“I shouldn’t like to have the children meet him,” said the man.
“Be still!” commanded his companion, “do ye want Square Weston ter hear ye? He’s ‘nough worried now without yer tales er bears an’ drowndings.”
As Mr. Weston passed them, his lantern revealed the pallor of his face, and one man muttered to the other,
“Ef they’re not ter be faound alive, then I hope it’ll not be the Square that finds ’em.”
“That’s so, man,” the other returned, “‘tho’ it would be a hard job fer any of us ter larn that aught had befallen little Prue, and even that little scamp, Hi Babson, I’d hate ter think of a hard fate fer him, he was so brimmin’ over with fun.”
One man had strayed from the party, and with his torch held above his head was slowly making his way through the underbrush, when, emerging from the thicket, his foot touched something which but softly resisted it. Thinking it to be some old and mossy log, he shifted his torch to the other hand, and was preparing to step over the obstacle whatever it might be, when, as the smoke blew backward, the flaming torch revealed the sleeping children, Prue still holding Randy’s letter in her hand, Hi with a protecting arm about his little companion.
“Well, of all the pretty sights!” he ejaculated. “Safe an’ saound an’ warm I’ll bet ye, but haow on airth come they over here?”
Then with another look at the sleeping children, he hastened to rejoin the party and to tell the joyful news that the little ones were found.
When the crowd of torch-bearers hastened to the spot and gathered about the wanderers, Prue and Hi sat up and rubbed their eyes, evidently wondering what had caused such a commotion. [Illustration: As the smoke blew backward, the flaming torch revealed the sleeping children]
“How did ye git lost?” asked a farmer of Prue.
“We wasn’t lost,” answered Prue, “How could we be lost when we knew where we was going? We was going to Boston to my Randy, and we’re ’most to the cars, but we’re just resting a little while first.”
To Uncle Joshua Babson, little Hi looked for pardon for this latest prank.
“I wasn’t naughty this time,” he said, “I knew the way to Boston, and Prue felt so lonesome ‘thout Randy that I was goin’ ter take her there.”
“Never mind that, my boy,” Uncle Joshua answered, “the main thing is ter git ye home, an’ stop yer mother’s frettin’. She’s in the mood ter forgive most anything, sence yer safe and sound.”
Tired little Prue lay in her father’s arms, crying softly, her face hidden upon his breast.
“There, there, don’t cry, Prue, ye’re all safe now. See, I have ye in my arms, an’ soon we’ll be home with mother an’ Aunt Prudence.”
“But if you take me home now,” wailed Prue, “it’ll be to-morrow ’fore I could start again to find Randy, and we meaned to get there to-night.”
“But mother’s ‘bout sick a worryin’ sence ye went off with Hi and didn’t tell where ye was goin’. Did ye think of it, Prue, that mother misses Randy, so couldn’t spare ye, too?”