MRS. MANNING’S HOUSE IS SOLD.

IT is now time to return to Pocasset and inquire how our old
acquaintances are prospering.

It was still a matter of wonder what had become of Mark. Mrs. Manning
gave no information, and no letters were received at the post-office
which would throw light on the mystery. Mark, by arrangement, directed
all his letters to Mr. Hardy, who inclosed and forwarded them to the
Pocasset office. Tom Wyman, the postmaster’s son, was puzzled to account
for the letters received from New York by Mrs. Manning.

“They must be from Mark,” said James Collins.

“They don’t seem to be in Mark’s hand-writing.”

“He probably gets some one to direct them for him, so as to throw dust
in our eyes.”

This was the conclusion upon which the two boys finally settled.

Another cause of wonder was the hermit’s visits to the city. Since he
had heard that his grandson was living, he went up often to consult with
Mr. Hardy. Family affection in him had not died out. It had only been
dormant, and now it was thoroughly reawakened.

“I long to see my daughter’s boy,” he said. “It will give me something
to live for. I tremble lest the cup of happiness should be dashed from
my lips, just as my hopes are awakened.”

“Don’t be anxious, old friend. Your affairs are in good hands. Mark is
only a boy, but he has far more discretion and fidelity than most men.
Do you know what I have in view?”

“Well?”

“If he succeeds in this enterprise I propose, with his mother’s
permission, to take him into my office, and train him up in my business.
I have hitherto employed boys simply as boys, but Mark is one whom I can
train up for a responsible position. I am getting older every year, and
when I am really old, I shall be glad to have a young man at my side
upon whom I can shift the burden of my business. Do you think his mother
would object?”

“Mrs. Manning is a sensible woman. I think she will be glad to have her
son so well provided for. If it is necessary I will myself advise her to
commit him to your charge.”

At length a telegram came from Mark, and by good luck when Mr. Taylor
was in the office of his agent. It ran thus:

“JOHN HARDY, NEW YORK.

“I am on my way to New York with little Jack. Particulars when we
meet.

“MARK MANNING.”

“There, old friend, what do you say to that?” asked John Hardy,
triumphantly. “Didn’t I tell you the boy would succeed? Was my
confidence misplaced?”

“He had my confidence from the first,” said Anthony, his face luminous
with happiness, “but I knew he had an adroit enemy in my nephew Lyman. I
didn’t dare to expect that a country boy would be equal to the
emergency.”

“Now, you can go home with a light heart. In a day or two, your grandson
will be with you. What are your plans respecting him? Shall you take him
to Pocasset?”

“I don’t think I can do better. He will need a woman’s care, and I know
of no one who will prove kinder than Mrs. Manning.”

“She has this in her favor at any rate. She has brought up her own boy
well. But will the house be large or comfortable enough?”

“I am not very particular for myself. You will judge that when you
remember the cabin in the woods, where I spent several years. The house
is small, however, but there is another vacant, much larger and
handsomer, which I can buy or rent, already furnished. The owner and
occupant died recently, and his heirs, living in a distant state, want
to sell it. It has a handsome lawn and a garden attached. It stands near
the house of Mr. Collins.”

“Well, you are able to gratify your own taste in the matter. I will send
Mark down as soon as he arrives.”

When Anthony reached home, he found Mrs. Manning anxious and perturbed.
The cause will require some explanation.

The small cottage in which Mark and his mother lived did not belong to
them. They rented it from Deacon Brooks, an old farmer living just out
of the village, at five-dollars monthly rental. For a special reason
Squire Collins desired to possess it. He owned the lot adjoining, and it
occurred to him that the two combined would make a desirable property.
The house, which was a cottage, could be raised one story, and made much
more commodious. In that case, it would easily command more than twice
the rent. The foreman of the shoe-shop stood prepared to rent it of him,
as soon as the alteration was made.

He therefore approached Deacon Brooks, with a proposition to purchase
it.

“I don’t know,” said the deacon. “I never thought of sellin’, but I
can’t say I’m opposed to it. I’m getting good rent from the widder
Manning.”

“There’s no knowing, deacon, how long she’ll be able to pay her rent,”
said the squire, nodding with a meaning look.

“Sho! you don’t say! She ain’t lost any money, has she?”

“She had none to lose. Her boy Mark has about supported her with his
small earnings in the shop. But he isn’t employed there any longer.”

“I heard something of that. Did you discharge him?”

“Yes; he got too uppish—wasn’t willing to obey orders. I was sorry to
discharge him on his mother’s account, but it was his own fault.”

“Seems to me I haven’t seen him round the village lately?”

“No; he has gone to the city on some wild-goose expedition. My boy James
thinks he is blacking boots or selling papers. As to that I can’t say,
but it isn’t likely he is able to help his mother much.”

“I hear Mrs. Manning has a boarder?”

“Yes; it’s the old hermit that lived in the woods. I believe he has a
small pension from some relations, but it doesn’t amount to much.
Probably he doesn’t pay more than two or three dollars a week board.
That won’t go far, eh, deacon?”

“You’re right there, squire. It costs a sight to live. How much do you
think my grocery bill came to last month?”

“I don’t know,” answered the squire, with a curious smile. The deacon
had the reputation of being very close-fisted, and it was rather amusing
to hear him speak of the cost of living.

“Fifteen dollars and sixty-seven cents,” said the deacon, with the air
of one who hardly expected to be believed.

“I believe you have six in family,” said Squire Collins, with a smile.

“Yes, six, including the hired man.”

“I pity your family,” thought the squire, who, at all events, kept a
liberal table.

“Yes, it costs a great deal to live,” he added, “and, of course, the
Widow Manning, though her family is small, can’t live on nothing. When
she finds she can’t pay all her bills, she will probably begin by being
remiss in her rent.”

“That’s so, squire! She’s allus paid so far right up to the handle,
though.”

“When she had Mark’s help; but as I told you he is not now in a
condition to help his mother. Well, what do you say? Shall I have the
house?”

Then commenced the bargaining. Both parties were sharp, but at length a
conclusion was reached. Squire Collins agreed to pay eight hundred and
fifty dollars for the cottage, five hundred to remain on bond and
mortgage, at six per cent. In a day or two the necessary papers were
made out, and then Squire Collins took a walk over to the cottage, to
inform Mrs. Manning that the house had passed into his possession, and
it would be necessary for her to find another home.

It might have been supposed he would feel some compunction, but he did
not have much feeling or sympathy for the widow. The ill-feeling between
Mark and his son had its effect upon him also.