THERE are some men who enjoy the prospect of dealing a blow, and
watching the effect—men whose best feelings have been deadened, and who
have lost all sympathy for those less fortunate than themselves. That
Squire Collins was a man of this kind will not seem strange to those who
have followed the course of this story. He set out for Mrs. Manning’s
cottage with a comfortable complacency, though he knew that the
communication he had to make would bring her great trouble and sorrow.
Quite unconscious of the impending blow, Mrs. Manning was sitting at the
front window engaged in sewing, while her thoughts were with her absent
boy, whom she seemed to miss more and more as his absence lengthened.
Casually looking up from her work, she saw with considerable surprise
the dignified figure of Squire Collins turning in at her gate.
“What can bring the squire here,” she thought. She was not in the habit
of receiving or expecting calls from her aristocratic townsman, and
concluded that he must have some special object in calling.
Perhaps he had come to offer to take Mark back into the shop. If so, it
might be the best thing for her son. She knew very little of old
Anthony’s circumstances, and she did not anticipate any permanent
position for Mark from that quarter.
“Good morning, Squire Collins,” she said, politely.
“Good morning, Mrs. Manning,” he responded, somewhat stiffly.
“Won’t you come in?”
“Thank you; I will step in for a few minutes, I have a little business
to speak of.”
“It must be that he means to take Mark back into the shop,” thought the
widow, cheerfully.
She led the way into the plain sitting-room, and invited the village
magnate to take a seat.
“Ahem! your son Mark is away?” remarked the squire, inquiringly. This
confirmed Mrs. Manning in her conjecture as to the squire’s errand.
“Yes,” she answered; “but I think he will be at home before long. I miss
him a great deal.”
“I suppose he can’t make a living in New York,” thought the squire.
Rather fortunately he didn’t inquire where Mark was, since this would
have embarrassed Mrs. Manning, who knew that it was a secret not to be
mentioned, and yet would have been reluctant to offend the squire by
withholding the information.
“Probably he will be as well off at home,” said the squire. “I don’t
believe much in boys leaving home on wild-goose expeditions. They think
it perfectly easy to earn a living elsewhere, but they are pretty apt to
reap only disappointment.”
“I dare say you are right, squire,” said Mrs. Manning, leading up to the
subject of a return to the shop; “but there didn’t seem to be anything
for Mark to do at home.”
Squire Collins understood her object, but had no intention of offering
employment to Mark. He looked at the widow with a peculiar smile, and
enjoyed the disappointment which his next words were calculated to
“I dare say Mark can hire out to some good farmer,” he replied,
indifferently. “Farming is a good healthy business.”
Mrs. Manning sighed, for she rightly interpreted that no place in the
shop was to be offered to Mark.
“Ahem!” said the squire, changing the subject; “you have a boarder, I
“Yes; Mr. Taylor makes his home with us.”
“A sensible move on his part. It was a strange thing to live in the
woods by himself so many years. I hope he will be able to pay his
“He pays regularly every week,” answered the widow.
“I presume he’s quite poor?”
“Mark thinks he has considerable money, but I have no means of judging,
except that he pays his bills promptly.”
Squire Collins shrugged his shoulders.
“Mark is an inexperienced boy,” he said. “The truth is, as I understand,
old Anthony receives a small pension from some relatives in New York. It
can’t be much, but I hope, for your sake, that he has enough to pay his
Mrs. Manning began to wonder whether this was what Squire Collins came
to talk about. She was soon more fully informed.
“How long have you lived in this cottage, Mrs. Manning?” asked the
“Ten years, sir.”
“You hire of Deacon Brooks?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Ahem! I came here this morning to acquaint you with the fact that I
have just bought the property.”
“Has Deacon Brooks sold to you?” asked the widow, in surprise.
“Yes; the papers have passed, and the transfer has been made. I am now
the legal owner.”
“I shall be glad to keep the house, Squire Collins, if you have no other
views,” said Mrs. Manning. “I have been paying five dollars a month
rent, and if that is satisfactory——”
“The fact is, Mrs. Manning,” interrupted the squire, “I _have_ other
views. I intend to raise the house a story, and have promised to rent
it, when completed, to my foreman, Mr. Lake, who contemplates marriage.
He is boarding at present, as you know.”
Mrs. Manning was very much disturbed. It is no light thing to be forced
to leave a house which has been one’s home for a period of ten years,
especially in a country town where surplus houses are generally scarce
and hard to find.
“I don’t know where I can go,” said the widow, anxiously.
“No doubt you’ll find some place,” said the squire, carelessly.
“How soon do you want me to vacate the house, Squire Collins?” asked
Mrs. Manning, anxiously.
“At the end of the month.”
“But that is only a week from to-day.”
“Quite true.”
“That is a very short time.”
“It ought to be time enough, Mrs. Manning,” said the squire, stiffly.
“I would be willing to pay a little higher rent if you would allow me to
remain, Squire Collins.”
“Quite out of the question, Mrs. Manning. Indeed, I will say that I
think you already pay all you can afford to. I doubt whether you will be
able—with Mark out of employment—to keep up your present rent. As I
understand, about all your income comes from a boarder, whose means must
be extremely limited, and who, in all probability, will end his days in
the alms-house.”
“I don’t know of any other house in the village.”
“Well, you can think it over; of course that is your own affair, not
“If Mark were only at home,” said the perplexed woman; “I would know
better what to do.”
“You had better send for him then. Good morning.”
Squire Collins rose and left the presence of the widow whom he had made
thoroughly anxious and unhappy.
In the course of the afternoon old Anthony came home. He was looking
unusually jubilant and happy, in direct contrast with the widow’s
anxious face.
“Mrs. Manning,” he said, “I bring you good news.”
“I am glad of it, sir, for I have only bad news.”
“And what is your bad news?”
“I must leave this house.”
“How is that?” asked the hermit, looking surprised.
“Because it has been sold. Squire Collins has bought it, and says that
he is intending to enlarge it, and then let it to Mr. Lake, his
“And that is all your bad news?”
“Yes, sir; but I consider it bad enough. I don’t know where I can go.”
“I will let you have my cabin in the woods rent free,” said the hermit,
with a smile.
“I don’t know but I shall have to go there,” said the widow, sighing.
“You don’t ask me what my good news is,” said Anthony.
“I would like to hear it, sir.”
“By day after to-morrow Mark will be home.”
Mrs. Manning’s face did brighten up at this intelligence.
“This is really good news,” she said gladly. “Mark will advise me what
to do.”
“Mark will not come alone. Do you think, Mrs. Manning, you can
accommodate another boarder?”
“Who is it, sir?”
“A little boy. I don’t care to keep it secret. It is my grandson.”
“Your grandson?”
“Yes; I sent Mark out West to find him. He has succeeded in his mission,
and the two are now on the way home.”
“I shall be glad to take him, sir, if I have anywhere to receive him.
Squire Collins’s visit has rather upset me, and I don’t know what to do,
or where to turn.”
“If your only trouble is about a house, I will undertake to find one for
you. Don’t borrow any trouble on that score.”
“But I don’t know of any house that will come within my means.”
“I am afraid, Mrs. Manning, that you haven’t confidence in me. I tell
you again, not to borrow any trouble. I may as well tell you that this
house will not be large enough for your increased family, and that I
intended to propose to you to take another.”
The widow’s anxiety was somewhat relieved. Still she could not help
wondering what house old Anthony would succeed in finding. There was one
comfort. In two days Mark would be at home, and would be able to help