"I reckon you see now how your plan would work out," said Phineas; "we'd give away nigh on to a thousand pies, an' all because we didn't use hoss sense. I'm ag'in' trusts, same as you. I'd vote any day to down any o' them big fellers, but a little private agreement between gentlemen don't hurt nobody. What I say is, git together an' fix on a fair price an' stick to it."
"Jest what I say," said Eph. "You lift your price up to ten cents--"
"Never in this green world," said Phineas. "Contrariwise, you drop your grade of pie down equal to mine, an' put your price down to eight cents."
"Not so long as I live!" said Eph.
"Well, then," said Phineas, "it stands this way. If we leave our prices as they be, it means fight an' loss to us both, an' we won't change em, so what's to be done?" Eph looked out over the river gloomily.
"Dog me if I know," he sighed. "There's just one thing," said Phineas. "We got to form a stock company, you an' me, an' put all our earnings together, an' then, every so often, divide up even. Then if I sell more pies because mine are eight cents, you'll git your half of all I sell; an' if you sell more because your pies are bigger an' better, I'll get my share of what you sell. An' when things git goin' all right, we'll raise up the price all around--say, my pies to ten cents an' yours to twelve; an' bein' in cahoots, there won't be nobody to say we sha'n't do it, an' we'll lay aside that extra profit to build up the business."
"Phineas," said Eph, solemnly, "it's a wonder I didn't think o' that myself."
"Ain't it, now?" asked Phineas. "But I 've give this thing some thought, an' I ain't begun to tell you where it ends. I wanted to see how you took to it before I let it all out on you."
Eph leaned forward eagerly. "Go on," he said. "Let it out on me now."
"When the only two homemade pie-makers git together like we'll be," said Phineas, triumphantly, "I'd like to know who'll stop us from liftin' up the price. Huh! Them that don't like to pay our prices, they can eat bakers' pies an' welcome."
"I know some folks in this town," Eph said, "that wouldn't eat bakers' pies if they had to pay twenty-five cents apiece for homemade." He paused to consider this pregnant statement, and then added: "But I reckon the bakers would git away a heap of our trade if we begun liftin' our prices much." Phineas's eyes snapped.
"They would, hey?" he said, laughing. "Mebby they would an' mebby they wouldn't. What do you suppose we'd be doin' with that surplus we'd accumulate? Come strawberry season, we'd up an' buy every strawberry that come to Gloning. We'd pay more than anybody could afford to, an' add the difference to our strawberry-pie price, because we'd have the only strawberry pies in town. An' what strawberries we couldn't use right off we'd can for winter pies. An' as other fruits come in, we'd buy them up the same way. But we wouldn't be mean. We'd open a fruit-store an' sell folks fruit at a good high price if they'd sign an agreement not to use any fer pie. An' in a little while the bakers would git sick an' sell out their shops to us fer almost nothin'. An' then we'd go into the bakin' business big."
"We'd bake cakes an' bread then," said Eph, eagerly.
"Cakes an' bread an' doughnuts an' buns an' everything," said Phineas, with enthusiasm. "We'll git one big bake-shop an' save on expenses, an' shove up the price of stuff a little, an' just coin money."
"We'd ought to git at it quick," said Eph. "We'd oughtn't to waste no time. What do you reckon would be a good name fer the company?"
"I've fixed that all up," said Phineas. "We'll call it the American Pie Company, Incorporated; an' bein' as only you an' me will be in it, we'll each have to be officers."
"I'm goin' to be president," exclaimed Eph, with all the eagerness of a boy.
"All right, Eph," said Phineas. "We don't want to have no more fights, an' I want to do what's right, so you can be president. I'll be treasurer."
Eph thought for a minute. He knew Phineas well.
"I want to do what's right, too," he said at last. "You can be president. I'll be treasurer."
"I guess mebby we'd better take turns bein' treasurer," suggested Phineas.
"All right," said Eph; "I want my turn first."