Pigs is Pigs
by Ellis Parker Butler
Mike Flannery, the Westcote agent of the Interurban
Express Company, leaned over the counter of the express
office and shook his fist. Mr. Morehouse, angry and
red, stood on the other side of the counter, trembling
with rage. The argument had been long and heated, and
at last Mr. Morehouse had talked himself speechless.
The cause of the trouble stood on the counter between
the two men. It was a soap box across the top of which
were nailed a number of strips, forming a rough but
serviceable cage. In it two spotted guinea-pigs were
greedily eating lettuce leaves.
"Do as you loike, then!" shouted Flannery, "pay for
thim an' take thim, or don't pay for thim and leave
thim be. Rules is rules, Misther Morehouse, an' Mike
Flannery's not goin' to be called down fer breakin'
"But, you everlastingly stupid idiot!" shouted
Mr. Morehouse, madly shaking a flimsy printed book
beneath the agent's nose, "can't you read it here--in
your own plain printed rates? 'Pets, domestic, Franklin
to Westcote, if properly boxed, twenty-five cents
each.'" He threw the book on the counter in disgust.
"What more do you want? Aren't they pets? Aren't they
domestic? Aren't they properly boxed? What?"
He turned and walked back and forth rapidly; frowning
Suddenly he turned to Flannery, and forcing his voice
to an artificial calmness spoke slowly but with intense
"Pets," he said "P-e-t-s! Twenty-five cents each.
There are two of them. One! Two! Two times twenty-five
are fifty! Can you understand that? I offer you fifty
Flannery reached for the book. He ran his hand through
the pages and stopped at page sixty-four.
"An' I don't take fifty cints," he whispered in mockery.
"Here's the rule for ut. 'Whin the agint be in anny doubt
regardin' which of two rates applies to a shipment, he
shall charge the larger. The con-sign-ey may file a claim
for the overcharge.' In this case, Misther Morehouse, I
be in doubt. Pets thim animals may be, an' domestic they
be, but pigs I'm blame sure they do be, an' me rules says
plain as the nose on yer face, 'Pigs Franklin to Westcote,
thirty cints each.' An' Mister Morehouse, by me arithmetical
knowledge two times thurty comes to sixty cints."
Mr. Morehouse shook his head savagely. "Nonsense!" he
shouted, "confounded nonsense, I tell you! Why, you poor
ignorant foreigner, that rule means common pigs, domestic
pigs, not guinea-pigs!"
Flannery was stubborn.
"Pigs is pigs," he declared firmly. "Guinea-pigs, or dago
pigs or Irish pigs is all the same to the Interurban
Express Company an' to Mike Flannery. Th' nationality of
the pig creates no differentiality in the rate, Misther
Morehouse! 'Twould be the same was they Dutch pigs or
Rooshun pigs. Mike Flannery," he added, "is here to tind
to the expriss business and not to hould conversation wid
dago pigs in sivinteen languages fer to discover be they
Chinese or Tipperary by birth an' nativity."
Mr. Morehouse hesitated. He bit his lip and then flung
out his arms wildly.
"Very well!" he shouted, "you shall hear of this! Your
president shall hear of this! It is an outrage! I have
offered you fifty cents. You refuse it! Keep the pigs
until you are ready to take the fifty cents, but, by
George, sir, if one hair of those pigs' heads is harmed
I will have the law on you!"
He turned and stalked out, slamming the door. Flannery
carefully lifted the soap box from the counter and placed
it in a corner. He was not worried. He felt the peace
that comes to a faithful servant who has done his duty
and done it well.
Mr. Morehouse went home raging. His boy, who had been
awaiting the guinea-pigs, knew better than to ask him
for them. He was a normal boy and therefore always had
a guilty conscience when his father was angry. So the
boy slipped quietly around the house. There is nothing
so soothing to a guilty conscience as to be out of the
path of the avenger.
Mr. Morehouse stormed into the house. "Where's the
ink?" he shouted at his wife as soon as his foot was
across the doorsill.
Mrs. Morehouse jumped, guiltily. She never used ink.
She had not seen the ink, nor moved the ink, nor thought
of the ink, but her husband's tone convicted her of the
guilt of having borne and reared a boy, and she knew
that whenever her husband wanted anything in a loud
voice the boy had been at it.
"I'll find Sammy," she said meekly.
When the ink was found Mr. Morehouse wrote rapidly, and
he read the completed letter and smiled a triumphant
"That will settle that crazy Irishman!" he exclaimed.
