This Little Pig
Staid at Home by
Six tow heads bobbing about a pen in the big barn. In the pen were
thirteen small pigs, all squealing as only small pigs know how to
The owners of two of the tow heads soon departed. They were Solomon and
Isaac. Being fourteen years old, they were too ancient to care much for
pigs. Elias and John also went away. They had business elsewhere in the
shape of woodchuck traps. Philemon would fain have lingered near, had he
not made an engagement to play "two old cat" with Tom Tadgers.
As for Romeo Augustus, no charm of bat or ball would have drawn him from
that pen, since he had seen one of the small pigs stagger about in a
strange fashion, and then sink down in a corner. Something was wrong
with that pig.
Romeo Augustus peered and peeped. At last into the pen he climbed, and
caught the little pig in his arms.
Then there was a hubbub indeed. Up rushed the mother in terrible
excitement. Round and round spun the twelve brothers and sisters, each
crying, "No, no, no, no," in a voice as fine as a knitting-needle, and
as sharp as a razor edge.
But Romeo Augustus kept a steady head. Back over the pen he scrambled,
pig and all, and sat down on the barn floor to find out the trouble.
Ah! here was enough to make any pig stagger. Two little legs dangled
helplessly—one fore-leg, one hind-leg. The bones were broken.
At first Romeo Augustus was tempted to weep. What good would that do? It
was far better to coax the bones into place, put sticks up and down for
splints, and bind one leg tight with his neck-tie, the other with his
very best pocket-handkerchief.
It was not an easy job. The pig did writhe and twist, while the frantic
mother danced up and down in the pen behind, and drove the surgeon
nearly crazy with her noise. But he toiled bravely on, and when at last
the operation was done, the heart of Romeo Augustus was knit unto that
small pig in bonds of deep affection.
"I love him as if he was my—daughter," said Romeo Augustus,
solemnly. He did not confide this to his twin brother Philemon: Philemon
would have jeered. He told it to Elias, who was poetical, and had a soul
for sentiment. Elias nodded, and said,
"Just so!" That showed sympathy. He also added, "Why don't you keep him
for your own, and call him Leggit or Bones?"
"No," answered Romeo Augustus, with dignity; "his name shall be
Mephibosheth, for the man who followed King David, and was lame in both
For five weeks Romeo Augustus nursed and fed and tended that pig. In
time the legs grew strong. Mephibosheth was as brisk as any pig need be.
Romeo Augustus rejoiced over him, and loved him more and more. So the
days went on, until a certain morning dawned.
The sun rose as usual; the cocks crowed as cheerfully as they always
did. Solomon and Isaac had gone to drive the cows to pasture, as was
their wont. Elias and John were peacefully skinning their woodchucks in
the shed. Philemon had been sent back to his chamber (as he was every
morning of his life) to brush his back hair. There was nothing to
suggest the storm which was to break over Romeo Augustus, who stood by
the kitchen stove watching the cook fry fritters.
"Fizz, fiz-z-z, fiz-z-z," hissed the fritters.
"Aren't they going to be good!" said Romeo Augustus, smacking his
Suddenly came a voice. It was Romeo Augustus's father speaking to the
"Those little pigs are large enough to be killed. How many are there?
Never mind. Carry them all to market to-morrow, and sell them for what
they will bring. I don't want the trouble of raising them."
Romeo Augustus listened in horror. "Large enough to be killed?" "Carry
them all to market?" "All? All?" Why, that included Mephibosheth.
Not a fritter did Romeo Augustus eat that morning. After breakfast he
roamed aimlessly about the farm. He would not go near the barn. How
could he look upon poor doomed Mephibosheth?
Once he thought of going to his father, and pleading with him for his
pig's life. But Romeo Augustus was shy, and somewhat afraid of his
father, who was a stern man. So he kept his grief to himself, and
Elias unconsciously deserted him at this time of need, and curdled Romeo
Augustus's blood by asking twice for pork at dinner. Ask for pork? Why,
speaking coarsely, Mephibosheth was also—pork. How could any one eat
pork with such a relish? Romeo Augustus shivered, and kept his own
counsel. All that afternoon he pondered. Then the darkness of night came
The next morning off started the man-servant with his load of little
"Have you all?" asked Romeo Augustus's father.
"I would ha' swore, sir, there was thirteen, but it seems there was only
twilve. Yes, sir, I has 'em all;" and away he drove.
