A TRAGEDY IN THE PASTURE

ON their way home the two boys had occasion to cross a pasture belonging
to Deacon Miller, an old farmer whose house and barn were about a
furlong distant on a rising ground.

They sauntered along in single file. James had a careless way of
carrying his gun, which made some of the boys unwilling to accompany
him, unless it was unloaded. Tom had two or three times cautioned him on
this very afternoon, but James did not receive his remonstrance in good
part.

“Don’t trouble yourself so much about my gun, Tom Wyman,” he said. “I
guess I know how to carry my gun as well as you do.”

“I don’t doubt that in the least, James, but you must admit that you
handle it rather carelessly. Some of the boys don’t like to go hunting
with you.”

“Then they are cowards. I never shot any boy yet,” answered James, with
some heat.

“No, but you might.”

“You are making a great deal of fuss about nothing. I didn’t think you
were so timid.”

“I don’t know that I am particularly timid, but I shouldn’t like to be
riddled with shot,” returned Tom, good-humoredly.

“Then you’d better get your life insured when you go out with me next,”
sneered James.

“I don’t know but I shall,” said Tom, declining to take offense.

For a very brief period James carried his gun more carefully. Then he
forgot his caution, and in transferring his gun from one shoulder to the
other somehow he touched the hammer, and the gun was discharged.

It was most unfortunate, but when the gun went off it was pointed
directly at a white-faced cow belonging to Deacon Miller.

The small shot penetrated both the poor animal’s eyes, and with a moan
of anguish the cow sank to the ground.

Both boys stared in dismay at the victim of carelessness.

“There, you’ve gone and done it now, James,” said Tom. “You’ve shot
Deacon Miller’s cow.”

“I don’t see how I happened to do it,” stammered James, really
frightened.

“I told you not to carry your gun so carelessly.”

“You told me! Of course you want to get me into trouble about this!”
exclaimed James, irritably.

“No, I don’t.”

“Then,” said James, quickly, “don’t say a word about it. We’ll get home
as soon as we can, and won’t know anything about it. Mum’s the word!”

“Of course I’ll be mum, but it will be known that we have been out with
guns this afternoon.”

“So has Mark Manning.”

James looked significantly at Tom, and Tom understood.

Poor Mark was to bear the blame for a deed he didn’t do, and all to
screen James.

“It’s mean!” Tom said to himself, “but I can’t go back on James. I want
to keep in with him, and I suppose I must consent.”

“Well?” demanded James, impatiently.

“It won’t come out through me,” answered Tom, but not with alacrity.

“And if Mark is accused you won’t say anything?”

“N-o!” said Tom, slowly.

“Then let us put for home!”

James suited the action to the word, and the two boys hurried across the
pasture, never venturing to look back at the suffering animal.

Fifteen minutes later, when James and Tom were already at home, Mark
Manning entered the narrow foot-path that led across the pasture.

He was immersed in thought, the hermit and his strange experience at the
cabin being the subject of his reflections, when he heard a pitiful
moaning, not far from him.

Looking up he observed that it proceeded from old Whitey, as the deacon
was accustomed to call his favorite cow.

“What’s the matter with you, old Whitey?” said Mark, who was always
moved by distress, whether in man or beast.

Coming nearer, he was not long left in doubt. The nature of the injury
which the poor cow had received was evident to him.

“Poor old Whitey!” he said, pitifully. “Who has shot you in this cruel
manner?”

The sole answer was a moan of anguish from the stricken animal.

“I am afraid she will have to be killed!” thought Mark, sadly. “It is
only torture for her to live with this injury, and of course there is no
cure.”

He was still standing beside the cow, gun in hand, when a harsh voice
became audible.

“What have you done to my cow, Mark Manning?”

Looking up, he saw the deacon but four rods distant.

Deacon Miller was an old man, of giant form, and harsh, irregular
features. He was a very unpopular man in the neighborhood, and
deservedly so. He had made home so disagreeable that his only son had
gone away fifteen years before, and the deacon had never heard from him
since.

“What have you been doin’ to my cow?” he demanded, in a still harsher
tone.

“Nothing, Deacon Miller,” answered Mark, calmly.

“You don’t mean to tell me the critter’s makin’ all this fuss for
nothin’, do you?”

“No; the poor animal has been shot.”

“Has been what?” snarled the deacon.

“Shot! Shot in the face, and I am afraid its eyes are put out,” replied
Mark.

“Old Whitey shot in the eye,” repeated the deacon, in a fury. “Then it’s
you that did it.”

[Illustration: “What have you done to my cow, Mark Manning?” said the
deacon, coming up to him.]

“You are mistaken, sir,” said Mark, with dignity. “I have just come up,
and this is the condition in which I found Whitey.”

“What’s that you are carryin’ in your hand?” demanded the deacon,
sternly.




“My gun.”

“I am glad you are willin’ to tell the truth. I didn’t know but you’d
say it was a hoe,” exploded the deacon in angry irony.

“Your cow has received no injury from my gun, if that’s what you’re
hinting at, Deacon Miller.”

“Let me take the gun!”

In some surprise Mark put it into his hands. The deacon raised it, and
pulled the trigger.

No report was heard. The gun was not loaded.

“Just what I thought,” said the deacon, triumphantly. “If it had been
loaded, I might have thought you told me the truth. Now I know as well
as I want to that you shot my cow in the face with it.”

“I assure you, Deacon Miller,” said Mark, earnestly, beginning to
comprehend the extent to which he was implicated, although innocent. “I
assure you, Deacon Miller, that I have had nothing to do with harming
poor Whitey.”

“Anyway, I shall hold you responsible, and I reckon you’ll have hard
work to prove yourself innocent,” said the deacon, grimly. “I ain’t
going to lose a forty-five dollar cow, and say nothin’ about it. You
jest tell your mother when you go home to see about raisin’ forty-five
dollars to make up old Whitey’s loss. As she’s a poor widder I’ll give
her thirty days to do it in. Do you hear?”

“Yes, Deacon Miller, I hear, but I repeat that I didn’t harm your cow,
and I shan’t pay you a cent.”

“We’ll see!” was the only answer the deacon gave, nodding his head with
emphasis.

Poor Mark! he had never felt so miserable, as he plodded slowly home. He
was innocent, but circumstances were against him, and the deacon was
implacable.