"When they get that letter he will hunt another job,
A week later Mr. Morehouse received a long official
envelope with the card of the Interurban Express
Company in the upper left corner. He tore it open
eagerly and drew out a sheet of paper. At the top
it bore the number A6754. The letter was short.
"Subject--Rate on guinea-pigs," it said, "Dr. Sir--We
are in receipt of your letter regarding rate on
guinea-pigs between Franklin and Westcote addressed
to the president of this company. All claims for
overcharge should be addressed to the Claims
Mr. Morehouse wrote to the Claims Department. He
wrote six pages of choice sarcasm, vituperation
and argument, and sent them to the Claims Department.
A few weeks later he received a reply from the
Claims Department. Attached to it was his last
"Dr. Sir," said the reply. "Your letter of the 16th
inst., addressed to this Department, subject rate on
guinea-pigs from Franklin to Westcote, rec'd. We have
taken up the matter with our agent at Westcote, and
his reply is attached herewith. He informs us that
you refused to receive the consignment or to pay
the charges. You have therefore no claim against
this company, and your letter regarding the proper
rate on the consignment should be addressed to our
Mr. Morehouse wrote to the Tariff Department. He
stated his case clearly, and gave his arguments in
full, quoting a page or two from the encyclopedia
to prove that guinea-pigs were not common pigs.
With the care that characterizes corporations when
they are systematically conducted, Mr. Morehouse's
letter was numbered, O.K.'d, and started through the
regular channels. Duplicate copies of the bill of
lading, manifest, Flannery's receipt for the package
and several other pertinent papers were pinned to
the letter, and they were passed to the head of the
The head of the Tariff Department put his feet on
his desk and yawned. He looked through the papers
"Miss Kane," he said to his stenographer, "take
this letter. 'Agent, Westcote, N. J. Please advise
why consignment referred to in attached papers was
refused domestic pet rates."'
Miss Kane made a series of curves and angles on her
note book and waited with pencil poised. The head
of the department looked at the papers again.
"Huh! guinea-pigs!" he said. "Probably starved to
death by this time! Add this to that letter: 'Give
condition of consignment at present.'"
He tossed the papers onto the stenographer's desk,
took his feet from his own desk and went out to lunch.
When Mike Flannery received the letter he scratched
"Give prisint condition," he repeated thoughtfully.
"Now what do thim clerks be wantin' to know, I
wonder! 'Prisint condition, 'is ut? Thim pigs,
praise St. Patrick, do be in good health, so far
as I know, but I niver was no veternairy surgeon
to dago pigs. Mebby thim clerks wants me to call
in the pig docther an' have their pulses took. Wan
thing I do know, howiver, which is they've glorious
appytites for pigs their soize. Ate? They'd ate
the brass padlocks off of a barn door! If the
paddy pig, by the same token, ate as hearty as
these dago pigs do, there'd be a famine in Ireland."
To assure himself that his report would be up to
date, Flannery went to the rear of the office and
looked into the cage. The pigs had been transferred
to a larger box--a dry goods box.
he counted. "Sivin spotted an' wan all black. All
well an' hearty an' all eatin' loike ragin'
hippypottymusses. He went back to his desk and
"Mr. Morgan, Head of Tariff Department," he wrote.
"Why do I say dago pigs is pigs because they is
pigs and will be til you say they ain't which is
what the rule book says stop your jollying me you
know it as well as I do. As to health they are all
well and hoping you are the same. P. S. There are
eight now the family increased all good eaters.
P.S. I paid out so far two dollars for cabbage
which they like shall I put in bill for same what?"
Morgan, head of the Tariff Department, when he
received this letter, laughed. He read it again
and became serious.
"By George!" he said, "Flannery is right, 'pigs is
pigs.' I'll have to get authority on this thing.
Meanwhile, Miss Kane, take this letter: Agent,
Westcote, N. J. Regarding shipment guinea-pigs,
File No. A6754. Rule 83, General Instruction to
Agents, clearly states that agents shall collect
from consignee all costs of provender, etc., etc.,
required for live stock while in transit or storage.
You will proceed to collect same from consignee."
Flannery received this letter next morning, and
when he read it he grinned.