As for Romeo Augustus, a change came over him. Far from shunning the
barn, he hung about it constantly. Moreover, he was always present when
the cows were milked, morning and night. He had a playful trick of
dipping his own tin cup into the foaming pail, and scampering away with
it full to the brim. Nobody objected to that. If he chose to strain a
point, and drink unstrained milk, he was welcome to do it.
"And if you see fit to save half your dinner, and give it away, I am
willing," said his mother, who was busy, and hardly noticed what Romeo
Augustus asked her. "But you must not soil your jacket fronts as you
do. This is the fifth time within a week I have sponged your clothes."
Soon after this, Philemon and Romeo Augustus were out in the barn,
rolling over and over, burying themselves in the sweet-smelling hay.
Suddenly Philemon pricked up his ears.
"What's that?" quoth he. "I heard a little pig squealing. Where can he
"Philemon," said Romeo Augustus, earnestly, "let's climb to that top
mow, and jump down. Hurrah! It's a good twenty feet. Come on, if you
If he dare! Of course he dared. It was great fun to launch one's self
into space, and come whirling down on the hay. There was just enough
danger of breaking one's neck to give spice to the treat. How Romeo
Augustus did scurry about, hustling Philemon whenever he stopped to
breathe, and urging him on, shouting at the top of his lungs,
"One more jump, old boy. Hurrah! Hurray!"
Philemon had no spare time in which to wonder if he heard a small pig
That very night, when all the family was wrapped in slumber, Elias felt
a hand on his shoulder. Another hand was on his mouth, to prevent any
"Come with me," whispered Romeo Augustus; and he held out Elias's jacket
and trousers. Elias took the hint, also the clothes. Down the stairs
crept the two. Out the front door, which would creak, into the moon-lit
yard stole they. Elias's eyes were snapping with excitement; for, as I
said, Elias was poetical, and, like all poets, he was always expecting
something to turn up. At this present he was on the look-out for what he
called "the Gibbage."
Elias himself had grown to believe the marvellous stories he told his
brothers. He had full faith in the Lovely Lily Lady, who lived in the
attic; in the Mealy family, with their sky-blue faces and pea-green
hands, in the cobwebby meal chest under the barn eaves; in the Peely
family, who inhabited the tool-box in the shed, and whose heads were
like baked apples with the peel taken off; in the big black bird, which
came from the closet under the stairs at night, and flew through the
chambers to dust the boys' clothes with its wings.
And now Elias had suspected in his own mind that there existed a
creature, somewhat like a mouse, somewhat like a red flower-pot, which
glided around during the night-watches to sharpen slate-pencils, smooth
out dog-ears from school-books, erase lead-pencil marks, polish up
marbles, straighten kite strings, put the "suck" into brick-suckers, and
otherwise make itself useful. If there were not such a creature, there
ought to be, and Elias became daily surer that there was. He called it
Perchance Romeo Augustus had caught a glimpse of it. No wonder Elias's
eyes snapped as he was hurried across the yard, and led back of the
barn, where there was a space between the underpinning and the ground.
By lying flat one could wriggle his way under the barn, and when once
beneath, there was room to stand nearly up-right.
"Elias," said Romeo Augustus, breathlessly, "I keep Mephibosheth under
"Sakes and daisies!" gasped Elias.
That was a very strong expression. When somewhat moved, Elias often
exclaimed, "Sakes!" but when he added, "and daisies!" it was a sign he
was stirred to his inmost depths.
"Sakes and daisies!" said Elias.
"Yes," Romeo Augustus went on, "I heard father say he didn't want the
trouble of raising him, so I concluded I would. But nobody must see him
till he's raised, and Philemon he heard him this very day. I must take
him somewhere else. Where, Elias, oh, where can I carry him?"
Elias frowned and pondered. He was grieved not to have discovered "the
Gibbage," but he would do the handsome thing by Romeo Augustus.
Half an hour later the jolly old moon nearly fell out of the sky for
laughing. There were Elias and Romeo Augustus straining and tugging,
coaxing and scolding, trying with might and main to stifle the
expostulations of Mephibosheth, as they bore him down to an unmowed
The ox-eye daisies opened their sleepy petals to see what all the stir
was about. The buttercups and dandelions craned themselves forward to
Down in the meadow the boys drove a stake, and to it they fastened
Mephibosheth. It was no joke taking food to him now. The unmowed meadow
was in sight of the house, and it seemed as if one or another of the
boys was always at the window. But Elias aided Romeo Augustus, and
between them Mephibosheth got his daily rations. Surely he was safe at
last. Far from it.
