The stout woman was not Mrs. Deacon. She turned off the street before the truant pie-men had gone many steps, and they returned to the grass beside the bridge. For some reason they were not so jubilantly hopeful.
"Dog it!" said Eph, as they seated themselves in the shade, "I wish t' goodness I hadn't mashed that pie on you, Phin. I don't know what on earth I'm goin' to say to her about it. She's pesky stingy with her pies these days."
"Same way up to my house," said Phineas; "but that'll all be different when we get the American Pie Company goin'. I guess we'll likely have pie every day then, hey? An' not have nobody's nails in our hair, neither."
"Speakin' of nails," said Eph, but not enthusiastically, "think we'd better make our own nails. We'll need a lot of 'em, to crate up pies an' bread to ship."
"Yes," said Phineas; "an' we'll just take over the steel business while we're about. We'll have a department to do buildin'; there ain't any use payin' other folks a big profit to build our mills, an' we might as well do buildin' fer other folks. An' we'll need steel rails fer our railroads."
Eph began to grow enthusiastic again.
"We'd ought to build our own mines, too," he suggested.
"An' run our own stores to sell our bread an' pies in every town," said Phin.
"An' our own cannin' factories to can our fruit," said Eph.
"An' our own can-factories to make the cans," added Phin.
"We'll have our own tin-an' iron-mines, of course," said Eph. "An' our own printin'-shops fer labels an' advertisin' an' showbills."
"Better buy out the magazines an' newspapers. We can use 'em," said Phin.
"Yes," agreed Eph, "an' have our own paper-mills."
"Certainly," said Phineas, "there's good money in all them. We'll make more than them that's runnin' of 'em now. We'll economize on help."
"That's right," said Eph. "By consolidatin' we can do away with one-third of the help. We'll have a whoppin' big pay-roll as it is."
"Well," said Phineas, "you've got to pay fair wages where you have to depend on your help."
"Fair wages is all right," said Eph; "but nowadays they want the whole hog. You don't hear of nothin' but labor unions an' strikes. If you an' me put our money into a big thing like American Pie, we take all the risk and then the laborin' men want all the profits. It ain't square."
"No, it ain't," said Phineas. "An' if you don't pay them more than you can afford they strike right at your busiest time. They could put us out of business in one year. First the farmers would strike at harvest, an' all our fruit an' wheat would go to rot. Then the flour-mill hands would strike an' the wheat get wormy an' no good. Then the bakers would strike, an' no bread in the country--we'd most likely be lynched by the mobs."
Eph thought deeply for a while, and the more he thought the more doleful he became.
"Phineas," he said, at length, "I don't know how you feel about it, but I think this American Pie business is 'most too risky to put our money into."
Phineas had also been thinking, and his face offered no encouragement.
"Eph," he said, "you're right there. If our farmers an' millers an' bakers did strike, an' folks starved to death, we'd like as not be impeached an' tried for treason or something, an' put in jail fer life, if our necks wasn't broke by a rope. I like money, but not so much as to have that happen."
"Neither do I," said Eph; "an' I been thinkin' of another thing. Could we get our old women to go into this thing? My wife ain't so far-sighted as I be; an' just at first, until we made a million or two, we'd have to sort o' depend on them to do the bakin'."
"Well, now that you put it right at me," said Phineas, "I dunno as my wife would take right up with it, either. She seems bound to do just the contrary to what I want her to do. But I dunno as I'd care to put money into anything while these here labor unions keep actin' up."
"I dunno as I would, either," said Eph. "I guess mebby we'd better let this thing lay over till the labor unions sort of play out. What say?"
"I reckon you're right," agreed Phineas. "I guess we'd better mosey along with these here pies, too." The two men arose from their shady seats, and Phineas swung his baskets upon his arms, but Eph seemed to be considering a delicate question.
"That their pie I mashed," he said at length--"I dunno what to say to my wife about it. She'll like to take my scalp off when she finds out I'm ten cents shy."
"Dog me, if I ain't glad it wasn't my pie," said Phin, heartily.
"You don't reckon as mebby you could give me the loan of a dime till to-morrow, could you, Phin?" he asked.
"Well, now, Eph," he said, "I'd give it you in a minute if so be I had it; but I swan t' gracious, I ain't got a cent to my name."