"Proceed to collect," he said softly. "How thim
clerks do loike to be talkin'! Me proceed to
collect two dollars and twinty-foive cints off
Misther Morehouse! I wonder do thim clerks know
Misther Morehouse? I'll git it! Oh, yes! 'Misther
Morehouse, two an' a quarter, plaze.' 'Cert'nly,
me dear frind Flannery. Delighted!' Not!"
Flannery drove the express wagon to Mr. Morehouse's
door. Mr. Morehouse answered the bell.
"Ah, ha!" he cried as soon as he saw it was Flannery.
"So you've come to your senses at last, have you? I
thought you would! Bring the box in."
"I hev no box," said Flannery coldly. "I hev a bill
agin Misther John C. Morehouse for two dollars and
twinty-foive cints for kebbages aten by his dago
pigs. Wud you wish to pay ut?"
"Pay--Cabbages--!" gasped Mr. Morehouse. "Do you
mean to say that two little guinea-pigs--"
"Eight!" said Flannery. "Papa an' mamma an' the six
For answer Mr. Morehouse slammed the door in Flannery's
face. Flannery looked at the door reproachfully.
"I take ut the con-sign-y don't want to pay for thim
kebbages," he said. "If I know signs of refusal, the
con-sign-y refuses to pay for wan dang kebbage leaf
an' be hanged to me!"
Mr. Morgan, head of the Tariff Department, consulted the
president of the Interurban Express Company regarding
guinea-pigs, as to whether they were pigs or not pigs.
The president was inclined to treat the matter lightly.
"What is the rate on pigs and on pets?" he asked.
"Pigs thirty cents, pets twenty-five," said Morgan.
"Then of course guinea-pigs are pigs," said the
"Yes," agreed Morgan, "I look at it that way, too.
A thing that can come under two rates is naturally
due to be classed as the higher. But are guinea-pigs,
pigs? Aren't they rabbits?"
"Come to think of it," said the president, "I believe
they are more like rabbits. Sort of half-way station
between pig and rabbit. I think the question is
this--are guinea-pigs of the domestic pig family? I'll
ask Professor Gordon. He is authority on such things.
Leave the papers with me."
The president put the papers on his desk and wrote a
letter to Professor Gordon. Unfortunately the Professor
was in South America collecting zoological specimens,
and the letter was forwarded to him by his wife. As
the Professor was in the highest Andes, where no white
man had ever penetrated, the letter was many months in
reaching him. The president forgot the guinea-pigs,
Morgan forgot them, Mr. Morehouse forgot them, but
Flannery did not. One-half of his time he gave to the
duties of his agency; the other half was devoted to
the guinea-pigs. Long before Professor Gordon received
the president's letter Morgan received one from Flannery.
"About them dago pigs," it said, "what shall I do they
are great in family life, no race suicide for them,
there are thirty-two now shall I sell them do you take
this express office for a menagerie, answer quick."
Morgan reached for a telegraph blank and wrote:
"Agent, Westcote. Don't sell pigs."
He then wrote Flannery a letter calling his attention
to the fact that the pigs were not the property of the
company but were merely being held during a settlement
of a dispute regarding rates. He advised Flannery to
take the best possible care of them.
Flannery, letter in hand, looked at the pigs and sighed.
The drygoods box cage had become too small. He boarded
up twenty feet of the rear of the express office to make
a large and airy home for them, and went about his
business. He worked with feverish intensity when out on
his rounds, for the pigs required attention and took most
of his time. Some months later, in desperation, he seized
a sheet of paper and wrote "160" across it and mailed it
to Morgan. Morgan returned it asking for explanation.
"There be now one hundred sixty of them dago pigs, for
heavens sake let me sell off some, do you want me to go
"Sell no pigs," Morgan wired.
Not long after this the president of the express company
received a letter from Professor Gordon. It was a long
and scholarly letter, but the point was that the guinea-pig
was the Cavia aparoea while the common pig was the genus
Sus of the family Suidae. He remarked that they were
prolific and multiplied rapidly.
"They are not pigs," said the president, decidedly, to
Morgan. "The twenty-five cent rate applies."
Morgan made the proper notation on the papers that had
accumulated in File A6754, and turned them over to the
Audit Department. The Audit Department took some time
to look the matter up, and after the usual delay wrote
Flannery that as he had on hand one hundred and sixty
guinea-pigs, the property of consignee, he should
deliver them and collect charges at the rate of
twenty-five cents each.
Flannery spent a day herding his charges through a
narrow opening in their cage so that he might count
"Audit Dept." he wrote, when he had finished the count,
"you are way off there may be was one hundred and sixty
dago pigs once, but wake up don't be a back number.
