The Great American Pie Company

by Ellis Parker Butler

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When the two men were comfortably settled in the shade and had lighted their pipes, Eph, as the senior in the trade and the party with a complaint, opened his mouth to speak; but before the words came forth, Phineas outflanked him and let fly a thunderbolt.

"Eph," he said, "you got to lower down your pie prices to even up with what mine are."

Eph looked at his companion in astonishment.

"Lower down my prices!" he ejaculated. "You be crazy, Phin; plum crazy! Don't I give a bigger pie an' a better pie than what you do?"

"Well, then," remarked Phineas, with a sly twinkle in his eye, "how do you reckon I can h'ist my prices up any? Mebby you think I can git ten cents fer a small, mean pie whiles you ask ten cents fer a big, good one? My idee is that if we want to run along nice an' smooth, an' not have no trouble, what we want to do is to git together an' go in cahoots, an' then it don't make no difference what we sell at."

"I'm ag'in' trusts," said Eph, coldly.

"So'm I," said Phineas. "Who said anything about trusts? All we want is to even things up a bit. Fust thing you know, you'll git mad an' cut your prices down to eight cents, an' I'll have to drop to six; an' you'll come to six, an' I'll go to four; an' you'll go to four, an' I'll sell pies at two; an' you'll put your pies down to two cents, an' blame my hide if I don't give pies away. Dog me if I don't!"

Eph looked worried. "Oh, come now, Phin," he said anxiously, "you won't up an' do that, will you?"

"Dog me if I don't!" Phin repeated stubbornly.

Eph arose and shook his fist at Phineas.

"You old ijit!" he yelled. "I'll teach ye!" And bending over, he seized a large, soft pie and slapped it down over the head of the seated Phineas. In a moment the two men were standing face to face, fists clenched, and breath coming short and fast, each waiting for the other to strike the first blow.

But neither struck. Eph's eyes fell to Phineas's shoulder, where a large fragment of pie had lodged. Phineas moved slightly and the pie fragment wavered, tottered, and--Eph reached out his hand quickly to catch it, and Phineas dodged and, closing in, grasped him around the waist and pulled down. Eph sank upon his knees and Phineas followed him, and the two men, nose to nose, eye to eye, looked at each other and grinned.

"If we're goin' to fight this thing out," said Eph, "let's go over in the shade an' set down. It's too blame hot fer wrastlin'."

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