MARK AT HOME

MARK’S home was a small cottage of a story and a half, surmounted by a
sloping roof. It was plainly furnished, but looked comfortable. His
mother was a pleasant looking woman of middle age, who managed well
their scanty income, consisting chiefly of Mark’s earnings.
“Are you not later than usual, Mark?” she inquired.
“Yes, mother; I went out gunning, and did an errand for old Anthony, who
is laid up with the rheumatism in his cabin.”
“Poor man! I hope he won’t suffer.”
“Thanks to me, he probably will not.”
“What can you do for him, Mark? You have no money to spare.”
“Haven’t I, mother?” asked Mark, with a smile, as he drew from his
pocket a large handful of silver and gold.
“What do you say to that?”
“Oh, Mark! I hope you came honestly by that money,” said the widow,
nervously.
“I haven’t been robbing a bank, if that’s what you mean, mother. I
couldn’t very well, as there is none within ten miles.”
“Then, Mark, where did the money come from?”
“It belongs to old Anthony. He asked me to take charge of it, as I shall
need to be buying things for him in the village for a few days to come.”
“For mercy’s sake, be careful of it, Mark, as, if you lost it, we
couldn’t make up the loss.”
“I’ll look after that. In fact, I think it will be safer with me than
with the owner. If any dishonest person should enter his cabin, he could
not help being robbed in his present condition.”
“That would be very unfortunate, as the old man is probably very poor.”
Mark was about to undeceive his mother, but, reflecting that Lyman
Taylor might still be in the village, he thought it not prudent to
betray the hermit’s secret.
“I heard a report to-day, Mark,” said his mother, as she was setting the
supper table, “that the shoe-shop was to be closed for a month.”
“I hope not,” said Mark, startled. “That would be serious for us.”
“And for others too, Mark.”
“Yes. It isn’t as if there were other employments open, but there is
absolutely nothing, unless I could get a chance to do some farm work.”
“Perhaps Deacon Miller may need a boy.”
“He’s about the last man I would work for. He wouldn’t pay me a cent.”
“Why not, Mark? He wouldn’t expect you to work for nothing.”
“He claims that I owe him forty-five dollars, and would expect me to
work it out.”
“What do you mean, Mark? How can you owe the deacon forty-five dollars?”
“I don’t, but he claims I do.”
Mark then told his mother the story of the cow.
“Deacon Miller expects me to pay for it,” he concluded, “but I think
he’ll have to take it out in expecting.”
“Oh, Mark, I am afraid this will lead to serious trouble,” said Mrs.
Manning, looking distressed. “He may go to law about it.”
“He can’t make me pay for the damage somebody else did, mother.”
“But if he makes out that you shot the cow?”
“I won’t trouble about it. It might spoil my appetite for supper. I’ve
got a healthy appetite to-night, mother.”
“Your story has taken away mine, Mark.”
“Don’t worry, mother; it will all come right.”
“I am afraid worrying comes natural to me, Mark. I’ve seen more trouble
than you have, my son.”
“Forget it all till supper is over, mother.”
Supper was scarcely over when a knock was heard at the door, and John
Downie entered. He was a boy of Scotch descent, and lived near by.
“How are you, Johnny,” said Mark, “won’t you have some supper?”
“Thank you, Mark, I’ve had some. Have you heard about Deacon Miller’s
cow?”
“What about her?” asked Mark, eagerly.
“You know old Whitey?”
“Yes, yes.”
“Her eyes are put out by an accidental discharge of a gun, and I guess
she will have to be killed.”
“Do you know who shot her?” asked Mark, with intense interest.
“Yes, I do, but the deacon doesn’t,” answered John.
“Who was it?”
“James Collins. He and Tom Wyman were coming through the pasture, when
James, in handling his gun awkwardly, managed to discharge it full in
poor Whitey’s face.”
“How do you know it was James?”
“Because I saw it. I was in the next field and saw it all.”
“Did the boys see you?”
“No; they hurried away as fast as they could go.”
“Johnny, you’re a trump!” exclaimed Mark, rising and shaking the boy’s
hand vigorously.
“Why am I a trump?” asked Johnny, astonished.
“Because your testimony will clear me. The deacon charges me with
shooting the cow, and wants me to pay forty-five dollars.”
“Gosh!” exclaimed Johnny. “But what makes him think you shot old
Whitey?”
Mark briefly explained.
“But,” said Mrs. Manning, “surely James Collins would not permit you to
suffer for his fault?”
“You don’t know James, mother. That’s just what he would do, I feel
sure. What do you say, Johnny?”
“Jim Collins is just mean enough to do it,” answered John.
“He can’t do it now, however. Mr. Collins is abundantly able to pay for
the cow, and I guess he’ll have to.”


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“I don’t know how we could ever have paid so large a sum,” said the
widow.
“We shan’t have to, mother, that’s one comfort.”
“There’s the deacon coming!” exclaimed Johnny, suddenly.
“So he is! Johnny, just run into the kitchen, and I’ll call you when
you’re wanted. We’ll have some fun. Mother, don’t say a word till we
hear what the deacon has to say.”
By this time the deacon had knocked. Mrs. Manning admitted him, and he
entered with a preliminary cough.
“Are your family well, deacon?” asked the mother.
“They’re middlin’, widder, which is a comfort. Families are often a
source of trouble,” and here the deacon glanced sharply at Mark, who,
rather to his surprise, looked cool and composed.
“That may be, Deacon Miller, but I am thankful that Mark never gives me
any trouble.”
“Don’t be too sure of that, ma’am,” said the deacon, grimly. “It’s about
that very thing I’ve come here now. Your son has shot my most valuable
cow, old Whitey, and I regret to say, widder, that he’ll have to make it
good for me. Forty-five dollars is what the critter is worth, and I
wouldn’t have taken that for her.”
“Are you sure Mark shot your cow?” asked Mrs. Manning.
“As sure as I need to be. I caught him standin’ by the cow with his gun
in his hand. The barrel was empty, for I tried it to see.”
“What have you to say to this charge, Mark?”
“That Deacon Miller is mistaken. I did not shoot his cow.”
“I reckon you’ll have to pay for it all the same. Mark Manning. I don’t
want to be hard on a poor widder, but it stands to reason that I should
be paid for my cow.”
“I agree to that,” said Mark, “but I’m not the one.”
“Mebbe the cow shot herself!” said the deacon, sarcastically. “It may be
nat’ral for cows to commit suicide, but I never saw one do it as far as
I can remember. Young man, your story is too thin.”