TWO boys, with guns on their shoulders, were crossing a meadow towards
the Pecasset woods. These were situated about a mile from the village,
and were quite extensive. The two boys were James Collins and Tom Wyman,
the first, the son of a large shoe manufacturer, the other the son of
the village postmaster. They were about of a size, and had the
appearance of being sixteen years of age. They were very intimate, the
second being a satellite of the first, who in right of his father’s
wealth considered himself the first boy in Pecasset. Tom flattered his
vanity by acknowledging his pretensions, and this gave him his position
of favorite with the young aristocrat.
“I should like to be a hunter,” said Tom, as they walked along.
“A fine hunter you’d be,” said James, in a tone by no means
complimentary, for he didn’t feel it necessary to flatter his humble
companion. “You never hit anything, you know.”
“Come, James, that’s a little too strong,” said Tom, in a tone of
annoyance. “I don’t pretend to be as good a shot as you are, but still I
have hit a bird before now.”
“When it was perched on a fence, eh?”
“No, on the wing.”
“Who saw you do it?”
“I was alone.”
“So I thought,” said James, laughing.
“I did it, really. Of course I can’t shoot as well as you.”
“I don’t think there is a boy in the village can come up to me in that
line,” said James.
“Of course not; though Mark Manning isn’t a bad shot.”
“Mark Manning! He’s one of the peggers in my father’s shop, isn’t he?”
“Son of the poor widow that lives near the schoolhouse?”
“What can he know of gunning? He had better stick to the shop.”
“I didn’t say he was equal to you,” said Tom apologetically, “but I have
seen him shoot well.”
“Has he a gun of his own?”
“No, but he often gets the loan of Farmer Jones’s.”
“I suppose he could hit a barn door if he were within fifty feet of it,”
said James, contemptuously.
Tom was silent. It was not the first time he had noticed how distasteful
to James was praise of any other boy.
At this moment, from another direction came a third boy, of about the
same size and age as the two already introduced. He also had a gun on
his shoulder. He had on a well-worn suit of mixed cloth, which had been
darned in one or two places. His face was open and attractive, his form
was well-knit and muscular, and he was evidently in vigorous health.
Tom Wyman was the first to notice the newcomer.
“Talk of the—old Harry,” he said, “and he is sure to appear.”
“What do you mean?” asked James, who had not yet espied the new arrival.
“There’s Mark Manning coming towards us.”
James condescended to turn his glance in Marks’ direction.
“What brings him here, I wonder?” he said, with a curl of the lip.
“The same errand that brings us, I should judge, from the gun on his
shoulder,” answered Tom.
By this time Mark was within calling distance.
“Hallo, boys!” he said. “Have you shot anything yet?”
“No,” answered Tom. “Have you?”
“No, I have only just come.”
“Why are you not in the shop?” demanded James, with the air of a young
“Because we work only half-time to-day.”
“I suppose you were glad of the holiday?”
“No, I would rather have worked. Half-work, half-pay, you know.”
“I suppose that’s quite an important consideration for a—a working boy
like you,” drawled James, with an air of patronage.
Mark surveyed James, with a quizzical smile, for he had a genuine boy’s
disdain for affectation, and James was a very good specimen of a
self-conceited dude, though the latter term had not yet come into use.
“Yes,” he said, after a slight pause, “it is a consideration—to a
working boy like me.”
“How much now does my father pay you?” inquired James, with gracious
“Seventy-five cents a day—that’s the average.”
“Very fair pay! I suppose you take it home to your mother?”
“Yes, I do,” answered Mark.
“She’s—ah—very poor, I hear.”
Mark began to find his patronage on the whole rather oppressive. He had
a sturdy independence of feeling that grew restive under the young
“We are poor,” he answered, “but we have enough to eat, and to wear, and
a roof to cover us—”
“Exactly. You are indebted to my father for that.”
“I don’t see how.”
“Doesn’t he employ you and pay you wages?”
“Yes, but don’t I earn my wages by good work?”
“Really, my good fellow, I can’t say. I presume you do passably well, or
he wouldn’t keep you in his employ.”
“Then it seems to me we are even on that score. However, I didn’t come
here to talk about myself.”
Here there was a sudden diversion.
“Look, James! See that bird!” exclaimed Tom, in excitement.
The other two boys looked in the direction indicated, and saw a hawk
flying swiftly, perhaps two hundred feet above them. The three
simultaneously raised their guns, and Tom and James fired. But Mark,
upon second thought reserved his fire, in order to give his two
companions a chance.
Their guns were discharged, but in vain. The bird flew on, apparently
unconcerned, considerably to their disappointment.
“Now it is my turn!” reflected Mark.
He raised his gun, and quickly pulled the trigger; the effect was soon
seen. The bird fluttered its wings, then dropped quickly through the
“By Jove, Mark’s hit him!” exclaimed Tom in excitement.
James frowned in evident displeasure.
“I told you Mark was a good shot!” said Tom, who had not so much vanity
to wound as James.
“I suppose you think him a better shot than I, because he hit the bird
and I didn’t?” said James, reddening.
“No, I don’t say that!”
“I tell you it was pure luck. I’ve heard of a man who shut his eyes when
he fired, but he succeeded when all his companions failed. You can’t
judge of one by a single shot.”
Here Mark came up with his trophy.
“I congratulate you on your success,” said James, unpleasantly. “I
suppose this is the first bird you ever shot?”
“Oh, no!” answered Mark smilingly. “I have shot a few before now.”
“A fly lit on my nose just when I was pulling the trigger, or I should
have brought him down.”
“That was lucky for me,” said Mark.
“Come, Tom,” said James, drawing his companion away to the left. “We’d
better separate, or we shall all be shooting at the same object.”
“Good luck to you then!” said Mark, as the two left him.
“Thanks!” said Tom, but James deigned no notice of Mark’s civility.