MARK IS DISCHARGED

THE next day Mark, with some misgivings, repaired to the shoe
manufactory as usual. He knew he had done a bold thing in defending
Johnny against his employer’s son, but he never thought of regretting
it.
“I would do it again,” he said to himself. “Catch me standing by and
seeing Johnny whipped by any boy, no matter who he is.”
Mark laid aside his hat and coat, and went to his customary bench.
He had been at work fifteen minutes only, when Mr. Waite, the head of
the room, entered, and went up to where he was standing.
“Mr. Collins wants to see you, Mark,” he said.
“Do you know what for, Mr. Waite?” Mark asked.
“No, Mark, but I hope it is to raise your wages,” said Mr. Waite,
pleasantly, for he had always liked our hero.
“I am afraid it is something quite different,” said Mark, shaking his
head.
“No trouble, I hope, Mark?”
“I can tell you better when I return.”
Mark put on his coat, and went downstairs to the office.
Squire Collins was seated at a desk, with his spectacles astride his
nose. He looked up as Mark entered.
“Mr. Waite tells me you wish to see me, Mr. Collins,” said Mark.
“Yes,” said the squire, frowning. “I presume you can guess what I want
to see you about.”
“Perhaps so,” answered Mark.
“I understand that you made a violent attack upon my son James in the
pasture, yesterday afternoon.”
“We did have a little difficulty,” Mark admitted.
“Ha! I am glad you confess it. James says you made an unprovoked attack
upon him.”
“That is not quite true, Squire Collins; I was very much provoked.”
“Did my son attack you first?” demanded the squire, sharply.
“No, sir.”
“So I thought. Then you have no excuse by your own confession.”
“I think I have an excuse.”
“I fail to understand what it can be. To me it appears like a
high-handed outrage of which you were guilty.”
“I suppose James did not tell you what he was doing when I attacked
him?”
“No, I cannot remember that he did. What does that signify?”
“He had John Downie upon the ground, and was beating him brutally.”
Squire Collins was somewhat nonplussed at this revelation, as James had
said nothing about Johnny.
“Well?” he said.
“I ran up, and pulled him off, and prevented him from hurting Johnny.”
Squire Collins was rather embarrassed. He saw clearly that his son had
been in the wrong, yet he was inclined to stand by him. Moreover, it
chafed him that a poor boy should have presumed to interfere with his
son, much more use violence towards him.
He drew out his handkerchief and blew his nose, partly to gain time for
consideration. At length he spoke.
“My son feels very indignant at your presumption in assaulting him,” he
said, “and I wonder myself that you didn’t see the impropriety of
attacking the son of your employer.”
“Would you have had me stand by and see Johnny beaten?” asked Mark,
indignantly.
“I do not feel disposed to argue with you,” said the squire, in a
dignified tone. “I feel compelled to take some action in the matter
though I regret it. I cannot, of course, retain you in my employ. You
are discharged. I have made up your account to date, and here is the sum
due you.”
“Very well, sir,” answered Mark, quietly, though his heart sank within
him.
Squire Collins handed him a dollar and thirty-seven cents, and Mark,
putting them into his pocket, bowed and withdrew.
He went back to the room where his hat hung, and taking it down, said to
his fellow-workmen:
“Good-bye, boys, I shan’t be with you any longer.”
“Why, Mark, what’s the matter!” asked his next neighbor.
“I’m discharged; that’s all.”
“What for?”
“I’ll tell you some other time—not now.”
“Mark, I’m really sorry for this,” said Mr. Waite, pressing his hand
warmly. “I wish you good luck!”
“Thank you, Mr. Waite,” answered Mark, his lip quivering a little. “I
will hope for the best.”
Mark walked home with a slow step. He dreaded to tell his mother of his
discharge, for he knew that she would be still more depressed than
himself. Youth is hopeful, but middle age is less sanguine.
“I won’t go home at once,” thought Mark. “I will go to the wood and see
the hermit. He may have some errand for me, and besides, he may be able
to give me some advice.”
One object which Mark had, however, was to delay breaking the unwelcome
news to his mother.
He bent his steps towards the pasture, which he must cross in order to
penetrate to the wood by the usual path.
In a few minutes he entered the cabin, the door of which he found open.
The hermit was no longer reclining, but was seated in a
rocking-chair—the only article of luxury which the poor dwelling
contained.
“Good morning, sir!” said Mark. “I hope you are better.”
“I am much better. But how does it happen that you come here in the
morning? I supposed you were at work in the shoe factory.”
“I have lost my place there; I was discharged this morning.”
“Ha! how is that?”
Upon this Mark told the story of his encounter with the boys in the
pasture.
“I suppose,” he concluded, “that James got me discharged in revenge for
my interfering with him.”
“Then you regret what you did?” inquired the hermit.
“No, I don’t,” answered Mark, warmly. “I couldn’t stand by and see
Johnny beaten.”
“You are right, and I respect you for what you did.”
“It is a grievous thing for me, though,” said Mark. “It takes away my
income, and I don’t see how mother and I are going to live.”
“How much were you paid?”
“About three dollars and a half a week. Sometimes I made a little more
by over-work.”
“You have no occasion to be disturbed. I was about to propose that you
should leave your place.”
Mark looked surprised.
“I will take you into my own employ,” added Anthony. “How long have you
been coming to me?”
“A week, sir.”
“You may retain five dollars in compensation from the money you hold of
mine, and hereafter, as you will give me your whole time, you shall be
paid at the rate of a dollar a day—that is, seven dollars a week.”
“But, sir, you are overpaying me,” protested Mark, who thought this
compensation magnificent.
“Be it so. I can afford it. Let me know when you need more money.”


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“I have still about fifteen dollars.”
“After paying yourself for the last week?”
“Yes, sir. Can I do anything for you now?”
“Yes. I feel like taking a walk. That shows I am better. You may come
with me, and if I tire myself, I will lean upon your arm in returning.”
“With pleasure, sir. I am very glad that you feel better.”
“After all,” mused the old man, “it is pleasant to have human sympathy.
I thought I was able to do without it, but I am more dependent than I
supposed.”
They walked for half an hour. When they returned to the cabin, the
hermit said:
“To-morrow morning I expect a visitor from the city. I wish you to meet
him at the train, and conduct him here. He is a small man, with a sharp
look, and will probably be dressed in black. In fact, he is my man of
business. You need say nothing of this, however, but let people
conjecture as they will.”
“And shall I speak of my arrangement with you, sir?”
“You may merely say that I have engaged you to do my errands. I shall
not require you again to-day.”