“If I get him back,” said Mr. Mudge, “he shall have a good flogging, if I am able to give him one, and she shall be present to see it.”
“That’s right,” said Mrs. Mudge, approvingly, “when are you going to set out after him?”
“Right after breakfast. So be spry, and get it ready as soon as you can.”
Under the stimulus of this inspiring motive, Mrs. Mudge bustled about with new energy, and before many minutes the meal was in readiness. It did not take long to dispatch it. Immediately afterwards, Mr. Mudge harnessed up, as he had determined, and started off in pursuit of our hero.
In the meantime the two boys had walked leisurely along, conversing on various subjects.
“When you get to the city, Paul,” said John, “I shall want to hear from you. Will you write to me?”
Paul promised readily.
“You can direct to John Burges, Burrville. The postmaster knows me, and I shall be sure to get it.”
“I wish you were going with me,” said Paul.
“Sometimes when I think that I am all alone it discourages me. It would be so much pleasanter to have some one with me.”
“I shall come sometime,” said John, “when I am a little older. I heard father say something the other day about my going into a store in the city. So we may meet again.”
“I hope we shall.”
They were just turning a bend of the road, when Paul chanced to look backward. About a quarter of a mile back he descried a horse and wagon wearing a familiar look. Fixing his eyes anxiously upon them, he was soon made aware that his suspicions were only too well founded. It was Mr. Mudge, doubtless in quest of him.
“What shall I do?” he asked, hurriedly of his companion.
“What’s the matter?”
This was quickly explained.
John was quickwitted, and he instantly decided upon the course proper to be pursued. On either side of the road was a growth of underbrush so thick as to be almost impenetrable.
“Creep in behind there, and be quick about it,” directed John, “there is no time to lose.”
“There,” said he, after Paul had followed his advice, “if he can see you now he must have sharp eyes.”
“Won’t you come in too?”
“Not I,” said John, “I am anxious to see this Mr. Mudge, since you have told me so much about him. I hope he will ask me some questions.”
“What will you tell him?”
“Trust me for that. Don’t say any more. He’s close by.”
Mr. Mudge meets his Match.
John lounged along, appearing to be very busily engaged in making a whistle from a slip of willow which he had a short time before cut from the tree. He purposely kept in the middle of the road, apparently quite unaware of the approach of the vehicle, until he was aroused by the sound of a voice behind him.