Jed's Big Scheme
by Charles Hoy Fort
Jed Doublebee had a bad reputation; he had little else. There was the farm, to be sure; but as the plow was idle and the hoe unused, the farm might as well not have been.
"What's the use?" said Jed. "It's only a bare living any way, and I seem to live without bothering much. I'll be no slave; I'll get a great idea some day."
Some day he'd have a great idea, and the present was not worth considering while this great idea was in the future.
"Let me have a dollar or so; I've got something in my mind that will pan out pretty soon." Or--
"You might let me have a little change for a couple of days; I'm working up something big; there's a fortune in it."
Nothing ever "panned out," and the dreamed-of fortune remained as remote as ever.
So, rather astonishing was it when Jed was seen no more in the chair that he considered his own, dilating upon his latest visions; noteworthy was it when he was seen no more standing on the corner, hands in pockets, old slouch hat over his eyes. All year Jed kept to himself in the farm-house, as if turned hermit.
But no hermit was Jed Doublebee; he reappeared, and from rather astonishing, he became amazing. Walking into the store in which he was so well known, he ordered five cents worth of crackers and paid for them with a five-hundred-dollar bill, which Wilkins could not change.
"Well, here's the smallest I have," said Jed. A hundred-dollar bill.
"He's counterfeiting," was whispered around.
But Old Isaacs changed the five-hundred-dollar bill without questioning, and that was criterion enough for any one.
So it was not counterfeiting; but there was something else.
In the first place, bull dogs, fierce, blooded animals, were brought to guard every pathway to the farm-house; still more suggestive of secrets was a new, high fence, built so that it could not be scaled without a ladder, and with no cracks to peer through.
Other things were whispered about.
Dr. Hall thought the farm-house perhaps the workshop of vivisectionists. Others conceived that the place was the resort of creatures insane with love of torture.
For strange sounds had been heard--the sounds of animals in pain, and all that heard agreed that these sounds were the grunting and squealing of pigs.
One evening the village was horrified. An uncanny creature had run through the streets, terrifying women and children, making men rub their eyes to assure themselves that they had seen aright. It was a pig, but over its head was a hideous black mask. And there was Jed Doublebee in pursuit.
Catching the creature, Jed returned to the farm-house before any one could be certain of what it was he had seen.
There had been whispering before; after this there was excitement. What was going on behind this high fence? What were the sounds heard by passersby? What was this thing with the body of a pig and its head masked?
Jed strolled into town the next day and quieted a good deal of speculation by laughing at what he called wild stories, declaring that only an ordinary black-and-white pig had run away.
But something else was seen. So sensational and amazing was it, as told, that it aroused the whole village.
Three persons, passing the Doublebee homestead at about the same time, declared that they had seen, pursued by bull dogs, a pig with a human face.
But who could believe such a story as that? Still, suspicions and curiosity were so great that a delegation called upon Jed Doublebee.
"Mr. Doublebee, of course it's preposterous and all that, nothing but the talk of silly old women, but if everything is all right, you won't object to showing us around, will you?"
Certainly not. Jed went through the best room and the spare room with his callers, the delegation apologetically looking under the chairs, sheepishly suggesting a peep into the cellar, laughing awkwardly as it peered into the henhouse, trying to have the affair appear as nothing whatever but a great big joke after all.
The delegation went away. It had forgotten to look in the pig-yard.
"Oh well," said the delegation, "it's only talk any way; Mr. Doublebee is a respectable citizen and has improved his property remarkably."
Then there could be no mistake this time. A hundred persons saw another frightful creature that had escaped from the suspected farm-house. Running in mad terror toward the village, Jed and his bull-dogs caught it and dragged it back. But the face had been seen--a puckered, leering human visage.
There was still a crowd around the high fence. Silly old women and important citizens, all clamoring for Jed to open the gate, then discovering that Jed and his bull-dogs had disappeared and that the gate was open. Rushing to the pig-yard, they tore off padlocks, throwing open the door.
There were a dozen pigs with iron masks on their heads. And when these masks were unscrewed, what so many persons had seen in the road was now seen in the yard.
Placed upon the animals when young, the masks had caused the heads to conform with every detail of the iron envelopes, turning sloping cheeks into rounded ones, shortening snouts, building high foreheads, causing everything but the light of a human face, just as by means of unyielding surroundings one may make a growing gourd take any desired formation.
And in the house, the correspondence of a thriving business was found; many dime museums had bought and were exhibiting "The Pig With the Human Face."
Jed came back and was heavily fined. You may see him to-day, looking at the sky or stars, never at plow or hoe; he's trying to think up another "big scheme."
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