I've got even eight hundred, now shall I collect for
eight hundred or what, how about sixty-four dollars I
paid out for cabbages."
It required a great many letters back and forth before
the Audit Department was able to understand why the
error had been made of billing one hundred and sixty
instead of eight hundred, and still more time for it
to get the meaning of the "cabbages."
Flannery was crowded into a few feet at the extreme
front of the office. The pigs had all the rest of the
room and two boys were employed constantly attending
to them. The day after Flannery had counted the
guinea-pigs there were eight more added to his drove,
and by the time the Audit Department gave him authority
to collect for eight hundred Flannery had given up all
attempts to attend to the receipts or the delivery of
goods. He was hastily building galleries around the
express office, tier above tier. He had four thousand
and sixty-four guinea-pigs to care for! More were
Immediately following its authorization the Audit
Department sent another letter, but Flannery was
too busy to open it. They wrote another and then they
"Error in guinea-pig bill. Collect for two guinea-pigs,
fifty cents. Deliver all to consignee."
Flannery read the telegram and cheered up. He wrote
out a bill as rapidly as his pencil could travel over
the paper and ran all the way to the Morehouse home.
At the gate he stopped suddenly. The house stared at
him with vacant eyes. The windows were bare of curtains
and he could see into the empty rooms. A sign on the
porch said, "To Let." Mr. Morehouse had moved! Flannery
ran all the way back to the express office. Sixty-nine
guinea-pigs had been born during his absence. He ran
out again and made feverish inquiries in the village.
Mr. Morehouse had not only moved, but he had left
Westcote. Flannery returned to the express office and
found that two hundred and six guinea-pigs had entered
the world since he left. He wrote a telegram to the
"Can't collect fifty cents for two dago pigs consignee
has left town address unknown what shall I do? Flannery."
The telegram was handed to one of the clerks in the
Audit Department, and as he read it he laughed.
"Flannery must be crazy. He ought to know that the
thing to do is to return the consignment here," said
the clerk. He telegraphed Flannery to send the pigs
to the main office of the company at Franklin.
When Flannery received the telegram he set to work.
The six boys he had engaged to help him also set to
work. They worked with the haste of desperate men,
making cages out of soap boxes, cracker boxes, and
all kinds of boxes, and as fast as the cages were
completed they filled them with guinea-pigs and
expressed them to Franklin. Day after day the cages
of guinea-pigs flowed in a steady stream from Westcote
to Franklin, and still Flannery and his six helpers
ripped and nailed and packed--relentlessly and
feverishly. At the end of the week they had shipped
two hundred and eighty cases of guinea-pigs, and
there were in the express office seven hundred and
four more pigs than when they began packing them.
"Stop sending pigs. Warehouse full," came a telegram
to Flannery. He stopped packing only long enough to
wire back, "Can't stop," and kept on sending them. On
the next train up from Franklin came one of the company's
inspectors. He had instructions to stop the stream of
guinea-pigs at all hazards. As his train drew up at
Westcote station he saw a cattle-car standing on the
express company's siding. When he reached the express
office he saw the express wagon backed up to the door.
Six boys were carrying bushel baskets full of guinea-pigs
from the office and dumping them into the wagon. Inside
the room Flannery, with his coat and vest off, was
shoveling guinea-pigs into bushel baskets with a coal
scoop. He was winding up the guinea-pig episode.
He looked up at the inspector with a snort of anger.
"Wan wagonload more an, I'll be quit of thim, an'
niver will ye catch Flannery wid no more foreign
pigs on his hands. No, sur! They near was the death
o' me. Nixt toime I'll know that pigs of whatever
nationality is domistic pets--an' go at the lowest
He began shoveling again rapidly, speaking quickly
"Rules may be rules, but you can't fool Mike Flannery
twice wid the same trick--whin ut comes to live stock,
dang the rules. So long as Flannery runs this expriss
office--pigs is pets--an' cows is pets--an' horses is
pets--an' lions an' tigers an' Rocky Mountain goats
is pets--an' the rate on thim is twinty-foive cints."
He paused long enough to let one of the boys put an
empty basket in the place of the one he had just
filled. There were only a few guinea-pigs left. As
he noted their limited number his natural habit of
looking on the bright side returned.
"Well, annyhow," he said cheerfully, "'tis not so
bad as ut might be. What if thim dago pigs had been
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~