This article is part of the Fur Trapper Saga series.
I AM OVERCOME WITH INTEGRITY
Friends, customers, admirers of virtue, I come before you to announce that my earthly vessel may be nearing the end of its journey. As I write this, I am overwhelmed with integrity such that mortal man was not engineered to bear. I can no longer see my reflection in the mirror without being momentarily blinded, and my wife, bless her soul, has taken her own life out of personal shame. She died knowing that she could not match my high levels of integrity, customer appreciation, and dedication to the fur trade, though through no fault of her own. It is simply the price I pay to bring you the best service of any fur company in the country.
I knew upon first glimpse of her beauty that she was something magnificent and tragic. I knew that it was my solemn duty as a good man to rescue her away from the carnal world of corset modeling, where lecherous illustrators gazed at her near-naked form and committed her most intimate designs to paper with vile ink. After having R. J. Heckwolf, my esteemed grader, appraise her and her family, I knew it was a doomed venture. Her familial stock lacked the supernatural vitality of my own, and her scandalous past was certain to stain my reputation in the notoriously pious fur industry. But love is not an enterprise for the cowardly. The greatest catches often employ the greatest of risks. Against better judgment the trap was set, and many happy years were ensnared.
I mourn my beautiful wife's passing, but I respect her decision from a business standpoint. If I were not able to satisfy my customers and meet their every need, I would not be able to live with myself. Truthfully, dear readers, I would take my own life in grand and epic fashion. It is the personal peace I gain from being the best at what I do that keeps me anchored to the world of man, though my spirit soars in a place far beyond.
It is an unfortunate twist of circumstance that I should be so dedicated to the fur trade and my customers that I have achieved a state of being so pure and just that others feel overshadowed in its presence. Rest assured that such stature has not gone to my head, dear readers. I, Philip Bond Fouke III, President and General Manager of the Fouke Fur Company, son of Philip Bond Fouke II, grandson of Philip Bond Fouke, remain as humble as ever. I wish only to make YOUR LIFE better. I long only to make YOUR JOB easier. I desire only to make YOUR FORTUNES greater.
In honor of my wife's passing I kindly ask you to DEDUCT fifteen per cent (15%) from all catalogue prices. I believe she would want me to continue doing what I excel at: pleasing my customers first and foremost. Dearest M. V. Fouke, such exquisite light upon my life, invoked by divine spark, shall never again shine for me. She lives on now only as savings and memories.
HERE LIES THE LAST LIVING WILL AND TESTAMENT OF P. B. FOUKE
Having served hundreds of thousands of the good trappers and shippers of this continent for over three great decades, I am pleased to announce that I plan to serve many more. However, as I am but a humble man, I must relinquish control of fate to the Lord God. Though I fear my time amongst you may be nearing its end, I endeavor to remain here as long as is possible in the hopes of dutifully serving trappers and shippers even further. But, in the event that I am called away suddenly to conduct business on a higher plane of existence, I leave the following as my last will and testament.
My most prized possession, the Fouke Fur Company, I WILL TO NO MAN. Let this institution be run by the man most worthy of the job. Let this man prove his worth by wrestling control from all would-be takers. Let this man be a coworker of mine whom I have known from between five to twenty years. Let this man not be J. F. Swanton.
To this great Republic, which my family gallantly fought to protect with blood in the Civil War, I leave my manly son. As my father trusted and believed in the government, so too will I with the further care of my boy. I know in time he shall prove a worthy man and dedicate his life to being the absolute best at the trade of his choosing.
To J. F. Swanton, wicked rival, dishonest man, and best friend, I will to you my most prized pelt - the pelt of a Confederate colonel my father killed at the Battle of Belmont. I trust you will appreciate it in a manner unique to you and foreign to all other men.
To the great state of Missouri, I will to you my beard, currently residing on the revolting face of J. F. Swanton. I advise you to employ whatever means necessary to retrieve it, lest you be cheated out of a priceless artifact with wildly untapped power.
REMINDER TO ALL GOOD MEN: J. F. SWANTON'S FOUL FACE IMPRISONS MY BEARD EVEN STILL
I often catch myself reaching to stroke my impressive beard, only to find it missing. I am then sickened with disgust by the gruesome texture of naked skin. I again call for all good hunters to return my beard to me at whatever cost. And to show that I am all too eager to reward an honest day's work, I am raising the bounty to an unprecedented $700.00.
Ask yourself this, good trapper: Has a greater fortune ever been offered for such a task? Alert me of an instance and I shall raise the reward to $800.00. FIND THE SCOUNDREL J. F. SWANTON and remove my beard from his face. Return it to its rightful place, and help restore order to the universe. Help cement the foundations of Justice in this country by deterring those who would seek to savage it.
J. F. Swanton, know you this: My offer extends only to honest trappers and shippers. Even if you surrendered the beard to me, I would not reward you. Not even if you groveled and momentarily extinguished the hellfire in your eyes would I show a hint of clemency. Though my best friend you may be, you are evil beyond measure, and you have stolen that which is most precious to me. In time your face shall be naked and barren, and mine shall marshal a grand parade of hair.
SUCCESS DOES NOT COME WITHOUT SACRIFICE
I have learned this lesson hard all throughout my life. In my efforts to succeed in the fur trade I have lost both my beard and my wife. These losses, profound as they are, do not detract from the good I have done and will continue to do. My commitment to quality has never waned. I would even dare to say that it has grown stronger with each challenge and loss. As the fur of comfort and humanity are systematically stripped from me by fate and by J. F. Swanton, I grow stronger. I become more refined, more focused. I become the job I am best at. My integrity shines brighter, because I live to do the job I was born to do. And when the hour arises, I shall die doing the job I was born to do. I can only imagine that I will use my last breath of life to offer savings never before seen by any trapper or shipper. I can only imagine that I will then somehow find the strength for yet one more breath of life, which I will use to offer even higher payouts for pristine pelts.
When I ascend to Heaven to be with my beautiful wife, I will continue doing what I have done here in this world. I will provide the angels with the FINEST QUALITY TRAPS AND SUPPLIES at the best prices, and I will PAY THE MOST FOR PELTS. I do not fear death, I only fear failing customers. I will work tirelessly in life and death to see that such a tragedy never comes to pass.
And here's my name to say so.
P. B. Fouke
President & Gen. Mgr.
Fouke Fur Co.
‘Toad coin?’ wondered the traveler as he examined the pebble. It did not look all that different from any other pebble, and certainly nothing like a coin. ‘What manner of coin has no head or tail, and bears no seal or flag? Who backs this toad coin, the toad bank? The toad treasury!?’ The traveler laughed, but the toads croaked sternly back at him.
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The esteemed P. B. Fouke, villainous J. F. Swanton and technocratic blowhard A. P. Brown battle for fur market supremacy in this series of old-timey dispatches.