"Who has been trampling the grass in the north pasture?" asked Romeo
Augustus's father, a fortnight later. "I followed the path made by feet
that had no right there. At the end I found a stake. Tied to the stake I
Solomon and Isaac looked surprised. John and Philemon shook their heads.
They knew nothing of the matter. Elias and Romeo Augustus quaked.
"At the end I found a—" repeated their father, gazing sternly round the
table—"I found a—"
"Pig," said Romeo Augustus, in the smallest possible voice; and he
fled from the table in an agony of tears. His labor had been in vain.
After all, Mephibosheth must die. How could he endure it? He dared not
glance out of the window of the chamber where he had taken refuge, lest
he should behold Mephibosheth led to slaughter. It seemed as if his
heart would break in two.
But listen! What is that noise? A clatter as of falling boards. There is
a sound as of hammering. At first it seems to Romeo Augustus like
Mephibosheth's death-knell. Thud, thud, thud, go the blows. Drawn almost
against his will, Romeo Augustus stealthily approaches the window. He
glances fearfully out. What does he see? His father pounding busily,
making—what is he making? Can it be? It is—it is a pen.
"Father!" gasps Romeo Augustus.
His father looks up and smiles. "Your pig must have a house to live in,"
says he. "I can't have my meadow grass trampled."
Before noon Mephibosheth was in his new quarters. There was a parlor
with two pieces of carpet on the floor; there was a chamber with plenty
of straw, whereon Mephibosheth could repose; there was a dining-room,
with what, in common language, might be termed a trough.
Such a life as that pig led! He was cared for tenderly. He was washed
all over every morning, and put to bed every night. He was not a very
brilliant pig as far as his intellect went, it must be confessed. He
could do no tricks with cards; he could not be taught to jump through a
One year passed; Mephibosheth was large. Two years went by; Mephibosheth
was wonderful. I would I could say he was plump; that word does not
begin to express his condition. It would be pleasant to call him
stout; that would not give the glimmer of an idea of his size.
Corpulent would be a refined way of stating it. Alas! corpulent means
nothing as far as Mephibosheth is concerned. That animal measured seven
feet and twenty-two inches round his body. He weighed—truth is great,
and must be spoken—he weighed five hundred and fifty and two-third
He could not walk; his legs were pipe-stems under him. He could scarcely
breathe. That is the excuse for what happened.
One day Romeo Augustus came home from school. Mephibosheth's pen was
empty. Mephibosheth's pen would be empty for evermore. That is a gentle
way of telling the story. In vain it was explained to Romeo Augustus
that Mephibosheth's life had become a burden; that common humanity
demanded his departure. In vain Philemon offered three fish-hooks and a
jackknife by way of solace. In vain Solomon was sure his father would
present a calf to the mourner for a pet.
Elias was the only one who gave the least comfort.
"We will make a tombstone, and I will write an epitaph," said he.
Soon he brought a board, on which were drawn an urn and a couple of
consumptive weeping-willows (for Elias was an artist as well as a poet),
and underneath were these lines, which being written partly in old
English spelling, were so much the more consoling:
Sacred to the Memorie
Kinde Reader, pause and drop a teare,
Ye Pig his bodie lieth here;
Ye Auguste third of fiftie-nine
Was when his sun dyd cease to shine.
He broke two legs, which gave him wo;
He doctored was by Romeo,
Who cherished him from yeare to yeare,
As by this notice doth appeare.
He fed him till he waxed soe big
He was obliged to hop the twig.
Ye friends do sadly raise their waile,
And fondly eke preserve his tayle.
"And here's his tail," said Elias, presenting the pathetic memento.
"The only trouble is in the line, 'Ye Pig his bodie lieth here,'" sobbed
Romeo Augustus. "It doesn't lie here. He's been sold to a butcher."
"It's Elias who 'lieth here,'" remarked Isaac.
That was a heartless joke. No one was so low as to laugh at it.
"They often have monuments without the—the—the body," said Elias, with
Romeo Augustus was content.
He is a grown man now, but to this very day he keeps Mephibosheth's
monument. It is nailed on the wall of his chamber. He sometimes smiles
when he looks at it, but he does not take it down.