MARK’S spirits were wonderfully improved when he left the hermit’s
cabin, and took his way homeward. So far from being injuriously affected
by his discharge from the shoe-shop, his income was considerably
increased. Not only this, but he had received five dollars for his past
week’s services over and above what he had been paid for his work in the
“Now,” thought he. “I can tell mother without minding it.”
But his mother had already heard of it. A neighbor, Mrs. Parker, who
rather enjoyed telling bad news, had heard of it through her son, who
also worked in the work-shop.
She at once left her work, and hurried over to Mrs. Manning’s.
“Good morning, Mrs. Parker,” said the widow, cheerfully. “Take a chair,
“Thank you, Mrs. Manning, I can’t stop a minute. I left my kitchen at
sixes and sevens, on purpose to condole with you. I declare, it’s really
“What is too bad? I don’t understand you?” said Mrs. Manning, perplexed.
“About your son Mark, I mean.”
“What has happened to him? Is he hurt?” asked the widow, with a pale
“No, no; hasn’t he been home?”
“He is at the shoe-shop, of course.”
“No, he is not. He was discharged by Squire Collins this morning.”
“Discharged? What for?”
“Don’t you know? Some quarrel between Mark and James Collins, I
“I am glad he is not hurt.”
“But hasn’t he been home? I wonder at that.”
“I have seen nothing of him since he started for the shop.”
“Poor boy! I suppose he doesn’t like to tell me he is discharged,”
sighed the widow. “It will be a serious thing for us, for I don’t know
where else he will find work.”
“O, something will turn up,” said Mrs. Parker, who could bear the
misfortunes of her neighbors very cheerfully. “But I must run home, or
my dinner will be late.”
The more Mrs. Manning thought of Mark’s loss of employment, the more
troubled she felt. Three dollars and a half a week was not a large sum,
but it was more than half their income, and how they were to make it up
she could not conjecture. Perhaps she could induce Mark to apologize to
James, in which case the squire might be induced to take him back. While
her mind was busy with such thoughts, Mark entered the house whistling.
His mother was considerably surprised at this evidence of
light-heartedness under the circumstances.
He entered the room where his mother was at work.
“Well, mother, is dinner almost ready?” he asked.
“It will be ready soon. But oh, Mark, what is this I hear about your
being discharged from the shoe-shop?”
“It is all true, mother, but you needn’t worry over it. We shall get
along just as well.”
“I don’t see how. There is no other shop in the village.”
“I have another job already, and a better one.”
Mrs. Manning opened her eyes in astonishment.
“What can it be?” she asked.
“Old Anthony has hired me to do his errands.”
“I am afraid, Mark, that will amount to very little.”
“I am to receive five dollars a week.”
“Do you really mean this? I thought he was very poor.”
“Quite the contrary, mother, but we mustn’t say that to others. Let
people think he is poor. Here are five dollars which he has paid me for
the last week, though I have worked in the shop, and done very little
for it. Take it, mother, and use as you need it.”
“Will this last, Mark?” asked his mother, almost incredulously.
“I think it will. The hermit seems to have taken a special fancy to me,
and he says he can well afford to pay me this sum. I say, mother,
suppose I invite him to take dinner with us next Sunday?”
“With all my heart, Mark. He seems to me like a good Providence who has
come to our help at this juncture.”
“Do you need anything at the store this afternoon?”
“The butter and sugar are out, Mark.”
“Give me the five-dollar bill, then, mother, and I will buy some.”
Shortly after dinner Mark started for the store. On the way he met
several persons who condoled with him on his loss of place. They were
surprised to find that Mark looked cheerful, and even gay.
“Yes,” he said, “I’ve retired from the shoe business on a fortune.”
“You don’t seem to mind it!”
“No, I can stand it well enough, but I pity Squire Collins for losing my
“I thought you’d be down in the mouth. You don’t seem to care.”
“Why should I? Care killed a cat.”
Arrived at the store, Mark stepped up to the counter and called for two
pounds of sugar and two pounds of butter.
Mr. Palmer, the grocer, had heard of Mark’s dismissal, and being a
cautious man, inquired:
“Are you going to pay cash?”
“I heard you had lost your place at the shop.”
“Yes,” answered Mark, smiling, “I discharged Squire Collins.”
“It’ll be rather hard on you, won’t it?”
“I guess I can pay my bills, Mr. Palmer. At any rate I can pay for what
I am buying now.”
The grocer put up the packages, and was surprised when Mark handed him a
five-dollar bill in payment.
“Seems to me you’re flush,” he said.
“So it seems,” answered Mark, but he volunteered no information.
“I can’t make out that boy,” said the grocer to his assistant, after
Mark had gone out. “He looks as if he had got a good place instead of
losing it. I wonder if the widder’s got any money?”
“Not much, except what Mark brings in.”
On his way home Mark met the cause of his discharge, James Collins,
accompanied as usual by his friend, Tom Wyman.
“Hallo!” said James, eying Mark, triumphantly.
“Why ain’t you at the shop?”
“Probably you know.”
“Yes, I do know. You’ve been discharged.”
“I suppose I am indebted to your kindness for that.”
“Yes, you are. Perhaps now you will be sorry for your impertinence to me
in the pasture.”
“When I am I’ll tell you so. At present I am glad, and would do the same
“How do you expect to live?”
“On victuals and drink, thank you.”
“If you have money to buy them,” supplemented James, with a malicious
“I’ve got a little money left,” and Mark drew out not only his own but
the hermit’s money. “You see I don’t depend on work in the shoe-shop.”
James was both amazed and annoyed.
“Where did you get that money?” he asked abruptly.
“I am afraid I must leave your curiosity ungratified. I’ll tell you, as
it may interest you, that I should have resigned my place in the shop at
the end of the week, even if you hadn’t kindly got me discharged.”
So saying, Mark walked away.
“Where do you think he got that money, Tom?” said James.
“Blamed if I know!”
The next morning Mark walked to the depot to meet the morning train.