"I hate Ned Lane," said Tom Bixby, doubling his fists and stamping his feet. "He’s a mean, spiteful, wicked boy. I wish he were dead, I do!"
Then Tom broke down and fairly burst into tears. His mother, who had heard his angry words, came out to the garden to see what had caused them. She, too, was indignant at what she saw. There was Tom’s pet dog, Fawn, stretched out cold and stiff on the grass. Around his neck a string was tied, from which dangled a card. On it these words were written in a scraggy, blotted hand: "He’ll never chase my chickens no more.—Ned Lane."
"Oh, Mother!" cried Tom, "look at poor, poor Fawn; see what that cruel Ned has done. Oh, how I hate him. I’ll be revenged."
Fawn had been a favorite with the Bixby family, and in spite of the fact that he would pursue chickens and tear the clothing of passing pedestrians or hide away stockings and handkerchiefs when they were not put away, Mrs. Bixby had borne with him. She had hoped that his youthful faults would be cured in time. She knew that Ned Lane had been very angry because of the loss of two rare fowls, which Fawn had shaken and torn to pieces, and she felt that Fawn had been a great annoyance to the neighbors—a great transgressor.
But what to do with Ned was the question, for Tom’s heart was almost broken.
"Tom," she said, "you say you hate Ned. Do you wish, what I heard you say just now, to be really avenged?"
"Yes, Mother, I want to see him suffer. I wish all his chickens were gone."
"Ned has done a cruel deed, and I do not wonder that you are deeply grieved; but, my son, he that hateth his brother is a murderer."
"He’s not my brother."
"In one sense he is; yet I am sure you do not mean that you would really like to see him dead and cold like your dog. If you think of the meaning of your words, I am sure you wish him no such ill. I think there is a way by which you can make him very sorry for this and yet keep your own self-respect."
The gentle tones won their way to Tom’s heart. He sat down by his mother, and she passed her soft hand over his hot brow and soothed him tenderly. Then she gave him her plan for being "quits," as he called it, with Ned, and for getting the victory.
The next day, when Ned Lane met Tom Bixby on his way to school, he was rather mortified to hear nothing about Fawn. He was prepared to defend himself if attacked. But Tom passed in silence. He tried to say "Hallo, Ned!" but failed in the attempt. All the morning, however, when the boys were in the classes together, Tom looked and acted as usual, and at recess he engaged heartily in games with the other boys.
When Ned, feeling more and more uncomfortable, went home to dinner, a surprise awaited him. A superb pair of Brahma-pootra fowls had arrived, with a string and card attached: "For those my poor Fawn chased.—Tom Bixby."
I cannot say truly that the two from this time became fast friends; but this I know, Ned Lane was thoroughly ashamed of his mean and unworthy action, and never after was guilty of the like cruelty, while Tom felt, even at Fawn’s grave, that forgiveness is sweeter than revenge.