“But how did you get it without having any questions asked?” inquired our hero.
“Oh,” said John, “I asked mother for them, and when she asked what I wanted of them, I told her that I’d answer that question to-morrow. You see I wanted to give you a chance to get off out of the way, though mother wouldn’t tell, even if she knew.”
“All right,” said Paul, with satisfaction.
He could not help looking wistfully at the bread, which looked very inviting to one accustomed to poorhouse fare.
“If you wouldn’t mind,” he said hesitating, “I would like to eat a little of the bread now.”
“Mind, of course not,” said John, breaking off a liberal slice. “Why didn’t I think of that before? Walking must have given you a famous appetite.”
John looked on with evident approbation, while Paul ate with great apparent appetite.
“There,” said he with a sigh of gratification, as he swallowed the last morsel, “I haven’t tasted anything so good for a long time.”
“Is it as good as Mrs. Mudge’s soup?” asked John, mischievously.
“Almost,” returned Paul, smiling.
We must now leave the boys to pursue their way, and return to the dwelling from which our hero had so unceremoniously taken his departure, and from which danger now threatened him.
A Cloud in the Mudge horizon.
Mr. Mudge was accustomed to call Paul at five o’clock, to milk the cows and perform other chores. He himself did not rise till an hour later. During Paul’s sickness, he was obliged to take his place,—a thing he did not relish overmuch. Now that our hero had recovered, he gladly prepared to indulge himself in an extra nap.
“Paul!” called Mr. Mudge from the bottom of the staircase leading up into the attic, “it’s five o’clock; time you were downstairs.”
Mr. Mudge waited for an answer, but none came.
“Paul!” repeated Mr. Mudge in a louder tone, “it’s time to get up; tumble out there.”
Again there was no answer.
At first, Mr. Mudge thought it might be in consequence of Paul’s sleeping so soundly, but on listening attentively, he could not distinguish the deep and regular breathing which usually accompanies such slumber.
“He must be sullen,” he concluded, with a feeling of irritation. “If he is, I’ll teach him——”
Without taking time to finish the sentence, he bounded up the rickety staircase, and turned towards the bed with the intention of giving our hero a smart shaking.
He looked with astonishment at the empty bed. “Is it possible,” he thought, “that Paul has already got up? He isn’t apt to do so before he is called.”
At this juncture, Mrs. Mudge, surprised at her husband’s prolonged absence, called from below, “Mr. Mudge!”
“What in the name of wonder keeps you up there so long?”