Babes in the Jungle (Henry)

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Babes in the Jungle
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: Two con men from the West arrived in New York City, believing it would be easy to swindle its residents, but their plan to sell a painting to a wealthy man backfired when they discovered it was a cheap reproduction.

Two friends, Montague Silver and Billy Pescud, met in New York City after having spent time apart. Silver, a seasoned con artist, boasted about how easy it was to swindle New Yorkers out of their money. He claimed that the city was full of gullible people who would readily part with their cash for the right scheme.

Billy — narrator; con man from the West; cautious, skeptical.
Montague Silver — Billy's friend; con man from the West; confident, ambitious.

In the West a sucker is born every minute; but in New York they appear in chunks of roe—you can’t count ’em!

Pescud, however, was skeptical and worried that they might not be able to pull off any scams in the big city.

Silver and Pescud decided to pool their money and come up with a plan to make a fortune. One day, they were introduced to a man claiming to be J.P. Morgan, a famous financier. The man, who had a Turkish towel wrapped around his foot and walked with a cane, told them about a valuable painting he was desperate to acquire. He said he would pay up to $75,000 for the artwork, which was called "Love's Idle Hour" and depicted a group of women dancing by a river.

Later, Silver and Pescud stumbled upon the painting in a pawnshop. They managed to buy it for $2,000, thinking they had struck gold. Silver took the painting to Morgan's office, hoping to sell it for a huge profit. However, he discovered that the real J.P. Morgan had been in Europe for a month and the man they had met was an imposter.

To make matters worse, Silver found out that the painting they had purchased was not unique or valuable at all. In fact, it was a mass-produced print that could be bought at any department store for just $3.48.

The department stores have all got that same picture on sale, framed, for $3.48. And they charge $3.50 for the frame alone—that’s what I can’t understand.

The friends were left baffled and disappointed, having been outsmarted by the very people they had hoped to swindle.