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The Pig's Penny by W. O. Stoddard

It was the pig did it.

The bigger that pig grew, the more he squealed, and the less he seemed to like his pen.

Ben knew it, but for all that he wondered how it came to pass that he should find that pig in the village street, half way down to the tavern.

"Out of the pen into the barn-yard, and out of that into the street when the gate was open. Won't I have a time getting him home!"

There was little doubt of that, for the pig felt that it was his duty to root as he went, and he refused to walk quietly past any good opportunity to thrust his snub-nose into something.

Ben worked, and so did the pig.

"Hullo! What's that?"

The pig had turned up a clod of earth with something sticking on it, and Ben sprang forward to pick it up.

"It's a cent!"

It was round; it was made of copper; it was a coin of some kind; but it was black and grimy, and Ben rubbed hard to clean it.

"I never saw a cent like that before. I can't even read what it says on it."

"What have you found, Ben, my boy?"

"Guess it's a kind of a cent. The pig found it."

All the boys in the village knew old Squire Burchard, only they were half afraid of him. It was said he could read almost any kind of book, and that was a wonderful sort of man for any man to be.

"The pig found it? I declare! I guess I'll have to buy it of you."

"Don't you s'pose it'll pass?"

"Well, yes, it might; but it'll only buy a cent's worth. I'll give you more than that for it."

"Going to melt it over and make a new cent of it?"

"No, Ben, not so bad as that. I'll keep it to look at. It's a very old German coin, and I'm what they call a numismatist."

Ben listened hard over that word for a moment, and tried to repeat it.

"Rumismatics—I know; it's a good deal like what father says he has sometimes. Gets into his back and legs."

"Not quite, Ben; but it makes me gather up old coins, and put them in a glass case, and look at them."

"Father's is worse 'n that; it takes him bad in rainy weather."

"Well, Ben, I'll give the pig or you, just as you say, a quarter of a dollar for that cent."

Ben's eyes fairly danced, but all he could manage to say was, "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Guess I will."

"There it is, Ben. It's a new one. I don't care much for new ones. What'll you do with it?"

Ben hesitated only a moment, for he was turning the quarter over and over, and thinking of just the answer to the squire's question.

"It's a puppy, sir. Mrs. Malone said I might have it for a quarter, and father said I couldn't buy it unless I found the money."

"It'll be the pig's puppy, then? All right; but you can't make pork of him."

The pig was driven home in a good deal of a hurry, without another chance given him to root for old coins; and when Ben's father came in from the corn field that night, there was Ben ready to meet him with the puppy.

"Got him, have you?"

Ben had to explain twice over about the old cent and the Squire.

"Oh, the pig did it. Well, Ben, I don't see what we want of another dog; though that is a real pretty one. Too many dogs in this village, anyhow."

The next day Ben's father went to town with a load of wheat, and Ben went with him.

He had not owned that puppy long enough to feel like leaving him at home, so the little lump of funny black curls and clumsiness had to go to town with him.

Ben's father was in the store, selling his wheat, and Ben was sitting on top of the load in the wagon, when a carriage with a lady in it was pulled up in the street beside it.

"Is that your puppy, my boy?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Will you sell it? I want one for my little boy."

"It's a real nice puppy—"

"What will you sell him for?"

Ben did not feel at all like parting with his new pet, but he knew very well what his father thought about it. Still, it might save him the puppy if he asked a tremendous price for it.

"I'll take five dollars, ma'am."

"Bring him to me, then. It's just such a dog as I thought of buying."

It seemed to Ben a good deal as if he were dreaming; but he did as he was told, and climbed back to his perch on the heaped-up bags of wheat to wait for his father.

It was not long before he had sold the wheat and came out.

"Why, Ben, where's your puppy?"

"There he is, father."

"Why, if that ain't a five-dollar bill! You don't say so!"

Ben explained, and added, "The pig did it, father."

"Well, yes, the pig did it. It just beats me, though."

"He won't know what to do with a five-dollar bill."

"Nor you either. But soon's I can throw off this load we must drive on up town. There's to be a horse auction."

Ben knew what that meant, for his father knew all about horses, and was all the while buying and selling them. So it was not long before the wagon was empty, and Ben and his father made their way to where the horses were to be sold.

"There's a good many of 'em," said Ben's father, "but the whole lot isn't worth much. I guess there isn't anything here I want."

Not many people were bidding for the horses, and they were indeed a poor-looking lot; but pretty soon a gray horse was led out that limped badly, and was as thin as if he had been fed on wind. One man bid a dollar for him, and another bid two, and there was a good deal of fun made about it; but Ben's father had very quietly slipped down from the wagon, and taken a careful look at the lame horse.

For all that, Ben was a little surprised when the auctioneer's hammer fell, and he shouted, "Sold! for five dollars, to—What's your name, mister?"

"Ben Whittlesey."

Ben's father said that. But it wasn't his name. His name was Robert.

"Ben," said his father, when he came back to the wagon, "hand me that five-dollar bill. If I can get that horse home, I'll cure him in a fortnight. There's no great thing the matter with him."

There was trouble enough in making the poor lame animal limp so many miles, and they got home after dark; but that was just as well, for nobody saw the new horse, or had a chance to laugh at him or his owner.

"It's the pig's horse," said Ben.

Ben's father was as good as his word about curing the lameness, and plenty of oats and hay, and no work, and good care, did the rest. The man who sold the gray for five dollars would not have known him at the end of two weeks.

It was just about two weeks after that that Ben's father drove the pig's horse to town and back in a buggy, and with a nice new harness on. He stopped at the blacksmith's shop on his way home, and Mr. Corrigan, the blacksmith, seemed to take a great fancy to the gray.

"Just the nag I want, Mr. Whittlesey; only I've no ready cash to pay for him."

"I don't sell on credit, you know," said Mr. Whittlesey. "Anything to trade?"

"Nothing that I know of. Unless you care to take that vacant lot of mine, next the tavern. Tisn't doing me any good. I had to take it for a debt, and I've paid taxes for it these three years."

"Will you swap even?"

"Yes, I might as well."

There was more talk, of course, before the trade was finished, but it came out all right in the end. Before the next day at noon Mr. Corrigan owned the pig's horse; but the deed of the town lot was made out in the name of Ben Whittlesey, and not of the pig.

"Father," said Ben, at the tea table, "mayn't I let that pig out into the road every day?"

"No, Ben; all the pigs in the village can't root up another cent like that."

"He did it."

"Well, Ben, he did and he didn't. Do you know how he got the town lot for you?"

"Why, yes. Don't I?"

"Not quite. You saw him turn up the cent, and knew what to do with it; he didn't."

"Yes, father."

"And Squire Burchard saw the cent, and knew what to do with it; you didn't."

"Yes, father."

"And the lady saw your puppy, and knew what to do with it, and you didn't, nor I either. And I saw the gray horse, and knew what to do with him; the rest didn't."

"But I don't know what to do with the pig's town lot."

"No, nor Mr. Corrigan didn't, nor I either; but the man from town that's just bought the old tavern is going to build it over new, and wants to buy that lot to build on. I tell you what, Ben, my boy, there isn't much in this world that's worth having unless somebody comes along that knows what to do with it."

"Ben!" suddenly exclaimed his mother, as she looked out of the window, "there's that pig out in the garden!"

"Jump, Ben," said his father. "If he gets into your patch of musk-melons, he'll know just exactly what to do with them."

Before Ben got the pig out of the garden, the pig learned that Ben knew exactly what to do with a big stick.