoke about the trouble of
cutting open envelopes and taking the money out.
A few of the men came in person. Jeff and Andy sent them to Missus
Trotter and she did the rest. Soon, Jeff and Andy were receiving about
two hundred dollars a day. One day, a federal postal inspector came by.
But Jeff satisfied him that they were not breaking the law.
After about three months, Jeff and Andy had collected more than five
thousand dollars, and they decided it was time to stop. Some people were
beginning to question their honesty. And, Missus Trotter seemed to have
grown tired of her job. Too many men had come to see her and she did not
Jeff went to Missus Trotter’s hotel to pay her what she was owed, and to
say goodbye. He also wanted her to repay the two thousand dollars that
was put into her bank account.
When Jeff walked into the room she was crying, like a child who did not
want to go to school.
“Now, now,” he said. “What’s it all about? Somebody hurt you? Are you
“No, Mister Peters,” she said. “I’ll tell you. You were always a good
friend of my husband Zeke. Mister Peters, I am in love. I just love a
man so hard I can’t bear not to get him. He’s just the kind I’ve always
had in mind.”
“Then take him,” said Jeff. “Does he feel the same way about you?”
“He does,” Missus Trotter answered. “But there is a problem. He is one
of the men who have been coming to see me in answer to your
advertisement. And he will not marry me unless I give him the two
thousand dollars. His name is William Wilkinson.”
Jeff felt sorry for her. He said he would be glad to let her give the
two thousand dollars to Mister Wilkinson, so that she could be happy.
But he said he had to talk to his partner about it.
Jeff returned to his hotel and discussed it with Andy.
“I was expecting something like this,” Andy said. “You can’t trust a
woman to stick with you in any plan that involves her emotions.”
Jeff said it was a sad thing to think that they were the cause of the
breaking of a woman’s heart. Andy agreed with him.
“I’ll tell you what I am willing to do,” said Andy. “Jeff, you have
always been a man of a soft and generous heart. Perhaps I have been too
hard and worldly and suspicious. For once, I will meet you half-way. Go
to Missus Trotter. Tell her to take the two thousand dollars out of the
bank and give it to this Wilkinson fellow and be happy.”
Jeff shook Andy’s hand for a long time. Then he went back to Missus
Trotter. She cried as hard for joy as she had done for sorrow.
Two days later, Jeff and Andy prepared to leave town.
“Wouldn’t you like to go meet Missus Trotter once before we leave?” Jeff
asked Andy. “She’d like to express her thanks to you.”
“Why, I guess not,” Andy said. “I think we should hurry and catch the
Jeff was putting all the money they had received in a belt he tied
around his body. Then Andy took a large amount of money out of his
pocket and asked Jeff to put it together with the other money.
“What’s this?” Jeff asked.
“It’s Missus Trotter’s two thousand dollars,” said Andy.
“How do you come to have it?” Jeff asked.
“Missus Trotter gave it to me,” Andy answered. “I have been calling on
her three nights a week for more than a month.”
“Then you are William Wilkinson?” Jeff asked.
“I was,” Andy said.