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’ of thim.”
“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 ferociously.
Suddenly he turned to Flannery, and forcing his voice to an artificial calmness spoke slowly but with intense sarcasm.
“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 cents.”
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.