MARK PROTECTS A FRIEND

SQUIRE COLLINS succeeded in reducing the deacon’s claim to thirty-eight
dollars, and this sum James was obliged to withdraw from his savings in
the bank. He thought it was very hard, as the shooting was merely an
accident. He was fond of money, scarcely less so than Deacon Miller
himself, and it went to his heart to find himself so much poorer than
before.

“It isn’t as if I got any fun out of it,” he complained to Tom. “It’s
just money thrown away.”

“It is a heavy sum to pay for a trifling carelessness,” admitted Tom.

“And I shouldn’t have had a cent to pay but for John Downie. Why need
the boy turn tell-tale?”

“It was mean.”

“Mean? I should say so. I mean to come up with the fellow. I mean to
give him the worst licking he ever had.”

Even if Tom disapproved of the intention, he at any rate did not express
any disapproval, but left it to be understood that he considered it
perfectly proper.

Three days later the opportunity came. Tom and James were crossing the
pasture, which had been the scene of the tragedy, when John, whistling
gayly, met them.

“Now’s my chance,” said James, triumphantly. “There’s the sneak that
told of me. See how I’ll serve him.”

John Downie, seeing the boys approaching, nodded his head, saying in a
friendly manner, “hello!”

“Oh, it’s you, is it?” said James, in a hostile tone, stopping short.

“Yes, it’s me. Who did you think it was?” returned John, laughing.

“I’ve been wanting to meet you, John Downie.”

“What for?” asked John. He could not help seeing now that the speaker
spoke like an enemy.

“To tell you that you are a sneak and a tell-tale.”

“What do you mean by that?” demanded John, beginning himself to be
angry.

“You ought to know without asking. Wasn’t it you that told about my
shooting old Whitey?”

“Well, you did shoot her, didn’t you?”

“Suppose I did. You needn’t have blurted it out.”

“The deacon charged Mark Manning with it. I wasn’t going to see him
suffer for it when I saw you do it.”

“You’re a great friend of Mark Manning, it seems,” said James, with a
sneer.

“Yes, I am; but, even if I hadn’t been, I would have told. His mother is
poor, and couldn’t afford to pay for the cow.”

“She’ll be poorer yet before long, I’m thinking,” said James. “Do you
know what I’m going to do to you?”

“Perhaps you’ll tell me,” said John Downie, calmly.

“I’m going to give you a licking.”

“If I’ll let you.”

James laughed derisively; Johnny was two inches shorter than he, and so
far as appearances went was not as strong. In a contest between the two,
there was little doubt that James would come out the victor.

“I don’t think you’ll have much to say in the matter,” said James. “Just
move out of the way, Tom, and give me a chance at him.”

Tom did as requested, and James rushed at John with an impetuosity born
of anger. John prepared to defend himself. The boys were soon grappling,
trying to trip each other up. Neither knew much of the science of
fighting, and victory naturally came to the stronger. In about two
minutes John was on his back, with James kneeling over him, aiming blows
at his face.

“I told you I’d give you a licking,” said James, closing his teeth,
firmly.

“Oh, let him off, James,” said Tom. “This ought to satisfy you.”

“But it doesn’t. I’m going to give him a lesson he’ll remember all his
life.”

James undertook to belabor his fallen opponent, but he had been so
preoccupied that he did not notice a boy running towards the scene of
conflict, neither did Tom, who had his back turned.

Luckily for John, Mark Manning was on his way to call upon the hermit,
when he became an indignant witness of James’s brutality. He said
nothing, but fairly flew across the pasture till he reached the
battle-field. The first intimation James had of his presence was a
vigorous grasp of his coat collar, and in an instant he was lying on his
back close to his late victim, with Mark standing over him.

“I’m ashamed of you, James Collins,” he said, sternly. “You’re a
contemptible coward to attack a smaller boy like Johnny.”

“Knock him over, Tom,” shrieked James, furiously. “I’ll give him a
licking, too.”

“It doesn’t look much like it,” said Mark, with his knee on James’s
breast.

“Help, Tom!” called James, struggling once more.

Tom felt obliged to take an active part in the fight, though it was by
no means to his taste. He seized Mark by the shoulders, and tried to
drag him away from his prostrate friend, but by this time John Downie
was on his feet, and ran forward, giving Tom a push which sent him
headlong on the other side of James.

“Let me up, you low ruffian!” screamed James.

“Will you promise to behave yourself, then?”

“I will promise nothing.”

“Then you can stay here a little longer. What made you attack Johnny?”

“It’s none of your business. I’ll lick him as often as I please.”

“Not while I am around. Johnny, what made him attack you?”

“He said I was a tell-tale, because I told of his shooting the cow.”

“And so you are! Let me up, Mark Manning.”

“Will you promise?”

“No, I won’t.”

“Let him up, Mark,” said Johnny. “He won’t dare to attack me while you
are here.”

“No, I think not. Get up then, James, and take care how you pitch into
Johnny again. Just as sure as you do, you’ll have to settle accounts
with me.”

Released from the pressure that held him down, James rose, angry and
humiliated. He would sooner have been worsted by any one than Mark,
whom, for some reason not easy to divine, he especially hated.

“You took me at advantage,” he said, sullenly, “or you couldn’t have
thrown me.”

“Do you want to try it again?” asked Mark, quietly. “Now we stand face
to face, and you have as fair a chance as I.”




“I don’t care to demean myself by fighting with such a low working boy
as you.”

“I commend your prudence, James,” said Mark, undisturbed by this taunt.
“As for being a working boy, I am not ashamed of that.”

“You’re only a common pegger.”

“Very true, I hope to rise higher some time.”

“You won’t work much longer in my father’s shop. I’ll have you
discharged.”

“Just as you please. I think I can earn a living in some other way.
Come, Johnny, if James has no further business with you, we may as well
go along.”

James, appearing to have no wish to resume hostilities, Mark and Johnny
walked away.

“You won’t hear the last of this very soon,” said James, as a farewell
shot.

“Do you think he’ll get his father to discharge you, Mark?” asked
Johnny.

“I think very likely.”

“I am very sorry you have got into trouble on my account.”

“Don’t worry, Johnny. I did right, and am ready to take the
consequences.”